28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, the Honourable F. Stewart, is attending the twenty-third annual conference of the Pacific Area Travel Association in Indonesia. He is expected to return on 6 April. In his absence the Minister for Services and Property, the Honourable F. Daly, is acting Minister for Tourism and Recreation.
The Minister for Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Papua New Guinea matters, the honourable W. Morrison, is attending a conference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Colombo. He is expected to return on 3 April. In his absence the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, the Honourable M. Cass, is Acting Minister.
-I present the following petition from 120 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the honourable the president and members of the senate in parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
That the present systems of financing of hospital and medical care in Australia are outdated, complex, unwieldy, and provide inadequate or no security against health care expenditure for a substantial proportion of the people of Australia;
That the costs associated with the present schemes fall disproportionately on people having low and middle incomes;
That there is an urgent need for a new national health insurance scheme, to which each person receiving an income should contribute an amount which is equitably calculated on the basis of that income, and which provides adequate security to each person against the costs of care for every kind of illness and injury.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the parliament will speedily pass appropriate legislation to bring the benefits of an equitably financed, universal, and comprehensive health insurance scheme to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we urge the Parliament to legislate for the total abolition of all Commonwealth probate.
That Estate Duty has become an oppressive, punitive and discriminatory tax which is carried by those people least able to afford it.
That Estate Duties tax the poorer citizen rather than the richer citizen.
That Senator J. T. Kane’s Bill now before the Senate entitled Estate Duty (Termination) Bill should be supported by all Senators irrespective of their party membership.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That standing order 407B be amended by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph:
The foregoing provisions of this standing order shall apply in respect of only one Bill at any one time.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns the request by Russia to establish a defence intelligence monitoring system in Australia, which system will be masquerading as a scientific facility. I ask: Why is it necessary for the Government to wait until June to announce its decision instead of rejecting the request out of hand?
-Firstly, nobody has ever said that we would be making a decision in June. I was interviewed several times yesterday on television and radio following the announcement in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘. The only time June came up was when I was asked whether it was true that Mr Whitlam was going to Moscow in June. He will be going about June. I was asked whether we would have made a decision by then. I said that I thought we would. As to the question why we do not reject the request out of hand, I would not be prepared to reject anything out of hand that is put to me by any nation. This is a scientific situation and one which requires a lot of study. I certainly shall not be recommending to the Cabinet that we reject anything without due and proper consideration.
Minister for Primary Industry share the Prime Minister’s view that the Government’s rural policies were not to blame for the Labor Government ‘s defeat in the Western Australian elections on Saturday? Is the Minister aware that 5 days before the elections 6,000 farmers held a protest meeting at Subiaco Oval? Does he know that this was the biggest meeting of farmers ever held in Western Australia? Did not the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry receive invitations to attend the meeting? As both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry were in Perth at the time of the meeting why did they not attend or at least send representatives to the meeting?
– It is very difficult always to enumerate the reason why political followings of various parties fluctuate at any election. It surprises me that the colleagues of the Country Party senator from Western Australia allied themselves with the Democratic Labor Party in what may be described as the national disaster alliance and lost votes much more effectively than any other party in the whole of the election. Be that as it may, it is true that both the Prime Minister and myself were in Perth on that morning. The Prime Minister had already indicated that the schedule which he had did not permit him to attend the mass meeting to which the honourable senator has referred. For my own case I made an explanation in the Press as to why I was unable to attend. Also in the same letter to the ‘West Australian’ I enumerated the things that had been done for primary producers in Western Australia. The whole of that section of my letter was deleted in the ‘West Australian’. That is a great measure of the democracy of the Press in Western Australia. I had indicated that wheat growers, in particular those in Western Australia, were principal beneficiaries under the policies of this Government, that we had accepted the biggest wheat quota in Western Australia, that we had increased the first advance payable to Western Australian wheat growers, and that it was this Government that refused to impose a ban on the export of livestock from Western Australia to enable Western Australian primary producers to receive the benefits of the high prices that were being obtained.
I think it is extremely unfortunate that the things that we have done for Western Australian primary producers were not reflected in the election result. As to our inability to attend the meeting referred to, I certainly would have been there had it been possible for me to attend and the
Prime Minister would have been there also had it been possible for him to attend. Had he been there, I hope he would have received a little more justice and democracy than he received at Forrest Place.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise advise the Senate of the latest position in the establishment of an Australian coastguard? Are any details yet available as to the possible structure of this service, as well as its range, location, role and authority? In view of the well recognised navigational hazards around the Tasmanian coast- I might point out that another ship was lost on the Tasmanian coast on Sunday night- and the Bass Strait islands, will special consideration be given to the role of a coastgurard in these waters?
-I am able to advise the honourable senator that the Government is actively considering the various matters that he has raised. I think it is reasonable to say that this matter is being considered by a committee of Cabinet and that that consideration is continuing this very week. Therefore, I am unable to tell the honourable senator the conclusions because they have not been reached.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Secondary Industry. Is it a fact that because of conscious acts of policy by the current Government there is a heavy flood of imports of manufactured goods on their way to Australia? Is it further a fact that this is likely to endanger employment in Australia’s manufacturing industries which employ something like 25 per cent of Australia’s wage earners?
-I will have to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister to obtain an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. Did the Government announce at the commencement of this financial year that it would be taking initiatives to increase the sales of Australian Government publications? Have the Government bookshops, established in the various capital cities, made any difference to the number of sales? Has there been any increase in revenue from these sales?
– As a result of initiatives taken by my Department following the Government’s decision to increase the number of outlets for the retail sale of Australian Government publications, in the current 1 2 months period revenue from the sale of Australian Government publications is expected to exceed $ 1 m for the first time since the Australian Government Publishing Service was established. Comparing the figures for the first 6 months of this financial year with those for the first 6 months of the last financial year, it can be seen that there has been an increase of some 52 per cent in revenue coming from sales of Australian Government publications and that the increase in revenue from retail outlets has been well over 100 percent.
-Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware that an increasing proportion of our small eletronic componentry used in the manufacture and maintenance of domestic television sets, radiograms, radios, etc., is being purchased overseas by companies which previously manufactured these items in Australia? If so, does the Minister realise what effect these changes will have on the ultimate future of our national security, bearing in the mind the increasing reliance of our defence system on the eletronics industry?
– This is properly a question for me as Minister representing the Prime Minister because it concerns tariffs and assistance to industry. The Department of Customs and Excise merely carries out determinations which have been made in other areas of government in such matters. The Government is well aware of the considerations which have been adverted to by the honourable senator. The Government considered the matter recently and an announcement was made as to the level of protection which would be afforded to manufacturers of electrical appliances, components and so forth. The decision of the Tariff Board, as I recall it, was somewhat but not substantially varied by the Government. The Government is at all times watching what is happening, listening to representations from industry and taking into account the levels of inflation, the interests of other countries and other aspects of trade. I assure the honourable senator that the Government is actively watching the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to today’s Press reports that Australian wheat growers will receive $ 1,075m in payments for wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board over the 12 months period commencing next July. Are the figures correct? If so, how do they compare with those of past years?
-I did see the figures to which the honourable senator has referred and it is true that a quite massive pay-out will be made to wheat growers this year because of high world market prices. The actual breakdown of the figures is, I think, not so important. The amount will be in excess of $ 1,000m. The pay-out this year compared to that of previous years will be very high and will approximately equal total pay-outs over the past 3 years.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Does he recall my asking questions last year regarding the construction of a feeder gas pipeline for the proposed petro-chemical plant at Redcliffs in South Australia and, in particular, whether the Federal Government would have control over the feeder pipeline? I also ask the Minister whether he recalls that in answer it was stated:
The matter of a feeder pipeline is the subject of representations by the South Australian Government and negotiations are proceeding.
I now ask the Minister: Are negotiations completed? Will the Federal Government have control of the feeder pipeline? If negotiations are still not completed, is the Federal Government trying to get control of the feeder pipeline? Finally, can I have an early answer?
-I recall the questions asked by Senator Young last year, which were referred to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I am not aware of the current position but I shall obtain it for the honourable senator and give a reply as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the mass arrests of leaders and supporters of the South West African Peoples’ Organisation in Namibia were carried out by the South African Government under that Government’s terrorism Act? Is it a fact that this Act has no valid legal application in Namibia? In view of the Australian
Government’s support of the right to independence of the people of Namibia, will the Government protest at the South African Government’s arrest and detention of these people without charge? Can the Minister say whether he has heard of any protest by Mr John McLeay, MP about this detention of a new set of political prisoners in the world?
– Yes, 300 members of the South West African Peoples’ Organisation were arrested in Namibia earlier this year. They include 10 of the leading people associated with that organisation. Australia does not recognise the Terrorism Act under which they were arrested. We have already protested through our ambassador to the South Africans about this matter. The were unable to give us any information, particularly about whether the 10 leading people would be charged. The answer to the fourth question is: No, I have not heard of Mr McLeay protesting.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security inform the Senate concerning measures taken by the Department of Social Security to ensure that applicants for unemployment benefit receive only one such payment at a time? Does the Department insist on the production of a birth certificate by people lodging an application for this payment? If not, will the Minister make such a recommendation to his colleague in another place in an effort to discourage people from applying for a payment at more than one Government office and so eliminate the possibility of people receiving more than one handout from the Australian taxpayers?
Minister representing the Minister for Social Security in the Senate, I am unaware of the administrative arrangements that are involved when the Department of Social Security makes arrangements for people to register and obtain unemployment benefit. The honourable senator will know that my colleagues, the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Social Security recently made a statement concerning the number of beneficiaries receiving unemployment relief. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Social Security, for his consideration. In the meantime, I suggest to the honourable senator that if he knows of any person who might be making application for more than one unemployment benefit, he refer the details of the case to my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the loss of the use of money by taxpayers who are required to pay taxation instalments as they earn, has the Government considered allowing interest to be paid at a reasonable rate on money which is collected by way of pay as you earn taxation deductions, but which is eventually returned to the taxpayers after they have submitted their annual taxation returns?
– Of course, the pay as you earn taxation system has been in operation now for about 30 years. As I understand it, interest has never been paid on the money collected. I assume that over those years consideration has been given to it. I will find out whether it has and let the honourable senator know the result of my inquiries.
-Order! I wish to make a short announcement to honourable senators. I am informed, as the result of inquiries that I have just made, that the parliamentary refreshment rooms staff has decided to go on strike. No food will be served in Parliament House for the next 3 days. I will arrange with the transport officer of the Senate to see that motor cars are available at the rising of the Senate for lunch so that honourable senators can make their own arrangements.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport relating to the recent very small reduction in air fares on interstate routes between Perth and Sydney and Sydney and Adelaide. Is the Government satisfied with the puny reductions? Will it continue to take steps to achieve a more realistic reduction in these air fares which are discriminating against West Australians in particular?
– I will take up the question with the Minister for Transport. I thought that there had been a re-arrangement of air fares where some reductions could be effected. I think that there will not be a great reduction in so far as the Government is now asking the airline companies to pay airport charges which range up to, I believe, 80 per cent of the cost to the Australian Government of operating airports. I will take up the matter with the Minister to ascertain the attitude of the Government in regard to air fares and to see whether there has been any discrimination against Western Australia.
-Has the Minister for Primary Industry obtained information in respect of the assistance to be given to primary producers in Queensland who lost stock and improvements during the floods in that State?
– As honourable senators are aware, the Australian Government has entered into an agreement to assist Queensland to the extent of $80m as a result of the recent floods that have occurred in that State. In regard to primary producers, the Australian Government will be making interest free loans available to the Queensland Government, and loans of up to $40,000 will be made available to primary producers at interest rates which will vary between 3 per cent and 6 per cent. The interest rates to which I have just referred will be applied at the discretion of the Queensland authorities. The actual money being made available by the Australian Government will be interest free. The loans will be made available for restocking, carry-on purposes and so on. I think it would be fair to say that the agreement that has been entered into is a very fair and reasonable one.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the concern that has been expressed in Tasmania that insufficient emphasis is placed on the potential of the Japanese market for Australian fruit, particularly Tasmanian apples. Will the Minister agree that the Australian Government is active in this area and, if so, what is it doing?
– I did see reference to this matter in a Press report. I think it is fair to say that no government has done more than the present Australian Government to try to get a breakthrough for the sale of Australian apples in Japan. In the Press report there was some reference to resources diplomacy and to some initiative being taken. That initative was taken last October in my discussions with the Minister for Agriculture in Japan when the proposition was put to him. For the first time, the Japanese Government has agreed to look at the question of the importation of Australian apples to Japan On a regional basis. Further talks on this matter will take place in April or May- that is this month or next month- when a Japanese delegation comes to Australia to discuss certain questions. I do not think that any government could have done more than the present Australian Government to overcome the very difficult quarantine problem that exists between Australia and Japan in respect of fruit.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Government’s opposition to atmospheric nuclear testing based on moral grounds as well as the possible effect of the testing upon health? Is it a fact that fall-out from the Chinese tests has been detected in Australia and the Pacific area? If so, will the Minister explain why Australia opposed the inclusion of China in a protest against atmospheric nuclear testing which was issued by the South Pacific Forum?
-I think that the subject matter raised in the first part of the question actually comes under the portfolio of Senator Murphy, but I think our attitude to the question of atmospheric nuclear testing is well known. In the latter part of his question the honourable senator asked why we opposed a specific mention of China in the communique. That has been put in a form which is not quite right. The situation was that even before we became the Government the South Pacific Forum had lodged complaints about French testing in the Pacific area. This matter came up again on this occasion and the Forum reiterted what Australia had done last year under a Labor Government and what it had done in previous years under Liberal-Country Party coalition governments. The situation is that we are in the South Pacific Forum and we are dealing with that area, and the protest was made in relation to that area. What we said was that we opposed all forms of atmospheric testing, particularly by France which is the only government which is testing in the South Pacific area. What Senator Sim should bear in mind is that we are dealing with a specific area. We made the general statement that we opposed all atmospheric testing. We made a specific statement because that is what the Forum had done in previous years. We were dealing with a regional situation.
- Mr President, I should like to add to the answer given by Senator Willesee because the first part of the question was really directed towards my portfolio. The case concerning the French tests has been argued before the International Court in the application for interim measures. The full arguments and the appreciation which was put before the Court have been tabled in the Senate. If the honourable senator wishes, I will send him a copy of those documents.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and
Recreation indicate the extent of assistance which will be given to the Australian softball team which will be competing in the world championship in North America later this year?
– I understand that, under the terms of the Australian Government’s assistance program, the Australian Softball Federation will be eligible to receive a subsidy of up to 50 per cent of the cost of fares to assist with expenses involved in sending the Australian softball team to compete in the world series in the United States later this year.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the serious incidence of fruit fly strike in the metropolitan area of Adelaide? In view of the consequent dire threat to the State’s commercial fruit growing areas arising from the Adelaide situation, the persistent but only partially successful endeavours of successive South Australian governments to contain and eliminate this scourge and the increasing danger of fruit fly being introduced into fruit fly free areas through growing interstate traffic, will consideration be given by the Federal Government to mounting and financing a national drive for the eradication of fruit fly?
– I am not aware of the precise position in Adelaide and surrounding areas. The only general answer which I could give is that, to the best of my knowledge, there has always been maximum co-operation between the States and the Australian Government for the elimination or the control of fruit fly. If I am able to get more specific information for the honourable senator, I shall do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, ls it a fact that the Australian Government proposes to provide the Queensland Government with an amount in excess of $lm for the establishment in the inner city area of Brisbane of an assessment and treatment clinic for alcoholics, together with hostels in Brisbane and country areas for alcoholics? Will the Minister indicate as early as possible when the proposals will be implemented, and will he make a comprehensive Press statement stating the complete details of the grant?
– I, representing in the Senate the Minister for Health, am unaware of the exact nature of the details raised by the honourable senator, although he will be as aware as I am of the interest taken by our colleague the Minister for Health in trying to solve the problems of alcoholism and alcoholics in the Australian community. I am sure that the Minister, as he comes from Queensland, will make an early announcement on the matters raised by the honourable senator. I will certainly refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague for a precise reply.
– My question is directed to either the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister representing the Treasurer, whoever considers he is in the better position to answer it. I refer to an article in the edition of 21 February of a magazine known as ‘Stock and Land’ in which reference was made to the fact that expenditure on the destruction of weeds and pests and expenditure on soil conservation are no longer allowable in the year of expenditure but only over a 10-year period. To clarify the matter, is it a fact? If it is, why has that step been taken in relation to these aspects of primary industry?
-The Minister for Primary Industry has asked me to answer the question. I will find out the details and let Senator Rae know. 1 am not aware of them.
– In the absence of the Australian Democratic Labor Party my question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the usual Public Service retiring age apply to all officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs? Does it apply to ambassadors appointed by this Government from outside the foreign service? When will the present ambassador to Ireland return to Australia?
-No, it does not apply.
– What does not apply?
-The age limit does not apply to people from outside the service. The ambassador in Ireland will be transferred not to Australia but to Switzerland. That will take place over the next few months.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Can the Senate assume from his answer to Senator Withers that there is some truth in current Press suggestions that the Government will agree to a joint AustralianRussian base in Australia or grant the provision of what is euphemistically called ‘extensive scientific facilities’? If this is so, does the Minister recall that even the very tolerant British Government was compelled to expel 105 so-called Soviet diplomats as spies only about 2 years ago? In view of the possible danger to our ANZUS Treaty relationships with the United States of America and New Zealand, will the Minister give an assurance that the Russian overtures will be rejected?
-The honourable senator starts ofT his question by asking whether, because of my answer to Senator Withers, there is some basis for the Press speculation that the Government has already decided or is about to make a decision. The answer is no. 1 clearly said nothing to this effect in any of the many interviews I gave yesterday in Melbourne where the Press just about drove me mad because of the Sydney Morning Herald’ report. I have not noticed anything about this in this morning’s Press. What I have said and what I said to Senator Withers was that a request was first made back in 1971. A scientific delegation from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was in Australia recently and it had talks with our people, as a result of which we will initial an agreement with the USSR on scientific grounds. Following that visit the USSR renewed its request. At the moment the position is that I have asked the departments interested- it is not only the Department of Foreign Affairs- to move as quickly as they can to assess the scientific information we have and, if we do not have enough information, to gather it from other countries and report to me on the matter as soon as possible. What I said to Senator Withers was that I was not prepared to reject out of hand any request from any country with which we have friendly relations.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen reports that the multinational oil companies which have provoked a series of disputes with their employees in recent times and thereby disrupted industry have combined to destroy the Independent Oil Company headed by Mr Roach? Does the Government regard IOC as a valuable oil distributing company operating in the interest of the consumer by selling petrol at rates considerably lower than those charged by the multinational companies? Will the Minister indicate whether the Government can use its administrative powers on imports and exports to get a more responsible and reasonable attitude attuned to Australian conditions from these overseas monopolies?
-I think that largely the answers to the questions raised by the honourable senator fall within the portfolio of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. In general it might be said that a more helpful attitude in industrial questions might be expected from those who are making enormous amounts of money in Australia. As to the other questions, I shall refer them to the Minister who is responsible for oil pricing policies and for most of the other aspects which have been raised by the honourable senator.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs advise me of the work or duties an envoy to the Pope on behalf of Australia would have? Does he consider that enough work would be involved in such a position to keep a former very busy parliamentarian occupied?
-No, I do not think there would be. Our Ambassador to the Vatican at the moment is Dr Lloyd Thomson, who is stationed in The Hague. That in itself answers the question: We do not think it is necessary to have a full time Ambassador to the Vatican. I could not give the honourable senator the exact duties from my own knowledge. They would be the normal duties that our ambassadors and high commissioners have overseas. As far as I know, it has never been put to me by my Department that there has been an increase in duties at the Vatican, and for the foreseeable future I cannot see that we will want a full time ambassador there.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report by the Industries Assistance Commission on automatic dry cleaning machines- by-law, dated 22 January 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 18 (6) (a) of the Prices Justification Act, I present the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal on the proposed price increases for certain iron and steel products notified by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd on 7 January 1 974.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Tariff Board report on propylene oxide derivatives, which was forwarded to me, dated 28 December 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the first report by the Industries Assistance Commission on galvanised steel coil- by-law, dated 16 January 1974.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the 1 973 working party on the Defence Force Disciplinary Code and seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
-The report which has been presented to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) and myself by the working party has annexed to it a draft- and I stress the word draft’- prepared by the working party of a proposed Defence (Discipline and Justice) Bill. At present the main disciplinary provisions relating to the Australian Services are contained in United Kingdom legislation as applied and modified by Australian legislation. Honourable senators will be aware that work on the development of uniform disciplinary provisions for the Australian Services has been going on for quite a number of years.
Because of the different rules and procedures of the 3 Australian Services, it has not been easy to reach agreement on uniform disciplinary provisions. I would therefore like to pay a tribute to the members of the working party who have now developed proposals for a disciplinary code which is modern in concept and which the working party considers to be suitable for application to the Australian Defence Force.
At the same time I would emphasise that the report has not yet been considered by the Government. Indeed, both the Minister for Defence and I have some reservations on the treatment given by the working party to some of the issues raised in the report. For example, we are somewhat concerned with the manner in which the working party has dealt with the obligations of servicemen in relation to obedience to superior orders and we will be giving further consideration to this question.
However, in the interests of open government, the report is being tabled to enable honourable senators and others, including members and former members of the Defence Force, to study the draft provisions and to submit any comments they may wish to make on them. These comments will be fully considered by the Government before formal instructions are issued to Parliamentary Counsel for the preparation of appropriate legislation, which I expect to introduce for debate during the Budget session of this Parliament.
– For the information of honourable senators, 1 present a report on Migrant Task Force in Tasmania dated December 1973
– For the information of honourable senators I present a record of decisions of the special meeting of the Tourist Ministers’ Council held at the Sydney Opera House, dated 2 1 September 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a report of the Australian Universities’ Commission entitled ‘Courses in Special Education at Universities’ dated November 1973, together with a statement by the Minister for Education, the Honourable K. Beazley.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present the annual report of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Trust, for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present an environmental assessment on the proposed aerodrome on Lord Howe Island. Because of the limited number issued, 6 copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1926-1966 I present the 45th annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report on Price Differentials in the Meat Market dated March 1974 prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This report has not been considered by the Government but has been made available at this stage to assist the Joint Committee on Prices in its deliberations on meat prices.
– I present the first report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
States Grants (Technical Training Fees Re-imbursement)
Bill 1974 Social Services Bill 1974 Repatriation Bill 1974
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1974 Airlines Equipment Bill 1974
– I propose to suspend the sitting of the Senate for lunch at 12.45 p.m. and to resume at 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 21 March (vide page 483), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is proceeding to address itself to a consideration of the Superior Court of Australia Bill 1 974 which was introduced by Senator Murphy. Senator Greenwood would have led for the Opposition but due to his indisposition I stand at present. This Bill is a most important Bill inasmuch as it will have a very serious effect on the judicial system of Australia. Of course, in a federation the judicial system occupies a unique importance. Indeed, in the unitary system in a country of British origins the judicial system is of very great importance, but in a federal system it is of unique importance inasmuch as there is entrusted to the judicial courts a determination of Constitutional powers as between Federal and State parliaments and instrumentalities, and citizens’ rights dependent upon different laws have to be adjudicated upon. In our system, of course, we live by the law as directed by the courts.
If there is one thing of misgiving that one could be permitted to say as a practitioner of the law for more than 40 years it is that the judicial system is in need of very careful attention to eliminate costliness, to eliminate complexity and to provide prompt decisions for the resolution of questions that arise. Unless the judicial systemboth bench and legal profession- takes an early opportunity to introduce economy, expedition and simplicity, it will fail to serve the high purposes that it should serve for our community.
Senator Murphy, who introduced the Superior Court of Australia Bill, in some way ascribes to it a parentage from the Opposition, and in this instance that is said to be a virtue. But the preliminary that ought to be stated with regard to this Bill is that in the early 1960s, when litigation was very voluminous and a great burden of litigation was listed before the High Court of Australia, a means was sought of relieving that Court of its large lists that were piling up and being delayed. The Attorney-General of the day, Sir Garfield Barwick, after some discussion with the profession evolved the idea of creating yet another Federal court designed to attract jurisdiction in some of the matters that went to the High Court and so relieve the High Court of its undue burden of work.
Mr Justice ElseMitchell, who has written on this subject, enumerated the various matters that weighed with the promoter of that proposal. He said that the matrimonial causes jurisdiction was seen initially to be a matter calling for some special court to avoid delays in hearing and differences in opinion which had been experienced in the courts of the States. He referred to other reasons that were advanced, saying that they related to the convenience of having one court embracing the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and the courts of the Territories. But Mr Justice Else-Mitchell said:
It cannot be gainsaid that any one or more of these reasons can be invoked to justify the creation of a new federal court if one is anxious to find justification for such a political decision . . .
He went on to say that the only real reason that could be referred to was the overload of work in the High Court. The circumstances have changed. The succeeding decade has seen a reduction in the load of the High Court. As successive Attorneys-General on the Liberal and Country Party side of politics examined the original proposal it became more and more difficult to give to any proposed Superior Court a practical jurisdiction which would add anything to the efficiency or economy of the judicial system. In fact, I think that I truly express the conclusion of those Attorneys-General- Mr Snedden, Mr N. H. Bowen, Mr Hughes and Senator Greenwoodwhen I say that further consideration of the proposal did not enable them to escape the conviction that it would be a dangerous innovation in the system of justice in Australia and would add to the complexity and add vastly to the costliness of litigation. Therefore Senator Greenwood, as Attorney-General, deliberately made a parliamentary statement abandoning the proposal. Yet this is the sort of proposition that the Senate, at the instance of Senator Murphy, is considering today.
This proposal seeks to set up an entirely new Federal court. That court is to be created by this Bill with jurisdiction, set out in clause 19, which we call original jurisdiction; that is to say, jurisdiction of primary exercise as distinct from secondary jurisdiction or jurisdiction exercised by a court in appellate matters. Clause 19(1) sets out the matters as to which the Bill would give the Superior Court original jurisdiction. They are all matters:
Then follow provisions that I will not weary the Senate by reading. One provision of a new nature which I have noticed in sub-clause (2) provides that jurisdiction depends on the acceptance of it by the parties. Correlated to that clause, as I read the Bill, one has to read clauses 31 to 37 of the Bill because there is transferred under clause 3 1 the jurisdiction of the present Australian Industrial Court; under clause 32 the jurisdiction of the present Federal Court of Bankruptcy; under clause 33 the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory; and under clause 34 the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. Under clauses 36 and 37 are important provisions, including: 36.(1) . . . the jurisdiction . . .
Clauses 31 to 35 deal simply with the transference of statutory jurisdiction of existing Federal courts. But clause 36 contains a proposal to strip the State supreme courts of power in respect of Acts which are enumerated in clause 36 (5). The jurisdiction in respect of the legislation described in sub-clause 5 has been vested in the supreme courts to date. To give some instances, the legislation includes the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act, the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act, the Crimes Act, the Customs Act, the Designs Act, the Excise Act, the National Health Act, the Navigation Act and the Service and Execution of Process Act. I mention only a limited number of them.
The importance of that proposed new section, as I read it, is that it expresses an attempt to divest State supreme courts of jurisdiction in the matters that I have mentioned and which hitherto has been vested in them by virtue of those Acts of this Parliament which are listed in subclause 5, some of which I have mentioned. There is an attempt to vest the jurisdiction of the High Court, other than in regard to the Acts mentioned in sub-clause 4, in this new creation, the Superior Court. Clause 37 deals with the taxation Acts that operate in the field of taxation in the
Federal system. The clause provides that on or after a day to be fixed by proclamation, the Superior Courts shall have all the jurisdiction that is, under a taxation act, exercisable by the High Court or the supreme court of a State or Territory. It is also provided that proceedings under the taxation act shall not be instituted in the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State or Territory.
Mr President, that is a brief statement of the original jurisdiction of the Superior Court. Clause 19 describes it in general terms so as to embrace matters hereafter to be the subject of legislation, as well as the existing matters that are not enumerated in the statutory provisions that I have mentioned. Here we have transferred to the new Court the jurisdiction of existing Federal courts and existing Federal jurisdiction now belonging to the High Court and the State Supreme Courts in the one instance vested in the High Court, as I conceive it, by the Constitution, and vested in the other courts by virtue of provisions of the Constitution under Federal laws. So the whole mass of this jurisdiction is to be vested in a new Federal court. Of course, there are provisions that certain of those matters shall not be commenced in any other court or that jurisdiction shall not be exercised by any other court. Therefore, we have a strict division. We have the jurisdiction which will remain from the common law and the State constitutions and statutes the subject matter for exercise by State judiciaries. On the other hand, we will have a system or a hierarchy of Federal courts briefly as follows: By virtue of the Constitution we have a Federal supreme court called the High Court of Australia. We have provision for such other Federal courts as the Commonwealth Parliament creates. Then we have provision for such other courts as the Commonwealth Parliament vests with Federal jurisdiction. So we have the High Court and the Federal courts created by this Parliament, and this Bill seeks to give birth to one Federal court which will have very wide jurisdiction. The third class of courts referred to by the Constitution is such other courts as the Parliament vests with Federal jurisdiction; that is to say, the State system of the judiciary.
In subsequent provisions of the Constitution there is reference to the division between what we call State jurisdiction and Federal jurisdiction. Federal jurisdiction belongs to the High Court and to Federal courts exercising Federal jurisdiction by virtue of Acts of this Parliament. There is also the Federal jurisdiction which is vested in State courts. On the other hand, there is
State jurisdiction which State courts exercise arising from the common law and State legislation. The Constitution, having established that division between the 2 classes of courts, Federal and State, then provides imperatively in section 75 that in certain matters the High Court shall have original jurisdiction. Without literally comparing the matters enumerated in sub-clauses (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of clause 19 of the Bill with the matters set out in section 75 of the Constitution, it is my present impression that what is contained in sub-clauses (a) to (e) of clause 19 is simply a copy of section 75 of the Constitution.
The Bill before us prescribes in the first chunk of jurisdiction that is to go to the new creation 5 separate descriptions which it will be found are already vested by the Constitution as original jurisdiction in the High Court. As I understand it, that jurisdiction of the High Court in those matters is inalienable and subject to no exception. If this Bill were passed into law it would be an attempt to give the Superior Court original jurisdiction in all matters:
Arising under any treaty:
That is almost precisely the language of the first 5 sub-clauses of clause 19 which, in turn, declares that original jurisdiction in all those matters subject to the Act shall be vested in the Superior Court. I ask the Senate to take particular notice of that fact because I will subject the language of section 75 of the Constitution to particular scrutiny in terms of the most distinguished jurist of our age, the late Sir Owen Dixon. After hearing my references to Sir Owen’s statements, one can judge the prudence or imprudence of using this language as criterion for jurisdiction of a new Federal court. Sub-clauses (0, (g). (h) and (i) of clause 19 of the Bill transcribe matters in the same terms of description as expressed in section 76 of the Constitution under which jurisdiction is not imperatively conferred upon the High Court, but under that section the Parliament has powers to make laws conferring original jurisdiction on the High Court in any matter:
Arising under this Constitution, or involving its interpretation:
– You will be aware that that approach was used in the 1968 Bill which was introduced by the then Attorney-General.
– If you will spare me from further complication of the matter, you will know that this is a matter upon which I do not pretend to have any expertise but upon which I have sufficient knowledge to engender a most abundant contempt for this Bill as a means of creating jurisdiction of a new court. I have read section 75 and 76 of the Constitution. Under section 75 jurisdiction is conferred by the Constitution upon the High Court. Section 76 enables the Parliament to confer that jurisdiction. The 9 matters contained in those 2 sections are simply bundled up and put into clause 19 of the Bill, and the Government says: ‘We will create a Superior Court to take up this burden’. It can be seen that in that respect this Bill is a very important step in the development of this divided jurisdiction whereby the framers of the Constitution thought proper to divide the judicial power, authority or jurisdiction of the courts of this country into Federal jurisdiction or State jurisdiction. With regard to that matter Sir Owen Dixon at page 52 of ‘Jesting Pilate ‘stated:
What seems to me to be the greatest departure from English principle was the establishment of a new jurisdiction, called ‘federal jurisdiction’. Superficially, no doubt, it appeared a natural thing for the new government to include courts of j justice of its own.
Honourable senators will find that theme very much emphasised in Senator Murphy’s speech. He has upbraided me before in this chamber for questioning the idea that a government should have its laws administered by judges of its appointment. I take the directly opposite view that the independence of the judiciary would be greatly strengthened if there were only a qualified right of appointment by the government which is responsible for the administration of legislation under review or if the court owed its existence to authority quite outside that government. Sir Owen Dixon said that one of the anomalies was the creation of federal jurisdiction. He went on:
Superficially, no doubt, it appeared a natural thing for the new government to include courts of justice of its own. As the writings of Hamilton in the ‘Federalist’ show, it was this superficial view which led in America to the separation of courts into federal and State tribunals. But neither from the point of view of juristic principle nor from that of the practical and efficient administration of justice can the division of the courts into State and federal be regarded as sound. The theory of the federal system is that power, particularly legislative power, may bc divided, that it may be defined by reference to subject matters upon which it is capable of exercise, and that it may be distributed between a central and local organs of government. Such a system requires that the allocation of powers shall be accomplished by law and it is for this reason that it depends upon the supremacy of the law. Further, it was considered an essentail part of the federal system, as the writings in the ‘Federalist insist, that the powers of central and local governments alike should operate directly upon the people. The various legislatures were, in other words, co-ordinate authorities from which law emanated but on different subject matters. The relation of the governments was not to be one of legal obligation one to another; but of agencies operating over the same people but in different fields of action. An attempt of one agency to intrude upon the field of another was simply an excess of legal power and the attempt would, therefore, be nugatory and void. In such a polity, the part played by the courts is, or should be, to decide, in the ordinary course of ascertaining and enforcing the law, whether government action in reference to the citizen was lawful or unlawful, valid or void; that is in the case of legislation to decide whether it was effectual to make a change in the law, or leave it unaltered. This function must be peformed whenever the necessity arises for enforcing rights which depend upon a doubtful exercise of power. Every court in the land must exercise it.
Every court- however inferior or however superior, whether it is Federal or State, and whether the law emanates from the common law or from State or Federal legislation- must exercise it. His Honour continued:
The only alternative when such a question arises is for it to refuse jurisdiction. Now in such a state of affairs, it would appear natural to endeavour to establish the courts of justice as independent organs which were neither Commonwealth nor State. The basis of the system is the supremacy of the law. The courts administering the law should all derive an independent existence and authority from the Constitution. Some practical difficulties would occur in carrying such a principle beyond the superior courts, but it is not easy to see why the entire system of superior courts should not have been organised and erected under the Constitution to administer the total content of the law.
His Honour, after making one or two other observations which I shall not quote, went on to say:
On the contrary, the extraordinary conception of a federal jurisdiction was adopted. As it has been interpreted, this means jurisdiction derived from a federal source. It is confined to particular kinds of litigation. The kinds of litigation are defined by reference to factors which for the most part relate either to the character of the litigants or to the question of law arising; e.g., that the litigants are residents of different States, or that the Commonwealth is a party, or that a resident of one State sues another State, that the litigation raises a constitutional question, or that it arises under a law of the Commonwealth.
Those are the descriptions chosen in this Bill as the definition of the jurisdiction of the new Superior Court. Then this most learned judge made an observation which ought to be read by every representative in this chamber if he is to consider not some theoretical policy objective of legal beings in the Federal Crown Law Office or Attorney-General ‘s Department but the interests of the people as potential litigants. His Honour said:
An intricate body of doctrine has grown up under these provisions and the legislation which the Parliament has enacted in reliance upon them in order to prevent the Privy Council dealing with federal questions. The subtleties and refinements which it has developed form a special and peculiarly arid study.
That judge, having an insight denied in equal measure to any other contemporary lawyer, found it an intricate, confusing and arid field of study and one which defeated the practical objectives that I have enunciated as the purpose of a judicial system- economy, simplicity and expedition. Yet, to our dismay, on this occasion we have a proposal by this Bill which, if it were to be passed would make a watershed. We would make permanent in the strong court, the court of the wide jurisdiction that is entertained of the Superior Court, this division between Federal and State jurisdiction. In my submission it would be a most retrograde step reverting to systems more like those of 300 years ago and partially cured in England in 1875. From that, of course, the Sydney Bar took its great leaps forward a century ago, Now Senator Murphy is taking his great leap forward, almost precisely 99 years after even that coalescence was arrived at.
To reject the advice of Mr Justice Dixon in the passages I have read and to opt for a division of the court’s jurisdiction so far as it affects the Federal legislature and its legislation would be most retrograde indeed. Mr Justice Dixon when at the Bar made a most notable contribution by way of submitting evidence to the royal commission presided over by Mr Justice Nicholas which inquired into the Constitution in 1929. So thoughtful and arresting were the comments of Mr Owen Dixon, as he then was, that the Commission quoted at length from them because, of course, it recognised the superlative insight upon which his submission was founded and the clarity of language. We find him quoted by this royal commission at page 99 of the booklet that has been published on that exercise. He said: lt seems unfortunate that the jurisdiction to entertain a legal proceeding in which the party originating it desires to enforce rights which he believes he possesses should depend on the character of the questions which arise when the matter comes to bc heard. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to say whether, when a party complains of wrongs, the elucidation of some of which involve the interpretation of the Constitution and some of which do not. how much of the proceeding is a matter over which the High Court has jurisdiction.
He is referring to sections 75 and 76. He continues:
If sections 75 and 76 were considered merely as provisions conferring jurisdiction, they would seem to us -
He made his submission jointly with other members of the Bar, but he was the obvious exponent- -to be open to the most serious practical objection, because a jurisdiction given to a court for the enforcement of the law is made to depend upon the most controversial matters, which must be determined before even the merits of the case are reached.
I hope I have conveyed an understanding of the absolute nonsense of the description of ‘subject matter of jurisdiction’, which was bad enough when incorporated in the Constitution in 1900 but unpardonable if copied as a description of Federal jurisdiction’ for a new court to be created in Australia. Mr Owen Dixon, as he then was, continued:
These provisions in truth sacrifice the interests of the litigant to the desire of the framers of the Constitution to preserve to the High Court the power of giving constitutional rulings and making constitutional precedents.
It is mere theory and political ambition to embrace the federal court as ‘my baby’ and to say that it shall administer federal law. This man, with his comprehensive insight into the application of law, says it is open to most serious practical objections and makes the very jurisdiction to begin the solution of a question dependent upon most controversial matters which have to be resolved before the merits are entered upon. The learned judge, as he later became, continued:
When these provisions are considered in relation to section 77 and the use which has been made of that section, it will be seen that the greatest difficulty and confusion have arisen, and an incredible burden has been placed upon the litigant who has the misfortune to be affected in his litigation by any Federal law or any other matter with which sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution are concerned.
Those are the sections being copied into this Bill as a description of the original jurisdiction of the proposed new court.
There are some who would say that Mr Justice Dixon’s scholarship was theoretical, technical and legalistic. He was a most practical judge applying the veriest principles of jurisprudence with an insight denied to any of his contemporaries in the British system of courts. He was acknowledged by Lord Chancellors and even by the American judges to be supreme. In the part which I have just quoted the great scholar refers to the greatest difficulty and confusion and to the growing and incredible burden upon the litigant who has the misfortune to be affected in his litigation by any matters described as they are in sections 75 and 76 which this Bill repeats. His Honour cited various difficulties that arose and at page 101 showed how, by raising matters within the description of sections 75 and 76- the same description as is applied in clause 19 of the Bill - your adversary can delay you and can raise a new point of a constitutional nature. We then get a veritable process of shuttlecock and battledore as between the State and Federal courts.
I wish to take time to refer only to what the learned judge said in relation to one of these matters. The court has original jurisdiction in all matters affecting consuls or other representatives of other countries. The learned judge said:
When does a matter affect a consul? He may be prosecuted in the police court for Tailing to register his dog; he may be sued for money borrowed. He may, and often does, conduct an independent business as well as exercise the office of consul. Do all proceedings arising out of the business affect him so that in all his legal relations he is the subject of Federal jurisdiction? If he is an employer, and is the party to an industrial dispute, and is summoned to a compulsory conference in the Arbitration Court, does this raise a question under 75 (ii)? Why should a State court be any the less fit to entertain litigation affecting him than it was when it was a court of a colony?
Sparing myself the pleasure of a more elaborate quotation, I pass to page 104 -
– But a lot of this is out of date, is it not? That bit about the Arbitration Court is not applicable at all.
-The scholars in the place will not need an intervention of that sort to know that mutatis mutandis the principle applies to this Bill. On page 104 the judge said:
The observations we have made represent criticism instances of which might be multiplied almost indefinitely. Broadly, they arise from the fact that jurisdiction has been conferred upon a court on certain very limited matters by reference to considerations or criteria which have no relation to the practical administration of justice, but to circumstances which arise or features which are exhibited only accidentally or incidentally to the ordinary administration or justice, and this has been done from motives which ignore the efficient, speedy and orderly administration of the law, and concentrate upon the political expediency of a particular tribunal retaining control over particular questions which may be expected to arise, or dealing with particular persons who it was thought (why. we do not know) might be the subjects of injustice in State courts.
Could one have a more damning criticism of the division of judicial jurisdiction into State and Federal, with all the complexities that bedevil the litigant and deny him an efficient, speedy and orderly administration of the law? I hope that the Senate will take these matters into consideration and reject the Bill as an attempt to retrogress in the administration of justice beyond the veil of tears.
That takes me to the next facet of the Bill which not only is concerned with the original jurisdiction of the Court but also attempts to give appellate jurisdiction to the Court. That is provided for in clause 2 1 of the Bill, which reads:
I ) . . . the Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine
It will be noticed that no attempt is made here to reduce or restrict the right of appeal from a Supreme Court of a State to the High Court of Australia. That is granted, subject to certain exceptions, by the Constitution. It is an inalienable right. But the appellate jurisdiction given to the Superior Court by this Bill is of the limited, fragmentary nature I have mentioned. I wish to make some observations about that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The President has directed me to make the following announcement: By courtesy of the Treasurer and the Secretary of the Treasury, the staff of Parliament House may obtain meals in the Treasury cafeteria.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.30 p.m.
– Honourable senators, I think it is appropriate at this juncture, before I call upon Senator Wright who is in continuation in the debate, that I should inform you that as a result of the 2 bold statements made by the Presiding Officers in their respective chambers this morning, the Presiding Officers will put down a statement relating to the origins of the dispute which is now engulfing the support services of Parliament.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was asking the Senate to address itself to the appellate provisions of this Bill. The first thing I want to note regarding these provisions is that they continue a division of jurisdiction as between Federal and State jurisdictions. Secondly, it is important to notice that the Bill provides for no appeal from State supreme courts- for the very good reason, I suppose, that the Bill has already divested the State supreme courts of their Federal jurisdiction. But I see in the Bill a deliberate attempt to dwarf the status of the State supreme courts in as much as the Bill subtracts from the State supreme courts in both their original and appellate jurisdictions the right to administer the law relating to Federal legislation. I draw particular attention to clauses 21 (5) and 21 (6) where very complicated provisions occur as to the degree to which inferior court jurisdictions of the States are to be made exclusive. I feel that if this Bill were passed the Parliament would be taking a step that is, in effect, irreversible because it would establish a most retrograde division of jurisdiction.
I put forward this point of view not for the first time. It received very intense consideration by the Constitutional Review Committee from 1956 to 1959 when I endeavoured to have established what I think would be the system advocated by Mr Justice Dixon- that is to say, the unitary system, ignoring the division between State and Federal jurisdictions, and having one system of judges to administer the law whether it be State or Federal. However, that can be achieved only by a constitutional amendment, and until that amendment is made it is vastly preferable to retain the system operating to date whereby Federal jurisdiction in important fields has been vested in the State supreme courts. That method of exercising a court’s jurisdiction has in many cases rendered immaterial the argument whether the action was a State or a Federal matter. I forebear to refer to other important matters in the Bill such as procedure, practice and juries but reserve them for the debate in the Committee stage, if the Bill reaches the Committee stage. I hope that the Senate will reject the Bill.
– The Senate is debating a Bill aimed at setting up in the Commonwealth jurisdiction a superior court of record with both original and appellate jurisdictions. As I see it, it is seeking to impose a parallel Federal jurisdiction on the existing State jurisdictions. In summary, I would say that it would result in a lawyers’ paradise and a litigants’ nightmare. What must happen as a result of such a duplicated system is the creation of so many complexities and difficulties for litigants that natural justice would be denied. Senator Wright in an excellent exposition set down those considerations which should guide the qualities of a judicial system. I think that a system must have ready access and be simple to understand; it must not be costly for the litigant and it must not be time consuming. Today we have a system which people understand. When the people of Australia go to a court they do not have in their minds the question whether it is a Commonwealth court or a State court. They go to a court. They understand the 3 levels of the judiciary- the inferior courts or magistrates’ courts; the intermediate courts or county or districts courts; and the superior or supreme courts. They understand fairly readily the right of appeal from the intermediate courts to the supreme courts and from the supreme courts to the High Court. That in itself can be complicated and costly enough.
Let us look at what is proposed now. It is proposed that there should be a superior court of record for Federal law. It is to have a chief judge and a number of judges. It is to be divided into a number of districts- presumably a district for the Northern Territory and a district for the Australian Capital Territory and, but not necessarily, a district for each of the 6 States. In each of those districts there will be a chief judge and judges. It is then to be divided into some 6 divisions of its functions- administrative, bankruptcy and insolvency, commercial, family, general, and industrial. In the industrial division there will be, of course, a chief judge.
When a government in a federation approaches the question of establishing a judicial system to have oversight of its Federal laws it has available one of 2 possible solutions to it. It can vest in the State courts jurisdiction regarding Federal laws. This has been done since Federation. Alternatively it can set up an entirely separate system, and this is the one proposed. Many lawyers of very considerable repute believe that the establishment of a superior court would create constitutional difficulties of the greatest magnitude and that endless litigation would result. Today because of the vesting of jurisdiction of Federal laws in the State courts there are none of these complications. It is a pretty straight forward system. But if tomorrow there were to be 2 separate jurisdictions, many litigants would find themselves unable, even with the help of lawyers, to determine where a particular dispute should lie. Part of the cause might lie in the Federal jurisdiction, part in the State jurisdiction. One could have interminable arguments about a cause being outside the powers of a particular jurisdiction. It is the essence of nonsense that this should be so. The whole basis of law, as has been said, is that it should be simple: It should give justice as well as appearing to give justice.
Of course, Senator Wright has quoted Sir Owen Dixon, a former Chief Justice of Australia in his opposition to a duplicate federal system. I would join with Senator Wright in acknowledging that Sir Owen Dixon was in his life time the greatest living jurist in the world. That was acknowledged by his fellow jurists. He quite clearly rejected the idea of a duplicate system. Another very eminent judge of the High Court, Sir Victor Windeyer, is on record as being completely outspoken on this matter. I quote part of his address at the fourteenth Legal Convention of the Law Council of Australia held in Adelaide on 17 July 1967:
Some people apparently envisage a system of federal courts parallel with the State courts somewhat like the system in the United States. It is not for me to express views on political policy; but I could not support that. I am inclined to think that such an arrangement would be complicated, undesirable and dangerous as it could have a divisive effect and thus be not in the national interest.
In a subsequent speech he said: lt would be greatly to our disadvantage, I think, if proposals were adopted which added complexity and conflict and jealousies and competition between courts, between State courts and Commonwealth courts. In particular it would do no good for the public, I think, to create new courts of intermediate appeal, as has been suggested. And I certainly would not like to see any diminution of the status and authority of the Supreme Courts of the States. They are great courts, historic courts administering the law for the Australian people. I hope that the time will come when we shall all be just regarded as Her Majesty’s Judges, exercising jurisdiction in Australia in our own spheres.
That is the end of that quote which expresses precisely the viewpoint put forward by Sir Owen Dixon. It is often said that we should have a duplicate system because a similar plan was undertaken in the United States of America. This is literally not true. It is not correct to draw a parallel between Australia and the United States. It is to confuse the position. I come to the real test: The Labor Government, in bringing forward this legislation, has not suggested what are the basic defects of the present system of vested jurisdiction which are of such magnitude, in its consideration, as to warrant the setting up of a completely new judicial system. Does the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) or anyone suggest that the judges of the supreme courts of the States are not in themselves fully competent to discharge these jobs? Is there any suggestion at all that justice is not done in this way? Let me put the position another way: If in the vesting of the jurisdiction in the States there should be some divergent practices that one might feel should be rectified, this Parliament could prescribe the procedural and adjectival elements to govern the administration of the Federal laws in the States. In other words, we have it in our power to lay down the uniformity of administration of the Federal laws. I have no doubt that if the Attorney-General approached his fellow attorneys-general in the States he could get that uniformity in any case by consent.
Let me look at this position: I have said that this proposal must make for utter confusion as to the demarcation of a dispute between a Federal court and a State court. It must add to all sorts of appeals and all sorts of High Court actions to determine the validity or otherwise of a particular decision. It must add to endless litigation and endless costs and it must therefore deny natural justice in the course of things. It will do this by the most complicated and expensive arrangements that one could devise. It will set up a whole series of new buildings. We must have new courts, new jury rooms, new rooms for staff and all the appurtenances of a court house. But that is not all. It is necessary also to set up premises for the registry office and for the carrying out of the administrative functioning including the scheduling of the courts. Indeed, what will happen with regard to the law enforcement agency? Is there to be a whole new law enforcement agency? Are the Commonwealth Police to be the executive arm of the new Superior Court or are we to have some kind of federal marshalls in this situation?
The Labor Government is seeking to establish in Australia an enormously new complex area of law involving 20, 30 or more new judges. It is fair to say that per capita, Australia already has more judges than many other countries. It is equally fair to say that the senior bar in Australia is not so overladen with talent at this moment that drawing off some 20, 30 or more members would not denude it. In any case, it is utterly unnecessary because if we apply the test as we have that the supreme courts of Australia in the various States are courts of quality and competence, then there is no need whatsoever to undertake these new so called reforms. The fact is that whatever happens the State courts will continue to exist. They will continue to be there with their buildings, their staffs, all the services and with their competence to carry out the vested jurisdiction of Commonwealth laws. Why, therefore, other than for king making and for perhaps for hopes for future rewards to come inside the Australian Labor Party do we have a Superior Court?
It has been said that former attorneys-general on my side of politics originally sponsored this idea. That is true. It is true that Sir Garfield Barwick looked at the concept, at first saw favour in it, and ultimately rejected it. It is equally true that Nigel Bowen did exactly the same. It is true that Tom Hughes rejected the concept and it is true that Bill Snedden rejected the concept. Fundamentally, great jurists like Sir Owen Dixon and Sir Victor Windeyer have rejected it because it would be bad in the true tests of law. I repeat that it would create a duplicated system involving enormous complexities and enormous constitutional challenges. It would make it well nigh impossible for the ordinary litigant to attempt to understand. It would make it well nigh impossible for the lawyers to determine the demarcation lines between the Federal and State spheres of law. It must increase costs. It must increase delays and by those tests, it must be bad law and should be rejected.
-I join with my colleagues of the Opposition in opposing the Superior Court of Australia Bill. I think that it is germane to the argument and the consideration of this matter that, apart from the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), the Bill has not attracted vocal support from other members of the Government. I think it is fair to say that this proposal has been mooted over a long period, and the more that people have examined the proposal the less attractive it has become. Senator Carrick has referred to the experience of past Attorneys-General who, without exception, have ultimately come down against a proposal of this character. One can only wonder whether, if the matter is allowed to be considered for a longer period, Senator Murphy himself will not see the disadvantages which are involved in it. lt will involve a complexity in our legal procedure, which is better avoided. It will involve difficulties in litigation, which will be costly and time consuming to the client, which are better avoided. It will destroy that essential simplicity and understanding which is surely at the heart of an acceptable system of justice in Australia.
What does this Bill do? It is a Bill which seeks to establish a Federal Superior Court to exist alongside each of the State courts. It therefore establishes a new court structure for Australia. It will mean that new court buildings will have to be provided in each capital city in Australia. It will mean that facilities will have to be made available forjudges to sit in many major provincial centres. It will mean a completely new crop of judges- and who knows how many; perhaps there will be thirty, forty or fifty of them- who will perform work which is currently being performed by supreme court judges throughout the States. It will involve an increase in staff and facilities which ought and surely can be avoided.
The Bill sets out the methods of appointment and the salaries of judges. It also sets out the structure of the Superior Court so that it will have a trial jurisdiction and an appellate jurisdiction. The Bill establishes the jurisdiction of the court as a general Federal jurisdiction, and in clause 19 it specifies a host of matters which may be considered in this court. It will be quite an extensive jurisdiction taken almost wholly from the existing jurisdiction exercised in the States by the supreme courts, lt will include, for example, all divorce and ancillary matters. In passing I should mention that the court will not serve those who are seeking divorces in the country areas of the major States and who at the present time are served by regular circuits of judges from the State supreme courts. These people will have to wait what I assume will be a much longer period for the judges of the Federal courts to move around the same area. If they are not going to wait a longer period for the circuits of Federal judges, it will be only because there are more judges appointed than are reasonably necessary and who can be fully occupied.
In addition, the jurisdiction of the Superior Court will include the existing jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court, of the Industrial Court and of the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It does not appear clear whether the courts whose jurisdiction is transferred to the Superior Court are to be abolished or not or what the position of the judges of those courts will be. I notice that a host of ancillary matters are included, but there is one very curious exception which, if the Bill were to pass the second reading stage, ought to be elaborated on at the Committee stage. Judges do not appear to have been given any power to make the rules of court, which is a power customarily accorded to judges.
A lot has been said about the Superior Court proposal and the fact that the previous Government had been committed to it- in fact, that it had decided upon the Superior Court in 1 963. I only state for the record that what was decided at that stage was that the proposal would be examined. The exact words used by the then Solicitor-General in making the announcement in Hobart in 1 963 were:
Cabinet authority to design a new Federal court with a view to consideration by Cabinet for approval for legislative action had been given to the Attorney-General.
Thereafter the matter was considered. A statement was made in 1967. In fact, a Bill was introduced in 1 968, but it was taken off the notice paper at the 1969 election. The matter was not revived until October 1 972 when, on behalf of the previous Government I made a statement in this place and indicated that the previous Government was not proceeding further with the proposal for a Superior Court.
What are acclaimed as the advantages of a Superior Court? Senator Murphy stated that areas of major Federal law should be administered by a Federal court established under legislation enacted by this Parliament; that it should not be left to be administered by the State courts. But is this a justification? Law- whether it is Federal law or State law, or law passed by this Parliament or by State parliaments, or law which is our inherited common law- is administered by the courts. There is no ground for treating State courts as inferior or incapable of deciding issues arising under Federal law. They have been doing so, and doing so satisfactorily, for some 70 years. One uses the word ‘administered’. Senator Murphy used it and I used it a moment ago, but it is curiously inappropriate. Laws strictly are not administered. They are applied or enforced in courts. They are tested and adjudicated upon in respect of the matters which come before courts.
The reason given by Senator Murphy for setting up a Superior Court implies some unfairness or partiality against the Commonwealth if its laws are the subject of decisions in State courts. If I am right in suggesting that implication, it is an unwarranted implication because, after all, there is one ultimate court of appeal in Australia, and that is the High Court. It is said that a Superior Court will permit specialisation and, to a degree, it will do so, but no more or no less specialisation than can be achieved in State courts. Indeed, specialisation does occur among supreme court judges at the present time. If there is a need for specialist Federal jurisdictions, they can be appointed or created, but there is no essential need because this is a matter which can be dealt with under existing system.
It is said that the Federal Parliament is excluded from considering reforms in the practice and procedure of courts. But technically this is not so because if it wanted to do so this Parliament could determine many aspects of the practice and procedure of courts when dealing with Federal matters. Indeed, the Federal Parliament has determined what shall be the practice and procedure of the High Court when, sitting in trial jurisdiction, it moves from State to State. The Federal Parliament has declared that that practice and procedure will be the practice and procedure of the court when it is sitting. But of course the Parliament should not seek to apply or to determine what are the rules of procedures in Federal courts because of the complications this would cause and of the different rights which litigants in courts would have according to the nature of their own case. If their case was a Federal case, then they may have certain rights according to the procedural laws which are applicable. If they have a State case, it may be a different matter. This is creating unnecessary divisions between rights which 1 think would tend to destroy the unity which I believe our judicial system can establish throughout Australia under the existing procedures.
Then it is said that the present system allows the rights of persons under Federal law to vary from one State to another. For example, in some States persons can have a jury trial and in other States they cannot. I have expressed the view previously that jury trials ought to be encouraged, that we should have more of them, and that as far as possible the legislatures of the States and the rules of court of the judges should facilitate juries as the arbiters of disputed issues of fact, because I believe that juries are the means by which the community and the legal system can be brought together, and also the means by which the community can have confidence in our legal system. But the claim which Senator Murphy makes is a claim which acknowledges only a difference between State laws. Persons suing under Federal or State provisions have the same advantages or disadvantages, according to the State in which they live. It is not an area of discrimination against the Commonwealth, nor is it an area of discrimination against Federal law.
It is also said, in justification of this Bill, that the High Court will be able to concentrate on its task of interpreting the Constitution and of acting as the ultimate court of appeal. A superior court will relieve the High Court of much of its original or trial jurisdiction. This, of course, was the original justification for a superior court put forward by Sir Garfield Barwick when he was Attorney-General. Now there are no substantial problems with the High Court work load, and this is conceded by Senator Murphy in his second reading speech. I think there is always advantage in High Court judges having some opportunity to engage in trial work, which they do in a limited way through the original jurisdiction at present. But they are arguments in support of this Bill and comments by me in rebuttal of the supposed justification.
It has been said that Commonwealth Attorneys-General in the past have come down finally against a superior court proposal. Reference has been made to the views of Sir Owen Dixon and Sir Victor Windeyer, but a body of opinion which has been expressed in academic writings is opposed to this concept. I think that the most instructive set of arguments is to be found in the writings of Professor Sawer in the journal of the Society of Teachers of Public Law in 1965. I think that what he said at that time could well be said now. He said that there ought to be more scrutiny given to the arguments for a Federal superior court because the more one examines the proposal the more one sees the difficulties which at first blush do not appear. He instanced, for example, that one of the prime lessons of English investigation and experience which has been strongly endorsed by American specialists in the same field is the desirability of avoiding, so far as possible, the splitting of jurisdiction between a number of separate courts. In any event, where jurisdiction is split between separate courts, not by amount, as we do at the moment, within the one hierarchy of courts but by subject matter such as industrial, property and matrimonial matters and other matters arising solely because they have an origin in Federal law, the dangers which the English system has been consciously developed to avoid are created.
If there is a splitting of the jurisdiction, as we would have under this Federal court, persons could find themselves unable to secure full remedies in the court in which they sue. For example, if a person were to sue because of a dishonoured cheque, he could sue in the Federal court because the action which he would bring is an action under Federal law. Our system of bills of exchange is governed by Federal legislation. If the cheque had been properly dishonoured, the person who was suing would not be able to secure the amount which was due to him for the services which he had rendered or for the work which he had done because that would not be a matter of Federal law. If the defendant had dishonoured the cheque for some good reason and if he wanted to claim against another person in what the lawyers call a third party action, he would not be able to pursue that action in the Federal court. He would have to go to the State court. So there could be the anomalous and, to the layman, nonsensical system of starting an action in one court and not being able to have the issue litigated and determined in that court. That is the type of approach which I believe creates dissatisfaction with the legal system. Furthermore, it is contrary to the developments and the improvements in the law in the past century and a half. It would be a retrograde step for us to go back to a system under which a person goes to a court but cannot secure all his relief in one action.
In Australia a State jurisdiction is, in general, preferable to a Federal jurisdiction because of the irrational rigidities in our Federal jurisdiction. This is the second major argument to which Professor Sawer adverted. One could stress it in terms of what could happen in future. I instance, for example, the subject matter of family courts. I think it would be fairly accepted that the creation by the Commonwealth of family courts in the sense that persons other than judges will have a right to exercise judgment in those courts is not possible unless the members of the tribunal are to be given judicial work and, therefore, appointed for life. Family courts can be created in the State jurisdictions. We would not be able to develop a system of matrimonial or family law in which family courts play their part unless we were to have a system in which the State courts and the State jurisdictions were complementary, because it is only in that way that a family court structure could be established. I notice- I do not think the matter can be clearly resolved by an examination of the terms of this Bill- that it is proposed that there should be a family law division. But that family law division will not be consistent with what is hoped for in terms of an ultimate structure in which family law courts will play their part if the superior court is to be established in its present form.
The third argument raised by Professor Sawer is that insofar as the demand for a Federal tribunal rests upon the desiderata of uniformity of interpretation and application, it is difficult to see how these will be achieved unless the Federal judges are very few in number and integrate extensively, which is certain to produce inconvenience for litigants, or unless, alternatively, the judges are frequently brought together for consultation. One acknowledges the overall appellate jurisdiction of the High Court and the problems which that creates in a well settled hierarchy through each of the States, but the problems would be multiplied and the difficulties would be enhanced if we were to have a series of Federal courts as well as the existing State structures. At the moment the problem of endeavouring to obtain through the State systems uniformity of application of principles in regard to matrimonial law are difficult enough. We ought to have a national judicial system, national standards and a national approach. The way in which we will achieve that goal is not by setting up 2 structures of courts, which is involved in the current proposal, but by ensuring that the existing structure through the States supreme courts up to the High Court is maintained.
That is why, among other reasons, we in the Opposition are opposed to the present Bill. The task of all courts is to do justice to all who appear before them. Previous speakers have set out what ought to be the criteria for a sensible legal system under which justice should be done. I repeat what has been said. We ought to have a legal systema court structure- which is simple and understandable to the laymen who have to appear before those courts. We want a system which is not too costly and a system in which people can have their rights litigated, declared and affirmed, and justice done at a cost which is within their means. If the costs of the courts are too high, it is certainly the obligation of the State to provide reasonable means by which legal assistance can be given. Furthermore, we need a system which is not so time consuming that justice is delayed and, therefore, justice is denied.
We also desire and need a uniformity of legal principle.
I do not believe that all these considerations will be met by Senator Murphy’s Bill. 1 believe that any superior court proposal will be deficient in one or more of those aspects and will be deficient, moreover, in simple terms of administration because of the need for the appointment of hosts of judges and the establishment of additional buildings and facilities, all of which ought to be regarded as unnecessary. I join my colleagues in opposing this Bill.
-On a previous occasion when legislation in relation to the establishment of a superior court was before this chamber I indicated as my personal attitude that I favoured the concept of the superior court. In so doing I was not necessarily speaking for the Australian Democratic Labor Party or expressing the view of my Party. As I rise to speak on this Superior Court of Australia Bill I express a somewhat parallel point of view. I still adhere to the concept of the establishment of a superior court. Again in that regard I do not necessarily project the opinion of my Party. But the attitude of the Party in relation to this Bill- whether or not it agrees with the concept of the superior court as I do- is that it does not agree with the establishment of the superior court in the terms under which it is created in this Bill. Therefore my Party proposes to vote against the Bill at the second reading stage.
The content of the Bill has been substantially outlined by Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood. I think it would be unduly trespassing on the time and the indulgence of the Senate were I to try to recapitulate. Many of the things which have been pointed out by these two distinguished lawyers find reflection in my own thoughts and also reflect some of the objection that I have in relation to the Bill. In approaching this proposed legislation I am primarily concerned with the intention to establish a superior court which shall have passed over to it jurisdiction which now lies in other areas. The bankruptcy and insolvency jurisdiction is now administered substantially through a federal court and also through State supreme court judges sitting in bankruptcy jurisdiction. The matrimonial causes jurisdiction is administered by State supreme courts and the industrial law is administered by the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
But in addition in this Bill it is contemplated that there shall be new areas of conferred jurisdiction. Those areas are set out in clause 13 of the Bill. A number of divisions of the court are contemplated. There are to be more divisions than originally were contemplated in the primary legislation when it was introduced by a previous government. The administrative division, the commercial division and the general division are three substantially new areas of conferred jurisdiction. It concerns me that as we look at the legislative program of the Government we see coming forward a mass of legislation which is of a fundamental character. It will affect the lives of the people and the structure of our society. Then we see the very vast changes which are contemplated in the whole Australian way of life. Now there is to be created a superior court to which jurisdiction in relation to those areas will be conferred. But, as yet, in relation to those areas there has not been a delineation by this Parliament of what will be the ultimate form of the legislation, what rights will be defined and what will be the form and content of family law. Yet the superior court is to be established and is to have the whole jurisdiction over and inspection of the operation of those segments of the law. I think it would be imprudent at this stage to enable such a structure to be created with this conferred jurisdiction when the Parliament does not know what will be the ultimate form of the legislation.
Let us look at family law. This is a matter which involves not only a very vexed social question but also a very vexed legal question. The general question of divorce is already under reference to a standing committee of this Parliament. Then we have the Family Law Bill which is before the Senate. Similarly, it has been referred to a committee. It seems to me to be completely logical that we should not establish the superior court until we comprehend an inclusive Bill on family law and know what will be the new approach, if any, to matrimonial causes. Bills relating to the matters I have mentioned should be discussed and determined by this Parliament before we create the proposed court which will be the instrument for the supervision of the administration of those bodies of law. Similarly we have the contemplated Bill on human rights. This proposed court will be vested with jurisdiction in that most sensitive and important field. That being the case, Parliament will help to create a jurisdiction not knowing just how wide will be the area over which the court will be asked to preside and the areas into which it will penetrate judicially.
Finally we have this enormous body of alterations in commercial law. The creation of many new corporations such as the Australian Industry
Development Corporation, the National Investment Fund, the Trade Practices Act and legislation of that character will have a most important effect on the commercial life and structure of Australia. This court will be vested with jurisdiction in those areas which are now undefined until the legislation finally- if it does- passes through this Parliament. Therefore at the present time it seems completely inopportune that we should create a structure with ill-defined areas of jurisdiction which the Parliament could not possibly lay out at this stage. The more appropriate thing would be, when we have this substantive body of law finally approved by the Parliament, to look at how it will be administered and how it will be judicially scrutinised. Then we will be in a better position to decide whether a further federal court should properly, logically and effectively be created to judicially administer this body of law. For those reasons and because the Government itself is author of the present situation with this mass of legislation, I think that in prudence we must lay aside the judicial structure which will follow the introduction of such law. Only when the law is finally adopted by the Parliament will we see whether the present judicial structure and division of responsibility between existing federal courts and the supreme courts of the States is adequate to handle all these new areas plus the present areas which are distributed between federal and State courts or whether some new and different superior court should be established. In those circumstances while I personally agree with the concept of the superior court, my Party, being unresolved on the matter, is not prepared to support the legislation in its present form. We will oppose the Bill at the second reading.
– Did the honourable senator not indicate to me that he would support this measure?
– I hope I have not misled the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). We did have in mind that we would support the Bill at the second reading stage and then adjourn it from then on. If our point of view was made known in that way, I thought that, subject to consultation with my Party, this would achieve the same purpose. The matter would be still unresolved and the legislation would not pass, which is our intent. All that would be expressed, perhaps, would be my Party’s acceptance of the principle of the superior court without adopting this legislation. I sincerely hope that I have not misled the Minister. I hope that this can be resolved because a misunderstanding like that is unfortunate.
– in reply- A number of matters have been raised, particularly by Senator Wright, about the jurisdiction of the superior court. It is important to observe that the Constitution provides in almost identical terms for the vesting of jurisdiction in the High Court. The vesting of such jurisdiction in the superior court is not expected to raise any more problems than have been raised in the High Court. It is all very well to go back to what Sir Owen Dixon said and say that terrible problems will be met because someone wants to sue the Commonwealth in the High Court or to resolve some question relating to a matter affecting consuls. If a case in relation to consuls arose it could be very easily determined. Whether it was determined in the superior court or in the High Court, the problem would be the same in either area. Even if one were to vest the jurisdiction in the State courts the same kind of limits would apply because only that jurisdiction referred to in sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution can be vested by this Parliament, whether it be in the superior court or in the courts of the States.
Senator Wright tended to avoid what I put to him, namely, that this Government has brought forward a measure that is very much like the measure introduced in 1968 by the then Liberal Attorney-General, Mr Nigel Bowen. It is clear that if the jurisdiction is vested in the Superior Court the High Court will be relieved to a very great extent of the burden of jurisdiction which it has and it will be able to address itself to the more important aspects of jurisdiction- the cases which have a considerable constitutional content. Without going into figures, I have noted, for example, that the time between the hearing of cases by the High Court and judgment being given is in some cases extraordinarily long. I do not want to be in the position of being critical of the High Court, but even in the short time that I have been Attorney-General I have had to deal with complaints by citizens about the delay in the rendering of judgments.
– Due, I suggest, to the complexity of the matters rather than other factors.
-I do not want to cite particular cases. Let me say that the work has not been disposed of in a manner which seems to be just to some of those involved in the jurisdiction. I am not talking about governments; I am talking about ordinary citizens.
The complaints made today by honourable senators about the jurisdiction seem to me to be just part of the pattern of the Opposition. The concept of this Bill was put forward by a government formed by the Liberal and Country Parties, but because of their internal difficulties, or whatever it might have been, they did not proceed with the matter. To start suggesting that in some way this is a dreadful proposal and another wicked innovation by the Labor Government is a lot of nonsense. This proposal was put forward more than a dozen years ago, I think, and it is a sensible and reasonable one. Whether honourable senators opposite agree with it or not, I think that even they could not suggest that the proposal put forward is an unreasonable one. It was promised by the Labor Party in its election policy. It was one of the things specifically put to the people. We are trying to implement our program and again the Opposition seeks to frustrate, even in regard to a matter which originally was proposed by the Liberal and Country Parties. It shows the depths to which they can descend in endeavouring to frustrate anything brought forward by the Labor Government.
I understood- Senator Byrne adverted to this-that he would support the motion for the second reading of this Bill and then propose that the Committee stage be stood over for several weeks. I understood him to mention the first sitting day in May.
– Surely you are not going to intrude private conversations.
– I am not going to pursue the matter. I am addressing the Senate. I understood that the motion for the second reading of this Bill would be accepted and that the Bill would then be stood over until the first sitting day in May in order that the intervening period might be spent in getting assistance in regard to clauses of the Bill, and the matter could then be dealt with. If Senator Byrne suggests that I see no difference between that and the rejection of the motion for the second reading, let me say that I see a considerable difference. If he suggests that that is the course he wishes to adopt after the passing of the motion for the second reading, I would accede to it; otherwise I suggest that the appropriate course is for me now to seek an adjournment while this matter is sorted out. The Bill could be brought forward for decision tomorrow.
– I understand that you think we want to put forward that proposition- to pass the motion for the second reading and then to adjourn the Bill for further consideration. May I make a statement by leave?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Senator Murphy has the floor.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
-I thought that in this chamber matters would be conducted in an honourable fashion. I regret that Senator Greenwood has seen fit to object to leave being granted in the circumstances which will be shown in the record. If that is the position I can do no more than say that I regret that matters are handled in this way after such intimations have been given to me. I ask the Senate to agree to the motion for the second reading of this Bill.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland)-I think I indicated to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, although not definitely, that that probably could be the disposition of the Party; that we would support the motion for the second reading of the Bill as an acceptance of the concept and then seek to defer the further stages because of the actual terms of the Bill. I hope I did not indicate to him that that was a final position, because the matter was being considered. It has been determined that we should oppose the Bill at the second reading stage, and I am now indicating that. I hope I did not leave Senator Murphy under a misapprehension. I think I indicated that that could be our disposition but it was not final.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 412). on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
-When this debate was interrupted I was conveying to the Senate the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to the legislation. It is very interesting to refer to that part of the speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) when introducing the legislation where he set out precisely what the legislation was proposed to do. He cited some instances of where this Authority could be used to protect Australia from the erosion of its resources by the investment of too much foreign capital, but he made some other very interesting statements which indicated that the Government was quite fixed in its idea that it would not only enter into this industry in terms of exploration and assistance for exploration in industries which had already been established and endeavour to establish new industries but also would seek to take over the industries already established. They are not the principles of the Democratic Labor Party and we could not in any circumstances see ourselves associated with a Bill that goes as far as this legislation.
I had reached a stage in my address on the previous occasion that was virtually a preamble to the statement I have just made, but if my remarks have been misinterpreted as suggesting that the Democratic Labor Party may have some sympathy with the Bill, I point out to the Senate that certainly members of my Party have sympathy with the title of the Bill and with some of the principles that are supposed to be enunciated in it. But we have no sympathy with the measures contained in this legislation which seek to carry out some of the things with which we cannot agree. For instance, I refer to the limit to which foreign capital may be introduced for the development of some Australian industries. The Democratic Labor Party has always set its face very strongly against a preponderence of foreign capital although we have recognised that foreign capital is necessary to develop the enormous resources of this country. We have always held the view that foreign capital should not be allowed to dominate. But that is not the sole purpose of this Bill. There is some doubt whether that purpose would be achieved by this Bill. However, what could be achieved by it is completely opposed to the principles against which the Democratic Labor Party has set its face. I think those principles are generally known. We are not prepared to support this legislation. We will not support the motion for the second reading and will vote against it.
– The Senate is debating the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill 1973. The first point to make about this Bill is that the Labor Government and the Australian Labor Party have absolutely no mandate for this measure. The Australian Labor Party did not mention this measure in its policy speech. It was utterly silent about this proposed action. Therefore, the Government has no mandate for it and the legislation, on this ground alone, deserves rejection. The legislation needs study and understanding because what it aims to do is set up a petroleum and minerals authority the effect of which would be to take control over petroleum and minerals away from the States, where such control now resides, and shift it to Canberra. That is the first step. Then it would have the effect of transferring all ownership from private investment and private enterprise to public ownership. I want to set the stage for this argument against the background of the Australian Labor Party seeking support for these steps by arguing that foreign control has been taking over Australia, that in its own self-interest it has been directing our policies on minerals and petroleum, and, in fact, that we have been selling the farm.
I remind the Senate that the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, has repeatedly referred to a figure of 62 per cent as being, in his words, the proportion of the minerals and petroleum industries which was overseas owned or controlled. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) took this up and recently mentioned that these industries were 62 per cent overseas owned. The aim was to have the public of Australia believe that a substantial majority of petroleum and minerals ownership was foreign. This was said repeatedly. The Minister in another place was challenged because in a paper given on 22 May 1973 by Mr L. Noakes, the Assistant Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, he said that Australian equity in 1971 was 65 per cent and that foreign ownership was of the order of 38 per cent. Mr Noakes identified overseas equity in minerals as some 35 per cent and not 62 per cent. There is a vast difference between those 2 figures and, therefore, there has been a vast misrepresentation of them. It is one thing to comprehend the industry being 62 per cent under foreign ownership and entirely another thing to comprehend it being 35 per cent under foreign ownership. Mr Noakes went on to say that 62 per cent of the hard mineral industry of Australia was Australian owned. The ownership ranged from 77 per cent for tin and 72 per cent for iron and steel down to some 49 per cent for mineral sands. After a lot of wringing of elbows and a lot of pressure Mr Connor was forced to table Mr Noakes’ paper. Mr Connor has now retreated behind the argument that what he meant was foreign control and not foreign ownership. He took the view that any company in which there was 25 per cent foreign investment was in fact under foreign control. This, of course, is utterly specious. Recently the Australian Mining Industry Council put out its very latest figures. It said:
Direct overseas ownership of the Australian mining industry in 1 972-73 was only 39.5 per cent.
That figure is up to date and shows that some 60 per cent or more of the mining industry is Australian owned. This survey was based on 152 member companies and the Australian Mining Industry Council says that the figures used were the same as those supplied to the Commonwealth Statistician. The Council continued:
Our survey, unlike the latest available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1968. includes the value of smelting and refining as well as ex-mine values. Smelting and refining values were included because these operations form a valuable part of the mining industry.
This is a clear refutation. The survey has shown that even if a generous allowance is made for portfolio investment the overseas ownership figure is still less than 45 per cent. This of course, puts an entirely different construction on the picture from the one that the Minister and the Government tried to place on it.
Let me make the point that if foreign control is the issue to be debated this Government, and any government, has it entirely in its hands to exert full control over an industry operating in Australia; so the degree of control of the industry at any one time is entirely in the Government’s hands. The Government, by legislation and by the use of its export and corporation powers, can lay down the elements of control of any industry. Two things are emerging. The first thing is that it is not true that the minerals industry of Australia is substantially or predominantly foreign owned. The contrary is the case; it is substantially Australian owned. If there is an argument as to control it is a matter entirely for the Commonwealth Government, and we are lacking or delinquent in that then the mote is in its eye.
There has been a great deal of talk about foreign capital and the need to control foreign investment in Australia. One of the basic provisions made by the Labor Party some year or more ago was that it would control foreign investment in Australia. It saw foreign investment as wicked. I think the Senate and the people of Australia should be reminded that a week or so ago the newly appointed Australian High Commissioner to India, Sir Patrick Shaw, was heard to say in an ‘AM’ recording of a speech made by him in America the day before: “There are no ground rules for American investment in Australia. There are some guide lines but no ground rules’. One would assume that an Australian ambassador of such seniority must know the substance of what he is saying. If his statement is true the Commonwealth Government has failed in its mandate because it has claimed and is continuing to claim that it is controlling foreign investment. Yet Sir Patrick Shaw says that there are no ground rules at all.
I repeat that if the question of national interest is the test of how we exploit or conserve our petroleum and mineral industries- I accept it as such- the real approach should be control and not essentially ownership. The real aim of a government ought to be to ensure not only that we conserve and therefore not over-exploit our minerals but also that we extract them in the best way possible, we sell them on the best market possible and we obtain for the Australian people the maximum reward in terms of company tax, in employment, and in the general benefits that flow from the extraction and processing of minerals. Control is the laying down of rules governing whether or not a company can exploit a particular mining right, what terms it can have to exploit that mining right, how much ore it can take out of the ground at a time, whether it shall reduce that ore to pellets or pig iron or steel in the case of iron ore or whether it shall reduce that ore in the case of bauxite to alumina or smelt it to aluminium. All these decisions, both in quantity and quality, lie wholly within the competence of the Government to lay down. Not one ton of metal or ore, or petroleum or natural gas can be sold from Australian shores abroad unless the Commonwealth Government approves, because the export power of the Commonwealth Government is total. On every level the Commonwealth Government has absolute power of control. Let us have no more nonsense about this business of foreign control. If there is foreign control in Australia it is because of the complete ineptitude of the present Labor Government. This is utterly clear.
– If honourable senators of the Labor Party differ from that view let them say in the future where the defects are in this case. The Bill itself has some extraordinary characteristics. I have said it is a Bill for which there is no mandate at all. I have said that it is a takeover bid by the Commonwealth, to take over from the States the whole of the continent, including the sea beds of the continental shelf. It is a massive takeover. It is a takeover which denies royalties to the States and denies any benefits which are flowing to the States at present. It is not a takeover that can be carried out in the name of Australian ownership. This is not an argument as to whether the ownership shall be foreign or Australian in terms of Australian equity. This Bill seeks nationalisation of the petroleum and minerals industry. It gives to the Commonwealth Government total powers over all stages of the development of petroleum and minerals and gives to the definition of both petroleum and minerals such a wide scope that virtually everything can be taken in. As an authority it can be the total authority to take over or to acquire all existing leases, to operate those leases, to extract, process and wholesale the minerals and to go further into the petro-chemical system, lt is a massive attempt at nationalisation. When what I have just said is said, it is a wonderful piece of understatement for the Government to say: ‘You are mistaken on this. We do not want to do this alone. We propose to do it by getting some help’.
I want to examine the kind of help that has been given. In the decade before the LiberalCountry Party Government left office we had converted Australia from a country that had found no oil in the ground, and therefore had to cart all crude oil by sea, into a country that could find in the ground and refine all its requirements of automotive spirit and have a surplus for export. What is more, we fixed prices for the crudes. During the 20 years of our government we maintained the availability of motor spirit to people in Australia at a price which was the third cheapest on earth. For the benefit of those who talk of the wicked and wealthy foreign owned oil companies- which have just been discovered, although they have been here for 70, 80 or 90 years- let the record show that during the time we were in government motor spirit in Australia was dearer only than that in America and Canada, and was cheaper by far in this country than in any other country, particularly England and Continental Europe. So the Australian people were getting very good benefit from their oil industries. When we left office Bass Strait was being developed by a vigorous co-partnership between the great Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and the Esso company which provided its know-how and skill. There was vigorous development on Barrow Island and in the north-west area by the Ampol group and others. Australia had been made, for a short time at least, temporarily secure.
We had given all sorts of incentives to drill for oil because we were aware that a massive energy crisis was growing up. We said that it was of vital importance that Australia should have sufficient indigenous supplies of oil to meet our needs so that we could not be stood over by the oil producing countries. In 1972, which was the last year in which we were in office, 965,898 feetthat is nearly one million feet- of oil drilling wells was achieved in Australia. In 1973, which was the first year in which the Labor Government was in office- the Government that said it could show the Australian people how to get oil and how it could drill wells- 551,400 feet of oil wells was drilled, which was slightly more than half the figure achieved in the previous year. In 1973 only 73 wells were attempted, which was half the number attempted in the previous year. In 1972 we had 7 wells off-shore; today we have four. In 1 972 we had 22 rigs available. Indeed, they are available and ready for work now, but in 1972 they were pretty well occupied. At the end of the first year in office of the present Government only one oil rig was operating; 19 were idle; and 2 were being transported. This shows the progressive use made by the Government of oil drilling facilities in Australia.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said: ‘Do not worry. The Australian position in oil is safe. You have no need to worry; 69 per cent of all our requirements come from
Australia, and this includes all our automotive spirit. The remaining 3 1 per cent that we need consists of heavy crudes which are largely for industrial use, heating, fuelling and bunkering, we get those from overseas’. But what he forgot to say was that, unless in the next year or more wells are found which are the equal of Bass Strait in quantity and quality, by 1980 Australia will be producing only 45 per cent of its requirements of automotive spirit and by 1990 it will be producing only 10 per cent. If that situation arises we will be in jeopardy to the oil sellers of the world; we will have sold ourselves out. So in one year the Australian Government has converted the Australian oil exploration industry from a viable one into one that is virtually stagnant. This situation has been created by the Government that says it will find oil; but this Government will find that oil prices will rise and continue to rise. This should be contrasted with the fact that in our time automotive spirit in Australia was the cheapest in the world, apart from that in America and Canada. This is the Government that says: ‘Put us in and we will have a massive policy for energy development. We will coordinate energy development in Australia. We will conserve, co-ordinate and develop the sources of fuel’.
I ask the Senate to name one sector of the petroleum and minerals industry in relation to which anyone in Australia can stand up and enunciate policy. I wish to test this challenge because at this moment the world is facing a critical energy crisis. To sketch the picture against which we are debating this Bill, I should say that it is generally agreed that the next 25 years until the turn of the century will be critical years in that we expect to need something like 25 years for scientific and technological development to break through and to give us new sources of energy. During that time, if our own oil and other energy sources are scarce, our position will be so vulnerable that any country with these resources will be able to put us over the barrel. But that situation could arise not only if we have fuel in the bowsers or in the ground in Australia but also, even if we have fuel, under the great conciliation programs of a government that said: ‘Put us in and there will be no strikes because we understand the trade unions’. So the position is that we have been cut off and starved and the buses and the cars have been brought to a standstill.
Let us look at this situation and do the tests one by one. In the first place, it is not only a question of supplying fuel oil or alternative fuels from within Australia. To be economically viable Australia must be capable of sustaining her trade with the major countries with which we trade- to which we sell and from which we buy. Australia could have all the fuel oil in the world to run the great black shiny motor cars and jet planes for the Ministers and yet go broke if Japan and Europe are starved of fuel oil and energy. If those countries with which we trade have to cut back on the development of their industries and therefore cut back their buying of our minerals and of our goods -
– What about the big black car in which you came to the office this morning?
– As always, the Government Whip is wrong: I walked. But I am grateful to him for his help, because he can always put his foot in it. Let me consider the 2 problems, that is, the problem within Australia in terms of an energy crisis and the problem in Australia in terms of playing our part in helping a world facing an energy crisis. We face not only an economic condition: There could be the peril of war. That is generally admitted if the resources diplomacy- an ugly and horrible phrase, used, incidentally, by our Labor Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- should be such as to deny the nations of the world access to resources. We must never agree to this kind of horse trading.
Can anybody get up in Parliament and tell the people of Australia what is Australia’s policy on coal? Why is it, for example, that we are not building at a fast rate the extra coal loader at Newcastle? We need a positive policy. This is vital. The people of England, Europe and Japan are coal hungry. They want to buy Australian coal and Australia is willing to sell it, but the development of the coal loader is literally holding up those sales. But is it only that? Did I not hear the mining unions say in response to the British mining unions that they would not be willing to export coal to Britain or to Europe? I wonder what would be the Commonwealth Government’s policy on the export of coal to Britain and to Europe if the mining unions said they would oppose such exports. That is a fascinating question. What is the policy on energy? What is the policy in terms of the development and exploitation of both our coking and steaming coals?
As I understand it, in terms of steaming coal Australia is singularly blessed. That is the coal that can produce heat which in turn produces electricity particularly with a power plant at the pit top and it is abundant in Australia. The last estimate of known proven resources of steaming coal that I saw placed us with something like 400 years supply. I am told by the geologists, who should know, that this is a mere fraction of what really exists, because this is high quality steaming coal and the estimate does not include lesser grades. What is our policy on this? Are we willing to increase the development of our steaming coal? Are we willing to help Britain and Europe, or are we willing to see them slow down?
What about our coking coal? What do we know about the need for coking coal in the steel industry? Where can I find the Government’s analysis on whether the steel industry will need coking coal at all in the future? Where can I find the Government’s analysis of the conversion of steaming coal to coking coal for use in the steel industry? Where can I find a projection of a steel industry which will use a direct electrical process for steel-making, obviating the need for coking coal? Where can I go to find the policies of this Government on coal? The Government talks of course of having some kind of pilot scheme for refractionation or distillation of coal, perhaps to get some petroleum products from it. That has been just words; there has been no development at all.
What is our policy in terms of uranium? Australia has proven high grade reserves totalling about 20 per cent of the known uranium reserves of the world. Australia is a significant uranium producing country. The projection at present is that the world will become uranium hungry by 1990. At that time we probably will not have bridged the scientific gap. Let me pause and explain what I mean by the scientific gap. There appear to be 2 long range sources of energy available to the world which would break down what is now a short term critical shortage. The first is that work is proceeding with a fusion process of nuclear energy as distinct from the fission process. The fusion process does not use uranium but uses heavy water. By the use of heavy hydrogen and a fusion of the atom you release energy. The fusion process, I repeat, does not rely on uranium and therefore would be free of any difficulty created by a uranium shortage should there be one in 1990. The fusion process relies on heavy water. The last estimate that I sought and found showed that in the seas around us there are at least 10,000 years supply of heavy water. That in itself would be a suitable bridging of the gap. But, I repeat, where do we find this kind of information? Where is our policy? Where in Australia should we look for experiments to gather the information on fusion?
The second permanent long time source of energy is clearly solar energy, and clearly in the next 30, 40 or 50 years solar energy will be developed by a direct energy conversion process so, either by fusion or solar energy, the world will move into a stage where the need for energy for electrical power generation will not depend on coal, oil, natural gas or uranium. This is the critical 25 year period in which we must use and improvise the fuels that we have in the best way we can while hastening our technology to make for a total world, not for an affluent few, a supply of energy abundantly available forever. That is the great hope. What are we doing about this? Where is the program spelt out by the Minister for Minerals and Energy to co-ordinate and urge work by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. If I understand the position correctly, the Minister has virtually ignored the Atomic Energy Commission. He has not sought and obtained the advice of the Commission and he has not given the Commission leadership so that it could go ahead with new and vigorous experimentation and research. He has turned his back on the Commission because, of course, the people that were in the Commission gave the Labor Government honest and fair advice which the Government, and particularly the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy), rejected and did not want to hear.
Only today the ‘Canberra Times’ published the report of the Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment which was set up to consider the effects of exposure to supersonic aircraftand the falsifying of the Government was revealed again. The arguments of the Government on the effects of man-made fall-out from Chinese and French bombs, and the equivocations of the Attorney-General to so many dozens of questions to him by me, and his evasions of them, have now been proved utterly wrong. This Committee, set up by the Government itself, says that there is far more absorption of cosmic fall-out by an individual who makes one sub-sonic overseas flight than ever there would be if exposed to the fall-out from bombs. I do not say this to excuse in any way the atmospheric use of atomic bombs to which I am opposed. But what humbug it was, for example, when I sought to explain that the ordinary exposure of people to cosmic radiation from the air and from the rocks around us was in the order of 100 millirads and that the total addition by man-made fall-out was 2 millirads, that the Attorney-General was not prepared to publish the figures because the case that he was putting to the Australian public would have been disproved. All the fears on which this Government has lived and sought to get a quick vote are now being found out.
I come back to the situation of the world from the year 2000 onwards. That is a world in which we hope that electric energy will be obtained from either solar energy or from fusion. Certainly, it must be found in one or other of those sources, or both. If that is so, then certainly uranium, coal, oil and natural gas will not have the kind of massive use that they have today. It is possible that in the year 2000 or further ahead coal could be a curiosity. I think it is possible. This is not a plea by me to sell the farm. I am merely saying that coal should be used. It should be used widely by us and by the world in this bridging time. If we want to have a world that is not underprivileged and that is not beset by war crises, we should look to all our resources and we should have a plan which states that we have these resources and that we are willing, on a progressive basis, to help.
The same position applies with regard to uranium. What have we heard about uranium, apart from the abysmal silence of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) with regard to the Atomic Energy Commission? The Minister went to Japan. He had to have something to say. So he said that we are thinking of setting up a uranium enrichment plant. He said to the Japanese: ‘Let us have a talk about it’. The Japanese were a little glassy eyed about this, and rather rightly so because it is not the sort of thing that you pluck out of your brief case after a magnum of champagne in the Boeing 707. What are we dealing with in regard to this scheme? Let me try to spell out what the Minister was dealing with. At its most modest concept, he was dealing with an enrichment plant which, if set up in Australia, would cost between $ 1,000m and $ 1,500m to establish. It would contain 500,000 centrifuges and 500,000 electric motors driving those centrifuges. It would involve massive technology and massive safeguards.
But also, he was raising the question, I think without knowing what he was doing, of a situation in which the world, whilst it is now in a state of some potential shortage of uranium, is likely to be in a state of potential glut of enriched uranium in the 1980s. The United States of America has uranium enrichment plants. As I understand the position, the United States can supply the world with enriched uranium until the early 1980s. France and other countries of Europe are planning to build a plant. Japan is planning to build a plant of her own. In Africa, high technology is developing in new enrichment plants. Are we going to develop one also? Has any cost benefit study been undertaken? Can any one say that if we produced enriched uranium we would be able to sell it in a world in which other plants are marketing it? Is anyone saying that we could sell it at a price which would be competitive? I am not knocking this idea. But, equally, can anyone say that we cannot produce and market enriched uranium? In a world in which the present nuclear rectors use the fuel in uranium 235 in an inefficient manner so that only 1 per cent or 2 per cent of the potential is used, it is vital that breeder reactors should be developed so that the enriched fuel which is taken up to a few more per cent in capacity is used.
In other words, in a uranium hungry world in the short term it is important that we should have a policy, and we have none at all. We have no policy in regard to nuclear reactors. It is true that to generate electricity at this moment in Australia, with our abundance of steaming coal, it would be madness to use nuclear reactors in their present stage of development in terms of cheapness. Coal, at the pit top, can turn out electricity, through thermal power, cheaper than orthodox nuclear power. But we are moving into a world and into a technology of nuclear power that we need to know and to keep up with. We are doing nothing in this direction. What are we doing? What is our policy in terms of natural gas? What is our policy in regard to exploration? What is our policy for marketing? Specifically, what is our policy for taking natural gas, processing it and using it for liquid petroleum gas in the event of Australia needing to convert our motor cars to LPG fuel use if we are faced with a shortage of indigenous oil? What is our policy?
More importantly, what are we doing about converting, as we must do in the next 20 or 30 years, from fossil fuel driven motor vehiclesthat is, petroleum impelled motor vehicles- to electrically driven vehicles? Quite clearly, the day of the internal combustion engine driven by petroleum is limited. It will last 2, 3, 4 or 5 decades at the most. What are we doing in this regard? Let me test the position. Again, we are said to be even-handed in regard to the Middle East. If I were to remark on this I would say: It is said of the Irish that they are always looking for someone or something to be neutral against. If ever I saw a government neutral against anybody Or anything, I saw our Government neutral against Israel in the recent Middle East conflict. Leaving that aside, we are said to be evenhanded, although I say that it is a strange kind of even-handedness.
What is our policy in terms of helping the countries of the Middle East- the Bahreins, the Kuwaits and the Saudi Arabias- those countries in which some 50 million people live and deserve to live well and decently? What is our policy as one of the nations of the world working towards helping such countries to live and to be prosperous when their oil supplies are exhausted? At least one of those countries can foresee that in the next decade or two its fuel reserves will be exhausted. We are looking at a cockpit of conflict in regard to the Arab states- the petroleum producing states of the Middle East. We are looking at an area in which obviously in the next 3 decades massive alternatives have to be found if these people are to make a living from an income other than that derived from oil.
Of course, I oppose strongly the attempts by the Arab states to use their resources diplomacy to make bargains. For instance, I oppose the use of their diplomacy to force Japan to be pro-Arab and anti-Israeli. I reject that as being a bad thing. But I understand fully the feelings of the people of the Arab states who are facing a certain running out of their one source of living. I am bound to puzzle at a Labor Government and a Foreign Minister who have said absolutely nothing about this, as they have said absolutely nothing about their policy for helping the Palestinian refugees. They are too busy saying what they are going to do against America or against our friends.
Let us look at this situation. What I have said is that here is a Government that came to power saying that it would have a co-ordinated energy policy. It came to power against a quickening energy crisis, one which in this chamber was recognised as likely to cause world conflict and world economic dangers. The Government has no policy on coal, none at all. It has no policy on uranium- other than an utterly extraordinary one on the Narbarlek- Ranger leases. It has no policy on atomic energy development or experimentation to determine cost benefits of uranium enrichment or the relative merits of nuclear reactors of the conventional type and breeder reactors, or on atomic energy in the fusion area of the future. The Government is toying with the phrase ‘solar energy’ and doing nothing about it. It has no policy at all for the development of natural gas. The Government’s policy on oil exploration is in utter tatters. Against that, what do we find? I asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) whether we were going to apply incentives in this energy crisis in order to overcome the impending shortage of oil in Australia. The reply, which was signed by Mr Connor, stated:
The Minister Tor Minerals and Energy has advised that if the honourable senator seeks the development of our petroleum resources by a variety of indirect methods including payment of subsidies and special tax arrangements together with acceptance of the abuses necessarily associated with such a system as was followed by the previous Government, the answer is ‘No.’ This Government’s policy is direct contribution by a Petroleum and Minerals Authority, the subject of a Bill he introduced in to the Parliament on 4 December. This Government accepts its responsibilities and is concerned to ensure that Australia has sufficient petroleum for its needs.
But a year has come and gone and the whole of our petroleum exploration has diminished. As I say, this Bill in itself is not a Bill to restrict foreign ownership or to entrench Australian equity; it is a Bill to nationalise. It is not a Bill to develop in conjunction with the States in a Federal system; it is a Bill which is designed to take over from the States all those responsibilities and privileges which the States have traditionally had and which are entrenched in the Commonwealth Constitution. It is a robbing of the States of State rights and of State sovereignty. It is a robbing of finances. It is a total and brutal intrusion on the Federal system. But the Bill does more than that. It contains within itself the most ruthless provisions to enable the Government to take over leases, to go on to property, to acquire property, to demolish property and to exploit in its own way. Quite clearly it is institutional socialism of a mammoth kind.
I know of no more important domestic subject for Australia than the development of our minerals and our petroleum. I know of no more important subject than the overcoming of the problem of meeting our energy requirements and of developing a philosophy for mineral usage and, in particular, a philosophy for Australia to enable it to take its part in the world and to say: ‘These are the resources we have got. This is how we propose to ration them. This is how we propose to use them’. We had marvellous lectures from the Labor Party, when it was in Opposition, about the whole world itself and the need to function in a world-wide concept and to overcome under-privilege. We have had deadly silence on these matters from the Labor Party, in Government, except for the suggestion by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that we ought to get together as mineral producing nations to use resources diplomacy. What an extraordinary suggestion to put forward.
I repeat: There is no mandate for what the Government proposes to do under this legislation, and that the whole basis on which the proposal was built- the 60 per cent foreign ownership figure that was forced down the throats of the Australian public by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and by the Prime Minister- is as wrong as hell, and they have been forced to recant now. I repeat that there is a very substantial majority Australian equity in the mining and petroleum industries. I repeat that if we want to control any industry in Australia, this Government has the total power to do so. The popular sport played by the Labor Party in Australia today is yelling and screaming at multi-nationals. Multi-nationals are great nasty things about which the Labor Party can rabble-rouse. The members of the Labor Party are the people who are denying the true interests of the Australian people. They are hurting the Australian worker and denying him his full reward. What an extraordinary government.
The very first thing that I say to honourable senators is: This Government is setting out by the progressive abolition of tariffs on manufactured goods in Australia to hand over totally the manufacturing of our products to other countries, to foreign multi-nationals which are using not only total foreign capital but also total foreign labour. In the years ahead our electronics industry, our footwear industry and our textiles industry face this threat. What is the difference between multinationals abroad and here in Australia? At least here in Australia they employ Australians. At least here in Australia we tax them in all the ways we can from the imposition of municipal rates up to company tax. At least here in Australia an efficient government can control multi-nationals in every phase of their activities.
What do we find when we strip this down? Over the past 60 years these wicked multinationals, when given incentives, have provided the Australian people with motor spirits and petroleum at almost the lowest prices in the world. These same wicked multi-nationals, incidentally in partnership with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited- everybody knows that wicked company- have discovered oil in sufficient quantities to enable Australia to develop and to be safe for the moment. They are still continuing to supply motor spirit at a low price compared with the prices in all other countries. This same company, BHP, which is derided and sneered at and whose profit margins are attacked, has approximately 180,000 shareholders, including corporation shareholders, and when investments by insurance companies, assurance companies and provident funds and associations are taken into consideration, more than 5,000,000 Australians are direct shareholders in BHP, gathering a benefit each time the company succeeds in finding an oil well or in making a profit.
Where we have given proper incentives to free enterprise and where we have applied the proper controls to foreign capital and to foreign ownership in Australia, this country has developed enormously. It is the utmost nonsense to use these things as bogies now in order simply to disguise the true intent of this Government, which is to nationalise a huge section of Australian industrythe whole of the mining industry and the whole of the petroleum industry. The real intent is nationalisation and also unification, to get at the States, to draw the teeth of the States and to rob them of their powers. I do not believe that there has been before a parliament a piece of legislation which contained more concentrated, undiluted, doctrinaire socialism than this piece of legislation. I do not believe that there was ever a mechanism more designed to strangle Australian minerals and petroleum than this mechanism, and I call upon the Senate to reject the Bill.
– We have just heard one of the most amazing speeches from a gentleman who purports to know all about the things about which he talks. He said that Australia had a viable oil exploration industry which the Australian Labor Party Federal Government has reduced to a stagnant exploration industry. This is one thing about which he does not know anything. If there is a stagnant oil exploration industry in Australia today it is as a result of the activities of the multinationals, which is the theme upon which he finished his speech. The most prospective areas in which petroleum products might be found in our part of the world are the off-shore areas. Of the off-shore areas of Western Australia, WoodsideBurmah Oil N.L. holds leases for 140,000 square miles, West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd holds leases for 60,000 square miles, and a few smaller companies hold leases for the rest. If there is no exploration in this area it is as a result of the activities of Woodside-Burmah and West Australian Petroleum, in the main, not as a result of anything that this Government has done. If there is no exploration in Bass Strait it is because of the activities of Esso BHP. In that area the company holds leases for 63,000 square miles. There is one other area in Australia which the geologists claim is highly prospective, and that is the off-shore area of Queensland. Exploration of that area is being held up at present pending a report from a royal commission appointed on 5 May 1 970. Until just before Christmas it had cost $1.3m, and no report. The non-activity in that area is caused by a policy of conservation to see what might happen to the Great Barrier Reef if oil exploration is allowed in this area. Senator Carrick can judge for himself whether the oil which may be found there- I emphasise the word ‘may’- is of greater value to Australia and the world than the Great Barrier Reef. We await with some anxiety the report of the royal commission.
Throughout Australia there is constant agitation for an increase in the price of indigenous crude oil. The price was negotiated by the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and Esso. No other oil producing company in Australia- West Australian Petroleum or the Queensland producerswere consulted about the price. It was determined at $2.06 a barrel for 5 years, with the right of exclusive entry into the Australian market for 10 years. It was the exclusive entry into the Australian market which induced Esso-BHP to accept the price of $2.06. Dr Hunter of the Australian National University said at that time that the world parity for oil was not $2.06 a barrel but $ 1 .70 a barrel. Do honourable senators know the remarks of the manager of Esso when he was questioned about the high price which was being paid for Australian oil? His statement is on record. He said: ‘We are going to make a handsome profit, and we are not ashamed of it’. Today the position is different. The price of oil in other parts of the world has risen. It is not because of inflation that world oil prices have risen; it is not because of increased costs, because costs have fallen; it is because the Arab nations have suddenly realised the value of their product. They have suddenly realised that all the goods they want to buy from other people in the world are being sold to them at inflated prices, yet the rest of the world wants to take their product at bargain basement prices. This is why the price of 011 has increased.
Can we blame them? We want to sell our wool, our wheat, our meat and all the things that we produce at the highest price that we can possibly get. Why should other nations not want to sell to us at the highest price they can get for their goods? What is wrong with their taking advantage of a market situation? Is that not the thing about which honourable senators on the other side of the chamber constantly boast- the free trade of the market, free enterprise and the gathering of whatever the market can afford? Is that not the basis of the philosophy of honourable senators opposite- whatever the market will afford? The market will afford whatever the Arabs ask for their oil or the buyers do not get it.
– That was not the original point. They put an economic blockade on certain people and refused to supply oil to them. The original point was not the price.
– I agree that they used their oil in international relations. Nevertheless, they are not the only ones to use such tactics. We have only just come out of the gun boat era. It is not so long ago that British war vessels were sailing up the river at Shanghai. We are not very far out of the gun boat era. This sort of force has been used to satisfy international relations over a number of years. I say quite frankly that the conflict in the Middle East will not be settled until Israel draws back to the boundaries of 1967. The wars in the Middle East will not stop while nations are able to gain territory by force of arms. When countries can be stopped from gaining territory by force of arms there will be some chance of gaining peace in this world. But peace will not be gained while nations can gain by force of arms.
Senator Carrick also said that we have 400 years supply of steaming coal in Australia. That is rather a broad statement which says nothing. It does not say what amount of coal we have. It does not say how much we will use. The honourable senator predicted that perhaps by the end of the century fossil fuels will be antiques and that coal will be something that will be put in a museum to look at. If that is so, what do we want with 400 years of steaming coal because in 25 years we will not need it. Senator Carrick cannot have it both ways. I say to him frankly that he draws the long bow when he starts to talk in these terms. I did not hear him saying anything about coking coal although he did say that he could not see any plan or policy on the production of steel without coking coal. The Australian Labor Party has no plan or policy. But the honourable senator did not say anything about this matter. He did not say anything about the 24,000 million tons of coking coal which we have in Australia and of which we can recover only 13,000 million tons.
The honourable senator does not say anything about the stupidity and inefficiency of private enterprise which leaves 50 per cent of our coking coal in the ground and which will continue to do so not in the interests of Australia but in the interests of profit. The easily won coal is taken out; the rest is left there and it can never be recovered. Senator Webster talked about the inefficiencies of socialism. There are many inefficiencies but most of them lie at the door of private enterprise. I have given the Senate an example in relation to 50 per cent of our coking coal. Australian resources are left in the ground by the inefficiencies of private enterprise. I can give honourable senators a lot of other instances of how private enterprise is so inefficient and before I sit down I may do so.
Both Senator Carrick and Senator Webster talked about socialism and nationalisation without attempting to define what they meant. It is a very nice thing for people to stand up and talk about capitalism, socialism and nationalisation and not know what they are talking about. Will an honourable senator opposite stand up in his place one of these days and tell me what this Bill means in terms of socialism? What is socialism? Have honourable senators fostered socialism at all? Do they call Trans-Australia Airlines a socialist industry? Do they call aviation a socialised industry? Where does one draw the line? What is socialism? Why did not the previous Government dispose of socialist enterprises for which honourable senators opposite say so much hate exists in this country? I know that some have been disposed of. A Liberal-Country Party Government disposed of the Nor-West Whaling Company when it was making a 40 per cent profit.
– The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, too.
– It did not dispose of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It was put in handcuffs and balls and chains and strangled until it became almost inoperative. Why was this done? It was because the international pharmaceutical industry wanted the market. How much did this industry put into the coffers of the Liberal Party to get the market? That is something we do not know. Certainly when Senator Wade was Minister for Health he made the pharmaceutical companies refund £4m which was the amount they had overcharged the Federal Government for penicillin. That is only one instance which was exposed in the Senate. This is the so-called private industry which honourable senators opposite support all along the line. I come back to the industry and its efficiencies in which my friend Senator Webster is involved. That is the timber industry. I think Senator Cotton is also engaged in it. In the past that industry has been one of the most inefficient industries which has operated in this country. Why do honourable senators think that we must have forestry inspectors going into the forests and marking the trees which they will allow to be cut and marking the direction in which the trees shall be felled? It is because in the past the timber merchants went into our forests unconcerned about conservation. They were concerned only with exploitation. Laws had to be introduced to allow the conservation of these resources of Australia. Honourable senators talk about the inefficiencies of socialism. I suggest that they go up to the great mining ventures in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. 1 suggest that they get off the Mount Tom Price mine on to the Mount Newman mine which is substantially Australian owned; nevertheless, it is private enterprise. What do we find? We find that contracts have been let to sell high grade iron ore. The grade is anything from 62 per cent. There is an amalgan of ore because some of it is above 62 per cent and there is some mixing of the lower grades to bring it to an even grade of 62 per cent. Where this is not done some bonuses are paid and some penalties apply if it is below this grade.
I do not agree with Mr Connor’s calling iron ore operators hillbillies and ratbags, but I do say that they were completely inefficient when they wrote their contracts. I will not talk about writing contracts in American dollars because I think they were pretty well blackmailed into that. That was the only currency that the Japanese would accept at that time. The contracts should never have been written in dollars per ton. They should have been written in cents per unit; that is the Fe unit in the iron ore. In that way we would have received the full value of the ore which is shipped overseas. This is where I say the iron ore processors are completely inefficient. But we go a little bit further than that and we find that in America iron ore is mined with a grade of 23 per cent Fe. If honourable senators go into the Pilbara and have a look at the ore they will find that iron ore with a grade of 55 per cent is pushed onto the mullock dump as useless. This is an Australian resource which would be prized in any other country but private enterprise can afford to waste it. Let us have a look at production of iron ore- that which is used and that which is sold. Of the iron ore produced, 58 per cent is produced in fines. How many plants do we have in the northwest of Western Australia or for that matter in Australia, which can convert the fines into furnace feed? The answer is none of them. So, perforce, we must sell our iron ore fines to the Japanese at reduced prices.
It is not so very long ago that the illustrious leader of the Australian Country Party, Sir John McEwan- I am not too sure whether he was Sir John at the time- prevented Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd from selling fines at less than world market prices. He refused to give them a permit to export the fines to Japan at 16c per Fe unit. In the 3 industries that I have mentioned to date we find out just how efficient private enterprise is, and they are industries with which this Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is concerned.
It is said that because of our situation with regard to petroleum we have to find ever so much more. Of course we have to find it. We have to explore to get it and we have to get some acreage in which people will be able to explore.
Within the next 12 months half the areas now held by the international companies will revert to the Commonwealth Government. We passed through this place a law which gives the Commonwealth Government authority in the offshore areas. Despite what Sir Charles Court says, the surrendered areas will be surrendered to the Commonwealth Government. I hope that there never is another permit issued to explore for oil off the shores of Australia.
– Who will do the exploration?
– I have talked to some of the multinationals. They are prepared to farm in with the Commonwealth Government, just as they were prepared to farm in with WoodsideBurmah on the north-west coast. It is on record, it is evidence, that they are prepared to farm in with the Australian Government. It does not mean that the Australian taxpayer will have to pay anything for oil exploration. There will be no huge wastes of money such as the $138m that has been paid up to date in oil search subsidies and the $400m that has been given to the oil companies as rebates of taxation. There will be nothing of that kind if we hold the permits and the multinationals farm in, do the exploration and find something that is economically viable, and then the taxpayers’ money is put in and used to develop a paying proposition. Honourable senators cannot fault that sort of policy irrespective of the way they like to look at it. I hope that that will be the policy of the Australian Government. I think that the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, enunciated that policy on behalf of the Australian Government at the meeting of the Australian Mining Industry Council yesterday week. This is where honourable senators opposite get to when they start to criticise something which represents an endeavour to regulate the industry.
Senator Carrick stood up and talked about there being no policy in regard to quite a number of things. It takes time to develop policy. It took 23 years for the Liberal-Country Party coalition governments to develop nothing. They did not have a plan for anything.
– Such as Esso-BHP.
-Planning was anathema to them, and the honourable senator knows it. That was the case for 23 years. Yet the Liberal and Country Parties expect the Australian Labor Party to have all the plans made in 1 5 months. At the present time we have a . Pipeline Authority. Senator Carrick talked about the Government having no plans. It has plans to deliver gas to
Sydney through a national pipeline authority. It has plans to deliver liquids to Redcliffs in South Australia for a petrochemical industry. This Party is not without plans, but they take time to develop.
- Senator Hannan -
- Senator Bonner had better not become involved too much in this subject. I think he knows very little about it, although he may know much about many other things. Planning always was anathema to the Liberal and Country Parties, but they expect us to walk in here with plans to do these things.
Senator Carrick also attacked the Australian Government over having no policy with respect to uranium. I think the Government has a very good policy with respect to uranium. It is to leave it in the ground until such time as we can get an economic price for it. We do not want to give it away. To sell today is to sell on a buyers ‘ market. We believe that by 1980 there will be a sellers’ market. I think that the oil prices throughout the world might cause that time to be advanced a little further. Maybe there will be a sellers’ market by 1978. 1 know that Spain is hawking a contract around at the present time. It wants to buy 30,000 tons of uranium and cannot get anyone to supply it. We are not the only people who are holding on to uranium resources. To listen to honourable senators opposite one would think that we were the only people in the world who were doing this sort of thing. The whole world trades in this manner all the time.
Today there is an oil crisis. How did the Gettys and other people get their thousands of millions of dollars in the oil industry? They got it by taking the rich oil off the top and then walking out and leaving the oils wells. If one goes to America today one finds that other people are coming in behind them and using efficient methods of production to rework the old wells. How efficient is private enterprise? It took off the cream, the profits, and walked away and left the resources in the ground. Today those resources have to be recovered. Honourable senators opposite criticise the Australian Government over socialism. Private enterprise will not touch the social services such as power supplies, sewerage and water supplies. These are left for governments to operate because they are not profitable. Private enterprise always operates in this way. Honourable senators opposite say that if something is profitable it should be left to private enterprise. If something is a lemon they say that it should be given to the government. They then moan all the way to the Taxation Office about the amount of tax that has to be paid to keep these services going. This is the attitude of private enterprise thinkers. This is what they do all the time.
When this Government starts to try to bring legislation forward as part of a plan to regulate industry, as part of a plan which was criticised by Senator Carrick, it is accused of becoming the great monolith and of being the people who are going to gobble up everything in the world. As I said earlier, I invite honourable senators opposite to define what they mean by socialism. Let us have clearly stated what they mean by socialism. Do they mean that we take a monopoly of industry? Do they mean that we take only part of industry and operate in competition with private industry, as we do in the case of the airlines and as we did with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd the Nor-West Whaling Co. Ltd? The latter things I mentioned were all sold off to private enterprise because they might be profitable. When the Australian Government sold COR, who was the second biggest shareholder in the company that bought it, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Ltd? The British Government held 49 per cent. But selling that off was not socialism; it was or was likely to be profitable and therefore it had to be got rid of. It was said that the government should not have any profitable industry. When honourable senators opposite stand up I want them to define what they mean by socialism. Let us cut out all this silly talk about socialism and nationalisation. Let us see where honourable senators opposite stand and what they do mean. Let them stand up in their places and tell us which industries in Australia have been nationalised. The Australian Chamber of Manufactures said that it was socialism where government had a monopoly or a dominating influence in an industry but that where government operated in competition with private enterprise it was not socialism. It is on record as having said that. I ask honourable senators opposite to stand up and tell the Senate what they mean because this legislation does not involve socialism or nationalisation. It is a plan for the control of Australia’s resources, a plan that we should have. The sooner we have it the better Australia will be pleased.
– I rise to state briefly a point of view on this Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. I listened with a lot of interest, as I always do, to what Senator Cant had to say. Several times during his speech he challenged somebody, particularly somebody on this side of the chamber, to define ‘socialism’. I could work out probably half a dozen different interpretations of ‘socialism’ and could work out quite a number of degrees of ‘socialism’. I call to mind that some years ago I went on a Commonwealth parliamentary tour to the United Kingdom. It intrigued me immensely to hear Labour members of the House of Commons claiming that they were socialists. Being a very mild man, I said to them at length one evening: Is your idea of “socialism” that you nationalise all those industries that are capable of being nationalised and that the Government takes them over and operates them itself? Is that what you mean by socialism? Is that what you claim to support when you say you are socialists?’ They said: ‘Yes’. That may be their idea of ‘socialism’ but it is not mine. Far from it.
If honourable senators go to the Parliamentary Libary and get at least one book on the history of the Russian revolution they will find that it is claimed that socialism was tried. Money was abolished, everything was to be free and the workers were to produce goods and give them away to other people who could not produce that type of product and so on. Lenin himself admitted its failure. As a result of that system millions of people died of starvation. Lenin said: ‘We were forced to introduce a system of state capitalism. ‘ He did not go on to say this, but I do: It is the worst system of capitalism that one could imagine.
– In Australia?
-I believe it is. It is big business inasmuch as in the Soviet Union, for instance, all the capitalists are rolled into one big capitalist. It is business so big that by comparison big business, as we regard it, in the United States of America, is insignificant. However, I go on and leave that matter. Senator Cant said that if there has been a dearth in the search for oil in Western Australia it can be blamed on several companies; if there has been a dearth in the search for oil in Bass Strait or around the Victorian coast it can be blamed on other companies. We know, of course, that there has been a terrific drop in the search for oil, but this is because of the removal of the incentive that had been held out by the previous government which Senator Cant said accomplished nothing in 23 years. The decline in search activities resulted from the removal of those incentives which had been responsible for the discovery of 70 per cent of the oil which is used in Australia. Perhaps he can take some hope from the statement, which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’, by a commentator who writes often in that newpaper and about whom I refrain from saying anything uncomplimentary, although I could quite easily do so.
– Who is the commentator, senator?
– I think the honourable senator knows perfectly well to whom I refer. This commentator says that there will be a boom in off-shore oil drilling and he quotes figures. He says that whereas so few were drilled last year, it will jump immeasurably; it will jump because if the people concerned do not drill they will lose their leases altogether. That is why they will drill. That seems to me to be a back-handed kind of incentive to get people to work and to do the job. He goes on to say that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has said that if the High Court of Australia upholds the Commonwealth ‘s right to legislate over off-shore areas he will probably introduce legislation to give stronger control to the Commonwealth over oil and gas exploration. If the Minister does that it may well be that the exploration companies will be placed in a position where they cannot win at all. I have very little faith in this expected boom in oil exploration because it is entirely the wrong incentive to say: ‘If you do not get into it and do a bit you will lose your lease, but if you do discover anything it is problematical whether you will win at all’. In those circumstances I very much question whether any definite beneficial results will be obtained. I believe in what Menzies said years ago and I hope my Party always adheres to it: If private enterprise can do the job reasonably it should be allowed to do it and the Government should keep out of it. We have heard it said how necessary it is that Australia should achieve 100 per cent ownership in Australian energy resources. Even the Prime Minister says that he hopes to achieve an objective of 100 per cent ownership in Australian energy resources. That is a mighty target. The Minister, in introducing this Bill, said that the Bill was in conformity with the Government’s policy of Australian ownership and control of our natural resources. Well, that is a good talking point. Average Australian citizens, without any hesitation, would say ‘Oh yes, we believe that the Australian people should own their own resources’, until they start to think further.
I know a mighty lot of stabs have been made at the ownership of Australian mineral and petroleum resources. I believe Senator Carrick mentioned that it is claimed that 60 per cent is owned by overseas affiliations. I notice that only today honourable senators were circulated with a statement by the Australian Mining Industry Council which claimed to have gone thoroughly into the overseas ownership of Australian mineral resources. The Council gave a figure of ownership of 39.3 per cent. The Council states:
Our survey, unlike the latest available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1968, includes the value of smelting and refining as well as ex-mine values.
I think that is a fair and reasonable proposition. The Council continues:
Smelting and refining values were included because these operations form a valuable part of the mining industry.
Many authorities- and they can be citedfamiliar with the mining industry and with petroleum exploration have spoken about the very great difficulty in inducing the Australian shareholder to invest in a doubtful and chancy proposition such as the search for petroleum and minerals. Even a committee of this place which was set up to investigate overseas ownership of Australian resources mentioned this fact of the very great difficulty in getting the Australian investor, particularly the small investor who is important in the scheme of things, to invest his money in such as chancy venture as the exploration for minerals and petroleum. This Government proposes in this Bill- and all the powers are enumerated- that the taxpayer of this Commonwealth will perforce by means of taxation find the necessary monetary resources to go ahead and explore for minerals and petroleum offshore.
I am one of those people who believe that one of the things that has brought down the United Kingdom to its present level has been the nationalisation of vital industries in that country.
– You would be joking.
– I do not think there is any doubt about it. I am not joking. The story is there. The latest crisis was caused in the nationalised coal mines and the nationalised transport industries. All the stories about the bloated capitalist and the workers having to strike to try to get a better deal from the companies that were growing fat on the land have all gone by the board. I repeat that one of the big factors which has brought the United Kingdom to the condition in which it is today has been nothing more or less than the exploitation brought about by these nationalised industries. In other words- as the British Labour members used to term it- socialism; but it is not socialism at all.
A lot of things have been said about overseas ownership of Australian industries. I believe that if every country had perforce to spend its surplus capital in its own back yard and could not use it to develop other undeveloped areas in this world, it would be one of the greatest impediments to advancement and development that could possibly be imagined. To go around, in regard to this measure and in regard to another measure that is before this chamber, preaching this song about how necessary it is for the Australian people to own their own resources and in the process of getting them back to automatically nationalise them is, in my opinion, a very snide trick indeed. If that is the propositionand it is stated in the Minister’s second reading speech- the remedy is very much worse than the disease itself. I cannot for the life of me understand the attitude of mind that prompted this measure or the imbecilic outlook that brings it forward.
Senator Cant said that it took the previous Government 23 years to develop nothing. He said in another part of his speech that the previous Government spent $138m in subsidising oil search. I wish to refer to the 3 years prior to the discovery of oil in Bass Strait. In 1966-67 we imported $233m worth of oil. In 1967-68 we imported $244m worth and in 1968-69 we imported $246m worth. So that we expended $130m in subsidies- less than we paid for oil in one year of that decade or more- to discover 70 per cent of our requirements. Surely to a kindergarten child with no experience whatever that is a wonderful proposition. Anyone who denies the fact that for a fraction of the amount we were spending previously on oil imports we discovered 70 per cent of our oil requirements and then turns around and removes the very prop that brought about that situation is committing an act of the most blatant irresponsibility one could possibly imagine. This is at a time when the world is fronting up to an oil crisis. I cannot understand the thinking that prompts such an outlook.
I notice that Mr Hawke said that he would nationalise the oil industry. I notice that only a few days ago Mr Clyde Cameron said that he would nationalise the oil industry. I read that somebody said- I forget who it was- one thing that history teaches us is that people learn nothing from history. Another thing which is taught is that some governments learn nothing from contemporary events occurring in other countries. This Government has not learnt one solitary thing from the catastrophe which overtook Great Britain- the nationalisation, strikes and socialism as some people would call it- and which has brought it to its knees and made it a third rate power in the world.
– Who is that?
– The United Kingdom. All that the Government can do is to hurry helterskelter along that same path to bring about in this country the same conditions as have operated in the United Kingdom. I conclude by saying that this seems to me to be an elementary and fundamentally sound proposition: The people of this Commonwealth can thank the previous Government for the fact that for the expenditure of a fraction of the cost to this country of importing oil for one year sufficient oil was discovered to account for 70 per cent of our requirements.
– You are telling funny stories again.
– What is wrong with it? It is not a funny story. The figures vouch for it. It can be seen in black and white. The peculiarity about some of those who are wedded to this policy of nationalisation is that they would dispute that two and two make four. Figures mean nothing to them.
– They just would not be able to make that addition.
– I do not think they could even do that. Anyone who turns down a proposition such as this and says: ‘It is no good; we have to remove the prop’ and nationalises the industry needs to be psycho-analysed. That is what I would do with him. I believe that had the conditions which applied previously applied also over these last 20 months of disaster the probability is that that figure of 70 per cent, as the proportions of our requirements that we can meet from our own resources, would have been very much greater. But the prop has been knocked away and in its place it is proposed to impose a system which has failed the world over and which will fail in this country. Eventually it will bring us to the same condition as that to which it has brought the United Kingdom. I oppose the Bill with all the vim and vigor that I can sustain.
– I rise to support the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. Let me state quite unequivocally that the Bill has been drafted for the purpose of assisting the Australian people. As Senator Lillico, who has just resumed his seat, would know this is probably the first government in 20-odd years that has set out to protect the rights of the Australian people. The 2 previous speakers from the Opposition side have indicated that they are most disturbed about what happens to the oil explorers and the oil exploiters. The first of those 2 speakers, Senator Carrick, made reference in particular to the fact that only a certain number of drills is operating at the present time on-shore and off-shore in Australia. But if he had cared to analyse the situation he would have discovered that this is the way in which private operators have worked over a long period of years. They operate in an area in which they feel they will make a quick buck. In other words, they want a quick turnover and a quick profit. But, if they see something else on the horizon to which they can take their drills, they will do so. They will not operate in areas around Australia or in Australia in which they think the expenditure of money required may be fairly high and the returns are not likely to be as great as they anticipated.
No doubt Government senators have looked at this Bill with an attitude which is different from that of members of the Opposition, as we have done in approaching debates of this nature in this chamber previously. Many members of the Opposition in all Houses of Parliament have interests in oil exploration companies. I have argued this point here before and I do not propose to go into all the details again. I do not propose to refer to the actual instances because Hansard has recorded them on several occasions. But it is obvious that members of the Opposition will have a different attitude from that of members of the Government Party in regard to a Bill of this nature. Because of the interests they represent, members of the Opposition will have a different attitude from that of the great majority of Australians. I think it has been proven beyond all doubt that multinational organisations run this country just as they have run other countries in the past. They make and break governments. Perhaps Opposition senators can remember that when they were in government every time an oil exploration company or an oil development company made a decision it was purely a blueprint for the then Government to follow. There was no suggestion at any time that the previous Government was prepared to introduce legislation designed to curb their activities in any way, to watch their profits or even to look at the taxation system. It is common knowledge- I think this bears repetition- that those companies which have made the most out of oil development in Australia have done so at the expense of the Australian people.
– The honourable senator can make rabbit grunts over there just because I have said that, but in fact it happens to be the truth. Senator Lillico, in the course of his speech, quoted a statement made by former Prime Minister Menzies to the effect that if private enterprise can do the job easily the government should keep out. That is not the whole of the quotation, of course; but the honourable senator conveyed the sense of the quotation. We can look back over the long, sad story of the period when Prime Minister Menzies was virtually dictating the policies of the Government of the day. We can see the sad sellouts of community enterprises which continued on and on. Had it not been for a public outcry Trans-Australia Airlines would be in the hands of private enterprise today. So would the Post Office, and so would some sections of the Commonwealth Railways. It is perfectly obvious that mining was looked upon as an area to be undertaken by private enterprise at the time the Menzies Government was in office. This was encouraged by the Government of the time. It was encouraged by successive governments up until the advent of the present Government.
I must comment also on other statements made by Senator Lillico. He said the United Kingdom had been brought to its present level by the nationalisation of various industries in the United Kingdom. I would like to remind the honourable senator that in the election held in Great Britain recently in which the Labour Party secured a majority of seats, even if it had to form a minority government, Labour used as planks in its platform the nationalisation or greater government control of the off-shore petroleum resources in the North Sea and renegotiation of the European Common Market agreement. So one can hardly say that these were the things that brought Great Britain to its present low level. The financial position of Great Britain has been brought about by the exploiters led by former Prime Minister Heath and all his cronies. They are the people who brought Great Britain to its knees financially; they are the people who bankrupted the Exchequer, they are the people who believed in living the high life while the workers suffered. The mines have never produced greater quantities of coal than they have under the so called nationalisation to which Senator Lillico referred. Transport has never been better ordered than when under government control. This has been the history of almost all industry in Great Britain. I think I ought to give the lie to what was said to the contrary right now and point out the things that in fact did happen and that they were not as the honourable senator stated them to be.
– Then, all the newspaper reports about strikes, hold-ups and the terrible chaos in nationalised industry were incorrect?
– I cannot help the honourable senator if he does not have enough intelligence to interpret properly the newspaper reports.
– I was taught to read.
– Some aspects of Press reports need to be read in depth. If the honourable senator is in the habit of just skimming through the headlines and forming wrong conclusions, that is his fault. It has nothing to do with me. As further proof of the argument that I am developing, I say that Queensland is a prime example of what can happen if we let the multinational companies into this country. We have seen on numerous occasions the export not only of bauxite and coal but of other base minerals that should have been kept in at least some state of preservation for the future of this country. Instead, there has been wholesale exploitations; tens of millions of tons of bauxite and coal have been sold for a song. I am sorry that Senator Lillico has had to leave the chamber, but it is obvious that he cannot take anything in return. As I mentioned a moment ago, members of the National Alliance in Queensland are up to their necks operating in these fields. If one wants to have a look at the kind of holdings of Queensland cabinet ministers that have been published quite recently, particularly in Comalco an argument between that company and the Government is proceeding- one can see that 7 or 8 ministers have major shareholdings in Comalco. Perhaps ‘substantial shareholdings’ is the more correct term.
It is all very well to say that oil has been found in this country by private enterprise. It would not have been found by private enterprise without substantial government subsidies. As a colleague of mine pointed out a few moments ago, and as my colleague Senator Cant said when speaking in this debate earlier this afternoon, we pay twice for an article if we allow all this exploitation to remain in the hands of private enterprise. In any case this piece of legislation is in keeping with world trends. The people in the Middle East who have been exploited by international organisations over a long period of years have suddenly woken up to themselves and in some cases they have nationalised existing companies. Others are indulging in their own oil exploration. This applies not only in the Middle East but in the Near East as well. So this attempt by the Australian Government to put things in their proper perspective should have the support of every Australian including every member of the Opposition. But it is significant that ever since 2 December 1972 the Opposition has been trying to denigrate the Government, to block legislation, in this chamber in particular, to delay, and generally to make its contribution the best way it knows to bring about the downfall of the Government rather than to let us get on with the job for which we have a mandate.
Let us have another look at the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources. This Committee, as I mentioned on a previous occasion in a similar debate, spent a long period of time over its deliberations. I believe some things ought to go into the written records to show that at least some sections of Australians are interested in what happens to the resources of this country. I cannot do better than quote the first part of the minority report of that Committee.
– How many members signed the minority report?
– Three members signed the minority report. If one likes to consider their foresight, one sees that they were, in the main, those who had the interests of Australians most at heart. Just for the record, the minority report was signed by my colleagues Senator Cant and Senator O ‘Byrne and by myself. I trust that Senator Young, having gained that little bit of information, if he has forgotten the rest of the report, will be able to see the sense of what I am about to put. The minority report began with these words:
It is our opinion that the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 enacted for the purpose of ensuring the legal effectiveness of authorities to explore for or to exploit the petroleum resources of Australia’s Continental Shelf, falls short of its goal and leaves much to be desired in its attempt to provide for the development in the national interest of an Australian off-shore petroleum and natural gas industry.
This Bill sets out to rectify some of the anomalies in this area but members of the Opposition are creating all sorts of obstacles and objections to the very nature and spirit of the Bill let alone its ultimate objectives. The report goes on to state:
If we take that paragraph in isolation, and if members of the Opposition are sincere in their objections, they ought to come out with some positive rectification of the Bill, if they feel that that is necessary, and so let us debate it from that angle. But to put up cold opposition simply because the Government thought of it first is probably a prime example of negative attitudes to parliamentary procedures generally. The minority report continued:
We then go on to say that the rest of the report, excluding the exceptions that we then list, was in the interests of Australia. This has not occurred with this Bill. The Opposition has had ample time to peruse it properly and, if it so desired, to bring in constructive amendments. But we still have this old knocking game. If the Government put it up, it must be wrong. I remind members of the Opposition that this was not the attitude of the Labor Party when in opposition. If legislation had merit we were prepared to accept it as it stood. Since the previous Government had received a mandate to govern this country, the Labor Party did not at anytime set out to adopt a knocking attitude just for that reason. The minority report went on to say:
We expressed that doubt at the time-
Since the present Government was elected we have actually seen this policy implemented. So we are now in the process of being able to carry our gas across a large part of Australia to Sydney. Perhaps we ought to remember also some of the history of so called private enterprise in relation to the supply of natural gas to New South Wales. Honourable senators on both sides of the Senate chamber will remember the protracted negotiations that took place between Esso-BHP and the Australian Gas Light Co. in Sydney. They will recall that because private enterprise was involved, it was able to fix a price per thermal unit and the authorities in Sydney were not prepared to pay it. So the negotiations went on for a long period. Finally, the main authorities in Sydney decided that they would do some drilling for natural gas on their own behalf. Unfortunately, they did not strike the type of deposit that would have been needed to supply a city the size of Sydney, an industrial centre the size of Newcastle or other areas of New South Wales. So the people of New South Wales were deprived of the opportunity to use natural gas for many years. In fact, the light on the hill only started to show after the change of government in 1 972.
We claimed also in our report that royalty rates were inadequate. I think that one must go back into the history of the matter to look at the mining developers and the sort of hard bargain that they drove with the State and Commonwealth Governments of the day in relation to the Bass Strait deposits in particular and also in relation to the Barrow Island deposits. The Bass Strait field is a major field by world standards. They were able to impose their own type of royalty on the Government. This has happened right around Australia in regard to the multinational corporations. Comalco Ltd has been able to do this in regard to the alumina deposits at Weipa. It has been able to grind the Queensland Government into the ground and fix its royalty rates at what it believed it should be paying. The same sort of thing happened with the exploitation of coal fields in Australia. It continued to happen until the present Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) was able to renegotiate some of the agreements, particularly in relation to New South Wales coal and also in relation to iron ore developments in the northwest area of Western Australia.
Opposition speakers have failed to note that the interests of Australians come first under this Bill. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to continue to rail about things that are happening in regard to private enterprise. But as I mentioned a few moments ago, it is necessary to put up positive arguments if they are to influence any member of the Government or any member of the Australian public. The dissenting report of the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources states in regard to the pricing of crude oil:
Let me dwell on that point for a moment. When these pricing agreements were first made they were virtually private agreements. All sections of the oil exploration and oil development industry were not invited to the consultations. In fact, the biggest companies in the oil exploration development field fixed the price. They told the Prime Minister of the day of their decision and he then announced it as policy. Quite frankly, that is about the crux of the situation. The dissenting report continues:
That is precisely what is happening now.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I now wish to confirm that about which I informed honourable senators earlier in the afternoon, namely, that I would make a statement in relation to the strike or the suspension of parliamentary refreshment room services. A similar statement is being made by Mr Speaker in another place. For the consideration of the Senate I read the following statement:
I desire to inform the Senate that a union meeting of the staff of the parliamentary refreshment rooms held this morning decided that all members of the Federated Liquor and Allied Trades Union would stop work immediately and would not return to duty until 9 a.m. on Friday, 5 April. At 10 a.m. on that day a further meeting of union members will be held to consider a report from union officials.
This dispute arises out of negotiations that have been taking place since last year with the Federated Liquor and Allied Trades Union over an agreement that was sought by that union to cover wage rates and conditions of employment of casual refreshment rooms staff, employed during parliamentary sessions. In past months a number of discussions have taken place, some between union representatives and departmental officers and some with the Presiding Officers, and in these a substantial measure of agreement, including new rates of pay for casual employees, was reached.
The verbal agreement was upon the basis of the following:
The Presiding Officers were aware of the problems of obtaining casual labour to meet the exacting and difficult operation of this particular support system of Parliament and the difficulties associated with recruiting staff to work only intermittently with the Parliament, and after long discussion either alone or with the union the Presiding Officers decided to offer the union the following:
In addition I may add that we also made it possible for equal pay to be paid to all employees in the Refreshment Rooms. The total cost of these proposals was estimated to be of the order of $35,000 in a full year. It was agreed that the new conditions would not be varied for 12 months and that letters confirming the verbal agreement would be exchanged.
At no stage were the Presiding Officers making a wage determination as to permanent staff of the refreshment rooms who are not subject to the disabilities associated with irregular work as are the sessional staff and who have special rights such as superannuation, etc. However, at the last meeting held on 21 March the union claimed that the benefits of the new agreement being negotiated, which was expressed to apply to the sessional staff of the refreshment rooms only, should be applied to the permanent staff also.
The Presiding Officers pointed out that the permanent staff of the refreshment rooms are appointed under the provisions of the Public Service Act and that, in common with the staff of all parliamentary departments, their rates of pay and conditions of employment were as specified in the Public Service (Parliamentary Officers) Regulations. In determining the salaries of permanent officers of the Parliament, the Presiding
Officers had always sought the advice of the Public Service Board and so, if any variation in rates of pay or conditions of employment was to be made, it would be necessary to discuss these with officers of the Board.
This morning before the stop work meeting was held, officials of the union were advised that at the invitation of the Presiding Officers the Public Service Board would be ready to discuss these matters with them as soon as a mutually convenient time could be arranged, Thursday or Friday of this week being suggested. Despite this assurance, the strike went ahead.
The Presiding Officers believe that when questions arise in relation to the salary of permanent staff, whose rates of pay and conditions of employment are related to those of other staff in the Public Service proper, they cannot be placed in the position of determining standards for the whole of the Public Service. In the circumstances they believe it is essential that consultation with the Public Service Board must take place before any decision is made on the union request that the pay scales for sessional staff be applied to permanent officers of the refreshment rooms.
The Presiding Officers are of the further opinion that the Presiding Officers’ discretion is a local discretion to be exercised with the general policy determined over like conditions in the wider area of the public sector and that the Parliament should not be forced into the position of having to set standards ahead of those accepted for the country generally.
I assure the Senate that as soon as the staff return to work, the Presiding Officers stand ready to arrange immediately with the Public Service Board for discussions to take place.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement on what you have just said.
-ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 am concerned, as are many other members of the Parliament, that the staff of the Parliament should find itself in a position where it has to take this sort of action in order to obtain improved conditions. While I accept all that has been mentioned in your statement, Mr President, might I question the advisability of waiting until the staff return to work before commencing negotiations? From experience I would say that this would aggravate the situation rather than aid or facilitate the making of a quick decision. Could I advise, Mr President, that you should consider allowing negotiations to take place without the condition that the staff should first return to work?
-Mr President, I do not propose to say much more in this debate. When the sitting of the Senate was suspended for dinner I was referring to monopolies generally and to the international groups that largely have controlled this country for a long time. Tonight we heard on the Australian Broadcasting Commission 7 p.m. news that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has located another hydrocarbon field in eastern seas. This is the very company which, within the last few days has been able to secure certain concessions from the Prices Justification Tribunal because- so far as the public is concerned- of the company’s near-bankruptcy. Members of the Opposition have been defending this company and other companies and pointing to the tremendous things that these companies have done for Australia. But they have done it for Australia at the expense of all Australians. The profits earned by these companies go to a mere handful of people in this country and to a large number of people outside this country.
I am not saying that specifically about BHP because there is a fair Australian shareholding in that company, but the comment applies to the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd. Tonight the Shell oil company is again holding this country to ransom. The people in that company are endeavouring to dictate to Australia how Australia will be run. The petrol drought over the last few days has caused tremendous inconvenience to a large number of people, but again members of the Opposition are defending monopolies like the Shell Oil Company and saying: ‘To hell with Australians. Let the big companies get their profits’. The reason why they are saying this is that they hold large numbers of shares in these companies and they cannot afford to have the shares downgraded on the open market. They do not care what happens to Australia as long as they can protect the people who fill their pocketsquite outside their parliamentary salaries.
In Queensland in recent times we have seen the misery of large numbers of people. Insurance companies- again they are in a monopolistic field- are able to get out of their obligations because of the fine print on the back of the insurance form. So today the Australian Government has to find some $82m to help cover the damage in Queensland which was caused by the recent abnormal floods. This cover ought to have been the responsibility of the insurance companies which collected premiums over a long period and duped people who took out their policies into believing that in fact they were covered against this sort of damage when they were not covered. No doubt my colleague, Senator Wriedt, is fully aware of the ramifications of this matter. Certain farmers in this country are crying because they have lost their fertiliser bounty, when the people who reaped the benefit from the fertiliser bountry were the monopoly fertiliser manufacturers.
– Wait until super goes up $12 a tonne.
– I cannot help it if Senator Young is an inefficient farmer who does not know how to grow wheat. He was probably getting a benefit both ways, anyway, by having shares in a fertiliser company and by growing wheat at the same time. So he has probably done quite well.
– I have no shares in any fertiliser company.
– I cannot help it if Senator Young wants to make a profit, at the expense of the Australian taxpayer, both ways. The food manufacturing companies in Australia are largely overseas owned. So the profit goes from this country to other countries. Yet members of the Opposition defend such people because, honourable senators opposite say, without the assistance of such people this country cannot progress. I respectfully submit that the Bill ought to be carried in its entirety. I regret that honourable senators opposite have been bought out by big businesses which are operating in this country. That is the only reason for their opposition to the Bill. In its entirety it is in the best interest of the Government of this country, it is in the best interest of Australia and it is in the best interest of every Australian.
-I listened with interest to Senator Keeffe both prior to and since the suspension of the sitting this evening. He more than criticised the oil companies in this country which have invested a great amount of risk capital and used their expertise to try to find oil; he doubly condemned them. I wish to make it clear that the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, which sat for a long time, took a lot of in-depth evidence including evidence from many people in the community, including political leaders. In Western Australia the recent Premier, Mr Tonkin, said that he supported the policy on the issue of permits in that State. The reason he gave for his support was that encouragement had to be given to companies to invest high risk capital in such areas. Tonight he has been criticised by Senator Keeffe for adopting such a policy and such an attitude. Senator Keeffe also said, with his accusations of irresponsibility and greed and many other adjectives which were used in relation to overseas oil companies, that if they see something else which is attractive they go there. This is true. This has happened. These oil companies are going elsewhere today. They are going where they know they will have some security, which they do not have in this country at present. The position in relation to the northwest shelf is that one company has expended multi-millions of dollars. One well in itself in the past has cost between $3m and $5m, hit or miss.
– How many shares have you in that company?
– I have none. I suggest, through you, Mr President, that Senator Keeffe should act like his colleagues act. If he wants to hit politically, by all means hit politically, but keep it above the belt. He embarrasses his colleagues. These companies have expended a lot of money. At the moment they have found something. Mr Connor has stepped in. Today he has more or less laid claim to the asset that those companies have gained because they have been prepared to spend multi-millions of dollars to find it. This type of asset is not an asset until it is found.
What is the position in Australia today? This afternoon Senator Carrick gave some most interesting figures on oil exploration in this country. In the last 1 5 months, or in the last 1 2 months in particular, we have seen a great downturn in oil exploration in Australia. This country is recognised as having one of the biggest off-shore areas of any continent. It has already proved its potential because of the finds in Bass Strait, on the north-west shelf and also the gas deposits in the north. In the past this country gave encouragement and incentive to oil companies in so many ways to explore and so gave assistance in the saving of overseas expenditure and in the obtaining of some independence with regard to our energy needs. Yet in the last 15 months one man has changed the whole situation. One man and his Government are responsible today, at a time when we should be doing all that we can to encourage oil exploration because of the energy crisis, for so many companies are turning away from Australia and going elsewhere.
– Name some.
– You can name any company you like. I name one. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, an Australian company, has gone overseas and today it is exploring for oil internationally. So many overseas companies have done the same thing because they have been both accused and abused by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Nobody will accept that- not an individual or a particular company. Those companies will seek security. Today, instead of finding more oil, we are in a delicate situation. We were sitting at about 70 per cent self sufficiency with reserves which should have lasted some 10 years. Oil wells are a depleting asset, the same as in any mining industry. With the depletion of oil wells, we will finish up having to make far greater imports of crude oil into this country than we would have.
One other aspect which is important and which is so often overlooked is the fact that so far we have found oil of only a certain specific gravity. Even if we had all our requirements of oil of this specific gravity, we would still not be independent because, as yet, we have not found any of the heavier crudes which we must have if only for the bituminous products which are so vital for our roads and which assist in transportation and in the development of greater efficiencies in the area of transport. Let us cast aside this idea of Australia being self sufficient and that we have enough for the next so many years even if we do not find any more oil in this country, because, firstly, we do not have the type of crude oil which will cover all our needs and, secondly, we have a depleting asset. The Chairman and Managing Director of Esso, Mr Kruizenga, said:
Failure to discover more Australian oil fields would lead to rapid import increases costing the nation more than $2,000m annually in foreign exchange by the mid 1980s.
That is not far off. He also said:
Australia’s oil potential has certainly not been fully explored and if exploration acreage is available and explorers see economic incentives for undertaking the risks . . .
I think that is a very important statement from a man in a position to know. It also bears out very clearly that these companies will not invest high capital and have any asset which they might find taken from them, when they can spend the same amount in another off-shore area- there are plenty of other off-shore areas- and be given the opportunity of having a share basis in anything they might find. In other words, they will get a reward for the risks they have taken, whereas in this country all they are getting at present is abuse and confusion from the Minister for Minerals and Energy, backed by the Government.
When it comes to the concern with regard to our resources policy, which we do not have at present, one could refer to a statement made by Sir John Crawford, a great Australian, who is known not only as a great Australian but as a very able Australian- a leader, and a brilliant economist. Today Sir John is a senior adviser to the World Bank. This is no mean position to hold. I repeat that he is a great and very much a true Australian who has concern for his country. He said that Australia was in danger of defeating its own interests by pretending that it could develop its minerals completely without the assistance of capital or technical knowledge from abroad. How true that is.
In all probability oil would never have been found in the off-shore areas of this country for a long time if it had not been for 2 things- overseas capital and overseas technical advice and assistance. Without this assistance we would still be looking for oil or perhaps hoping that we had oil in Australia. Nobody can accuse any oil company of not playing its part in educating Australians to move into the areas of expertise because this they have done. If any member of the Government challenges that statement I ask him to read the chapter in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources where it deals specificially with this matter, the Committee having taken evidence in depth in this area. We came out commending companies for their contribution in educating our Australian people in the fields of exploration and the techniques for the recovery of hydrocarbons in this country. One thing which has concerned me right through is the general policy and attitude of this Government, which is socialistic and very much hell bent on nationalising every industry it possibly can.
Is it any wonder that companies are turning away from Australia in the areas of high risk? Oil exploration is high risk. If you hit oil it is good, but if you do not hit it you have lost many millions of dollars. If we look at the overall pattern of companies throughout the world we will see that there are more losers in the area of oil exploration than there are winners. This is so in toto. When we look across the board we see that there have been winners, but there have been lots of losers because oil exploration is a gamble. One can do all the work one likes in research and search but one does not know oil is there until such time as one puts down a drill. To put down a drill costs a lot of money. A terrific amount of capital is tied up. This Government has done nothing but condemn the oil companies for what they have done in this country in the area of exploration. If we turn to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill we see very clearly what is intended. This Bill proposes to give the Minister for Minerals and Energy so much power that he can completely nationalise any company in the oil industry, and if it is carried it will achieve that end. In fact, it goes further than that. This is not the first occasion on which we have had Bills before this chamber and have seen this sort of policy proposed by the Government.
But before dealing in detail with this Bill I ask the Senate to cast its mind back to the situation in relation to the Pipeline Authority Bill when it came forward. It was referred to as an area of need, a harmless Bill, a Bill which was essential because we needed a pipeline authority so that we could have uniformity of transmission and not have a situation similar to that which we had in relation to the railways. Nobody disagreed with that. We did not want a situation where we had different gauges. We wanted to have uniformity. We agreed that there should be some type of commission or authority eventually to establish a link up of pipelines throughout this country when they were needed, but not prematurely. What did we find? The Government set out in its legislation not to stop there but to go much further. In fact, it completely abrogated an agreement which had been in existence between the Commonwealth Government and the States of the Commonwealth. Honourable senators might note that I am using the word ‘Commonwealth ‘ and not ‘Australian Government’ and all this guff which is going on at the present time and which is leading on to centralism. I refer to that because I think here is an example of a complete abrogation, or attempted abrogation, of State authority.
Clause 6 of the agreement which was brought in at the same time or prior to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) legislation spelt out very clearly what was morally expected of the various governments, both State and Commonwealth. Yet we had a situation where one of the clauses in the Pipeline Authority Bill was such that it enabled the Government to do things which, under the agreement, it said it would not do without consultation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government completely ignored the agreement. In the Committee stages the present Minister at the table, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt)- I am not being critical of him- when asked by me whether discussions had taken place between the
Commonwealth and the States could not answer because he was not aware. At page 2056 of the Hansard of 30 May 1973 he said:
I am not aware of any discussions which have taken place. I have not been advised of them. This is not to say that they did not take place. I am not aware of any discussions having taken place between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of clause 39.
And discussions didn’t take place. Clause 39 dealt with the aspect of virtually throwing in an amendment whereby the Commonwealth Government would have power under the Pipeline Authority Act to do things which the Commonwealth Government and the States had agreed would not happen until such time as there had been discussion between the States and the Commonwealth. This is the attitude of the present Government. It has no respect whatsoever for moral agreements or for the authority of States. It has only one aim in view and that is to get total control for Canberra. For the record I think I should read in clause 6 of the agreement referred to in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. Perhaps I had better go further than that. The preamble to the Act states:
And whereas the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States have accordingly agreed to submit to their respective Parliaments legislation relating both to the continental shelf and to the sea-bed and subsoil beneath territorial waters and have also agreed to co-operate in the administration of that legislation:
I emphasise the words ‘have also agreed to cooperate in the administration of that legislation’ because this agreement imposes a moral obligation on all parties, State and Commonwealth. Clause 6 of the agreement states:
1 ) Except in accordance with an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments, a Government will not submit to its Parliament a Bill for an Act that would either-
But we find that this is the very thing this Government did in relation to clause 39 of the Pipeline Authority Bill. I mention that because I think it is essential that we point out to this chamber the attitudes of this Government towards agreements with the States and what it will do when it gets the opportunity to take unto itself total power. Now let us look at the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. Clause
I I of the Bill states:
The Authority has power to do, in Australia or elsewhere, all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with, or as incidental to, the performance of its functions under this Act.
Then we move on to clause 12 which states:
) Without limiting the generality of section 1 1 , the Authority has power, for or in connection with the performance of its functions-
to acquire, upon such terms as the Authority deems fit, an interest in-
In other words, the door is right open-
to lend moneys, upon such terms and conditions as the Authority deems fit, to a person or body carrying on or intending to carry on-
When one looks at that sub-clause one can see very clearly that what the Government is going for here is to get total power for itself and to place itself in a position where virtually it can become a monopoly in this country. That is what we do not want to see happen. If the Government were honest with us and with this chamber it would come out openly and admit what this
Bill is all about. It would admit that this Bill is worded in such a way, and embodies such an area, that it would enable the Government to establish or nationalise much industry in this country. I for one am not prepared to see this happen. I am not prepared to support such legislation.
It is no good saying that the Government would not do this. We have seen already what has happened with the Pipeline Authority. We have seen the interference by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in the North West Shelf. We have seen the interference by the Minister for Minerals and Energy in my own State of South Australia. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy another question today about a feeder pipeline in South Australia. I placed a question on the notice paper in, I think, early October last year, to find out the position regarding the feeder pipeline, who was to build it and who would have control of it. I must say in all fairness to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) that I spoke to him on a couple of occasions and it was not his fault- he certainly tried to get the answer for me- that the answer came through only 2 days before this chamber rose for the summer recess. The waffly answer I received was that discussions were still taking place on behalf of the South Australian Government. That is all I received in answer. The words represented areas of grey. There was nothing clear cut at all.I am hoping that I will receive an answer to this question because, as a South Australian, I am concerned to see what the position will be. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has created so much concern in South Australia by his interference that last year -
– What did he interfere in?
– Complete interference from Canberra.
– In what?
– The Minister has certain powers under the Pipeline Authority and he has certain other powers whereby he has been interfering in the establishment of the Red cliffs project in South Australia. That project would have been well under way by now if it had not been for the dictatorial attitude of the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
– That is not true.
- Senator Poyser says that is not true. I remind the Senate that on 16 October 1973, not that long ago, the Dunstan Government in South Australia- I remind honourable senators that the Dunstan Government is a Labor Government- supported an Opposition motion expressing deep concern at the action of the Federal Minister for Minerals and Energy. All this related to the Redcliffs proposal.
– Do you say that you are not getting it now?
-No, I did not say this; the Dunstan Government said it. I am referring to a motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly in South Australia. The motion was:
That this House expresses deep concern at the actions of the Federal Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, in relation to the proposed Redcliffs petrochemical development, and urges the Government to take all possible steps to resolve the present threat to its establishment.
All Government members supported the Opposition motion. The Premier has been very concerned about the interference by Mr Connor which has been jeopardising the establishment of the petrochemical industry in South Australia. This proposed industry was to cost in the area of $350m at the time it was proposed. We have heard many people refer to South Australia as a milk bar State. I do not accept that description. We do have certain industries that fluctuate very much with the peaks and troughs of the economy. This project is a chance for our State to establish another industry some 170 miles north of Adelaide. It represents good decentralisation, something that this Commonwealth Government keeps talking about all the time. It would be a stable industry and it would not be affected by the small, short term peaks and troughs in the economy. It is an industry that would employ many people. It would encourage other industries to come to the area because this type of industry is cumulative in itself. All these things should be going to South Australia, but unfortunately we have in Canberra a dictatorial Minister for Minerals and Energy who is continually interfering in the proposal to establish the Redcliffs project. It has been in jeopardy for a long time and the situation has not improved today. The Minister interfered last year and is still interfering at the present time.
Consider the matter of equity. Mr Connor said to the South Australian Premier: ‘You will not have those particular groups of industries if you want to establish this. You are to have some of these and this is the way it will be’. Mr Connor won the day. So the project has been held up. We have problems today with certain companies in establishing areas of equity. They are good companies and responsible companies, but there are problems associated with the equity arrangements all because of interference by Mr Connor.
Consider the situation in relation to liquefied petroleum gas. Mr Connor again has said that the liquefied petroleum gas will be converted to motor spirit. The Premier of South Australia has said that Mr Connor has stated that that has to be done; so, the Premier presumes, that will have to be done. Mr Dunstan said in the House of Assembly in the South Australian Parliament on 20 February this year that South Australia’s liquefied petroleum gas was not to be exported. The Commonwealth Government has made this quite clear. The Commonwealth Government, of course, is Mr Connor. The Commonwealth Government has also said that this LPG will be converted to motor spirit. This is a very costly and inefficient process because for every tonne of LPG there is something like a 40 per cent to 45 per cent return not of motor spirit but of blending stock that still has to be processed.
It is a costly process. The capital equipment involved is extremely expensive, but on top of this these companies which produce the LPG- I refer to the gas exploration companies in the Gidgealpa-Moomba area- can sell this LPG today for in the vicinity of $ 100 a tonne. They are not allowed to do it. But the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) makes the statement that he will supply the Philippines with something like 30,000 tonnes of LPG a year. The question I pose is: Where will he get it? My understanding is that the present producers of LPG are pretty well limited in their ability to keep up with exports at present and are exporting almost to capacity. The Minister for Primary Industry may be able to correct me if I am not right, but that is my understanding. Thirty thousand tonnes of LPG is quite a bit.
This is what was guaranteed to the Philippines. I do not object to them having it; we must help these countries. But let us look at the situation. We could sell this LPG overseas for $ 100 a tonne. We would gain much in the way of export earnings from doing so. On top of this it would enable us to pay for cheaper petrol than we can get now because we are selling LPG at a premium and buying back cheaper petrol than we can produce ourselves. Also we are able to bring in the heavier crudes that we need in this country for heavy furnace oils and the bituminous byproducts we get from them. We have all of this but, no, Mr Connor’s blind dictatorial attitude says ‘You will not export LPG, you will convert it to motor spirit’, a process which will give a 40 per cent to 45 per cent return and is so expensive.
It will be a premium price petrol. Also, importantly, we have a situation where Mr Connor will not even put a price on LPG. Gas producers do not know what they will be able to charge for it or what their returns will be. So we have a situation where these people are expected to set up their transmission, their connecting pipelines in the gas field- no small feat; no cheap undertaking but a dear exercise- and put in a pipeline to the Redcliffs refinery at this time when they do not even know what the price of the LPG will be or what their returns will be. How can they go to the market and obtain capital to establish this transmission and connection when they do not even know what they will get for their product because the Minister will not tell them?
In addition the conversion to motor spirit is a very costly and inefficient process, as I have said. What is the intention of the Minister? Is there to be a subsidy? If there is to be a subsidy, where does the subsidy go? Does it go to the gas producers? Does it go to the producer of the motor spirit, in other words, the consortium involved in the refinery? Or does it finally come down to the consumer? Will the subsidy be placed there? Firstly, we have no idea whether there will be a subsidy and, secondly, if there is to be a subsidy no one has any idea of who will be the beneficiaries. So it is left completely up in the air at present. Yet we have a situation where Redcliffs has to be built. The equipment required and the refinery required for this conversion to motor spirit is a big undertaking involving many millions of dollars. It is one of those eggs which, once scrambled, cannot be unscrambled. Once we decide to convert LPG to motor spirit we are stuck with the plant and have to continue to use it. The producers are being told that this plant must be established because they must produce motor spirit and if they must produce motor spirit they must have a plant. Yet nobody knows what will happen with regard to the subsidy or, if somebody does know, that information has just come out. I notice a paper changing hands at the table. Also, nobody knows what the price of LPG will be.
Altogether there is a most unfortunate situation in South Australia. It is one where we have the opportunity to establish a big petrochemical industry, even by world standards; an industry that will be worth so much to our State in so many ways. On top of this, taking a national approach, it will be worth so much to the country in so many ways. Yet the whole project is being placed in jeopardy at present because of the attitudes of the Minister for Mineral and Energy. Early in this last session of the State Parliament the Premier intended introducing an indenture Bill that would formalise relations between the State Government and the petrochemical consortium but he had to admit finally that this would not take place in that session. He made the statement as early as 15 February this year that there would be no indenture Bill formalising relations between the State Government and the petrochemical consortium introduced in that session of Parliament. He said that the day before Parliament resumed in February 1974. The South Australian Parliament finished sitting last week and that Bill was not passed. Why was that Bill not passed? The Premier of South Australia, the Government of South Australia and the Opposition in South Australia were ready to support such a Bill last year when the situation was that the whole of the petrochemical proposal for Redcliff was a going concern, that is, until Mr Connor came in and started interfering. So we have a position today where we do not know what we are going to finish up with in South Australia, if anything.
We do know one thing. If and when it is established it will cost a lot more than it would have cost last year. Who will carry the baby for this? I suppose the industry will have to carry it. South Australia will have to carry it. When I refer to industry’ I refer to the producers, the consortia and the consumer because there will be a greatly added cost with inflation running at something like 14 per cent and with the projection being 20 per cent this year. Yet we have not even started the project in South Australia. We have not even been given the green light. We do not know whether we will get the green light in South Australia for the establishment of this petrochemical industry. All this is because of one man. Is it any wonder that I stand up tonight condemning the Minister for his interference in a big project that South Australia needs and would have had well on its way towards establishment had it not been for this Canberra interference? Frankly, I must make it clear that as far as I am concerned it is high time that Mr Connor stepped down from his dictatorial pedestal and settled down to some fair dinkum Australian compromise, co-operation and fair play. I want to make it perfectly clear that the Premier of South Australia and the Opposition in South Australia have done all they can to get this project established. Mr Dunstan himself has criticised Mr Connor and expressed his concern on so many occasions, as we have. I do the same this evening because I am a South Australian and support the establishment of industry in my State. I am sick to death of the dictatorial attitude of people like
Mr Connor who are holding up not only exploration in this country but also the development of industry throughout the country and, in particular, this $3 50m exercise that should mean so much for my State of South Australia. I do nothing more than condemn him for his actions and point out again that this is the sort of thing that concerns me when we deal with a proposal such as is put up by the Government at present regarding the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. One can read clearly from this proposal that the intention of the Government is to take over as much as it possibly can of this country.
This country was developed by the muscle, sweat and honesty of purpose of people and the encouragement of individuals to go out and give it a go- and they did a pretty good job. I can only say that in the last 15 months there has been a complete reversal of form. One only has to look to see what is happening. We have shortages of material in industries, a lack of development in industry and a lack of willingness to put capital into this country because the Government will take away that money or the assets that it is used to develop. We have a complete reversal of form in this country. The sooner the Government adopts a different attitude the better. I not only support my Leader in opposing this legislation, I condemn it.
– Speakers on the Opposition side have grossly misrepresented the objects and purpose of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill 1 973. It is quite easy to understand their attitude because they are in a state of mind which illustrates a basic hatred of the Government of Australia today. Their attitude is one of jealousy and perhaps one of envy because they felt that they were bound to rule. They had 23 years in government and in a period of 1 8 months so many of their blatant, culpable sins have been exposed. It is because of this that we find the attitude that is continuing as a theme through every speech that we hear falling from the orifices in the faces of the honourable senators. We need no simplification of what this Bill is all about. It means what it says. The Government intends to set up an oil company. Earlier in our history a Labor Government set up an oil company, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd. This was one of the nuclei of the oil industry in Australia. It operated successfully but, of course, it became so efficient that it posed a threat to this hopeless diehard attitude of the old order of people who think that anything that is done by a government on behalf of the people is to be either thwarted or destroyed.
No Opposition senator can deny that over a period of years this was their consistent policy. Although we are an island continent supplying tremendous amounts of the world’s needs at present, through our raw materials, primary industries, mineral resources and the like, we have no international shipping line of any size that can carry these goods to our markets. It is a damning indictment of the previous Government of this country when we think that even Switzerland has its own shipping line, although it has no coastline at all.
– So has Tasmania.
-Well, Tasmania did have a shipping line until a few weeks ago. It had an appointment with Davy Jones- but the matter is too serious to remark about it in that way. I want to stress the point that the object of this measure is that we will have a Government oil company which is capable of undertaking the full range of petroleum activities from the point of exploration to the point of distribution.
Senator Young spoke of the need to get capital or technical knowledge from abroad. I should like to refer to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources. Senator Young was chairman of the Committee during the final stages of its inquiries. It is a very valuable document because it puts in perspective the industry as we know it, from its early stages up to the present stage. I should like to remind honourable senators of one point because it is not widely known. Paragraph 3.25 states:
Although permits were first awarded offshore in Australia in the early 1950s, it was not until 1956 that the first aeromagnetic survey was run over an Australian marine area. There had, however, been previous gravity surveys. This aeromagnetic survey was run by the Bureau of Mineral Resources over the Gippsland Shelf as an extension of a previous survey they had conducted on land. The results of the survey indicated that the young sedimentation known to be on-shore extended and deepened on the Continental shelf.
We did not have to send overseas to have these surveys carried out. The Bureau of Mineral Resources was able to conduct these aeromagnetic surveys. The information was readily available to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and it took up the lease in Bass Strait of 6 1 ,000 square miles. It was not content to take an amount which BHP could properly develop- it wanted the lot. It looked overseas seeking in the first place Mr Lewis Weeks who had experience in the United States of America. Quite rightly it wanted Mr Weeks because the United States of America had gone into off-shore drilling and had been very successful. Therefore the calling of Mr Weeks was a logical sequence to follow up the already prepared data of the Bureau of Mineral
Resources. The claim of Senator Young that we had to send overseas for technical knowledge is really a reflection on the calibre of our own technical people in the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Senator Young knows that quite well and that this information was handed to BHP on a plate. Paragraph 3.26 states:
In 1959, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd (BHP) which had leases in the Sydney Basin, called in Lewis Weeks. . . to advise it of the potential of these areas. Mr Weeks advised BHP to direct exploratory activities to the off-shore areas of Victoria. A subsidiary of BHP, Haematite- now called Hematite- Exploration Pty Ltd, took up, in 1960, permits in off-shore areas of some 66,000 square miles in extent, from the South Australian, Tasmanian and Victorian Governments.
That is the whole of the Bass Strait area.
– The Tasmanian Government gave leases and permits, did it not?
– The Tasmanian Government was about as well informed as the present Opposition was when it set up the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources. It wanted to know more about it. The legislation was rushed through this Parliament, as the honourable senator well remembers. He was so concerned about it that he refused to support his own Party until it gave a guarantee that it would set up this Committee. The honourable senator was instrumental in having it set up. I believe he did a very good service to the nation by having it set up. It informed quite a number of people including Senator Wright and myself, of the nature of the enormous natural resources that Australia has discovered and is still capable of discovering. Exploration increased and in 1960 the associated group found the first of many small natural gas fields in the Roma area. Of course, it is claimed that we need overseas capital and technical knowledge. We admit that this country is in the early stages of the development of the technique of off-shore exploration and exploitation. Even now, after seven or eight years operation, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, EssoBHP, or Hematite Petroleum Pty Ltdwhichever name one likes to use- is increasing its capacity each year. It has gone into the supply of domestic gas and it is producing, I understand, up to 68 per cent of Australia ‘s needs in crude oil.
Some people say that it is unfortunate that we do not have our own supplies of the heavy crudes in order to supply the lower cracking grades of oil for the production of bitumen and other heavy types of products which come from the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. But we also are very fortunate in that the crude oil which has already been discovered in this country is of very high gravity. The bulk of it goes into the production of the more valuable fuels such as petroleum for use in automobiles, aircraft, diesel engines and the like. So really we are very fortunate in that we are well endowed with this high gravity oil. The argument used by the Opposition to the effect that we want to socialise the oil industry is contradicted by the actions taken in other countries. The British Government has participated very actively in the economic development of the British Petroleum Co. Ltd.
– We are not interested in other countries; we are interested in this country.
– I have described Opposition senators as the last of the diehards, and the honourable senator would be the last of the last of them.
– He should join Senator George Hannan ‘s Party.
– Yes, the honourable senator should join Senator Hannan ‘s Party, the non-trendy party. If he had a short back and sides haircut he would fit into it very well.
– We want to know about Australia, not England.
– The Opposition is trying to make the point that we are wanting to socialise the industry. But the governments of Canada, France, Italy, Norway, the Argentine, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, India, Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand all have taken an active part in the development of their natural resources and set up instrumentalities similar in varying degrees to the one that is proposed to be established by the legislation currently before the Senate. We know also that the Philippines Government, in conjunction with an Australian company, has recently set up a government agency which is exploring the off-shore areas of the Philippines.
Although we hear so often this phobia about the Government owning and operating an enterprise, we never hear an open attack made on the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. I suppose one could describe it as a socialist endeavour if one wanted to, but it forms a very important part of the economic and financial life of this nation. I cannot imagine what Australia would be like without the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and its various activities. The Australian National Airlines Commission or Trans-Australia Airlines has provided to the Australian people a service which I suppose is equal to that provided by any other airline in the world. The same can be said of Qantas Airways
Ltd. If the Opposition wants to condemn the proposal to set up the Petroleum and Minerals Authority, to be consistent it should condemn those organisations as representing creeping socialism. It is just incomprehensible that a body of people who would appear to be normal can continually have this hysteria about creeping socialism. The members of that body use the facilities provided. I heard Senator J. C. Superstar- Senator John Carrick- speak this afternoon about big sleazy black cars. But Senator Carrick uses the black cars and it is hypocrisy for members of the Opposition to condemn the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or some of the Ministers for using black cars. Senator Carrick uses them himself He does not get a taxi when he is entitled to use a black car. This is the type of inconsistency that I see being put forward all the time by members of the Opposition.
I suppose that the Bureau of Mineral Resources could be called a socialist government enterprise; but, after all, it is a highly efficient enterprise. If proper credit were paid to the Bureau for the amount of work it does and the subsidies that have been provided to the oil industry in its development the Bureau would be recognised to a much greater extent than it has been. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has gathered a great deal of information, but we never hear the Opposition spokesmen for the private enterprise entrepreneurs condemning it as being a socialist enterprise, because it has been there as the milch cow for the private companies. They have been able to use the information that has been made available at great cost to the taxpayers of Australia.
One should look also at the subsidies that the previous Government paid down through the years to the oil companies without the Australian Government having one penn’orth of interest in any of those leases or those areas for off-shore exploration. It is a living disgrace to the previous Government that all that money was expendedI would say that it was expended at the rate of $ 10m or $ 12m a year over quite a number of years to which I could refer- without any equity being held by the Australian Government in those areas on which this money was expended. Our policy has been stated quite clearly. I heard Senator Carrick say that we do not have a mandate to introduce this type of legislation. I proposed to refer to what the Prime Minister has stated repeatedly and reiterated recently on his return from a visit to Japan. He said:
My Government has the firm policy objective of promoting Australian control of Australian resources and industries.
We also want to achieve the highest possible level of Australian ownership of our resources and industries. By the phrase ‘the highest possible level of Australian ownership’ we mean the highest Australian equity that can be achieved in negotiations, project by project, that are fair and reasonable to both parties and are within the capacity of our own savings to support. However in some special energy cases, which I shall mention shortly, we do have a particular objective of 100 per cent Australian ownership.
I do not think any Opposition senator could go back to his State and criticise that objective, namely, that Australia should own its own resources, should develop its own resources, and should have control of the priorities in respect of its own resources. We only have to refer to the recent Middle East situation and the energy crisis that is stalking the whole world today to realise the position in which we would have been had we been completely reliant on the Middle East for our oil. On the other hand, what a great advantage it has been to Australian industry and to Australian users of petroleum products to have this infant industry here . Monopolisation of the areas around the coastline by so few companies indicates that the policies supported by the previous Government need to be altered. This legislation that we propose does just that. We have no compunction whatsoever in presenting this proposition to the Parliament and to the people of Australia for not only will it engender more respect for us as a nation and preserve for us the right to get all the advantages possible by the proper organised development of our resources, but we will be able to develop the capacity to defend ourselves. Consider the situation that existed under previous governments when Australia was so reliant on the importation of so many necessities, particularly oil. Any policy that extends and widens our capacity to provide for ourselves and to make certain that we get the full benefit of our resources should have the support of every decent Australian. I commend Senator Cant for the speech that he made in this debate and for the succinct and articulate way that he put this whole matter on the line here in the Senate today. There can be no argument against what he said as being factual and presenting the case as it is.
I would like to give an idea of one of the motives behind the thinking on this side of the Senate. The foreign oil companies have had a feather bedded ride through the natural resources of Australia over a long period of years. We have seen in the dispute in Sydney in the last few days how they were prepared to hold the people of Sydney to ransom and the power which they had to do it. Every one of the oil companies is foreign- mainly United States- owned. They are all giant concerns. Mobil is 100 per cent
United States owned; it is owned by the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey. Ampol, the company which claims to be fully Australian owned, is in fact owned to 12 per cent of its shares by Caltex which in turn is owned by Standard Oil and the Texas Oil Corporation of New York. Caltex is 100 per cent United States owned. Esso is 100 per cent United States owned- by Standard Oil. Amoco is 100 per cent United States owned; Shell is 100 per cent owned by English and Dutch interests; BP- British Petroleum- is 100 per cent English owned; and 35 per cent of the shares of H. C. Sleigh are owned by Caltex which is 100 per cent United States owned. Total is owned by French and United States interests.
I give the profits of just a few of these companies. In 1971 Mobil made $12.2m, Caltex $6.3m, BP $5m and Shell $27m. This is an illustration of the degree to which our oil industry is in the hands of overseas ownership.
– With the exception of XL.
– 1 have some evidence here about the people of XL and the way they were treated when they tried to set up an independent company in opposition to these giants. Their treatment was absolutely scandalous, yet the newspapers of this country ignored evidence that was given on oath before the Committee and never refuted. It is an indication of the lengths to which these companies will go to crush competition. I do not think there is any shadow of doubt that the same effort to stifle this legislation is coming through the mouths of many people from these multitudinous conglomeration of parties that are springing up all over the country to try to discredit the present Australian Government. There is nothing wrong with this legislation. We believe it can assist companies that are undertaking any of the activities that the proposed petroleum and minerals authority can undertake. Not only will the Bill establish this petroleum and minerals authority but it will also, in my view, set a pattern for and give a lead to the development of other Australian resources for the Australian people in the interests of Australia. I support the Bill.
– We on this side of the House are concerned about the rights of the States. We are determined that the States should be protected against the centralist policies of this socialist Government. That is why we are concerned about this Bill. I am convinced that it is designed to place more and more authority in the hands of the centralist Government. Evidence of this intent to erode the influence of the Senate has been made apparent today for we have heard of the appointment of a senator as ambassador to Ireland. This must give people in Australia some reason for great concern, that this Government should use that sort of activity to try to erode the influence of the Senate against the blatant attempts by this socialist Government to destroy the States’ rights in this House.
I have had a great deal of interest in mineral development in South Australia. In fact, my interest in petroleum and gas development in that State goes back to a time before I entered this Parliament. I recall when I was a member of the City Council of Port Augusta, as was the late Lin Riches, MP, the Labor member for Stuart, that he and I were greatly concerned about the development of a petro-chemical industry in the area that we represented. It was rather ironical that I was elected to the House of Representatives and still remained a member of the same council, as did Lin Riches, and that we combined our efforts to attract this industry to the Port Augusta-Redcliffs area. Therefore I have a personal interest in this Bill as it affects the progress of an industry in South Australia. I believe that my late friend Lin Riches would share my view and concern about what has happened in that respect. 1 was appalled during the last State elections in South Australia when the Premier, Mr Don Dunstan, announced that a petrochemical works would be established at Port Augusta at a cost of about $350m. That announcement was made before feasibility studies on that project were completed. In fact, according to my information from people expert in this field, when that announcement was made they still had not completed their feasibility studies. They had very much doubt about whether the volume of methane gas was sufficient to justify the establishment of the petro-chemical works in that part of Australia. In my view, this illustrates the dishonesty of the Labor Party in its appeal to the electorate. I think that today we have seen further evidence of its dishonesty or its attempts to deceive the people of Australia.
– A bit like the FI 1 1 aircraft.
– If the honourable senator wants to start talking about defence in the debate on this Bill, I would be happy to argue about it. But I think I would incur the displeasure of the Chair and knowing the determination of the Chair to preserve order in the Senate I would not dare to enter into that debate. I suggest that this Bill represents an attempt to place in the hands of central government complete control over petroleum and mineral development in Australia. I want to revert to what I was saying before I was interrupted and to refer to the dishonesty of the State Premier of South Australia when he announced the establishment of a petro-chemical works at Redcliff during the course of an election campaign a year or so ago. I would also like to refer to what Senator Young has said about the intrusion of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) from the Federal area into this sphere of the development of South Australian industry. He chose to intrude and suggest that a company which had completed its feasibility studies or had almost done so and which had the technical know-how and the finance to proceed with the project did not have enough Australian equity to meet with his requirements.
What has happened? As a result of this intrusion, the project has ground to a halt. I believe that this is a direct result of the intrusion of Mr Connor. That is why I, by way of interjection, suggested that Mr Connor ought to be called upon to resign his portfolio. Not only has he created uncertainty with respect to that project in South Australia, but also he has created uncertainty throughout the whole sphere of mineral and petroleum development in Australia. I think that this has earned the undying condemnation of the people of Australia.
I have been personally in a position in which I have had to deal with geologists and others who have come into my office and asked where they were going to do their work, lt might encourage the Government that we have in office at the moment to know that many of these people are escaping from the socialist domination in Australia. Because they have no work to do, they are going overseas. They are trying to find an outlet for their expert knowledge in finding out where minerals are located. They are now trying to do that overseas. I might say that the Minister for Minerals and Energy is driving Australian technologists, geologists, and mining engineers out of this country because of the disincentive that has been created by this present socialist Labor Government. Honourable senators can understand how I am concerned about this. The intrusion of the centralist government from Canberra into this area of activity, as is portrayed by the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill gives me, as a State ‘s representative and my State of South Australia and no doubt the Labor Premier of South Australia, some reason for concern.
– Does the honourable senator know what John Gorton said about some of these people?
– The honourable senator has really let himself in for it now. Mr John Gorton, the Prime Minister of a Liberal-Country Party Government of Australia had . a considerable impact on the petroleum industry in Australia. He had the foresight to impose certain regulations associated with drilling for petroleum in Australia and managed to keep the price of petrol at its present level. I believe that Senator Mulvihill, my friend the environmentalist and the kangaroo expert, would agree with what I say.
– Take John Gorton back to the leadership of your Party.
– I am just pointing out that the Liberal Party and the Country Party had a purpose with respect to the development of minerals and petroleum exploration in Australia. I believe that this Government has destroyed the incentive not only of industries in Australia in this area that we are discussing but also the incentive of the working people in Australia. I do not want to wander out of the area of this Bill in my remarks. But I could mention many other areas, including housing, where the Government has imposed tremendous burdens upon the working man of Australia. I oppose this Bill purely and simply on the grounds that it represents another attempt to erode the influence of the States and to weaken the federal system that has brought Australia to the point of prosperity that we enjoy or we did enjoy up until 16 months ago. I am quite certain–
– That was a slip of the tongue.
– That was no slip of the tongue. Sixteen months ago this country was enjoying an era of prosperity that was the envy of every other country in the world. Since then, of course, inflation has increased from about 5 per cent to about 14.5 per cent today. If we allow honourable senators opposite to remain in government much longer, I would think that within a month or two it will reach the incredible level of 20 per cent. This is not hurting the people interested in mining petroleum in Australia. Inflation is not hurting the big industrialists in Australia. But it is hurting very much the working man of Australia. I make this point: The parties on the Opposition side of the Senate are more interested in the welfare of the working man of Australia than the socialists who are sitting on the Government benches today. I reject the Bill.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I feel that as a Western Australian I must have a little to say on the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. The reason I feel I should talk on this Bill is that I know as a Western Australian that we in Western Australia had no real industrial organisations until we attracted outside capital. I know that the present Premier elect of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, did a terrific job travelling overseas after he had tried in Australia to attract internal capital for industrial organisations in Western Australia. As a result of his efforts British Petroleum established a refinery at Kwinana. A previous speaker referred to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd and said that it was run by the Government and taken over by British Petroleum. I was employed by British Petroleum at that time. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries was only a marketing company. It was engaged purely in selling petroleum products. It did not know anything about exploration or finding petroleum products.
I know that during the last War when there was the Brisbane Line or whatever it was called, we Western Australians would gladly have given the north-west of Western Australia to anyone who wanted it. He would have been welcome to it, because as far as we were concerned it was worthless. No one was prepared to go up there. There was no water and living conditions were impossible. But again the Premier elect of Western Australia attracted overseas capital to the extent that millions of dollars were spent in the north-west of Western Australia. This resulted in Australia, with a production of 62,500,000 metric tons, being placed third on the list of iron ore producing countries. During the downturn in wheat and wool sales it was only the iron ore exports that helped Australia to survive and, as a Western Australian, I am very proud of that.
I know that what has been said by some previous speakers is quite correct, that there has been a drastic reduction in exploration work throughout Australia and particularly in the north-west of Western Australia. My recently deceased daughter was a friend of an expert on one of the oil rigs which moved from Western Australia to Manila. From talking to that man I know that it takes years to become an expert on an oil rig. We in Australia need time to produce the men and the rigs capable of doing these things. It is all very well for the Government to say: ‘Let us take this over ourselves’, but it is too big a job at the present time. As a Western Australian I know that Sir Charles Court could not attract the money from within Australia- from any State government or from the Federal Government- to commence the industries which have been established in Western Australia. Outside capital was needed.
- Senator, outside capitaldo you not think that our Government should impose conditions and not be milked?
– That is entirely up to the Government; it can still do that. I refer to a report from the Australian Mining Industry Council. It states:
Quite rightly, control of Australia’s resources rests with the Australian and State Governments.
Every stage of the mining industries operations is subject to detailed Government control.
This control is exercised through the granting, renewal or cancellation of exploration licences, their size and term, the amount which must be spent; the granting of and the terms and conditions attaching to production leases; the level of royalties; exports, including prices, products and destinations and many other facets of marketing; the amount of taxation payable.
Further on the report states:
Even with 100 per cent overseas ownership of a company engaged in mineral production, overseas control may be zero if governments so determine.
Obviously if this report is correct- and I believe that we must accept a report from the Australian Mining Industry Council- the present Government and previous governments have had power to control any exploration in Australia. We are still a young country, and I think that it is beyond the present capacity of the Australian people to contribute the millions of dollars necessary for oil exploration. We cannot even provide sufficient finance to protect our own coastline. We have not got sufficient warships or patrol vessels to protect our own coastline. How can we afford to carry out exploration work?
All the companies engaged in the oil field in Australia are here only because they have been able to make a profit. It was entirely up to the Australian Government to control the amount of profit that they made or sent out of Australia. I believe that the Government, in introducing this Bill, is trying in all sincerity to do something that it thinks is right for the Australian people.
– Do not tell me that you are supporting the Bill.
-Wait until I am finished. Last Saturday the people of Western Australia, by their vote, gave me an indication of their feelings about the present mining and petroleum policies, and I believe that I am only expressing and supporting those views at this time. It is quite obvious from the results of the elections in Western Australia last Saturday that the people of Western Australia are not very happy with the present situation. I am an independent senator, but I believe that both sides of this chamber believe that they are doing the right thing- the Government by introducing this Bill to control mineral resources, and the Opposition by opposing the Bill. But obviously the Government has not realised that it already had control of Australia’s mineral resources. All it needs to do is to apply that control in the right manner. 1 do not want to talk for any longer period. I believe that Western Australia owes its present industrialisation, iron ore production and a lot of other production to the external capital that has come into Australia. We should realise very sincerely that we have not got the financial, expert or any other capacity to carry out our own exploration work in Australia. I support the Opposition in opposing this Bill.
– in reply- The Senate has been debating a Bill which proposes to establish a Petroleum and Minerals Authority in Australia. The purpose of the Bill is simple enough. The main thought behind the Bill is to preserve the petroleum and mineral resources of this country for the Australian people and to ensure that those resources are mined and developed for the benefit of the Australian people. I suppose it is not surprising that some of our friends in the Opposition oppose this Bill. Senator Jessop, who clowned his way through the debate for about 10 minutes and then walked out of the chamber, referred to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) as a Ned Kelly. He was referred to as a Ned Kelly because he is protecting the interests of the Australian people and because he is not prepared to see exploitation by foreign companies and foreign ownership of what belongs to the Australian people.
What an incredible state of affairs when nearly $500m of Australian taxpayers’ money has been used in the exploration for oil in recent years, with not lc of Australian taxpayers’ equity in any of these ventures at this time. I suppose it is consistent with the philosophy of our friends in the Opposition that they would oppose the efforts of Mr Connor. Senator Jessop talked about Ned Kelly. I suggest that when the opportunity arises he should read the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. Mr Acting Deputy President, you and I were members of that Committee for the 4 years of its existence. We really saw some Ned Kellys at work in the minerals area. We saw the sort of people whom the Opposition parties support and whom they represent in this Parliament. It is a disgrace to think that a man such as Mr Connor, who has had the courage to stand up and be counted as a person who believes in the interests of Australians, not in the interests of private enterprise, should be denigrated the way that he has been for the steps that he has taken.
This debate goes back over quite some time now. I know that time is running out tonight. I did not anticipate that such a wide area would be covered, but I believe that one or two important points should be answered. Senator Carrick made great play about the ownership of Australian minerals not being as had been portrayed by the Government. He quoted the document which Senator Negus quoted. It is a document presented by the Australian Mining Industry Council. Senator Carrick said that the percentage of overseas ownership in Australia is only 39.5 per cent. The significant point is that he said only 39.5 per cent’, as if it were irrelevant that this percentage of ownership was held by overseas interests. If we read further on the same page from which that quotation was made we find that the total value of production for one year, 1972-73, excluding petroleum products, but including smelting and refining, was not less than $ 1,480m. It is a matter of irrelevancy to Senator Carrick that 39 per cent of that is not owned by Australians.
– How much of that went overseas?
-Senator Wright made a great contribution to this debate. He sat there in silence all the way through. The Acting Commonwealth Statistician, in a letter dated 1 April, which is yesterday, to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) gave us the true picture. He was asked to indicate the position regarding the ownership of the Australian mining industry and the foreign control of the mining industry in this country. He said:
Our work to date indicates that, after adjusting the 1 97 1 -72 results … the overall results for 1 97 1 -72 will be broadly similar to those previously published in respect of 1968.
The 1 968 study showed 48 per cent of the Australian mining industry as being foreign owned and 58.1 per cent as being foreign controlled.
They are the most up to date figures available.
– Can you explain the difference to the Senate?
– I am correcting the figures which Senator Carrick gave. If Senator Webster had been listening to Senator Carrick ‘s speech, it would be unnecessary for any clarification. Senator Carrick was making the point that the figures being quoted by the Australian Government were incorrect. I am now quoting the latest figures, and they are the correct figures.
If Senator Webster wished to bring forward figures which counter those supplied by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician he should have done so during the course of the debate, but of course he made no attempt to do that.
During the time that these concessions have been made available to the oil companies and the mining companies, to the end of 197 1 a total of $843 m had been expended. Of this sum $4 19m, which is about half, had come out of revenue as subsidies to these companies. Senator Webster is walking out of the chamber. It is a good thing. that he is because I am about to quote from the Australian Country Party’s mining and energy policy statement of 1 1 March this year. It states: lt is by no means clear that the previous system of taxation incentives and subsidies was the most efficient and equitable means of achieving the objectives of national policy.
I presume that Senator Webster, as someone who claims to do his homework, would be fully aware of that statement, but I would be surprised if he considers that his Party should see the position in that light. The same principle applies. Over the years the Government has been spending something like $50m of the taxpayers’ money in order to subsidise the exploration by companies which are extremely wealthy anyway. Senator Carrick also quoted the comments of Sir Patrick Shaw.
– What a ridiculous statement.
– I would be really going to make a statement as ridiculous as your statments, Sir Patrick said:
There are no ground rules for American investment in Australia.
Senator Carrick overlooked the fact that the Australian Government is not banning overseas investment in this country. We are using our discretion, in the interests of the Australian people. Sir John McEwen years ago spoke about selling a bit of the farm. We have taken some steps to stop this and to ensure that the interests of Australians can be protected.
I think it was Senator O ‘Byrne who quite rightly made the point that it is not a question of nationalising resources such as minerals and petroleum. This red herring is always drawn across the path when efforts are made by a Labor government to protect the interests of the Australian people. We heard the same arguments used at the time of the formation of TransAustralia Airlines, the Australian National Line, and the Commonwealth Bank. It was said that they would be the big takeovers and the nationalisation of the industries. I refer Senator Carrick and, I think, Senator Young and one or two others to clause 8 of the Bill which states quite clearly that this Bill is intended to be a means by which we will co-operate with the private sector, but we will not co-operate with overseas companies which are here to exploit our natural resources.
– This Bill is a lot different to the Pipeline Authority Bill.
-I intended to ask Senator Young which Bill we were debating because he spent most of his time dealing with a Bill which was debated in the Senate months ago. Clause 8 of the Bill spells out the functions of the Authority which are, among other things:
Sub clause (c) spells out this matter a little more fully. It states:
It is a complete myth to suggest that the legislation is being introduced for no other purpose than the nationalisation of the industry. Every honourable senator knows full well that it is not possible for the Labor Party to nationalise anything. Even the Liberal Party could not nationalise anything, although it would probably like to nationalise some things.
– What about clause 12?
-Clause 12 does not provide for the nationalisation of anything. In fact, it is quite remarkable that Senator Young should have spent time reading out all the provisions of clause 12 because they provide for the same sorts of functions that any company would provide for under its articles of association. All the various points which he spelt out are not new, as he well knows. These things would be necessary in any legislation to form such an authority. But I thought the most astounding statement in the whole of this debate was made by Senator Lillico, who unfortunately is not in the chamber. I hope I am not misquoting him. If I do I shall apologise. He either said or he went very close to saying that he opposed Australians owning their own natural resources. I wrote that down. I might have been wrong but that is certainly very close to what he said, if it is not exactly what he said. It is astonishing to think that anyone would suggest a sentiment along those lines.
Senator Wright who sat in silence during the whole of the debate and made no contribution now wants to interject when somebody else is speaking. That is about his normal form. I make the comment that the whole purpose of this Bill is to look for an attitude towards Australian minerals and our petroleum which will protect the Australian people and will ensure that what we do is in our best interests- not of private enterprise but of the Australian people as a whole. I understand to my regret that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has not seen fit to support this Bill. That is unfortunate because Senator Little a fortnight ago, in the initial part of his speech, showed more understanding of the basic intent of this legislation than anybody in any of the other Parties.
– He was convinced by good arguments.
– He was probably convinced by his colleague Senator McManus who did not seem to agree with him. But presumably this is the way the Party will vote. I believe it is a great pity that this legislation will not be passed. It will be to the detriment of the Australian people if it is not passed. Responsibility for its failure in this Senate will lie directly in the hands of the Opposition.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Durack)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I did not say that 1 was opposed to Australians owning their own industries. 1 did not make any statement remotely resembling that.
– Hansard will prove it.
– Yes. That is a cap that will not fit and 1 will not wear it. I did say it was a good talking point that the Government was making out that it was buying back Australian industries from foreign ownership whereas in actual fact it was using that gag to nationalise industries. But under no circumstances and nowhere in my speech did I express opposition to Australians owning their own industries. I did say that we had to have foreign capital. I still think that. But I refute the statement made by Senator Wriedt. I am not opposed to Australians owning their own industries. By the same token I am not opposed to outside capital coming in to help us to develop this country.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 37 1 ), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Trade Practices Bill 1973 [No. 2]  being amended in accordance with the Memorandum circulated on 19 March 1974, and the Bill be so amended.
-I am quite prepared to elaborate the case which the Opposition would put in respect of the motion which had been moved but I do not know whether the Attorney-General (Senator
Murphy) thinks that he has addressed himself to it in the manner which should precede a substantive debate. As I understand it, the motion was moved without any words being said in support of it. If he would wish to, I indicate at this point of time -
– If you want to oppose it, you oppose it.
– I merely indicate the situation in which the Opposition finds itself. Let me put the Opposition ‘s viewpoint. What we have before us is a motion from the AttorneyGeneral stating:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Trade Practices Bill 1973 (No. 2) (1974) being amended in accordance with the Memorandum circulated for 1 9 March 1 974, and that the Bill be so amended.
I rose tonight to invite the Attorney-General to say something in support of his motion if he wishes to do so; but all I received by way of response was: ‘ If you want to oppose it, go ahead and do so’. This represents the state to which the Government of this country has been reduced. That is the way it treats the Parliament. We had before us this afternoon a Bill for which the Attorney-General was responsible, but he deigned not to appear. He did not even have an adviser from his Department in the chamber while members of the Opposition were expressing their viewpoint on that Bill. When we came to this matter tonight we got this comment from the Attorney-General: ‘If you wish to oppose it, go ahead and do so’. Is this the way the Government believes its matters can be introduced and passed through the Parliament? Is this the way it treats a legislative chamber? Is this the way it believes the Senate should go about its business? If it is, it indicates completely and absolutely the authoritarianism which so marks this Government that it cannot brook a word in opposition to any view it puts forward.
Let me indicate on behalf of the Opposition that we think that the approach embodied in this motion represents a deplorable procedure. We do not, however, oppose the motion because we recognise the ultimate common sense of having before us a Bill which contains those amendments which the Government intended to move in the second reading stage, and using that Bill as the substantive matter upon which debate in this chamber should be carried on. We recognise the common sense of that approach and we will not oppose a course which leads to it.
What we object to is the fact that we have been given, firstly, a Bill which was reintroduced this year and which contains 169 clauses. The Bill endeavours to establish for this country a completely new code in trade practices legislation. It is a code that has never before been experienced in this country. It is totally different, in form and in substance and in the obligations which it casts upon those who may be affected by its provisions, from the legislation which has operated for the last 8 years. We then had given to us, approximately a fortnight ago, a list of amendments contained in a printed sheet, and there are 109 amendments to this Bill containing 1 69 clauses. We are not given a speech explaining why these amendments are necessary. All we are given is a short 2.5 page document, explaining that amendments are to be made, and another document which states the reasons for some of the amendments in the shortest possible form, with most of them being regarded as a matter of drafting only. When one comes to examine the actual amendments one may regard them as matters of drafting only; on the other hand one may regard them as matters of substance. It depends on one’s point of view.
After we have been given a sheet containing 109 amendments we are presented with a Trade Practices Bill which is described as a ‘Memorandum Showing the Bill, as Proposed to be Amended by the Amendments to be Moved on behalf of the Government’. Nothing in this document shows where the 109 amendments in the sheet are to be found in the amended Bill. We have to work that out for ourselves. I know that it is a mammoth task to try to do this, but of course the Attorney-General thinks that senators can do it and that it is not his obligation to help us understand his legislation. Probably he does not really care how the legislation may affect the people whose activities it is intended to control. All I say is that this has put us in a very difficult position in trying to appreciate the impact of the amendments on the Bill as it was introduced. It would have been so easy to have had in the memorandum which incorporates the amendments the amendments set out in black type or in sloping print. It would have been so much more understandable. But that has not been done.
As I understand the position, the AttorneyGeneral now desires that the memorandum which has been circulated should be the Bill which we debate. As I have said, the common sense of that approach is self-evident. But I believe that time ought to be available for us to do the painstaking scissors and paste work- the work involved in going through this document and fitting the new amendments into the Bill introduced previously. That work could have been done by the Attorney-General’s staff if there had been a desire to facilitate and promote debate in this place. I ask honourable senators here whether they have looked at this Bill, at the amendments and at the final memorandum in order to ascertain what each amendment is doing to the Bill as originally introduced? If honourable senators have done that work they will know the impossibility of the task before us.
I have been interested to read what I could in the newspapers and the journals of the views of the commentators about the new amendments. I have searched the newspapers in vain. One or two people to whom I have spoken have given me the reason. It is that it is such a mess that they do not know where to turn or what to write. I sympathise with them fully because they are not being helped and the Parliament is not being helped.
– It is all right about your mates in Forrest Place in Western Australia.
– I hear some mention of Western Australia. I would have thought that the Government, even at this late stage, might have taken some heed of what happened to it in Western Australia with a view to repairing the omissions which are notorious. When one comes to the practicalities of the situation at the present time, the Opposition has 2 courses: Firstly, it can follow the line, which initially I was inclined to follow, of requiring the Bill to be debated in the form in which it was introduced originally and on the basis of which all the work which has been done has been done. Then, if the Senate agreed to pass the motion for the second reading, we would go into the Committee stage, let the Government move these 109 amendments, amendment by amendment, and then deal with the countless amendments which the Opposition might move. That does not appeal to the Opposition as a common sense course.
The other course is to accept what the AttorneyGeneral has said, to regard this memorandum as the Bill to be debated and to deal with it as if it were the substantive issue. We would welcome a new second reading speech by the Attorney-General. We would welcome some full statement explaining what this new Bill does in contrast with the earlier Bill and why a Bill which was so magnificent last year requires 109 amendments this year.
– This shows that we are open to reason and to suggestion.
– I hope that that is the reason because, whilst there is a prima facie case that the Government is open to reason, established by the fact that there is that number of amendments to be moved, we really have to look at the substance of the amendments. The Opposition asks only that we have the debate facilitated in the manner that I have suggested. Therefore we will support this motion which will enable this memorandum to become the Bill. That is the document which we will debate. I do not know what the outcome of that will be because we have not been told which standing orders have to be suspended to enable that outcome to be realised. I imagine that at some stage there will be some identification of them because if the Bill goes to the House of Representatives, it having originated there, there will have to be some schedule or explanation consistent with our Standing Orders to enable it to be dealt with. These are, I hope, matters to be dealt with at the appropriate time.
It also follows that we will not be in a position to carry on tonight as would be the consequence of the notice paper which the Attorney-General has given to us of the Bill- amended by this memorandum which we are now to regard as the Bill. We expect that we will be accorded the time to do the necessary hackwork to enable us to appreciate the changes in this Bill from the one introduced last year. Accordingly we will seek to have the debate adjourned to a time when the hackwork has been done. I imagine that there will be a harangue from the Attorney-General when he rises to speak that here again is the Opposition delay in regard to trade practices legislation. This is the constant theme that he puts forward. But I make this charge, and I can prove the charge, that it is the Attorney-General who has delayed the introduction of effective trade practices legislation in this country for over 2 years because it must take that length of time, from the day that his Government came into office, before this leg¹slation gets to the stage where it can begin to work and be effective legislation.
– What a preposterous suggestion.
-Listen to the facts. The previous Government conceded that the 1965 legislation ought to be strengthened. That was made clear in a statement which was made in the Parliament in the early part of 1 972. It was further fortified in 1 972 by the introduction of 2 Bills which were never passed because of the imminence of the election, but they were Bills to which the Liberal and Country Parties were committed.
– Could you not have got them through if you had wanted them?
– It was the Labor Party. I know the truth hurts.
– You buried them. You did not want them passed.
– I know the truth hurts, but I will have my say. The truth hurts because honourable senators opposite are not prepared to concede that there were 2 Bills introduced in 1972.
– Which you buried.
– Which were not buried but which were not debated because of the onset of the election. On any assessment of the situation they were Bills which improved the 1965 Act. If this present Government, even if it thought that those Bills did not go far enough, was really concerned about making trade practices legislation work, it would have brought those Bills back into this place within the first month and held the Opposition parties to the course which they had indicated when they introduced the Bills in 1972. We could not have consistently opposed them. We would undoubtedly have supported them and they would have been passed and the legislation would have been working all the better for them. But that was not the course which the present Government adopted. It decided that it would go ahead with its particular form of legislation. It waited a year before it introduced the legislation. It subsequently had 109 amendments made to it, and even if it were to be passed this year the investigative procedures and enforcement procedures are such that it could not possibly operate until well into 1 975 and its impact would not be felt until many years later.
That is why I say- it can be borne out by an examination of the facts- that this Government has effectively delayed the strengthening of trade practices in this country by over 2 years. Now we are asked to deal with the trade practices legislation that the Government envisages in the half baked manner embodied in this motion. We support the motion moved by the Government, but we do so pointing out the defects in the procedures that have been followed and wishing that the Senate was treated with more respect than this Government is according to it.
-We have before us order of the day No. 3 in respect of which the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) has moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Trade Practices Bill 1973 (No. 2) being amended in accordance with the memorandum circulated on 19 March 1974 and that the Bill be so amended. Mr President, you may agree with me that the Senate has before it one of the greatest tangles that has ever been presented as legislation to a house of Parliament. The proposal before us is quite ridiculous. It has given my Party, in conjunction with the other opposition parties, a great deal of concern in determining how this legislation should be treated. This proposed law introduced by the Labor Government was originally introduced at the instance of Senator Lionel Murphy, the Attorney-General. There exists a Trade Practices Bill and a second Trade Practices Bill. I point out that our notice paper indicates that the Attorney-General has moved a motion to suspend Standing Orders so that nothing would prevent the Trade Practices Bill 1 973 (No. 2) being debated. The Bill that we have before us is the Trade Practices Bill 1973 in respect of which the Attorney-General has indicated 109 amendments.
We cannot relate our remarks on the Trade Practices Bill 1973 (No. 2) to the documents which the Attorney-General hopes we will debate. Whether it is the unsatisfactory support behind a Minister or the ineptitude of a Minister I am unable to work out, but I do know that honourable senators are presented with a ridiculous proposition. When we look at the document and the introduction of this most important matter we find that it was on 27 September 1973 that Senator Murphy introduced into the Senate Trade Practices Bill 1973. With the force that Senator Murphy is able to engender he put to the Senate the great importance of this legislation. He expressed his hope that the Senate would deal with it promptly and his view that it was important in so many areas. It would encourage inflation if the Bill was not passed, he said, and he exhorted the Senate to pass the Bill quickly.
The debate was resumed on 24 October 1 973 and again Senator Murphy used some strong comments hoping that the Senate would pass the Bill. He referred to the practices that were going on. He did not refer to any specific practice to which the Government took objection but, generally, he referred to a number of actions which were taking place in the community and over which apparently Mr Bannerman had some control and say in respect of the registration of the trade practices that existed in Australia in great number. But Senator Murphy still believed that there were many beyond the control of the Senate and he referred to baited advertising and a number of other matters that emphasised the importance of this matter to Senator Murphy on 24 October. The Bill was amended. It was proposed because of the importance of the Bill that the debate be resumed on the first day of sitting in 1974. That debate made it clear that advice was required from the public to review such important legislation. One can imagine the calculations that must have gone on some few days before to have a different Bill introduced by Mr Enderby into the House of Representatives. On the following day, 25 October, Mr Enderby introduced into the House of Representatives the Trade Practices Bill 1973. It was a Bill with exactly the same title as that which had been introduced into the Senate. It was not the same Bill but it had the same title.
The House of Representatives commenced debating that Bill on 7 November and on 8 November the Bill was passed through the House of Representatives. The Bill came into the Senate on 1 5 November. At that stage the Senate had 2 trade practices Bills of identical names before it. Senator Murphy’s comments on the Bill transmitted from the House of Representatives were similar to those which he had made previously. He indicated that it was essential that this Bill be passed very quickly. It was I who prompted the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) at that point to ask Senator Murphy which Bill it was that the Senate, at this late stage in the sittings, should take as being the Bill which the Government wanted. Senator Murphy indicated that the new Bill, the Bill that had come from the House of Representatives, was the one that the Government intended should be debated. That was interesting to know. Of course those senators who are interested in this type of law- and I claim to be one of those- spent time during the recess seeking the advice of unions and trade associations. My small contribution amounted to a file some 4 inches thick relating to that particular measure.
It was of interest to know that apparently on the day that Senator Murphy introduced the original Bill he had sent telegrams to various trade associations asking for their comment. I believe he was prompted by the Senate in debate to do so. Indeed, it would have been wise if he could have requested information prior to his introducing the Bill and perhaps being then obligated to the terms. However, when the Senate resumed, Senator Murphy did not deal with the same Bill again but introduced 109 amendments- to one of the Bills. He amended the Trade Practices Bill 1973. I apologise, Mr President, that I have not had time to research what is involved in these 109 amendments- indeed, no one has. If one of the very vocal
Government senators could in honesty- and sometimes that is difficult to gain- describe to the Senate what the new Bill actually meant I would be delighted. I wonder whether any senator would care to say that he is aware and alert to what all the amendments mean.
– You say they were brought in in November?
-Senator Cavanagh has been interested in Aboriginal affairs and I suppose he is not aware that these amendments were brought in in 1974.
– You are trying to waste time.
– I am not trying to waste time, Senator Murphy.
– You are deliberately wasting time.
– If you like to say I am deliberately wasting time I will give you a dose of it. If that is what you want I will give you a dose of wasting time. I am trying to point out to Senator Murphy what a blooming fool he has made of the Senate. That is a fact. A hundred and nine amendments to an Attorney-General’s Bill? The Attorney-General ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself. This is the Bill that he said Mr Enderby said that the Labor Party said was the Bill they must have.
– Yes, immediately. The Attorney-General said in 1974, in effect: ‘We made a terrible mistake and if we had introduced that Bill it would have been the greatest rubbish that could ever be put forward by a government. We believe it requires 109 amendments’. Has any Attorney-General ever acted in that way previously? I wonder. The reasoned proposal by the Opposition was that Senator Murphy might assist if he perhaps used black printing on the old Bill and reproduced it to indicate where the changes took place and what they meant. The Attorney-General did not take advantage of that offer. We have suggested that it would have been better than bringing into the Senate 109 amendments which certainly are intended to waste the time of the Senate. If Senator Murphy expects the Senate to deal with 109 amendments he is the one who intends to waste the time of this place. We suggested that a new Bill should be introduced and a new second reading speech made so that at least the Attorney-General could indicate that he knew what the new Bill meant. We have not got the benefit of that.
If Senator Murphy wishes to waste the time of the Senate it is his responsibility. If 109 amendments are to be dealt and, I hope, explained- not for the benefit necessarily of honourable senators but certainly for the benefit of the trade and the business community in general- I believe it would be wise for him to rise and agree to consolidate all the amendments into a new Bill and give an explanation of the meanings of the variations that he proposes. From whom did he take his advice? He has often said that it is big business that changes the attitude of the Opposition to some of these very important measures. I wonder which associations changed the honourable senator’s mind on this matter. That is something that I do not know. I would be assisted if we had a concise Bill explaining of what this Government really desires in relation to trade practices. If the Attorney-General does not accept that offer on behalf of the Opposition it lies on his shoulders to bring in the most mixed up Trade Practices Bill that has ever been presented in a house of parliament.
– I rise to speak because I think that Senator Murphy is trying to contrive a situation that will produce complete frustration with regard to this legislation. It is interesting to note that a part of his Bill stated that a corporation that is in a position substantially to control a market for goods shall not engage in conduct directed to preventing a person from engaging in competitive behaviour in that market. If we consider the market for the Senate and suppose for one moment that Senator Murphy was in a position substantially to control the Senate, it is quite obvious that his behaviour is calculated to prevent a competitor, perhaps one of us, from engaging in the debate in this matter.
– Do you agree with this simple, formal proposal, or do you not?
-Mr President, that shows how simple Senator Murphy’s behaviour is. He expects me to say I agree or disagree, and ‘sit down, little boy’.
– Your Deputy Leader said it was self-evident.
– I am here to put forward a point of view.
Federation Insurance Ltd- Political Parties Trade Unions- Farmers Union: Meeting in Forrest Place, Western Australia
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I propose to address my remarks on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to a matter that I raised in the Senate on Wednesday, 20 March. It is associated with Federation Insurance Ltd. Firstly, I thank Federation Insurance Ltd for the wonderful publicity that I have received from it over the last week. Never has a person had so much publicity for so little cost as I have had from this company. It has placed advertisements in national and all major State newspapers advising me of what I should do in relation to the matters that I raised in the Senate on that occasion. I must say that the response to my raising those matters has been rather good because I have received several letters commending me for my statements in relation to this company. I have also received several telephone calls. Indeed, two publications of this company were sent to me anonymously by agents who at this moment are working for the company. But I did not receive one letter or one word of condemnation in relation to the things I said.
On the occasion on which I first raised this matter I said, firstly, that a certain Mr Brian Smith was sacked by this organisation because of his political beliefs. I repeat what I said on that occasion. There is no element of untruth whatever in the statement I made. This man was sacked because he was a member of the Australian Labor Party and because he had accepted endorsement as the Labor Party candidate for the seat of Mallee at the House of Representatives election. I said, secondly, that the Australian Country Party was receiving large handouts or kickbacks from this company to the extent of $ 1 35,000 over the last 3 years. Senator Webster said: ‘It is true that we receive this money, but it is commission’. He said: ‘This is commission from the company’. I want to know what the Country Party does to earn this commission, because in fact Federation Insurance Ltd is an organisation operated by the Victorian Employers Federation. It has affiliates and these affiliates all get kickbacks- commissions, I should say; I am sorry Mr President, I am using the wrong term- from this organisation on the basis of their affiliations.
The Country Party receives the highest kickbacksI am sorry, commissions- received by any affiliated organisation. Can the members of the Country Party tell me that it is in fact a bona fide employer organisation? In other words, is it tied up with this company on the basis that it receives commissions for services rendered? If in fact this is the case 2 things are happening. The first charge 1 made on the last occasion on which I raised this matter was that the person who was sacked was being intimidated into a position in which he had to associate himself with the Country Party even though he had no political affiliations with it and no desire to have political affiliations with it. Either the Country Party is using its organisers as organisers of the Party as well as agents for this insurance company or the insurance company is using its agents as organisers for the Country Party. 1 will go a little further because I now have in my possession documents which indicate quite clearly that this insurance company is intimidating its employees. 1 shall read to the Senate a memorandum which was sent to all inspectors. The memorandum is headed: ‘Subject: Country Party branches and executives’. The memorandum is over the name of Mr D. O. Tudor, Manager for Victoria, country branch, and it is signed by the Assistant Branch Manager of the country branch, Mr A. R. Galagher. The memorandum reads:
We are enclosing for your records and usage a schedule relative to the above and this will replace existing details in respect of Country Party branches in your sub-branch.
The information is as up to date as we have been able to obtain from the Party and you should make it your most earnest business to maintain regular liaison with the people concerned, that is the President and the Secretary of each branch in your area and if you have not yet had nor made the opportunity to meet each one of them, then would you please do so with the minimum of delay.
This is telling the agents that they have to maintain close and direct contact with officers of the Country Party. The memorandum continues:
We would like to think that our inspectors are on extremely personal and friendly terms with the branch executive members of the Party as indeed we would hope they are in relation to the executive members of the Victorian Dairyfarmers Association, because this is one of the great advantages enjoyed by this company that the outside staff of other companies cannot participate in.
We hope that you are making every effort to get along to the branch meetings of the Party and we cannot stress strongly enough the enormous need to do this in order to successfully counter the activities of the Eagle Star and the Farmers Union in having their inspectors and field officers attend Farmers Union branch meetings around Victoria at which they are strenuously selling the Eagle Star’s arrangement with the VFU
Property and thoughtfully handled, our usage -
I repeat the words ‘our usage ‘- of the Country Party branches will go a long way in the continued promotion of the company and its arrangement with the Party and to a large degree nullify the efforts of the Eagle Star.
Would you please forthwith renew your efforts to obtain invitations to attend branch meetings and please persist for as long as it takes the Secretary or the President to invite you to their respective meetings.
I will repeat that section of the memorandum:
Would you please forthwith renew your efforts to obtain invitations to attend branch meetings and please persist for as long as it takes the Secretary or the President to invite you to their respective meetings.
The memorandum continues:
The writer looks forward with a great deal of anticipation and indeed interest in the upgrading of the monthly returns to the office which relate to branch meetings attended and branch meetings arranged.
This is the kind of intimidation that went out to agents of Federation Insurance Ltd in an effort to force them to go to Country Party branch meetings to sell their wares so that the Country Party in return could get back these commissions- that is what I called them, did I not?- of up to $60,000 a year.
– Are you sure they are not kickbacks?
-I called them kickbacks, but I was admonished for doing so. So I will use the term ‘commissions’ that Senator Webster used. He said that it was a normal commercial deal. I challenged Senator Webster to table in this chamber the commercial arrangements that the Country Party has with this company. I challenged him to give us the details of the contract he has because the Country Party, which is not a bona fide employer organisation, is receiving the highest commission of all of the affiliated organisations, yet the Country Party does not appear in the company’s annual report as being an affiliated organisation at all. Apparently there is no affiliation other than the fact that this kind of intimidation is sent to the company’s agents. I have a further memorandum which again is signed by Mr A. R. Galagher, Assistant Branch Manager. Incidentally, I received this memorandum from the person of whom I spoke on the last occasion and 2 other agents who are still working for the company. This memorandum substantiates the charges that I made on that occasion. The second memo reads:
For information purposes all inspectors are advised that all branches of the Country Party will be holding their annual meeting before the end of February and the district councils prior to 1 S March.
If one reads this memorandum in conjunction with the document I read previously, the indication is that all efforts must be made, to the point of persistence, to ensure that the agents of the company get an invitation to sell their wares to the Country Party so that the Country Party in turn can get the commissions back from the company. Finally, this letter was sent to Mr Brian Smith, again signed by Mr Tudor.
A letter has been received from Mr R. L. Weir, Secretary of the Kara Kara A.E.D.C. of the Country Party, inviting me to attend the next meeting of this District Council, to be held in the Memorial Hall, Donald, 8 p.m. on Monday 16th October.
Would you please make yourself available to accompany me to this meeting.
There was no question of inviting the agent to attend this meeting. It was a direction by his country manager to ensure that he attended this meeting of a political party to sell the wares of the insurance company so that the commissions that the Country Party received will spread wide and far and become larger.
I charge that this man was dismissed because of his political affiliations. I said on the previous occasion- I went into it chapter and verse- that the day after he had attended a branch meeting of the Labor Party and a Press statement by him concerning that party meeting appeared in the newspapers within the Mallee electorate he was called to the Melbourne office by Mr Tudor. He was asked to bring his rate books and the car with him- and it was virtually a notice of dismissal because he dared to be a member of the Labor Party and because he chose not to be intimidated into attending Country Party branches throughout that electorate to sell the wares of this insurance company. It is interesting to go through the document, part of which I read on the last occasion, to indicate a conversation that took place on the Monday that Mr Smith was asked to attend the office to receive the boot, the sack, his dismissal or whatever they may choose to call it. In this signed document Mr Smith said:
On Monday the 4 March 1974 at 2.30 p.m., Mr Allyn Best, of the Insurance Staffs Federation . . .
In other words, a representative of his union-
I said to Mr Tudor, ‘Why did you take this action against me?’.
He replied ‘Your production was not up to standard’.
I said, ‘My production is among the highest in the area, as 1 have checked my figures with all other inspectors’.
He said ‘Yes. as they stand, but if you make allowances for the crop figures and seasonal fire figures then there is little left’.
I said, ‘Yes, but Charlton is a crop and seasonal fire insurance district, always has been and always will be and you know this. This financial year to the end of January 1 have brought in $151,000 as against $129,000 to the same date the previous year’. He said, ‘I am sorry but we expect more. ‘
Mr Best said, ‘Why did you remove the crop figures and the seasonal fire figures from Brian’s results’.
Mr Tudor said, ‘They are high risk insurance and of no value to the company’.
I am sure that the clients of this insurance company will be delighted to hear that business amounting to $151,000 written for them in this area is of no value to the company. This is the contempt in which the organisation holds the clients. When one examines the returns and figures of Brian Smith over a period of time- I have the document here- they show that his takings in terms of money value and total value of the policies was up by 22 per cent on the figures of the year before. So the charge that I made was true. This man was sacked because of his political affiiliation with the Labor Party. I repeat it tonight that I believe that the evidence is clear and positive that this man’s employment was terminated because he was associated with the Labor Party.
The second thing that I said and which I repeat- this has not been denied but in fact confirmed by Senator Webster- is that the Country Party’s commissions, or ‘kick backs’ as I describe them, from the Federation Insurance Limited in the current financial year mount to some $60,000. The Country Party describes them as commissions. I again challenge the Country Party to table the document to show that this agreement exists between Federation Insurance Limited and the Country Party by its affiliation as an employer organisation, which has yielded $60,000 this year and $135,000 over the past 3 years. I would like to know what are the legitimate services which the Country Party is giving to this employers’ organisation in this insurance field for which it receives such large commissions. The third thing I said, which I shall repeat by quoting exactly what I quoted on the previous occasion is this:
Federation Insurance Company inspectors were told by a responsible officer of the company to tear out the centre page of the company’s superannuation statutory information sheet which showed a loss of $30,05 1 for the last 2 years.
I have the document here. Federation Insurance Limited has many irons in the fire; it goes into all kinds of areas including permanent building societies and all other operations with basically the same directors and with the same managing director. It is clear that the page which these people were asked to tear out revealed that this part of the company has lost $30,000 odd and that a responsible officer of the company had asked that this sheet be deleted from the document before it was given to a prospective client.
It is an interesting document to read because it showed some profits for the first three or four years, but this aspect of the company’s balance sheet shows that the further it goes, the greater loss it is accruing, particularly on this aspect of its business.
I repeat that this organisation has dismissed a man because of his political affiliations. I am very happy that it has chosen to give me so much publicity over the whole of Australia. I could never have paid for it. I am very pleased at the response by people to it. People have written to me, telephoned me and others have sent me documents concerning this company. All the documents that I have before me did not come from the one source. I am quite delighted to think that I have been able to show the type of operation that is going on within this organisation. The company has challenged me by declaring that the things I have said are untrue. I believe them to be true and I believe that the documents that I have quoted from are genuine. I believe that some explanation is required as to the formal association between this organisation and the Country Party- The formal contract or method whereby it can get commissions amounting to $60,000.
It is true that on the last occasion I spoke on this matter it was suggested that the Australian Council of Trade Unions had been or had wanted to be involved in a similar situation. Nothing is further from the truth because the ACTU in its dealings at this level at all times wanted to offer a cheaper price to the consumer, not to offer something to some political party. Not lc of ACTU funds come to the Australian Labor Party. All donations that we get from the trade union movement- we accept them and we will always accept them because, after all, the trade unions created the Australian Labor Party- come from individual unions. There has never been any suggestion that the ACTU was engaging in business activities for the purpose of getting money back into the coffer of the Labor Party. It was solely an exercise so that the consumers, the members of the trade unions, might get cheaper goods and cheaper holidays. This was not a kickback to a political party as is the case with the Country Party whereby it is getting enough money annually out of this one insurance company to finance every election that it wants to contest in Victoria. Who knows how much further this goes regarding this agreement? It is purely a commercial agreement, the parties say, on a commission basis. Let the company be honest and let the Country Party be honest. If the Country Party is getting any kickbacks at this level, that money should be going back to the customers of the company by way of reduction of premiums. I would like to see the document or the arrangement tabled in the Senate whereby the Country Party can be classified as an employer organisation affiliated to the Australian Employers Federation and whereby it can earn these alleged commissions.
– Some pleasure has been derived this evening from the adjournment debate. On several occasions, Senator Poyser has expressed his great pleasure at the publicity that has been made for him over the last weeks by the news media and the protection which the Federation Insurance Ltd sought in attempting to put the situation truthfully. This was not how the situation was put when Senator Poyser spoke to the motion that a money Bill, the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1973-74, be read a first time in the Senate. If I had had the publicity about myself that has been given to Senator Poyser by the various news media in regard to this matter, I would have been thoroughly ashamed. But I am very pleased to know that this type of publicity pleases Senator Poyser. I would not doubt that it gives him some elevation. There were some aspects of this matter with which I wish to deal. Of course, the most important one was the one to which Senator Poyser made only a side reference this evening. He did not actually express this evening what he expressed on the first occasion that he spoke on this matter. Of course, on that first occasion he alerted the news media to take note of certain facts. He said that a company was losing $30,000 a year and was in actual fact giving a kickback to a political party which amounted to $30,564.04 in one year and $47,257.54 in another year and which was estimated to be $60,000 in a third year, making a total of $ 1 35,000 over a 3-year period.
– Does the honourable senator deny that?
– I wish to quote Senator Poyser’s words as reported at page 453 of Senate Hansard:
Whilst the company is losing this kind of money- $30,000 in a period of 2 years- it is giving handouts by the backdoor to the Country Party of up to $60,000 a year.
I am pleased that Senator Poyser attempted to interject a moment ago. He asked me whether I denied that or something like that.
– The honourable senator should read what I said before that.
-What Senator Poyser put to the Senate on that occasion was, in actual fact, an untruth.
– It was not an untruth. The honourable senator should read what I said.
-Hansard will record that Senator Poyser interjected to say that what he had said was not untruthful. I will just look at the facts. I attempted to be nice to Senator Poyser when I spoke on the matter, despite the fact that he had denigrated a great Australian, Victorian-based company, Federation Insurance Ltd. It is a wonderful company. It has grown in Victoria over many years. It had its struggle in the early years and today it is a most sound and highly thought of insurance company. But what Senator Poyser alerted us to sufficed for 3 or 4 national newspapers to carry stories on their front pages suggesting that this company is perhaps going downhill. An honourable senator, who one is supposed to believe, says that the company is losing $30,000 a year and paying out $60,000 a year to a political Party. That was a despicable thing for Senator Poyser to say. He was challenged in advertisements to make the statement outside Parliament. But courage departed from him at that time. He has been unable even this evening, to reiterate that point.
I was pleased that the honourable senator attempted to say this evening that in relation to one aspect of this company’s activities- that in relation to a new activity which it had started- it was losing money. The honourable senator has said tonight that the company was making money in a variety of areas. The honourable senator knows that I prompted him in the reply that I made to his remarks. I thought that the honourable senator could well have stated in the newspapers that he had made a little mistake and that he had accused a company of losing money which denigrated it in the eyes of the public but that that was not the fact. This Australian company has grown out of the State that the honourable senator represents. The honourable senator said, to his eternal dishonour, that the company was losing money. But the records show that that great company made a profit of $1,013,738 during 1971-72 and $1,173,550 during 1972-73. The lie was put to the statement made by the honourable senator. That is the first point with which I wish to deal.
I do not think the reference to our political party matters very much. But when I think of the false denigration of a great insurance company in Australia words nearly fail me as I realise the damage that the honourable senator did. In actual fact, that damage will remain in regard to that company whilst the laughing senator brushes it off. I think that it was a disastrous thing to say and it lies on Senator Poyser ‘s conscience. Undoubtedly, he will never try to correct the position in relation to the main proposition that he put to the Senate.
The other matter that he raised appeared to me to be in relation to the employee. Senator Poyser has been an employee. I would not know whether he has been an employee in any position of trust. But certainly, an individual whom he has protected and who was dismissed from his position has certainly given Senator Poyser sufficient information to enable one to say that that employee has betrayed his trust. Perhaps it was as well that the employer found out sufficiently early in the piece. The facts relating to the employee were as follows. I wish to quote what was reported at page 452 of the Hansard record where Senator Poyser read to the Senate the statements that were supposedly ‘the record of the statement that he gave to me’. That is the statement that Senator Poyser made. The honourable senator went on to inform the Senate that the Austraiian Labor Party candidate for the Federal seat of Mallee in the House of Representatives had told him certain things. I ask anyone who has been responsible for the payment of wages and the other remunerations that are made towards the maintenance of a staff whether, in actual fact, instructions that are given to an employee should be followed by the employee or whether the employee should be able to take no notice of the instructions and perhaps attempt to run the organisation himself. I come back to the quote made by Senator Poyser. The honourable senator says that this is not the reason why this fellow was sacked. But if I had been in charge, he would have been sacked on this very basis. This is what this employee said:
At the end of 1973 I was nominated as candidate for the Australian Labor Party for the seat of Mallee. I informed Mr Tudor of this fact and he did not complain or advise otherwise except to tell me not to send any political letters to newspapers as it could be inferred that 1 was speaking on company policy and in fact ALP policy could be embarrassing to the company’s relationship with the Country Party.
I think that what can be read into Senator Poyser ‘s statement is that this individual did just that. He sought publicity. Perhaps he did not seek it himself, but publicity was received because he was an Australian Labor Party candidate. Obviously, a political Party on seeing that such an employee was opposed to its policy would be very reticent, I would think, to do business with that individual. The employee did not confine himself to the instructions of his employer. I would have understood from the early statement that Senator Poyser made on 20 April that this employee did not follow his employer’s instructions and so, in actual fact, was responsible for his own dismissal.
-The honourable senator does not know that.
– We do know it because I have just read the statement made by the individual himself. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who interjects and for whom I have some regard because of the actions for which he has been responsible recently would agree with me that when an employee has handed confidential papers that he has received from his employer to a person such as Senator Poyser to disclose in the Senate, not only should the employee be totally ashamed of himself, but also the Senator concerned should be totally ashamed of himself.
– A point of order, Mr President. Senator Webster has indicated that a confidential document was handed by Mr Brian Smith.
– What is the point of order?
– I want to indicate that the first document, the first memo that I read tonight came from a present agent, not from Mr. Smith.
– Order! What is the point of order? That is what I want to know.
– That is the point of order.
-We find now that there is no point of order. The garbled senator just wants to make some interruption. The third point in relation to this matter is: Where does the Country Party stand on this? Here is a pretty sound business deal that the Counrty Party has done with an insurance company. At no stage would I have used the names of other associations which take advantage of this type of operation, but Senator Poyser in his speech referred to the Victorian Dairyfarmers Association as being involved with their own members in seeking insurance which is fairly readily available for those individuals who seek their income by growing crops and engaging in primary production and who, because of weather, fire and pestilence certainly need to ensure their production. The VDA finds it is convenient to do this. The Victorian Farmers Union, which Senator Poyser mentioned, also has an arrangement with an insurance company whereby it gets a commission. When I spoke previously I said that some of the big motoring associations in New
South Wales, Queensland and Victoria carry out insurance on a similar basis. They seek to gain commissions for their own associations.
Although I was not alerted sufficiently that Senator Poyser was going to speak to nightbefore he started to speak he did not have the courage to tell me that he intended to raise this matter tonight- the fact is that in this instance we find that the Country Party has had an arrangement with Federation Insurance Ltd for 35 years. It has helped to build that company to the great Victorian base company that it is today. The Country Party is a pretty shrewd party. It gains its commission by hard work.
– What does it do?
-What words should I use, Mr President? Am I entitled to use the word bribery’? I do not suppose that I am, so I will not use it. But I know that one very big department store marched out $50,000 for the Labor Party at the last Federal election. Senator Poyser blushes; his cheeks turn from their ashen grey to red. All the Labor boys look alert; they are leaning on their desks and they are wide awake to find out why Mr Myer gave $50,000 to the Labor Party. Senator Poyser says that when any association or group donates or gives money to a political party, there must be something wrong with it. Of course, we had a great deal going on in the margarine industry. Every Government supporter would know from where the contributions came that went to the slush funds of the Labor Party.
– It is too late for that.
-There we are. Senator Wriedt is well aware of it. Senator Wriedt, who made such a conflicting statement in his announcement a week or so ago about what his Government was going to do for the Queensland flood victims, did not have the courage to make it clear today what he really meant, but we will take up that point on another occasion. He promised that New South Wales flood victims were going to be fully compensated for losses of fences and stock, but he reversed it in his statement today. He did not mean to butt in about the margarine industry, because one of the big leaders in the industry found it convenient to throw a party valued at $10,000 for the Australian Labor Party after it won the last House of Representatives election. That would not be a kick back for services rendered!
The Country Party works for its money, and it works hard for its money. It is proud to have an arrangement with an insurance company. Perhaps I can assist Senator Poyser. Members of the Australian Labor Party might be able to scrape the brains off their bones and be able to think of a situation in which it could be put to members of the Party that it would be in the interests of the Party if the Party dealt with a particular company because the company would pay the Party a commission, and that when the ALP had Party meetings it should have the company’s agents along to tell it how it could earn some money. The Australian Country Party cannot gain its money by bribery. The Australian Labor Party cannot gain its money by corruption. It has to gain its money by hard work. That is what the Country Party does. We are particularly proud of that arrangement, and we are proud of the fact that we are one of the many very honourable associations which work in this field.
Senator Poyser did not gain his experience in any commercial sphere. I reckon that he would not know one thing about insurance. Today he read from some paper that he had. He would not understand what a confidential paper was, but generally anything between an employee and an employer is of a confidential nature, and usually an honourable employee would go to his employer and say: ‘Is this something I can disclose?’ Not so for Senator Poyser. I think that he spoke out of ignorance and that what he did was not necessarily a big mistake on his part. He acted in ignorance because he has not had the background to understand what the situation is about. He smiles and shakes his head. I sympathise with Senator Poyser. He is one of those senators who carry grudges on their shoulders because of the little experience they have been able to gain in life. He has absolutely no understanding of commercial business.
– Sit down. You are boring us to tears.
– If the honourable senator would sit in his right seat I would take notice of him. The matter to which Senator Poyser referred is normal procedure in business houses these days. It is something that can be engendered. Some of the associations that Senator Poyser mentioned deal only with multinational insurance companies. The Country Party does not. The Country Party upholds that great philosophy that the Labor Party proposes. The Labor Party says: ‘We hate multinational corporations but we give all our publicity to one of the biggest multinational advertising firms in Australia. This is what we like to do. We are double-crossers. We stand up and say one thing and we act in another way’. The Country Party does not do this. As a member of the Country
Party I have no opposition to multinational corporations. I am glad that they exist in Australia. They have made a good living for many Australians. But the Country Party deals with an Australian based company. If we can find an insurance company that will offer us a better deal than we can get from Federation Insurance, we will probably take it. I say to Senator Poyser that he spoke an untruth when he raised the matter on 20 March. He has been challenged to go outside the Parliament and repeat what he said in this chamber. I notice that courage departs him as he walks down the front steps of Parliament House. He came back into the House tonight and made another garbled statement in relation to an employee. I sympathise with the employee for having someone like Senator Poyser put up the matter, but Senator Poyser has raised the matter in the Senate, and I am only sorry that he raised it in the manner that he did.
– I rise to place before the Senate a matter which I believe is of great concern and which needs to be aired in this House. I am somewhat regretful that I have not had an opportunity to do so before this late hour.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Would it be possible for me to speak on the same subject as the previous speaker? The normal procedure on the adjournment is to complete debate on the one subject before proceeding to another subject. I think the subject on which Senator Reid wishes to speak is a different subject.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I have been informed that the usual practice is for senators to speak on the same subject before moving to another subject. Senator Reid, are you speaking on the subject that was introduced by Senator Poyser?
– I am not, but I gave notice of the matter on which I wished to speak, which I think is the normally accepted precedent.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTFollowing the usual practice adopted in the Senate, as soon as the first topic is dispensed with I will call you again. I now call Senator Wheeldon.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I do not wish to inconvenience Senator Reid. I am sure that I will speak only briefly, and he can deal with the subject which has aroused his attention. Mr Acting Deputy President, as an acute and impartial observer, I think you will agree with me and will have noticed the rather extraordinary state of affairs which existed in the
Senate tonight. Until the arrival of Senator Davidson and the brief appearance of Senator Sim, who is about to leave us, no members of the Liberal Party of Australia sat in the chamber because they were so embarrassed by their association with the other 4 political parties with which they are associated in Opposition. Although only 5 Opposition senators were present, between them they represented 4 political parties- the Australian Country Party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the National Alliance and the National Liberal Party. I can well imagine the DLP, the National Alliance and the National Liberal Party being very interested to learn of the highly satisfactory financial arrangements which the Country Party had been able to build up over the years possibly as part of its deal with an insurance company. I would be interested to learn from Senator McManus whether he is any better informed on some of the matters which we heard about tonight relating to the National Alliance than he is with regard to some of the other matters relating to the National Alliance.
– You ought to talk about deals.
– I am just wondering whether Senator McManus knows any more about this matter which affects the National Alliance than he does about some of the other matters affecting it.
A very serious matter had been raised by Senator Poyser on a previous occasion. Senator Webster had what I can regard only as the effrontery tonight to say that some cowardice was shown by Senator Poyser because he would not repeat outside allegations made about a company, this amorphous mass, this public company which is incorporated in Victoria. Senator Webster has led us to believe that when something critical or perhaps defamatory had been said about some person or company, a man of honour and of courage, when challenged, would have no hesitation in repeating his allegations outside. I assume from that statement that despite his previous practice Senator Webster will now do precisely the same. One can remember that only a few months ago Senator Webster made some highly damaging and slanderous allegations about a member of the Australian Labor Party in the Northern Territory. He was challenged to repeat those allegations outside the Senate. He graciously declined to do so. In view of his statement of principle tonight that when challenged one repeats the remarks outside, I am sure that first thing tomorrow we can expect Senator Webster to repeat verbatim outside the Senate those previously made remarks about the member of the ALP in the Northern Territory. I am sure that he will report to us what he has done about the matter because he feels so strongly about it. If he would like me to arrange a Press conference at which he could repeat those allegations, I will do so.
The matter which has been raised by Senator Poyser is a serious matter. It is a serious matter for 3 reasons. Firstly, it concerns the operations of a public company which is incorporated under public law and which purports to be an ordinary public limited liability company engaging in insurance whereas, according to Senator Poyser’s evidence, which has been well verified by what he has been able to show to the Senate, it is not so engaged. The second question of importance is the relation between this big financial institution, which is connected with other major financial institutions through the Employers Federation (Victorian), through an underhand arrangement with a specific political party- the declining Country Party. If Federation Insurance Ltd is losing money- I do not know whether it is- and if it banks its future on the Country Party, it will lose a lot more money. The third question, which is an important question, is the question of victimisation of an employee of this company because he exercised his democratic right to be a member of the Labor Party and to be an ALP candidate for Parliament.
I wish to deal with the third of those matters first. Victimisation is something which the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement in Australia- indeed, the trade union movement throughout the world- have had to fight since their very inception. Because the Labor Party has not represented the owners of capital and has not represented the employers, people who wish to join the Party and who wish to be active in the Labor movement and the trade union movement have constantly been subjected to the fear of intimidation through their employment by their employers who, almost to a man, are opposed to the principles of the Labor movement to which their employees belong. I think it is salutory that the attention of the Senate and the Australian people ought to be drawn to the wretched little company called Federation Insurance Ltd which has continued the same policy of intimidation as was used to try to break the trade union movement and the Labor movement from its very beginning. I hope that everybody who supports the Labor Party and everybody who supports democracy will have a look at Federation Insurance Ltd and see that it is the type of organisation which, no doubt while it pays money to people who prate about democracy and freedom of speech, is prepared to deny a man and his family their livelihood because the man belongs to a legal political organisation and wishes to exercise his democratic rights as a candidate for Parliament. Let us have a look at Federation Insurance Ltd and see what sort of company it is. If I were Senator Reid I would have another look at the Western Australian election figures before I laughed because I think that any laughing he will be doing after 18 May will be done a long way from Canberra.
The second point I wish to make, which is a very important point, concerns the relationship between a public company and a political party. We have seen repeatedly in the past in this chamber and elsewhere allegations that there is something wrong with the Australian Labor Party because it has affiliated with the trade unions. It has been said that there is something improper about its having affiliated organisations which may influence its policies. We are not ashamed of that. We are proud of our relationship with the trade union movement. Our relationship with the trade union movement is an open constitutional relationship and the decisions which are made by the Australian Labor Party, in association with the trade union movement, are publicly known arrangements made at conferences which are open to the Press and the public.
Is there the same relationship between Federation Insurance Ltd and the Australian Country Party? That company has contributed some $125,000 to the Country Party in Victoria alone over the past 3 years. Is that an open arrangement? Of course it is not an open arrangement. But for the service that Senator Poyser has done by alerting the Senate to the underhand relationship between that insurance company and that political party the people of Australia would not be aware of it because it was an agreement which was to be kept secret. What sort of influence does Federation Insurance Ltd exercise over the Country Party? Of course, a miserable little organisation like the Country Party in Victoria which is groping and straining to form a national alliance with the Australian Democratic Labor Party and which has no doubt made some approach to the National Liberal Party but which may have been spurned by a man of Senator Hannan ‘s integrity -
– Lots of people change their parties.
-Of course. Senator McManus changed his Party when he left the
Australian Labor Party. Senator McManus would be an expert on the changing of parties. He would be an authority on that subject. In fact, Senator McManus not only changed his party but also left the party which had kept him for years before he left it.
– Do not get hurt. I am not hurt.
– I am not hurt either.
– Yes you are. You sound as if you are.
– I thought you wanted to raise the subject. Why not talk it over with Vince?
– You should go and talk it over with Bill Hartley. You and he were in the Liberal Party.
-And you and Vince Gair were in the Labor Party. I would like to say to Senator McManus that Mr Hartley and I, when we were some 30 or 40 years younger than Senator McManus was at the time that he made his change, were members of the Liberal Party and then became members of the Labor Party. We are still good friends. In the same way Senator McManus and Senator Gair were both members of the Australian Labor Party and left it to join the Democratic Labor Party. I only wonder whether it could be said that they are still good friends. I do not want to waste my time on Senator McManus. I know that tonight he is in a highly neurasthenic condition. I would not be at all surprised to learn that it has been a very bad day for Senator McManus. I am afraid that more and more bad days will follow.
– I reckon I am going all right.
– If Senator McManus is going all right he must have very low expectations. The other major matter is the question that arises in relation to contributions which have been made by public companies generally to political parties.
– What about margarine?
-Senator Webster has said that various margarine organisations have given money to the Australian Labor Party. Whether they have or have not I do not know. I am prepared to accept that they have. A number of large business institutions have made substantial donations to the Labor Party. I am well aware of that. I do not deny that. But we do say this- and we say it without any fear of contradictionthat the donations that have been made to the Australian Labor Party by any large financial institution, whether it is the Myer Emporium or anybody else, are infinitesimal when compared with the donations that have been made to the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the National Alliance. As yet I cannot speak about the National Liberal Party. Of course donations have been made. Of course much larger donations have been made to the four or five Opposition parties sitting facing us, or at least four of the five Opposition parties sitting facing us. But we are not embarrassed about this.
We have a proposal coming before the Parliament that all such donations should be revealed. I welcome the interjections from Senator McManus and the contribution, if such it can be called, from Senator Webster that they find it very abhorrent that these donations should be made. If that is the case then I do not have the slightest doubt that if they show the same sincerity in their Party as was shown by their previous Leader they will support the Labor Party proposal that all these contributions should be made public. I will be interested to see whether they do support the proposal. If they do not then their noise tonight about margarine, Myer or whoever else it may have been can be revealed as sheer hypocricy. We do not want to hide any donations. We want to see all donations given to all political parties made public. That is our policy. That is what we want to see. Whether the four or five political parties sitting opposite are prepared to agree to that I do not know. I think the Parliament should welcome the contribution Senator Poyser has made. Nothing that has been said by Senator Webster tonight in any way rebuts any one of the many points which have been made. Senator Webster revealed the relationship between Federation Insurance Limited and the Australian Country Party. He revealed the intimidation and the discrimination practised by Federation Insurance Limited against one of its employees who is a member of the Australian Labor Party. The facts speak for themselves. When revealed to the Australian people they will make their judgment accordingly.
– I wish to place before the Senate a matter which I believe is causing tremendous disquiet throughout Western Australia, this country and the world. Its repercussons have flowed over. It concerns a very large protest meeting of country people held last Monday in Western Australia. It also concerns the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to Western Australia accompanied by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator
Wriedt) and the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). A meeting was held at Forrest Place at the same time and on the same day. I believe that the actions of the Prime Minister in Western Australia in the last week and the decisions which he has made in the last 3 months have had a number of results. The first point is that they have resulted in the defeat of the Tonkin Labor Government in Western Australia. This point was confirmed by the Deputy Premier, Don Taylor, on Australian Broadcasting Commission television. I just make that comment. The second point is that the Prime Minister’s behaviour has revealed also a potential danger to the general public from open-air public meetings at which the crowd has been deliberately aroused by speakers from the platform. The third point is that the Prime Minister also has denied the right of groups of people from any walk of life in Western Australia to be heard politically after the proper procedural steps have been taken. The fourth point is that the Prime Minister has failed to uphold the dignity and the respect of the highest office in Australiathe office of Prime Minister- by denigrating it to a petty schoolboy, mud-slinging, namecalling exercise in public. The fifth point is that the Prime Minister has endeavoured to make political capital out of a serious situation instead of recognising the position in a rational manner without exposing the public to a potential danger. The sixth point is that the Prime Minister has threatened the future role of Forrest Place as Australia’s greatest outdoor forum. These unhappy and unnecessary events have taken place because the Prime Minister would not deign to answer an issued invitation to attend or to deputise a party colleague to attend a properly conducted meeting.
I do not propose to delay honourable senators any longer than is necessary. I want to put on record a relation of events taken from transcript of tapes made of the address by the Prime Minister at the meeting at Forrest Place and of the interview recorded by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which I think was held at the Perth airport, and of events at another venue. I will start by detailing the sequence of events which led up to the meeting which was held at Forrest Place. I have gone to as much trouble as I have been able in order to get details that are 100 per cent accurate. On 1 9 February the Farmers Union sent a telegram to the Prime Minister inviting him to address a public meeting. I do not have the exact date; but approximately one week later, which would have been 26 February, a second telegram was sent to the Prime Minister advising him of the date of the public meeting.
– Who sent it?
– The Farmers Union sent it.
– Who signed it?
– I ask honourable senators opposite to be patient. I am just relating fact. I am not putting in any of my comments. If Government supporters can wait, I will be quite happy to add my thoughts when I have related the facts of the matter.
– Tell us who signed it.
– I am telling the story; I am telling the facts. I am relating a sequence of events which can be proved. On 1 1 March a letter was sent from the Farmers Union to the Prime Minister, repeating the invitation in the 2 earlier telegrams. On 21 March, some 5 weeks after the initial invitation, an article appeared in the ‘ Farmers ‘ Weekly ‘ stating that at least one of Mr Whitlam ‘s Ministers, Mr Grassby, supported the Farmers Union in its stand on the superphosphate bounty. Mr Grassby confirmed his opposition to the removal of the bounty by telegram to the Farmers Union.
On 22 March Mr Whitlam replied to the approaches of the Farmers Union along certain lines. It is understood that the Prime Minister in his letter to the Farmers Union indicated that he believed that any representations that the Farmers Union wanted to put to the Government would be put to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) because the union was meeting the Minister for Primary Industry on 25 March. These dates are very important because 22 March was a Friday and the last working day before the meeting which was held at Forrest Place on the following Monday. At 9 a.m. on 25 March, Senator Wriedt met the full executive of the Farmers Union and for 90 minutes discussed Government rural policy. At 12 noon on that day the Forrest Place rally commenced. As I said earlier, my secretary contacted the television stations that made the tapes, the ones that could be comprehended, of all the appearances made by the Prime Minister in that day. Unfortunately some of the choicest bits have been cut out and sent to Melbourne. At this time I have only the less choice adjectives and descriptions used by Mr Daly, the Minister for Services and Property, and others on that platform at Forrest Place. I have made some public statements about my thoughts on what Mr Daly did and on how he incited a situation which normally would have been nothing more than a political rally such as we see from day to day at Forrest Place.
– You were not there.
– No, I was not there. I did not say that I was there.
– How do you know?
– If the honourable senator can contain himself I will read it to him.
– What guarantee do we have?
– If the honourable senator does not believe that I am telling the truth he can go to the television station, Channel 7, get the tapes and play them back.
– Tapes of what?
– The tapes of the interview at Forrest Place. The point is that the Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, said:
Anybody following the Country Party should be ashamed of themselves. They represent only themselves. They don’t represent anybody but themselves, and there is nobody in the Country Party that today is prepared to stand like our Prime Minister and face these people and tell them what the policy of Labor is.
– That is right.
– Honourable senators on the Government side should not interject because I have more plums here for them to listen to. The transcript of this tape continues:
Right throughout Western Australia today people are -
Then there is a blank because somebody shouted. It then continues: -for Labor Government. Take no notice of the yah-hoos who interject here today. Half of them were on the dole until Labor got in. Half of them never had a job until Labor got in. And half of them never owned a motor car until Labor got in. And they are the people when this country was attacked in 1943 were thrown out of office by their own supporters . . .This country today is run by Australia, thanks to Labor and men like Whitlam who -
Then there is a blank. The next words are: -men and women are standing behind Whitlam because of his courage and ability and we wont be put off by the hillbillies or the hicks who represent that section of the community who . . . exist on gerrymander boundaries.
This is what was said by the Minister for Services and Property. He went on to say:
This is very long, Mr President, but it is very necessary because this situation could have involved serious loss of life. Loss of life could have resulted. There could have been serious injury to the public. The whole blame for this rests particularly on the Federal Labor Party. The Prime Minister commenced his address - (Government senators interjecting)-
– I might mention, while Government supporters restrain themselves, that I have some photographs here. I do not know, Mr President, whether it is permissible for you to accept these. They were all taken on that day. Shown clearly here is a photograph of a ‘Daily News’ poster saying:
Whitlam refuses to meet farmers.
One photograph shows the early part of the demonstration as being peaceful and orderly, with women with children in pushers quietly going about their normal procedures- a normal scene at election rallies. Then there is a later picture. The frenzy started to whip up while the speakers on the platform poured out hate. As the tongue lashing poured out the crowd started to gather and you felt the emotion start to rise. The Prime Minister said:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I can see how prosperous Western Australia has got in the last three years under the Tonkin Government. Never before have so many hundreds of young farmers been able to take a whole day off and come to town. All the rest of us who work . . . Now ladies and gentlemen, these are the people who ask you to subsidise their days off, who come to town in the middle of the week. They are asking you to put in people that sell your assets overseas, to spoil your climate, pollute the air, pollute your water supply. They are asking you . . . What fine visitors to your city.
– Who said this, senator?
– I am reading the Prime Minister’s statement which led to a situation in which serious loss of life could have resulted. He said:
They are spoiling Perth for the people who work here and they are asking you to subsidise them for their day off.
– Are you saying this speech justifies a violent assault? Is that your point?
– The Prime Minister said:
These blow-ins, these . . . don’t want free speech because they tried to prevent the people of Western Australia and … I will say, things have never been so prosperous as they must be today, when hundreds of young farmers can afford to take the whole day off and come into town … in the midst of the week and asking all the other people here to subsidise you. Subsidise you $65m this year, $75m next year, to take the day off in the midst of the week and travel a few hundred miles to town. What an impression you make on the good citizens of Perth and Western Australia. Subsidised to take the day off. Bludging here. Bludgers. And they don’t want you to hear the truth.
This was something like the same situation we have here now. He continued:
They are trying their best to see that Forrest Place is denied to the people.
The Premier, Mr Tonkin, denied these statements on the radio, saying they had never been made.
– You are a disgrace to the Senate.
– He continued: . . to take a whole day of . . .
– You are a disgrace to the Senate.
– I am just putting before the Senate a disgraceful situation.
– You are a disgrace to this Parliament. You are justifying mob violence.
– I am referring to a situation so serious that a life could have been lost.
– No wonder they went mad with you around.
– No wonder they went mad with the Prime Minister around. No wonder they went mad with the Minister for Services and Property around speaking like that and inciting the crowd. There is another half page of this and I am going to read it. The Prime Minister continued:
This is the Prime Minister. On he went, goading the crowd until it swelled into a humming, hiving, seething unrest. He said:
A few hundred fellows, down tools, down all their agricultural implements and come into town and want people to believe that things are tough. $65m subsidy this year. Things are mighty tough when you can down tools for a whole day in the middle of the week and come to town and all of you are expected to subsidise there for these fellows to take a day off. Where are the workers of this State, where are the workers of this continent’. The workers of this continent and this State are the ones who come here for their lunch times.
Ten thousand of them? Ten thousand people in Forrest Place in their lunch hour, having their lunch with a can of cool drink in one hand and sandwiches in the other hand, with emblazed on their uniforms the emblems of the shops and establishments they came from? What farmer goes to a rally several hundred miles away and gets a can of cool drink? The Prime Minister said:
The same old record goes on: . . and $75m next year. Now there’s a good Australian word for this. Bludgers the lot.
– You have read the same place twice.
– This was the Prime Minister going over the same record again.
– Order! I think I have been a bit too lax. I have allowed the Senate fairly free expression. I would be grateful if the Senate came to order and let the honourable senator conclude his speech.
– I should like to conclude the Prime Minister’s quotations from the tapes that are available for any honourable senator to hear who doubts the authenticity of these quotes. At a Press conference at the Perth Airport the Prime Minister said:
That is the concluding comment of the Prime Minister. The point is that the people at that meeting in Forrest Place were not all farmers. There were 4,000 people there. Senator Wilkinson was at Subiaco oval. A meeting was held at the same time on the same day. A report in the ‘Daily News’ of Wednesday, 27 March, headed ‘Opposition Blamed: Attack on PM’, reads:
The W.A. Police Minister yesterday blamed non-Labor parties for Monday’s incident in Perth when the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, was jostled and pelted with rubbish.
The Minister, Mr Thompson, said he did not entirely blame the farmers.
The 300 to 400 agitators round the truck were nothing but Young Liberals who had signs on their shirts and on the girls’ jumpers’, he said.
I think the point is well made that the Western Australian Minister for Police recognised the fact that three hundred to four hundred people surrounding the platform were not farmers.
– They were trendies.
– It does not matter what they were. The meeting in Forrest Place was attended by a composition of people from Western Australia. Sure, farmers were there. Perhaps 5 per cent to 1 0 per cent of the crowd were farmers. Turning to this question of subsidising the farmers and soaking taxpayers -
– Sixty-five million dollars.
– Yes, $65 m. How much are we saving the taxpayers and the bread buyers under the present wheat deal? In decrying the payment of the superphosphate bounty to farmers many members of the public overlook the fact that there are 2 sides to the question of subsidies. The total cost of the bounty to the Treasury is $65 m a year. Nobody is denying that this question of the payment of the superphosphate bounty should be put to the Industries Assistance Commission and be examined on its merits. Nobody is denying that. But we question the way it was done by one man arbitrarily against the wish of his caucus, against the rules of the Labor Party and against the wish of the Green Paper Committee. This year the Australian wheat industry has agreed to subsidise Australian bread eaters to the tune of $180m by keeping the home price for wheat down to $ 1.93 a bushel while $4 a bushel and upwards can be obtained on the home markets.
We are talking tonight about a situation in Forrest Place where a crowd was incited. I say that Western Australians were there voicing their opinions and they got caught up in the situation in the same way as a football crowd gets caught up with the game as excitement starts to mount. People from all walks of life in Western Australia have every right to protest to the Prime Minister and they were in attendance at this meeting.
– You did not say that during the moratorium.
– I will come to that. I have a very interesting section for Senator Wheeldon which I will deal with in a minute. I had in mind the oil and gas grab in Western Australia by Whitlam and the ALP Ministry; the ALP mineral policy; the Alwest disappointment; and the slur cast on the Department of Environmental Protection in Western Australia which is reputed to be the most efficient authority in that State. The Prime Minister said it was polluting the Perth water supply. There are the disastrous rural policies of the ALP; the disastrous Aboriginal affairs situation in Western Australia; the takeover of tertiary education; the takeover of local government and the devastation to the road program in Western Australia for the period 1 974 to 1979 by a massive reduction in funds.
Mr President, we are talking about a situation in which an invitation was issued cordially through the proper channels on behalf of a group of people to the Prime Minister to attend a meeting, and if he could not do so, to send a deputy. Senator Wilkinson was there. He was the only senator whom I saw. There were 6,000 people assembled at Subiaco Oval to see and hear a case put. An article in the last edition of the ‘Countrymen’ stated:
I was so stirred up I flattened him. ‘
This is the dangerous situation that we had in Forrest Place. The article continued:
I’ve never hit a man in my life before. But I was so stirred up that when this stranger nit the farmer next to me I flattened him,’ said one of our readers after the Forrest Place near-riot.
Believe me, it was a near riot and a near tragedy for Australia. On whose shoulder does this rest? The article continues:
This particular reader is a mild mannered man, a respected and responsible citizen. What made him resort to violence in a situation which he normally would have dealt with peaceably?
We had come up from the union meeting at Subi, but we’d seen in the press that the Prime Minister had refused to come out to talk to us. He was going to speak at Forrest Place, so we decided we’d go there first. A lot of others did the same thing.
Those who spoke immediately before Mr Whitlam showed complete ignorance of our case. They attacked us and said some pretty savage things about farmers and their subsidies. Words like ‘scum’, ‘peasants’ and ‘criminal element’ were used. Either these speakers did it deliberately or they were just plain stupid. I don’t know whether it was farmers who were throwing rubbish. But I felt so angry at the time that if I had had an egg I ‘d have thrown at him.
That is a clear indication of the tremendous emotion that was generated.
– What is the point you are trying to make?
– I am trying to make a very simple point and I am surprised that honourable senators opposite have not seen it. It is rather interesting that Senator Wheeldon is carrying on in such a fine state and putting on such a wonderful performance. A full page advertisement in the ‘Western Australian’ of Friday 29 March states: ‘Mob Pelts Whitlam at Rowdy Meeting.’ Down lower it says: ‘Did you see this?’ There is a picture of Senator Murphy. The advertisement states:
– A peaceful demonstration, and of course there is a lot of difference between a peaceful demonstration and violent assaults on the Prime Minister and his staff and cutting the cable to a loud speaker at a public meeting. There is all the difference in the world.
– Well, senator, here is a headline which states: ‘Cairns Will Lead New Protest. ‘ The article states:
Melbourne, Tuesday- The Labor MHR Dr J. F. Cairns, who threatened yesterday to quit the moratorium movement, will lead Friday’s demonstration in Melbourne against the Vietnam war.
– That was not a violent demonstration. Can you not tell the difference between a violent demonstration and a peaceful demonstration. Are you so dense?
– This was a peaceful demonstration too until somebody irresponsibly provoked the crowd to such fever pitch.
– Do you mean a person cannot make a speech at a meeting without being physically attacked?
– I am saying that in Western Australia there is a very deep rejection of Federal ALP policy
– And a very deep rejection of the National Alliance too.
– I was wondering when the honourable senator would bring this up. I thought that he might do so so I had some figures prepared concerning the National Alliance in seats decided so far. I want to refer to 4 seats. In 197 1 the combined figure was 33.37 per cent. At Saturday’s election it was 63.86 per cent. In the seat of Merredin- Yilgarin the vote was 24.9 per cent in 1971. On Saturday it was 39.12 per cent. In the seat of Moore the vote in 1971 was 51.67 per cent and on Saturday it was 65.44 per cent. In the electorate of Narrogin the combined vote was 33.82 per cent and on Saturday it was 50.2 per cent. There are 19 other seats. Unless I am provoked I shall give only the ones that show an improved vote. The Prime Minister, in the newspaper that was delivered into this chamber a few minutes ago, is reported as saying that the rural policies did not beat Labor. A half page advertisement appears about the Federal Government and the farmers in that same paper. Six thousand farmers do not travel hundreds of miles to a meeting unless something is dreadfully wrong. If the Prime Minister had gone, or had sent a deputy such as Senator Wriedt to that meeting at Subiaco this near violence would not have happened. The Federal Government has ignored Western Australia on nearly every imaginable score. I have here 62 telegrams and 25 letters on the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads report and the depth of the concern in Western Australia, and still the Minister refuses to go to Western Australia. What does one have to do over there to get recognition? I say that the Government stands condemned for its irresponsible action in handling the situation at Forrest Place, and for failing to send a representative to attend the Subiaco meeting. The Prime Minister and the Ministers who accompanied him should be censured.
- Senator Reid spoke tonight of documents that are purported to be invitations to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to attend a meeting. In accordance with standing order 364 1 move:
That Senator Reid be required to table all documents which he purports were sent to the Prime Minister inviting him to attend a meeting in Perth at an undisclosed date.
– I am sure Senator Reid will table the documents.
– I shall have much pleasure in going back to those organisations, getting a sequence of events and furnishing evidence.
– Order! Are you willing to table them or do you want the Senate to order them to be tabled?
– I cannot answer for another organisation.
– I rise to a point of order Mr President.
– Are you addressing yourself to the matter raised by Senator Milliner?
– Yes. I believe that the wording that Senator Milliner used in actual fact does not advert to what Senator Reid said. Senator Reid did not purport to quote from a document which invited the Prime Minister. On that basis I believe it is not competent for Senator Reid to deliver something to the table of the Senate from which he did not quote.
- Senator Milliner is quite in order in raising the question. Standing order 364 provides:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
That is the standing order of the Senate. Are you willing to table the documents, Senator Reid?
– Yes, I am more than willing to table the documents that I have before me here, but 1 have not the originals.
– I refer only to the papers which you have before you.
– I shall table them.
– On the matter that has been raised by Senator Reid, I should like to have a few words to say. I shall try not to keep the Senate too long. I think that Senator Reid has submitted a case which is substantially true as far as he has taken it. I think we ought to be aware of the fact that he was quoting from what was said in a situation which occurred after the Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, had got on to his feet and after the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had got on to his feet. I think that we should appreciate the fact that at no public meeting that any honourable senator has ever attended has a speaker gone to the meeting in order to antagonise it. The only purpose of having a meeting is to win over the people who have come to hear the speaker. To imply, as Senator Reid has done, that both Mr Daly and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) were practically the first speakers and were inciting that audience to violence is ridiculous, to say the least.
I was not at the meeting. I did arrange for friends of mine to go there and to give me a report on what happened. We find that there were people who spoke prior to Mr Daly and the Prime Minister. These earlier speakers were prepared to speak to the audience, which grew to some 10,000 people- a record for Forrest Place. These early speakers did their best to convince the crowd of Labor’s policies. Then a procession of people came to the meeting bearing placards. Obviously these people were farmers because nobody else would have carried those placards photographs of which Senator Reid said he has in his possession. I am prepared to accept the fact that these farmers who came there did not come for the purpose of creating a violent disturbance. They came there to disrupt the meeting by interjection, which they are entitled to do, and by making a noise to prevent the speaker from being heard, which they are entitled to do.
– They are not entitled to. There is supposed to be free speech.
– They are entitled to attend a meeting and try to interject.
– Yes, but not to stifle free speech.
– That is my colleague’s interpretation. As I said, I am prepared to accept the fact that these men, if they feel they have a grievance, can legitimately express their displeasure. They did so. There was also around the speakers’ platform a large crowd of people who, I am confident from what I have been told, were not farmers. They were out to foment a disturbance, and when they found that they were being taken by this group which was making a procession into the area they then took the opportunity of augmenting that disturbance. This is what happened at the time when Mr Daly got to his feet to speak. Mr Daly was not able to be heard. I assume that it was because of that that he made these derogatory statements about the people who were obstructing the course of free speech. Although I personally would not have used the same terms, I think he was entitled to make some criticism of the people there. The same thing applies to the Prime Minister.
Why have the farmers of Western Australia come to this position? I think this is the important thing: A lot of this is due to the fact that the farmers in Western Australia- and this has been fomented by the Farmers Union, of which I am a financial member- have not been told the facts about what the Federal Government has been doing for farmers in Australia while it has been in office. One of the things that Mr Eckersley, the President of the Farmers Union, one of the things that the ‘Farmers Weekly’, a newspaper from which Senator Reid quoted, one of the things that the ‘Countryman’, a country newspaper distributed all over the rural areas of Western Australia, and one of the things which other rural newspapers have said is that the Federal Labor Government has cut off the taxation concessions that were allowed to farmers. They state quite confidently that section 75 of the Income Tax Act now does not apply. This is the section that covers concessions for the provision of a water supply, for -
– That is not the point, Senator.
-Yes it is. This is what the farmers are objecting to. They have told the farmers over and over again, and the farmers believe this. One of the things that they came to the meeting at Subiaco oval to talk about was that they were not getting the concessions that had been granted to farmers over many years because the Federal Government had cut off the concessions. This is not a fact. Section 75 -
– Why were they not allowed to be heard?
– They were heard as a rabble at Forrest Place.
– Order! Senator Wilkinson is not getting any help from his own colleagues.
-I think that my colleagues are not aware of the fact that I know this matter rather well. I thank them for their assistance but I would like to make certain points. This is tremendously important because the farmers all over Western Australia think that they cannot claim deductions for preparing their land for pastures, for growing crops and for putting down water supplies. But that is not right. Section 75 does not apply after 1 July last year, but from then on exactly the same deductions are allowed with the exception of the cost of fencing for the sub-division of properties.
– That cannot be so.
– Exactly the same things Senator. The only difference is that some deductions have to be spread over 5 years and others over 10 years. But as I have said, farmers still get the deductions they received prior to 1 July 1973 with the exception of the cost of the interior fencing of farms for the purpose of subdivision. But I am not even sure that they are not entitled to some deduction if the fencing is carried out as part of the preparation of cropping. I think this is a doubtful point.
The ‘West Australian’ newspaper was largely responsible for the Labor Party getting a bad vote last Saturday. The Friday edition of the paper came out with the statement that centralism by the Federal Government was what was wrong with Western Australia. The paper complained that the Federal Government was taking away the rights of farmers in Western Australia. This was absolutely untrue. I am pointing out the error on the part of people like Senator Reid, well meaning as they may be, but misunderstanding the situation as I believe them to be, who suggest that a speaker would make the trip to Western Australia from the eastern States in order to antagonise a marvellous meeting, the best that has ever been held in Western Australia as far as numbers are concerned, instead of trying to win an election. Commonsense ought to tell honourable senators that this is a ridiculous proposition. It was only because of the opposition to preceding speakers at the meeting that this incident occurred. I think that the facts that I have given honourable senators of what actually happened from the beginning of the meeting and not half way through it, are sufficient to show that Senator Reid is unfortunately not fully aware of what happened on that occasion.
– I did not hear all that went on but I am aware of what did occur in Western Australia a week ago last Monday. It is said that farmers were not the cause of the demonstration. I ask you, Mr President, to look at the advertisements in the organ of the Farmens Union, “The Farmers Weekly’, inviting people to come to Perth for a meeting of farmers at Subiaco.
– That is right; here it is.
– I have read it. The honourable senator does not have to inform me. I might inform him before I am finished. The farmers who come to Perth came with prepared plackards. They knew long before that Mr Whitlam would not be at the Subiaco Oval meeting.
– That is the point.
– Nevertheless, Senator Reid, they arrived at the Forrest Place meeting with placards bearing messages such as ‘Get Gough ‘s Guts’. What was that if not inflamatory? What was it if not designed to incite the people to revolt? Senator Reid says that the farmers were not the cause of the demonstration. What excuses had the farmers given for demonstrating on the Causeway which has 3 lanes into the city of Perth and 3 lanes out? Three farmers parked their motor cars on the entrance to the city and lifted the bonnets of their cars to disrupt traffic. Having done that, they turned at the end of the Causeway and went back over the Causeway again to disrupt traffic. Following that, in order to disrupt traffic, they drove a tractor over the Causeway in low gear. They were not prosecuted for disrupting the traffic. I can remember when, if one stood alone on the footpath outside a TAB agency, whether one was interested in betting or not, one was charged with disrupting the traffic and fined £20. But these hooligans who come to the city can disrupt the whole of the traffic and have nothing done to them. These are the tactics which the stormtrooper supports and I say it quite confidently. These are the tactics which the honourable senator supports.
The honourable senator supports the suppression of freedon of speech. A rowdy mob may support the suppression of free speech. But they did not stop at that; they cut the wires of the loudspeakers to prevent the Prime Minister of Australia being heard. This stormtrooper supports that action. He supports suppression of free speech. He should never have been in this place. If the tactics used by Sir Robert Askin in New South Wales had been used in the appointment of the honourable senator to this place by the Western Australian Government he would not be here. Senator James McClelland ‘s appointment to this place was held up for 3.5 months
– Let us get back to Subiaco.
– Let us get back to Subiaco and the empty chair. I will tell the honourable senator a little bit about Subiaco. We were all issued with invitations to attend at Subiaco. I did not accept the invitation because I knew that I would not be heard. Senator Wilkinson accepted the invitation, Senator Sim accepted the invitation and Senator Reid accepted the invitation. The honourable senator knows what happened at Subiaco. It was announced that Senator Wilkinson had accepted the invitation, lt was announced that Senator Sim had accepted the invitation, and he was welcomed. Senator Reid had accepted the invitation, and he was welcomed. But a member of the Farmers’ Union who accepted the invitation was not welcomed because he was a member of the Australian Labor Party. The honourable senator wants to know something more about Subiaco. The Farmers’ Union is an organisation that purports to be non-political, but these are the tactics it adopts and these are the tactics that the stormtrooper supports.
– I was acknowledged and so was the honourable member for Forrest because we were representing our respective leaders; that is all. No one else was acknowledged.
– The honourable senator deliberately, as part of an organisation, fostered the disruption of the Prime Minister’s meeting. I do not deny him the right to do that but I do deny him the right to suppress free speech. I did not see him out anywhere demonstrating against the loss of life in Vietnam. Where were the farmers then? All that the honourable senator did was demonstrate against money- not against life. Property is more valuable than life, that is the whole philosophy of the free enterprise movement. That is what the honourable senator supports and that is what he will be labelled with for the whole of the term that he remains in this Parliament.
– I have seen a lot of rubbish in my time and you are about the pick of it. The honourable senator comes in here stating that he supports the suppression of free speech. He is not going to tell me that the placards were prepared for the Subiaco Oval. They were prepared for Forrest Place and they were deliberately prepared to prevent the Prime Minister of Australia from having a free say. That is the label that will stay with the honourable senator for the rest of his term in this Senate, however long that may be. I think it may not be very long. I think that the Western Australian people will have had enough of storm troopers. They do not want any more.
– I realise that it is late, I will be very brief. But I want to state my concern and my suprise at Senator Reid ‘s performance here tonight. I would not have thought that he would say the things he said or behave in the way he did. It is perhaps indicative of the fact that he sits there in isolation, all his colleagues having left the chamber. Perhaps they feel as some of us on this side feel. I rise only to point out why it was that neither myself nor the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was able to be present at that rally.
– Three days later I wanted to go to the rally -
– The honourable senator interjected constantly when Senator Cant spoke -
– I wanted to go -
– Order! The Minister is replying.
– Thank you, Mr President. The honourable senator interjected constantly when Senator Cant spoke, asking why someone did not go to the meeting. As the honourable senator ought to know -
– Why did you not go?
-One of these days, the honourable senator might understand just how a government operates. Do the members of the Western Australian Farmers Union think that a Minister, much less a Prime Minister, can be called on to attend a meeting at short notice? The honourable senator may think that notice given on 26 February is quite a long time ahead, but the man’s schedule is set out for him months ahead. Did the honourable senator expect him to cancel some other engagement just to attend this meeting? Did the honourable senator expect me to do it? I was not prepared to do so. But I was prepared, even at that short notice, to speak to the executive of the West Australian Farmers Union and have a discussion with them. The honourable senator’s imputation that there has not been a fair opportunity for Western Australian farmers to talk to this Government is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. They have been given every consideration. If it was not so late, I would spell out again some of the things that have been done by this Government for the wheat growers of Western Australia, the State which the honourable senator represents. It disappoints me bitterly, as someone who has endeavoured to explain to them what we have done, that this sort of exhibition should have taken place last Friday. It is a poor reflection on the honourable senator that he would come here and defend the sort of things that were done over there.
– I do not defend the violence.
– Yes, the honourable senator is defending them. Of course, whenever someone tries to put up a reasoned argument he will always be howled down, as happened at Forrest Place. I have found myself, from what has happened at other meetings, that you cannot reason with people who are emotionally upset. The honourable senator was emotionally upset tonight. I think that it was to his discredit that he performed in the way that he did.
I make this last comment: I do not believe that what happened at Subiaco represents the feelings of Western Australian farmers. This was a group of people, committed against the Labor Party, who set out with the sole purpose of discrediting the Prime Minister. There was no other purpose whatsoever in what they were doing. The fact is that there are many Western Australian farmers, even though the honourable senator may not believe this, who still believe that what is being done for them in the long term will prove to be to their benefit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.18 a.m. (Wednesday)
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I raised with President Marcos the question of martial law and the detention of Senator Aquino in the context that they were matters of great interest in Australia and therefore an ingredient in relations between Australia and the Philippines. In doing so, there was no breach of diplomatic custom.
Delivery of Mail at Counter on Saturday Mornings (Question No. 38)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Did the Postmaster-General approve of the instructions which have been issued to all non-official postmasters ordering them not to give out mail over the counter to the public on Saturday mornings.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed that no such instructions have been issued to non-official postmasters.
Although mail is not sorted on Saturdays to the Counter Delivery, any mail on hand at the counter should be delivered if called for on Saturday mornings.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Prime Minister advised the Premier in January that the Australian Government would require to examine its position in this matter and that the question of the Sydney lands was pan of a thorough examination of similar lands throughout Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Red Telephones: Use In Emergency
– On 14 March 1974, Senator Young asked me as the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question without notice:
Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General recall my asking him a question last year about whether Red Telephones could be altered so that emergency calls could be made without the use of coins and so avoid the confusion and concern which so often happens when Red Telephones are used on such occasions? Has the Minister made inquiries? If so, what are the results of such inquiries? If not, why have they not been made?
The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The ‘Red Phone’ to which the honourable senator refers was approved in 1964 as essentially a local call coin telephone. As such, two features were required; one that the lessee of the instrument would be protected by ensuring that callers could not avoid depositing coins for chargeable calls and the other that callers should not be able to make trunk calls. The technical arrangements adopted to meet these conditions were such that free access to the ‘000 ‘ service requires the caller to obtain a key from the lessee which converts the instrument to operate in the same way as a normal telephone. In some cases access can be obtained if coins are inserted. They are returned to the caller when he hangs up.
Instructions covering the need to obtain the key from the lessee for service to ‘000’ are included on the direction plate attached to each instrument and lessees are advised of this feature when the instrument is installed.
The Department recognises that the need to obtain a key in an emergency is not entirely satisfactory. However, research undertaken by the Post Office indicates that at least $1m would be involved in developing and modifying all instruments now in operation to provide for access to the 000’ service without using the key and without coins. It is not proposed to have the work undertaken at this stage but the Post Office will specify that all new designs of coin telephones whether provided by the Post Office or by private companies will enable ‘000’ emergency calls to be made without coins.
Mining Developments in Australia
-On 20 March 1974, Senator Maunsell, in a question without notice, asked me as Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy whether the same criterion concerning Australian equity will be applied to all future mining developments in Australia as was applied in the Alwest case. He also asked whether the Alwest decision meant that new mining projects requiring large financial commitments would not be proceeded with and whether it was envisaged that the Australian Industry Development Corporation would play a dominant part in all future Australian mining development.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy advises that the latest statement of the Government’s policy in relation to foreign investment in Australia is that tabled in both Houses of the Parliament on 7 November 1973. Briefly the criterion is that the Government wants to achieve the highest possible level of Australian ownership of our resources and industries, that is, the highest Australian equity that can be achieved in negotiations, project by project, that are fair and reasonable to both parties and are within the capacity of our own savings to support. This does not mean that new mining projects which require large financial commitments will not be proceeded with nor does it contemplate the Australian Industry Development Corporation playing a dominant part in all future Australian mining developments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
Why, in view of the efforts of the Australian Government to have the Government of Western Australia refrain from defining certain native fauna as vermin, did the Department of the Northern Territory not give the agile wallaby the same degree of protection as that afforded other types of fauna in the Northern Territory.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The agile wallaby was listed as a pest species in the Northern Territory north of the 15th parallel of south latitude when the Wildlife Conservation and Control Ordinance 1962-1973 was drafted in deference to the view that its habits and extreme abundance posed a threat to the tropical agriculture then being encouraged.
In the latter pan of 1973 when the implications of the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora with respect to kangaroos were recognised, amendment of the Ordinance to provide for full management control of all kangaroo species was initiated.
The necessary amendments to extend protection to the agile wallaby in the area where it is now a declared pest species are currently being drafted into appropriate legal terminology for presentation to the Administrator’s Council.
In a similar manner the wedge-tailed eagle was given full protection throughout the Northern Territory in 1973 whereas it was formerly a declared pest in part of the Alice Springs district.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 April 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740402_senate_28_s59/>.