28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 14 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled
The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That whereas our constitutional parliamentary democracy was clearly developed as a Federation to preserve for all time to the Australian people their cherished right to live as free men and women, enjoying complete liberty of worship, assembly, speech, movement and the communication of knowledge and information, and whereas our existing Australian flag and our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’ are perpetual reminders of these hard-won freedoms and of the wise British principle of the division of power, so well reflected in our own Australian Constitution with its careful separation of powers as between the Crown and Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate, the State parliaments, the Government-General and State Governors, and the independent courts of justice, and whereas all such rights, liberties, heritage, advancement and prosperity, etc., are of no avail if our armed forces are unprepared or incapable of repelling invasion of our shores or withstanding other military threats, so therefore must all these things be accorded the highest national concern and priority.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure-
The most rapid, efficient and largest possible expansion of all branches of our defence forces, and greatest possible strengthening and extending of defence treaties and security arrangements with our traditional friends and allies.
The right of every Australian citizen to vote at a national referendum or Senate or Federal elections for the retention of our present Australian flag and equally of our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, before any government or other body can attempt to substitute either a new flag or anthem, and a similar voting right for the choice of any official national song to play on international occasions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 7 citizens of Tasmania:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
that for the exercise of complete religious freedom and for the promotion of a liberal and egalitarian society, Church and State need to be kept separate.
that this principle is recognised in Section 1 16 of the Australian Constitution.
that the taxing of any citizens to propagate or support any religion is contrary to this principle and a violation of human rights.
Your petitioners humbly pray that Part 1 1, Section 3, of the proposed Bill of Human Rights, which now reads:
No one shall be subject to coercion which will impair his freedom to have or to adopt a belief or religion of his choice, be amended to read further: and no revenue derived in any way from any Australian citizen shall be appropriated by the Australian Government, or by a State Government, or by a Municipal Government, for the propagation or support of any religion.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 755 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate to Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
1 ) 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 alford 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 present the following petition from 28 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 showeth:
That Australian citizens place great value on their freedom to choose their own doctor in all aspects of medical care.
That we believe in a doctor’s freedom to provide a personal service based on personal responsibility within a system based on quality rather than quantity, as opposed to an impersonal service in which doctor and patient lose their identity.
That proposals to change the existing health scheme are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 1008 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20, Sections 1 and 2 states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association.’
And whereas the Australian Government has endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but has, to date, failed to implement Article 20, Sections 1 and 2 of the said Declaration and therefore denied Australian Citizens the rights inherent in that Declaration.
And whereas all such rights, liberties, advancement are of no avail if our Government is not ready to rectify this failure.
So therefore must all these things be accorded the highest national concern and priority.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
Ensure the rights of every Australian Citizen to choose whether or not they shall belong to a trade union.
Restrict the operation of trade union organisations solely to the fields of working conditions and the economic interests of their members, and stop the practice of ‘closed shop. ‘
Ban the trade union practice of imposing political levies on members and to ensure that no trade union maintains any political affiliations.
Require trade unions to conduct Court supervised, secret ballot of its members before resorting to strike actions.
Stop the Government practice of trade union membership discrimination.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Elimination of Racial and other Discrimination
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting 1 shall move:
That leave bc given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Elimination of Racial and Other Discrimination.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave bc given to introduce a Bill for an Act for the purpose of Statute Law Revision.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Superior Court of Australia Bill 1974 be restored to the notice paper and be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Attorney-General. Is it a fact that the Attorney-General is applying to the High Court of Australia this afternoon for an injunction? What relief is he seeking? Is the reason for applying to the High Court to ensure that 6 senators are elected in Queensland at the next Senate election or to ensure that Senator Gair goes to Ireland as ambassador?
– I know it has been said that I have a great deal of capacity, but the High Court normally finishes its day at 4.15 p.m. I would find it difficult to get from here to the High Court this afternoon to make that application or any kind of application. There is as much substance in the suggestions of the honourable senator about what I propose to do either directly or indirectly this afternoon as there is in most of the other propositions that he puts to me, and that is none whatever.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry who will recall that yesterday at question time he enumerated measures that the Government had taken to assist primary industry. Was that a balanced account of the situation? Why did the Minister not say anything of the sharply increased production costs brought about by a series of economic measures introduced by this Government? Why did the Minister not refer to increased interest rates, increased telephone installation and rental charges, increased fuel charges and reduced incomes through currency revaluation, to mention but a few? Does the Minister deny that many primary producers are presently experiencing great difficulty in earning a reasonable profit from their enterprise? Were not these some of the reasons for the mass farmers meeting at Subiaco Oval?
-I do not know that question time is the proper time to debate the matters raised by Senator Drake-Brockman. The purpose of question time is to enable senators to ask questions and Ministers to answer them, not to engage in debate. With deference to my leader, I invite the honourable senator to raise this subject for discussion by an urgency motion at any time he wishes and 1 will be only too glad to debate it with him.
-I ask the Minister for the Media: Are many Film Australia productions being distributed on a commercial basis? If they are being sold successfully, will the financial returns from Film Australia be increased substantially?
– I can tell the honourable senator that Film Australia, which is the Australian Government film production unit, has over 100 films on exhibition under commercial distribution agreements in more than 60 countries. Of 48 new productions passing through Film Australia’s hands during the year, about 30 so far have been made available for commercial cinema release and for television release in Australia and overseas. Only this week I received a comprehensive report from our representatives in Mexico and New York. I am told that during one week in December last some 22 Australian films were shown on the Mexican Government’s television station and they created such a response in Mexico that by public demand there is to be a repeat screening of these programs. Additionally we had, 1 think, 54 films for theatrical release distributed through New York. I can assure the honourable senator that our films are being very well received in different parts of the world.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. Has Senator Gair submitted in writing a resignation of his seat in the Senate? If so, at what time did he do so?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is in 2 parts. No, I have received no letter from Senator Gair. Therefore, no time factor is involved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has his attention been drawn to the frontispiece of the 1 973 annual report of the Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence presented by Dr J. R. Moon, President of the Foundation, which gives unstinted praise to the Whitlam Australian Government and, more particularly, to the Honourable D. M. Everingham, the Minister for Health, for their sympathetic understanding, co-operation and support in making possible for the first time in this country a national secretariat, magazine and central library on alcoholism and drug dependence?
Minister representing in the Senate the Minister for Health my attention has been drawn to the 1973 annual report issued by the Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the expression of appreciation by that organisation of the sympathetic consideration, understanding, co-operation and support that it has received from the Australian Labor Government and, in particular, from my colleague the Minister for Health, Dr Everingham, who, as the honourable senator knows, has shown for many years a great interest in this tremendous nationally important problem. I can also tell the honourable senator that my colleague the Minister for Health today had discussions with officers of an organisation known as Recovery, which is an organisation interested in the problems of people of the type referred to by the honourable senator. Members of that organisation have expressed to the Minister for Health and also to me their appreciation of the courtesies, assistance and understanding that my colleague has shown to them.
-Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that Senate Estimates Committees are not to be reestablished to inquire into this year’s appropriations? If this is so, why is this Government not prepared to allow close Senate scrutiny of government expenditure as other governments have done in the past? If that is not the case, why has the Government taken no action to reestablish Estimates Committees?
-The Government would welcome close scrutiny of the Estimates of expenditure. The Senate, I think, is well aware of what went on at the last Estimates Committees. If procedures which are set up and have worked reasonably -
– They did not last year.
– If they are going to be abused -
– By you.
– If they are going to be abused as they were on the last occasion- and the honourable senator knows it- not only members of my Party but also a number of members of the senator’s own Party expressed the view that this was not the way in which the Senate Estimates Committees were intended to work. No government would support a position where the processes of scrutiny are distorted in the way that they were on the last occasion. As far as the Government is concerned, it would not support the kind of proceeding that went on last year. If honourable senators want to act responsibly and have a full scrutiny of the Estimates the Government will want to do that and will welcome it, but no one is going to accept that the kind of behaviour that went on last time ought ever to be repeated.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that agreement has not yet been reached on the next wheat stabilisation scheme? If so, what is holding up agreement? Can the Minister also inform the Senate what is the position regarding the first advance payment and delivery quotas for the 1974-75 harvest?
– The Australian Government, in conjunction with the other States with the exception of New South Wales, and in conjunction with the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation, has reached agreement on a new wheat stabilisation scheme. There is a holdup because of the position being taken by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture on one particular aspect only of the scheme. He has indicated to me that he is not prepared to go ahead and agree to the scheme until such time as there is a specially convened Agricultural Council to discuss the matter. 1 have advised him that all other Ministers- Labor, Liberal and Country Party Ministers of the other States- have agreed to the scheme, as has the Wheat Growers’ Federation. Mr Crawford is holding out.
Matters of this nature are always difficult to negotiate between an Australian Government, irrespective of politics, and the States. It is a pretty difficult and unfortunate thing that he as a Minister should call me the other night on the telephone and say that I knew nothing about the wheat industry- well, that is a matter of opinion. But I did object to being called a ‘ bloody fool ‘, ‘ a bloody idiot’ and a ‘bloody liar’. I hope the wheat growers in Australia fully realise the sort of person -
– Who was that?
-That was a Minister of the Crown. This happened while we were attempting to get finality on this particular mat:ter. I hope that the wheat growers of Australia realise that the future stabilisation of their industry rests on a man who would use that sort of language to another Minister.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I preface it by saying that I am hopping mad over a report in one of the Sydney newspapers this morning. I refer to the report in the newspaper- I will not name the paper- and I ask the Leader of the Government: Have you ever approached me at any time, offering me the Presidency of the Senate? Is it not a fact that the President of the Senate can be elected only by a majority vote of the Senate? If that is a fact, should not the news media be rapped over the knuckles for printing such a ridiculous story?
– The answer to those questions are: No to the first, yes to the second, and yes to the third. The fact is that it was the Daily Telegraph ‘ which stated:
New South Wales senator Lionel Murphy, the engineer of the Gair coup, is now working on independent Senator Sid Negus to accept the plum post of President of the Senate.
It went on to repeat this. As Senator Negus said, there is no truth whatsoever, nothing even approaching the glimmer of a truth, in the report. I have never discussed the matter with Senator Negus. He may well have qualities which would fit him to be President of the Senate, as may others. The Senate and the public should understand that repeatedly, week after week, stories are being written, not all of which appear on the front page as has this one, but in other parts of a newspaper, which have no atom of truth whatsoever. False statements have been made about what I have said to Cabinet. Not only are Cabinet proceedings secret, but the statements are absolutely false. I do not know, Senator Negus, what can be done about people who print these kinds of lies. Apparently the idea is that one picks up a pen and writes whatever comes into one’s mind. No inquiry was made of me; presumably none was made of Senator Negus. That statement was completely false, as was also some statement about how I had engineered his despatch to the United Nations in New York on an extended visit. As a matter of fact, it came as somewhat of a surprise to me to find that he had gone on the trip.
Opposition senators- Ha, ha!
– I am saying to honourable senators that it came as a surprise to me when I found out that he was away. Of course, I knew of it after he went away. Again, that statement that I had engineered the visit had absolutely no truth whatever. The honourable senator is entitled to have himself cleared on the record of this matter. In fact, there is no truth whatever in the statement which has been made about him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is he in a position to deny the very general rumour in Tasmania that it is proposed to replace the ‘Empress of Australia’ with another ship on the passenger run to Devonport?
– We seem to have an unlucky history with ships in Tasmania. I know nothing about the replacement of a ship. I will take the question up with the responsible Minister and try to get a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. What progress has been made in framing regulations to give effect to the Government’s policy of indicating reasons to appellants in cases of unsuccessful appeals before repatriation tribunals?
– The answer is that since the announcement by the Government that this would be done a number of determining authorities have been running trial exercises which are complete. These took some time because it was intended to prevent delays where possible. The regulations are now being made and it is hoped to have them effective by about the middle of the year.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education: Is it a fact that some teachers in the Northern Territory have not been paid for 7 months and that the Federal Government owes approximately Sim in salaries to 600 teachers in the Northern Territory? If so, what is the reason for this? Will the Government take immediate action to ensure that payments are made without further delay?
– This is the first time in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Education that I have heard of anything of the nature referred to by the honourable senator. If the facts are as the honourable senator has stated, then frankly I would express concern on behalf of the Government in relation to the situation. All I can do is undertake to refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Education, in another place and obtain what information I can for the honourable senator.
-Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question?
– On the basis that your question has not been answered?
-Partly, yes. I just wonder whether the Minister may think it wise to refer this matter to the Estimates Committee.
– Order! Senator Webster, you asked whether you might ask a supplementary question. I asked you a question and, without waiting for me to acknowledge whether you could ask a supplementary question, you began to ask it. That conduct is not tolerable.
-Has the Minister for the Media seen a recent article in the magazine New Accent’ which refers to a proposal allegedly being developed by the Department of the Media to provide a teleprinter information service called ‘GAIN’? Can the Minister confirm that his Department is undertaking such a project? What effect will such a project have on work opportunities for journalists particularly those in the parliamentary Press Gallery?
– I have seen a reference in the Press to this proposed project, and I think it was in the magazine to which the honourable senator referred. I should tell the honourable senator, firstly, that I am informed by my Department that what was referred to in that article is basically a suggestion that is only receiving the consideration of departmental officers at this stage. It is a matter that has merely reached the discussion stage within my Department. I have not at this stage seen any detailed proposals- none has been received by me from the Department- and I have simply been informed that a proposal of this kind is being looked at along with several other interesting policy proposals. The honourable senator will be aware that both the Queensland Country Party Government and the South Australian Labor Government have undertaken to implement proposals of this kind, and I notice that when delivering the policy speech of the Liberal Party in Western Australia recently Sir Charles Court said that he was undertaking to do something of this nature on behalf of the people of Western Australia. However, in regard to work opportunities and the effect on employment, I give an undertaking on behalf of my Department that in the first place I will be having discussions with interested unions, and more particularly with the Australian Journalists Association, of which I am a member, on any policy objectives that may accrue from the discussions that are taking place.
– I call Senator Reid.
- Mr President -
– There is no point of order involved, because the actual phraseology refers to the leaders of acknowledged political parties. I call Senator Reid.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the Australian Wool Corporation. Will the Minister outline the Government’s policy towards the increased buying by the Corporation, bearing in mind the recent quite dramatic fall in wool prices at auction, which are now substantially below the December 1972 figure?
– The Australian Wool Corporation in its buying operations in the auction room acts in a commercial capacity. The Government does not issue any instructions as to when and in what manner it will buy. It relies on the Corporation to exercise its discretion to maintain the price at a reasonable level without in any way trying to determine the market. That is the broad position. It is a position that was taken by our predecessors. I think that it is the correct course, as the Corporation is the only body competent to make judgments as to when it should become a purchaser.
– There are 2 ways in which a political party can be acknowledged. First of all, the Prime Minister of the day does, in fact, acknowledge a party by providing support facilities for it. Secondly, it is acknowledged and accepted by the Senate as a definite, identifiable political party.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that there is much spare capacity on many of the telephone systems in Australia. Has the Minister considered allowing people who live in areas outside capital cities to make free telephone calls to Commonwealth Departments, such as the Taxation Office, the Department of Social Security and the Repatriation Department in the capital cities so that these people can have the same access to and service from the departments as do people who live in the cities?
– I can tell the honourable senator that recently the Postmaster-General had discussions with me on this matter. Whilst it may be that there is some spare capacity in the telephone system at present, nonetheless the demand for telephone services is increasing very rapidly. So it is not easy to allow for an artificial increase in traffic of the type to which the honourable senator refers. I am also given to understand by Mr Lionel Bowen, the Postmaster-General, that a system of this kind would require connections of calls to be made by telephonists, thus substantially adding to the cost that would be involved. I am given to understand that this would probably hamper the development of the subscriber trunk dialling services.
Having expressed those views, I can tell the honourable senator that at this stage, in my capacity as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, I am not able to support his contention.
However, I can point out in my capacity as Minister for the Media that my Department is seriously considering a number of ways in which information can be more readily available and made accessible to the Australian public through an information system that we are building up. Hopefully, in the near future I will be able to make some comments on that.
- Mr President, I desire to ask a question which, subject to your ruling, I think I would like to be answered both by yourself and by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask you: Is Senator Gair, in your view, a member of the Senate? I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: In his view, is Senator Gair a member of the Senate?
– I will answer the first part of the question. The responsibilities of the President in the context of possible, probable, forecast or anticipated resignations are that, until such time as a letter of resignation is delivered to the President by an honourable senator, such honourable senator is a member of the Senate. Once that letter of resignation is in my hands, it is an irrevocable resignation.
- Mr President, whilst not disagreeing at all with what you have said about resignations, the answer to the question put to me by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is no.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Would you give a ruling as to what is the position of Senator Gair, when you say that he is a member of the Senate and the Leader of the Government in the Senate says that he is not a member of the Senate?
– I can give no ruling because as far as I know Senator Gair is still a senator and is entitled to take his place here in the Senate. I am not aware of any action that has been taken in another place or statements that have been made in another place and I totally disregard them for the simple reason that I am bound by the orders of the Senate itself. In this particular case, until the honourable senator delivers a letter of resignation into my hands he is a member of the Senate.
– In response to the question asked by the honourable senator, would it help if I elucidated?
– I was trying to help.
-I am aware of the honourable senator’s concern to have the position elucidated. Senator Gair announced publicly yesterday that he had accepted appointment as Australia’s Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. That appointment was approved by the Governor-General on 14 March 1974. The Government of Ireland communicated its agreement to his appointment a little later than that. As the honourable senator would be aware, the position of Ambassador is an office of profit under the Crown and also carries with it fees for services to the Commonwealth. The situation is covered by sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. The effect of Senator Gair’s appointment as Ambassador is to vacate his place as a senator by virtue of the Constitution.
– At what date?
– The honourable senator has asked: ‘At what date’? In view of the manoeuvres of another Government which endeavoured to prevent the people from having a say in the election of a successor to Senator Gair the position has been looked into closely. It would seem that technically the place was vacated some little time ago, but certainly before any writ was issued by the Governor of Queensland.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question on the same subject as that of the previous question. I ask: Does not the relevant section of the Constitution state in effect that any person who holds an office of profit under the Crown shall be disqualified from taking his place in the Senate? Does not an office of profit predicate that a person is in receipt of emoluments? Therefore, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise the Senate from what date Senator Gair will be receiving emoluments, fees, or something which can truly classify the recipient as being the holder of an office of profit under the Crown?
– I am not here at question time to be giving legal advice to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. But may I suggest to him, first of all, that he should refer to sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. I also indicate to him that I do not accept his analysis of the legal or constitutional position.
– I wish to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and perhaps to you, Mr President, on the same matter. If the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate- that the appointment of Senator Gair as Ambassador to Ireland was accepted on 14 March- is correct I ask him to clarify the situation with regard to the vote which Senator Gair exercised in this Senate last night at approximately 10 p.m. (Honourable senators interjecting)-
– Order! The purpose of question time is to enable senators to ask questions of Ministers for the benefit of all the Senate. The answers are given to the whole Senate, not to the questioners. With this noise neither I nor any other senator who is anxious to hear the Attorney-General ‘s answer can hear it.
- Mr President, I think honourable senators, particularly those of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, were well aware of the facts of the position yesterday, that the honourable senator had indicated that he had accepted the appointment. (Honourable senators interjecting)-
– Order! There are too many amateur lawyers here. The professional!
-The matter becomes important only because of the midnight manoeuvres of the Government of Queensland to endeavour to prevent an election by the people of Queensland for the successor to Senator Gair. Otherwise I suppose, as often with these matters, the position does not have to be as closely investigated as it now has been by the various officers who advise on these matters. It has been closely investigated. As I say, the advice that is given is that technically the vacation of office which arises under the Constitution certainly occurred before the Government of Queensland took action, and there is nothing that the Government of Queensland can do which will alter the position which is required to be observed by the Constitution and the law.
– I ask a question of the Attorney-General. When did the AttorneyGeneral first know of the acceptance by Senator Gair of the diplomatic post in Ireland?
– I knew at the time when the senator indicated that he would accept the post.
– When was that?
– That acceptance of his was, of course, dependent upon certain matters.
-The honourable senator would be aware that the acceptance by the senator was subject to certain matters.
– When did you know?
- Senator, will you cease interrupting me? I knew immediately, and that was before the Governor-General had in fact approved of it. Even then the Government of Ireland had to signify its acceptance of the matter. I think the date would be 13 March.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate not aware -
Senator Cant- You talked to Bjelke-Petersen last night. You are the one from whom he gets his advice in Canberra.
– You are paying me a great compliment.
– Order! There are too many senators answering questions which have not been asked of them.
-Does the Leader of the Government not recognise that a person may say that he will accept a position but that his statement of acceptance does not mean that he actually starts in the position on the date on which he advises that he will accept? I know that the Leader of the Government upholds the dignity and rights of Parliament. Would not one have expected him or his Acting Leader last night to have drawn the attention of the Chair to the fact that Senator Gair was voting if Senator Gair had been acting improperly in voting in this chamber because he had already started in his position as Ambassador to Ireland?
-I thank the honourable senator for what he said. As I have indicated already to the Senate, I suppose that if it had not been for some endeavour by the Queensland Government to slip in and prevent the ordinary procedures applying- that is, an election by the people of Queensland- the Senate would have been informed in some regular way. Who knows; it may have been some indication which would have put the question beyond doubt. The Senate would have been informed in a regular way. No doubt, that would have been done by Senator Gair. Instead, the Queensland Government has intervened by some midnight manoeuvre to try to rush in to take advantage of the situation. Therefore, the position has of necessity had to be examined. The problem would not have arisen at all of even considering these fine points. When the fine points have to be considered, it is quite clear that the vacation of office occurred some time ago.
– Would the AttorneyGeneral agree that it appears that, in connection with the resignation from the Senate at some time or other of the new Ambassador to Ireland, when it was learnt that action was being taken by the Queensland Government, action was taken by someone in this Government to make what may now prove to be a faked resignation by Senator Gair from this chamber? Is it not a fact that the proof that Senator Gair voted as a senator and an experienced parliamentarian at 10 p.m. yesterday makes it obvious that there may be a very serious attempt to mislead the Senate as at this moment?
– There are at least 2 ways in which a senator may cease to be a member of this chamber. Apart from death, he may resign or he may vacate his office in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution. Normally, I suppose, the questions of vacation of office are not looked into carefully. On this occasion they have been. The advice which has been given to the Government is that there is vacation of office. Rather than the honourable senator suggesting some nonsense, the plain fact is that Senator Gair was appointed Ambassador to Ireland. I do not know why Senator Marriott is suggesting that it has not occurred. It has occurred. There is a somewhat underhand attempt by the Queensland Government to try to take advantage of a situation and to deprive its own people of a chance to elect the successor.
-I call Senator Laucke.
– I rise to take a point of order. Mr President, you are continually calling honourable senators from the Opposition side. Already you have allowed Senator Wright 2 questions whereas I was given only half an answer to my question. I take the point of order to be allowed to put my question.
– There is no point of order involved. I realised after I called Senator Wright that I had called him once before. I did not see him when he rose the third time. If you feel aggrieved I will give you an opportunity to ask a certain question.
– Earlier in question time I asked the Minister for Primary Industry a question relating to the wheat industry and he inadvertently omitted to answer the second and very important part of my question, which I now repeat. What is the position regarding the first advance payment and delivery quotas for the 1974-75 wheat harvest?
- Senator Wriedt, if you will admit to the impeachment I will call you.
-I acknowledge that I did not answer that part of the question. Putting it very simply- this is closely related to the answer I gave- the first advance payments are not finalised until such time as the wheat stabilisation has been finalised and the wheat quotas have been settled.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Does an acceptance of an offer of office constitute simultaneous installation into that office? I would like clarification on that point. Further, in regard to diplomatic appointments, is there not a requirement of swearing in? Has this been done in Senator Gair’s case up to the present time?
– I am not here to answer the kind of question which the honourable senator has put. If he wants to have some learning on these matters, probably one of the most famous legal decisions in history was given by the great Chief Justice of the United States of America, Chief Justice Marshall, on the matters of when appointments, commissions and so forth take effect. As far as I am aware there is no obligation about the swearing in of ambassadors. There may be, but I am not aware of it and I do not think that it is of any importance.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question about the American prisoner held at Holsworthy. What progress has been made to settle his case? Can we be assured that his problem will be treated with compassion?
– Yes, the honourable senator can be readily assured on that point. Discussions on this subject have taken place. Only today I put certain propositions before the Americans. I await their reply.
– I am the servant of the Senate because the Senate is the master if its Standing Orders. In these circumstances, as I have not received any letter of resignation from Senator Gair, he is a member of the Senate and may take his place and take part in the votes and proceedings of the Senate, as in fact he did last night. He is still in receipt of the emoluments to which he is entitled under statute as a senator.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether he will supply the Senate with details of the amount of money provided for Aboriginal health in Western Australia. For comparison purposes I desire the figures for health assistance for Aboriginal people in Western Australia for the financial years 1972-73 and 1 973-74 respectively.
– I have the details of the amounts spent on Aboriginal health by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the various States. These figures will be supplemented by that part of the general health allocation spent on Aboriginal health and certain other moneys paid, especially from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in respect of the health of Aboriginal people. In 1972-73 some $930,000 was allocated by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for Aboriginal health in Western Australia. In 1973-74 there was for the same purpose an allocation of $4.059m which is an increase of some 400 per cent in 12 months. We are conducting an all-out drive to try to cure some of the health problems of Aboriginal people in Western Australia.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What event does he say occurred which resulted in Senator Gair’s forfeiting his position as a senator? Was that event a conversation with anybody? If so, with whom was the conversation and when was it held? If it is a document in writing, will he table the document?
– There are a number of events, I think, any one of which would bring about the result. Those events are the events associated with Senator Gair’s agreeing to take and taking the office of Ambassador to Ireland.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, which may surprise him as it refers to Senator Gair’s appointment as Ambassador to Ireland. Am I to take it that, according to the Minister’s statement, Senator Gair became the Ambassador about 14 March. If that is so, does it not mean that we now have 2 ambassadors to Ireland? If we have 2 ambassadors to Ireland, surely this is leaning over backwards to please the Irish people.
-I do not think we could do too much to please the Irish. I feel that members of the Senate would agree also that our relations with Ireland are friendly. We hope to maintain them that way. I know that because the appointment has certain political consequences, not everybody will like those consequences. The important thing is that a member of the Senate agreed to take the post. That was approved and then the agreement of the Government of Ireland was gained and the matters were processed in the proper ways. Unfortunately because, as I said, of the manoeuvres of the Queensland Government in endeavouring to prevent an election the matter has to be looked at in the light of exactly what events have taken place. That has been done by the legal advisers of the Government.
– In view of his reply to my question yesterday in respect of assistance to primary producers who suffered losses in the Queensland floods I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: As the assistance is in the form of low interest loans and not grants as the Minister stated previously, will he now ask the Treasurer to restore the provisions of sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Act which applied before the last Budget for rebuilding and structural improvement loans? As the maximum loan of $40,000 is insufficient for some owners who have stock losses alone running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, will the Minister give consideration to extending this limit in special circumstances?
-I indicated yesterday that the moneys being made available by the Australian Government to the Queensland Government are interest free. The fact that the Queensland Government sees fit to charge interest rates of 3 per cent to 6 per cent to primary producers is a matter for the Queensland Government. I would think that the limit of $40,000 which has been imposed is a reasonable limit in view of the fact that there would be many primary producers who have to be assisted, taking into account the amount of finance that is available. I stated yesterday, and I think it is fair to say it again, that the agreement which has been entered into is a fair and reasonable one.
– I asked specifically about the restoration of sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Act.
– I am sorry. I shall refer that question to the Treasurer.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to the decision to appoint Senator Gair as Ambassador to Ireland and the widespread newspaper reports that the idea was conceived by the Attorney-General in secret and in collusion with the Prime Minister and unknown and unapproved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that these reports have not been denied and that the announcement was made by the Prime Minister and not the Foreign Minister I ask: Are the reports true? Did the Minister know of the intention? When did he first know? Does he approve? If the decision was not made by him is he willing to continue merely as a puppet Foreign Minister?
– Firstly, if questions are based on a wrong premise you finish up in a very difficult position. The fact is that the announcement was made by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs while I was away. I was out of the country from the time I went to the ANZUS Council meeting late in February until I returned on, I think, 24 March. Therefore it was done by the Acting Foreign Minister who is also the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If it is now established that Senator Gair had this appointment from 14 March, is it claimed that he is no longer a member of the Senate because he held an office of profit under the Crown? If that is so, does the Government propose to recover from Senator Gair the emoluments he wrongly drew as a member of this Senate? Also if that is correct, what does the Government propose to do in regard to section 46 of the Constitution, which provides that for every day on which a senator who is not capable of holding his seat in this chamber because he holds an office of profit under the Crown so sits he shall be liable to pay the sum of one hundred pounds to any person who sues for it in any court of competent jurisdiction? Will the Commonwealth sue for the amount over the 14 to 16 days involved to recoup $3,200 of the $60,000 bribe which it has paid?
– The honourable senator has asked me a lot of questions on completely > legal matters which have been floating around this place all day. He talked earlier today about amateur lawyers, and I said that I would delete the word ‘amateur’. I am neither; neither professional nor amateur. If what the honourable senator says is the constitutional position then I think that if anybody is going to sue Senator Gair for the £100 I am pretty sure from which corner it will come; it will come from the Democratic Labor Party.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Can the Minister inform the Senate when the report of the commission of inquiry into Post Office matters is likely to be made available?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I heard no ‘noes’. Senator Murphy, did you say ‘No”?
– Then, leave is not granted.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator McManus making a statement to the Senate.
– I feel that it is necessary to make this statement because of one of the most extraordinary sets of circumstances concerning a parliament of which I have ever heard, a set of circumstances that should be carefully examined to determine if what has happened constitutes a prostitution of the processes of government. We have been informed that Senator Gair was appointed Ambassador to Ireland on 14 March. No statement was made to that effect then; but we are told that because he indicated acceptance that he then became the Ambassador. A few weeks ago Sir John Kerr indicated his acceptance of the position of Governor-General. Is Sir John Kerr the Governor- General of the Commonwealth of Australia? According to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), he is. The position which is being put forward appears to me to be an attempt at a bogus back-dating of appointment of the Senator to deceive the Parliament and to anticipate what may be said in certain legal proceedings to come. I spoke to Senator Gair last night about this matter and at that time Senator Gair was under the impression that he was a member of the Senate, because when I said to him, ‘When do you cease to be a member of the Senate?’, he said, ‘Tomorrow, when I hand in my resignation’. Senator Gair further said, when I asked him when had he taken up the appointment, that he would take up the appointment when it became vacant, about June. So we have the extraordinary position: The Government says that it appointed Senator Gair to a position of office and profit under the Crown and Senator Gair did not know that he had been appointed to the position and was left believing that he was a senator until yesterday. Yesterday Senator Gair came into the Senate and voted. Senator Murphy was sitting in front of him. Senator Murphy has said that he knew that Senator Gair was no longer a senator. Senator Murphy has said that Senator Gair ceased to be a senator on 14 March. Yet the Leader of the Government sat in his place and watched the man whom he said was not a senator come before the Senate and vote. That was an insult to you, Mr President. You had not been informed of the Government’s attitude. It was an insult to the Senate and, in my view, should be examined by a royal commission because I believe that we are faced today with a definite prostitution of the processes of government. If the Attorney-General knew that Senator Gair was not a senator, why did he allow him to vote? The answer is that Senator Gair believed he was a senator; he knew he was a senator. I regard the backdating of the appointment to 14 March with suspicion and, in my view, we have in Australia today another Watergate.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject matter.
-Is leave granted?
– The Opposition will grant leave on condition that I also be given leave to make a statement.
-I give that undertaking.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator McManus) has made a number of wild statements. The facts of the matter ought to dawn upon the honourable senator. Despite all that the honourable senator is saying, Senator Gair indicated on 13 March, I think it was, that he would accept the post and on 14 March the GovernorGeneral approved Senator Gair’s appointment. In the ordinary course the matter was communicated to the Government of Ireland and its agreement to the appointment was obtained. Thereafter matters were dealt with by the Executive Council. All of these matters were undertaken with the knowledge and approval of Senator Gair.
– If Ireland had not accepted him, how can he be said to have been appointed and holding office? The Irish Government had not accepted him.
-The honourable senator raises matters which might very well be interesting. What he puts as the position if somebody had not accepted the proposal might very well be correct. The honourable senator poses some of the questions and then starts to give some of the answers. Suppose an appointment is accepted subject to a condition and that condition is not satisfied.
– Then it would not have been effective.
– The honourable senator interjects and says: ‘Then it would not have been effective’, yet at the same time he complains about the fact that Senator Gair thought that he was still in office as a senator. The honourable senator starts to perceive that it is not as easy as he thought. His wild allegations are without substance. In the ordinary course, if matters are to be put to persons, there are others who may need to approve of them. In this case, that was so. When the matter is looked at- I say this in deference to what Senator Durack said- we see that there may be a number of events involved and not one event. But it is quite clear according to the advice given to the Government that Senator Gair vacated his seat well in advance of what was done by the Queensland Government.
- Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I feel somewhat sorry for Senator Murphy. I suppose that when he read the media this morning he must have been delighted to see that at last the Australian Labor Party had discovered a tactician of some brilliance. I am somewhat more than intrigued this afternoon to learn that this appointment, or whatever it was, occurred on 14 or 15 March. It seems to be a rather favourite date -
– It was approved on 14 March.
-I am told that it was approved on 14 March. I think that that is a pretty unlucky day. We talk about midnight manoeuvres. It is 12 months, almost to the day, since the raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. So I feel somewhat sorry that the whole thing has come unstuck for the Government and that this brilliant manoeuvre that was worked out has fallen to the ground.
We could have a lot of fun at each other’s expense but that would not get to the bottom of what is the truth. There is only one way that the Parliament will discover the truth and that is for the Government to table all the papers in connection with this matter. We have been through quite a series of events in the Senate over the tabling of papers that go back as far as, I think, 1 967. 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) whether he will table all the papers relating to this affair of the appointment of the next ambassador to Ireland. Will he table those papers in the Senate this afternoon? If his answer is no, then we must reserve our position as to the future action we may take in the Senate so that they may be tabled. I say no more than that.
There is an obligation on the Government to put all the papers on the table in the Senate for public scrutiny. It is not for me to pass judgment without seeing the evidence. The Government must admit that there is a great deal of suspicion surrounding the whole affair. It is in the Government’s interests to have the whole matter cleared up. It is not only in the Government’s interests; it is also in the interest of every one of the members who sit in this national parliament that this matter should be cleaned up. As long as any suspicion lurks about this affair, 185 other members of the Parliament are open also to doubt and suspicion. I believe that we are entitled to see that the public is properly informed as to how the Government acts in these matters. To attempt to brush the matter aside during question time or in a statement on it thereafter is not good enough. I have no doubt that even honourable senators sitting opposite might like also to see all the papers. I am certain that the people in the gallery who, for some unknown reason, have appeared here for the first time since 1 5 March of last year would also like to see the papers tabled in the Senate. So that is the plea that I make. I offer no threats. I offer nothing of that kind but I believe that the Government ought this day to lay on the table of the Senate all the papers relating to this very sorry affair.
-Order! Some moments ago an envelope was handed to me. I instructed the Clerk of the Senate, with the Usher of the Black Rod, to open this letter. They read the letter and indicated to me what its contents were in general form. I instructed the Clerk of the Senate to verify the signature on the letter. I have the letter now on my desk and I propose to read it. It is dated 3 April. It reads as follows:
Dear Mr President,
I publicly announced yesterday that I had accepted appointment as Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. I endeavoured to communicate this to you personally yesterday and to inform you of my position, but regrettably you were unavailable when 1 sought to see you.
My appointment was approved by the Governor-General on 14 March 1974, with my knowledge and consent. I was informed on 20 March that the Government of Ireland had communicated its agreement to my appointment.
As you are aware, the position of Ambassador is an office of profit under the Crown and also carries with it fees for services rendered to the Commonwealth, within the meaning of Section 45 of the Constitution, which I had agreed to take.
The effect of my appointment as Ambassador was to vacate my place as a Senator by virtue of the Constitution.
It is with regret that I decided after receiving the offer to leave the Senate and the many friends I made during my nine years here. I would like to personally thank you for our association in that period first as Senate colleagues and later under your Presidency.
Yours faithfully V.C.Gair
I have read this letter to the Senate. It is a paper in the custody of the Senate. I must ask the Senate to grant me time to give consideration to the matters that are raised in the letter, not the least of which is the situation with which I am now confronted as to by what means I am to advise the Government of Queensland that Senator Gair has sent me a letter the subject matter of which I do not accurately follow.
Formal Motion for the Adjournment
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from Senator Withers: 3 April 1974
My Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 intend to move today-That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.59 a.m.- for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The alarming weakening of the Australian defence capability and capacity.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of Senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– I move:
I have moved the motion for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The alarming weakening of the Australian defence capability and capacity.
The Government’s cynicism and hypocritical approach towards the administration of this country has been amply demonstrated within the past 24 hours. It has shown that it is not a government that cares about principles, it is not a government that cares about honesty, it is not a government that cares about people, it is not even a government that cares about the country it was elected to govern. It has proved itself undeniably a government that cares only about power. It is a government so unused to the reins of office and so determined to hold onto those reins that its churlish, self-interested members, with an unparalleled lust for power, are prepared to sweep aside principles, ideals, and attitudes they have long propounded to be the only true principles, ideals and attitudes, merely to gain thenend of everlasting, absolute, centralised power.
Nowhere is their cynicism and hypocrisy more apparent and more dangerous than in the field of defence. Since this Government assumed office our defence forces have been emasculated. The Air Force has lost 77 Squadron and its airfield construction unit. It has lost one quarter of its fighter strength and 1,200 men. Its flying time has been shortened so drastically that I believe the safety of both pilots and aircraft is being endangered. The Navy has had sea time drastically cut, it has been denied new ships and stripped of manpower. The Army has been decreased, demoralised and denied equipment. These, Sir, are supposed to be Australia’s defence forces.
Never before have so many senior Service officers written so much in criticism of an Australian Government’s handling of defence issues. It is of no good the Government claiming this is a product of open government, for some of these men are retired and those still in the Service are facing disciplinary action. The Government is, in fact, trying to muzzle these very articulate, dedicated men. In its defence re-organisation it has surrounded the servicemen by so many public servants that our highly trained and efficient Service personnel are being denied a voice in the defence planning and policy making decisions of the Services.
It is not uncommon in the defence structure, as it now stands, for an experienced officer of colonel rank, who has either a university degree or an equivalent through normal Service training, who has had to sit for examinations for every promotion up to Major level, and who has then had to spend at least one year at a staff college, to have to submit his papers to a junior public servant. I ask: Is it any wonder that our servicemen are disillusioned and have given this government a record it has not so far boasted about? That record is an unprecedented resignation rate from all 3 Services.
Admittedly, the Government has raised pay and improved some conditions in the armed forces. But the mistake that both the Minister for Defence and the Government have made is that they believe loyalty and morale can be bought. What they fail to realise is that lack of any purpose in policies and the failure to recognise the essential difference between military and civilian staff are among the major causes of the high resignation rate at present being experienced.
This Government believes that pay increases to our servicemen are all that is needed to guarantee a defence force. What it has underestimated is that all ranks of all Services are dedicated personnel who believe in their role of providing guarantees for the security of Australians. They look for expanded opportunities and capabilities to guarantee our security. I say without hesitation that they will not accept pay-offs and allow the security and defence structure of this nation to collapse. Morale cannot be bought. Its loss is bound up with such imponderables as loss of status, lack of equipment and training, problems in housing, confusion in postings, unnecessary disruptions to normal family life.
Among many other problems, the discontent within the Services about the Public Service takeover of the defence structure must raise serious doubts about the future operational efficiency and general credibility of the national defence structure. This ‘Barnardisation’ of the Services, this defence run down which is destroying the morale and effectiveness of all 3 Services, is being presided over by that same Mr Barnard who in a major pre-election address said:
Any government that showed it lacked interest in defence or sought to cut back sharply on defence or even dismantle part of the defence structure would not be the government of this country for very long.
I and my colleagues believe that Mr Barnard’s words are prophetic.
Because many servicemen, officers, noncommissioned officers and other ranks, believe that the Army, in particular, and the other Services, are in the process of being destroyed as an efficient and credible Service, they can no longer see the Services offering a worthwhile career. Their ever increasing resignations are, of course, speeding the process of erosion- a process already well advanced.
Our Army is now at the stage where it could hardly maintain 2 battalions in the field with the necessary artillery and other arms support. The Armoured Regiment’s principal piece of equipment is still the Centurion tank which, the Minister revealed last year, has a serviceability of just over 50 per cent. This means that at any one time, the Australian Army would be lucky to be able to put 50 old tanks into the field. We have had promises about replacement equipment, but as usual with this Government, nothing has been forthcoming- save and except those promises.
The Army, as with the other Services, has been deprived of a sense of purpose, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Citizen Military Forces. The CMF is no longer an effective back-up force, as its numbers decline. What is applicable to the Army is also applicable to the Navy and Air Force. We are an island continent, and we need to have a strong naval capability which can provide surveillance and protection.
Australia needs an Air Force that not only has a long range patrol and surveillance capacity over the approaches to Australia. It must also have a strike capacity. There is no point in being able to locate targets if you cannot destroy them. The lack of interest in the defence capability and capacity of this nation is based on a strategic assessment that there will be no threat to Australia for the next 10 to 15 years. This socalled assessment looks more and more like a political decision imposed on the armed forces by a Government that is determined to destroy our defence structure, and by a few civilian advisers who adhere to outmoded concepts of how military forces are to be used.
Military forces are no longer to be used just for fighting. They are, or at least should be, an integral part of our foreign policy. Military strength is now intertwined with the art of intimidation, coercion and deterrence- a game in which all nations are involved. Nations which cannot show that they have the strength and capacity to back what they say with their own resources, or through alliances, will be disregarded and ignored, and the peoples of such nations will suffer because they will become the eventual victims of the whims of other nations. This is what will happen to Australia under this Government’s no-defence policy.
It is nonsense to suggest that we have to be invaded or threatened to need a capable defence force. We do not have to be invaded. The power of other nations over us is that they can make us do something against our wishes and interests. To prevent this occurring, we need to demonstrate that we have a capacity and capability to protect those things which are important to Australians. We should not become a hostage or another Balkans to be kicked around by other nations because they know we cannot prevent it. The Government’s foreign and defence policy is not giving us a new flexibility as it claims. It is limiting our choice.
Our relations with the United States have become strained because of the Labor Party’s hostility. The Russians are aware of this, and right now they are seeking to drive a bigger wedge between us and the Americans who have long been our allies, who have not a dissimilar culture and institution to ours and who share common ideals.
The promise of stability and detente of 12 months ago, is much less promising now. We should do nothing to make it less stable. In the world scene, deterrence is the balance of terror. It is not the terror that is crucial in keeping the peace, but rather the balance which must be maintained. In a volatile world, how can anyone predict 10 to 15 years ahead. After all, on a fairly simple matter such as how many senators will be elected from each State at the forthcoming Senate election, the number varies from day to day. How can anyone, and especially a Minister for Defence with a dimunitive approach to Australia’s security, presume to predict 10 years ahead? His predictions should be hour by hour.
As recently as a week ago, the Minister for Defence, in a futile pre-election trip to Western
Australia, said he was worried about the defence of the Indian Ocean seaboard. He said the Department of Defence was keen to acquire an area of about 2,000 square miles stretching eastward from King Sound and south from the McLarty Range. He said that a base in the west formed part of his thinking about the continental defence of Australia. What an extraordinary statement for even Mr Barnard to make because if as he professes, he is concerned about the continental defence of Australia, and particularly the defence of the western seaboard, I ask why then is there no form of surveillance on any part of Australia’s coastline from Perth to Brisbane. I ask why have Lavarack Barracks in Townsville been run down? I ask: Why has work stopped on the naval base at Cockburn Sound? I ask: Why is there not a battle tank, fighter aircraft or fighting ship in the whole of Western Australia? I ask: Why has this man, who before Labor’s defeat at the polls on Saturday, was supposedly concerned that too little emphasis had been put on the defence of the western seaboard, perpetuated the situation in which the defence of Western Australia with a long and relatively uninhabited coastline, containing much if not most of this country’s natural wealth has rested on one Air Force base, a down graded naval base and one SAS unit? With only a 6 Battalion Army, with a fighting force of less than 6,000 men, there is little likelihood of a battalion being stationed in the west, or, despite pre-election statements, facilities being developed for the use of such a force. So there is little prospect of ground defence.
Late last year, the Government shrugged off as unimportant reports of a Russian naval build up in the Indian Ocean. Anybody mentioning this build up or showing concern at an increased Russian presence so close to Western Australia was accused of being an alarmist and was immediately labelled as a right winger, a war mongerer and a plain anti-communist. How different the Government’s reaction has been to the announcement by the United States that it intended to upgrade facilities at the joint US-British base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. What did we hear? ‘We want a zone of peace’, declared an outraged Mr Whitlam. What is becoming increasingly clear is that Mr Whitlam wants a zone of peace dominated by Russia. How else will he square off this expressed wish with his Chinese friends? That does not appear to have been worked out yet. Whilst Mr Whitlam ‘s appeal for a peaceful Indian Ocean is very creditable, it lacks reality because the only effective way of attempting to ensure a peaceful area is by having the great powers equally balanced.
In posing the question of great power rivalry what Mr Whitlam is in fact accepting is that absurd premise that it is permissible for Russia to increase its present naval presence in the Indian Ocean but it is outrageous for the United States to take a counter measure, no matter how modest. If Mr Whitlam were at all a logical man, he would see that until an agreement is reached between America and Russia to restrict the build up of forces, it would be foolish for America not to make some move to redress the balance in the interests of security and peaceful development of the area. It should always be remembered that the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean is steadily growing in numbers and in quality. It is, in fact, double that of the United States. It is reasonable to assume that once the Suez Canal is re-opened, the Soviet naval power in the area will be further strengthened, and certainly access will be quicker.
As an ally of the United States, one would have thought that the Australian Government would have welcomed the decision by the United States to attempt to redress the balance. But what did the Government do? Did the Government welcome it? No the United States has suffered a diatribe of abuse from the Whitlam Government. It is an extraordinary situation, made even more extraordinary by the recent announcement by the Whitlam Government that it was considering the establishment of a Russian ‘scientific facility ‘ in Australia. Neither the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, nor the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) has yet adequately described the difference between a scientific facility and a defence base. The Australian media have been unanimous, as I believe the Australian people will be, in their advice to the Prime Minister to say an immediate and outright no to Russia. But the Labor Government has not said it will do that.
It will play around with the idea. If it intends to play around with the idea, one could hardly blame the United States if it decided to withdraw from ANZUS if Russia is granted bases in Australia. This Labor Government is prepared to risk the ANZUS Treaty despite the fact that the Prime Minister has said that this Treaty is still the basis of Australia ‘s defence.
I ask: Why is he deliberately taking attitudes towards Diego Garcia and Russian bases in Australia which, if successful, will frustrate the plans of our major ally? 1 ask: Can we expect the Prime Minister to issue an invitation to China to establish a scientific facility here merely to snub the United States? This Government deserves to be roundly condemned for allowing our defence forces to become, in only 16 months, demoralised and debilitated. It should be condemned for insulting proven allies whilst wooing new friends whose loyalties and intentions are questionable. It should be condemned for playing with basic defence treaties. But most of all it should be condemned for placing our country in jeopardy.
– The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) today was very much like his speech last week when he attacked the civil servants of the Commonwealth, including many of his own staff and many of the civilian complement that makes up the defence Services.
– My staff do not get regulation 97 allowances.
– Your staff get the same pay and work under the same conditions as all Commonwealth public servants receive and work under. Your staff travels first class, as you do, and you complained about public servants travelling first class. It is not unusual to hear you making such extravagant statements and talking about the failure of detente. The Australian Labor Party Government, like the great governments of the world, is looking for peaceful solutions and is not looking for war situations. We will not repeat the charges about the Red peril, which was the stock in trade charge of former liberal governments over the years. Before each election the menace of communism, of China and the Soviet Union was trotted out. The great powers of the world such as the United States of America and Britain are seeking to establish better relations. We are certainly on the side of the Kissingers in the international field.
Let me talk about the subject with which Senator Withers is playing today. Since we started to re-organise the armed Services to make sure that there was no waste- there were 3 Service boards and there was a lack of integration- something which one of his former Ministers put up many years ago, he has been prone to talk about the waste and lack of morale in the Services. (Quorum formed).
One of the main points which Senator Withers tried to state but which misrepresents the position was that the Government was trying to muzzle a lot of senior officers. Senior officers and servicemen generally- all ranks- have never had it so good. Never before have they had a charter which gives them such good conditions or which instils the idea of freedom of public expression for people in the Services. Already the Government has decided to set up an ombudsman for the first time. Despite representations from service organisations, this was never agreed to by the previous Government. We decided to do it.
New channels are open for direct representation to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) by any serviceman. This was never allowed before on the same basis. For the first time the Minister for Defence has appeared before the squadrons, including 5 Airfield Construction Squadron about which Senator Withers spoke. The Minister was there last week. I was with him when he addressed servicemen and he allowed them to raise their complaints in the way that any Minister of any government should do. Senator Withers talked about civilians taking over. That is untrue. As a result of the reorganisation there are less civilians employed now at the top than there were before. Senior military officers now have more power than they had before. At present there are 40 senior military officers at the top as against 31 previously. The idea of the reorganisation has been to make sure that intelligence information gets to the advisers in a co-ordinated way.
I want to refer now to the question of calculations and why the Government decided these things. Last year the Government decided that it should take the opportunity to catch up as far as possible with the belated standards of wages and of conditions which had applied in the Services for many years. Everybody knows that the last Government failed to honour its promises to increase wage levels. What have we done and why did we do it? We improved wage levels because we contended that servicemen were entitled to have conditions similar to those of everybody else in the community, that they should have standards which would not make outside jobs more competitive than they are. It is true that presently there is great competition for manpower.
I want to refer to some of the things we did. I mentioned already that we are setting up an ombudsman. The Woodward report resulted in pay increases of $63m in the first instance. As a result of the flow on from the officers’ first increase there was an expenditure of $5.9m. There have been general increases recently totalling $45. 4m. We gave servicemen the same annual leave loading of 17.5 per cent as everybody in outside industry got and this cost the Government $8m. The Defence Forces
Retirement Benefits Fund scheme cost $51m. The re-engagement bonus which this Government decided to introduce cost the Government $10.7m last year and $11.5m this year. In addition, of course, as everybody knows, we have decided to increase the eligibility for Defence Services homes. We have improved resettlement benefits and have applied repatriation benefits to all members. We have set up permanent new machinery for wage fixing and have also pledged that there will be an upgrading of the accommodation of members of the Services. This Government did these things in the first year because we said it was the year in which to carry out those sorts of tasks.
The Minister for Defence said that the second year would be the year in which decisions would be made about what equipment would be purchased for the Services. Already there has been some reference to this matter. As everybody knows, the Minister shortly will be making a statement setting out what equipment we will be buying. I want to refer now to the important question of whether the Government got the right advice on strategic considerations from its defence experts. Soon after taking office the Minister for Defence called for a fundamental assessment of the strategic situation and outlook covering the next 15 years. I repeat that it was for 15 years, not just for this 12 months. Factors considered included international global developments affecting relations between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America, the strong interest of other major powers in the avoidance of conflict, and various developments nearer to home involving countries in our neighbouring region. The Minister pointed out that these developments strongly supported the Government’s view that Australia was unlikely to come under strategic pressure or military threat and that we could at this stage responsibly look to the future with reasonable confidence that no significant requirement was likely to arise for the operational commitment of our forces.
There has been no attempt to understate the difficulties or uncertainties in Australia’s strategic environment. The Government has made clear its view that political competition can be expected to continue among major powers and that the possibility exists of local conflicts in some areas. However, it remains true that these present trends generally point to a prospect of relative stability in the global order and that no significant threat against Australia can be foreseen. It was the Defence Committee which reached the conclusions which have been quoted. Moreover, the procedure of making such an assessment as a basis for determining the defence program is one that has developed over a considerable period in the past. It is not something new which the present Government has introduced. The Defence Committee expressed quite clearly the view that the present and likely trends identified do not indicate any likelihood of threat of direct attack on Australia in the period. This would require fundamental changes beyond the developments assessed as likely and it would take time and affect many other countries.
It is not good enough to base criticism, like that issued by Senator Withers, on loosely stated possibilities that threats could arise rapidly in a volatile world. Planning defence policies and spending very large sums on the development of the defence forces needs much more precision and an assessment on which the defence program is based must be carefully considered. We must consider who is likely to have a powerful enough motive and the will to attack, in what circumstances this is likely to occur, where is the capability, and so on. Judgments must be made on the basis of this type of close analysis, not on political gimmicks. This Government has not used political gimmicks in trying to assess the situation. On the basis of this assessment the Government has drawn up an appropriate procurement program. Already there has been speculation in the Press about the types of equipment that will be acquired for our defence forces. I do not wish to comment on the Press speculation at this moment other than to say that I expect that Mr Barnard will make some significant announcements within the next few weeks.
To reiterate what I said earlier, the first year of the Government’s activity in the defence field was directed towards improving conditions. The rninimum cost of improving those conditions has amounted to about $200m. In addition, as honourable senators know quite well, we have improved the related field, the ex-service fieldhonourable senators should be aware of that- by improving repatriation benefits at a total cost of about $55m or $60m. It was the aim of the Government to meet those requirements because, as nobody can deny, over the years there was a great demand, not only from servicementhis was acknowledged within the Parliamentthat those sorts of things should have been done earlier. We did these things in the first year.
The second year, as I mentioned, will be directed towards the equipment program that I have talked about. It also was the intention of the
Government to carry out its reorganisation at this time when there was a favourable strategic prospect. This has afforded us the opportunity of rationalising the Services. At present our defence forces are of a size and capability without precedent in Australian history- at a time when we are not involved in a substantial conflict. I want to cite some figures. At the end of June 1 963- at that time we were not involved in Vietnam, so it is a fair comparison- there were 11,574 personnel in the Navy, 21,944 in the Army and 15,840 in the Royal Australian Air Force, a total of 49,358. At the end of February this year there were 16,532 personnel in the Navy, 30,532 in the Army and 2 1,485 in the Air Force, a total of 68,549. So looking at the Navy first, there has been a percentage increase of 42.8 per cent, in the Army an increase of 3 1 .9 per cent and in the Air Force an increase of 35.6 per cent, a total overall increase in all Services of 38.9 per cent. The reduction in the strengths of our defence forces last year needs to be put in its proper perspective. Firstly, it represents only 3.1 per cent of the strength of our forces at June 1973, hardly a drastic reduction. Secondly, a large part of the reductions were made by economies in support activities which, in many cases, badly needed reorganisation and rationalisation. These economies were called for and necessary.
As everybody knows, we reduced the civilian complement, lt has been argued that we cut defence by cutting the number of civilians in the defence Services and, of course, we did, but the reduction in civilian strengths in 1973-74 ought to be put in its proper context. Between June 1963 and June 1973 the number of civilians in the defence group had grown by 14,392 from 36,909 to 5 1 ,30 1 . We hear statements in the Parliament by Senator Withers and others about the growth of the civil service. That growth took place during the term of office of the last Government and we pruned it last year. In fact, there was a rise of 39 per cent which included the percentage average annual growth in the old 3 Service departments. In the Navy it was 5. 1 per cent, in the Army 7.4 per cent and in the Air Force 6.5 per cent. There has also been some allegation that the officers are resigning because of lack of morale. Nobody can identify this. We know that there are some senior officers writing articles, and I pointed that out as a trend which the Government does not deny. It is an avenue which the Government is developing. The Government reported only yesterday the new code under which servicemen will operate in future.
But the facts are that because of the buoyant labour market outside, and everybody knows what that situation is, men in various ranks in the Services are looking for positions outside because they see workers outside in comparable jobs or professional people who can often temporarily earn more than they do. Also they are not required to be posted at places which often are inconvenient. The pension arrangements under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme, which the previous Government refused to provide and messed about with for many months, made it possible for these officers to resign so they would have the opportunity early to take advantage of whatever there was in outside industry. The increase in relation to officers in the older age group is understandable in view of these benefits. Under the previous Government, officers were obliged to serve until they reached the prescribed age for retirement, otherwise they could not attract the benefits provided under the then Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Act. One of the effects of the recently introduced Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Act is that officers may now avail themselves of resettlement opportunities prior to reaching retiring age and qualify for payment of the pension. The Government was fully aware that an increased number of officers would wish to avail themselves of this opportunity, and this is precisely what is happening at the present time. The re-engagement rate in each of the Services in the past 12 months was good. Re-engagement rates for the December 1973 quarter compared with the December 1972 quarter for male other ranks were as follows: For the quarter ended December 1972, it was 59.3 per cent for the Navy, 72.3 per cent for the Army and 72.3 per cent for the Air Force. In the quarter ended December 1973 it was 61.8 per cent for the Navy, 71.9 per cent for the Army and 75.4 per cent for the Air Force. In February 1974 it dropped slightly and for the Navy it was 55 per cent, for the Army 68. 1 per cent and for the Air Force 75 per cent.
These figures, which incidently represent high historical rates, hardly reflect disillusionment with the defence forces as far at the Government can see. It seems to me to be unusual for an opposition to say: ‘Yes, you did some good things with Service conditions but you have to do something else. You have to bring them to a situation where there will be a higher level of morale’. It is almost as though they were saying: ‘Let us put them into a wartime situation’. Since this Government has come to power, as everybody knows- I point to the recent floods in New South
Wales and Queensland- there has been a greater participation by the Services in community affairs, disasters and other things than ever before. As most of us know, there has been great appreciation by the people and parliamentarians of the role of the Services. I recently commented that, although there were one or two expressions of satisfaction about the great deeds that were done, how little was said in the community about the great performance of the Services. As recently as last week, drops were still being made by the Air Force.
Looking at the situation, and having regard to the manpower position to which I have referred and to Senator Withers’ complaints about the Citizen Military Forces, Mr Barnard called for a report on the CMF and this is presently before the Government. It is being considered and we hope that as a result of the study the CMF will be able to give the necessary support to the restructured Services which we would not get normally in a situation of very high employment. We are in competition with outside industry and there will be, as 1 have noticed, a greater desire on the part of some people in the Services to get a job outside because they can be more easily integrated into the community. They can meet with their families easier and quicker. It seems to me that this is a symptom of the times through which we are going. There is no threat so we are trying to get this restructure. I turn now to the amount spent on the Services generally. According to the calculations of the Strategic Studies Institute in London, Australia in 1971 devoted the same percentage of its gross national product to defence as did West Germany. Italy spent 2.6 per cent, the Netherlands 2.9 per cent, Greece and Turkey each 3.3 per cent, France 3. 1 per cent and Belgium 2.3 per cent. We are presently spending double the amount which Indonesia, the Philippines and related countries in the area spend on defence. In respect of equipment, already people have had a preview of the sort of provision to be made. The Government cancelled the DDL program and most people now have got the story, no matter how much people might have wanted that sort of vessel, of how expensive it would have become. At the time this Government took over, there was an estimated cost of about $330m for 3 destroyers. The designs had not been finally determined although Australian designers were taking part in the designing, and the Government decided to stop the program. It made other allocations of that money. It decided to devote some of it to ensuring that servicemen got the kind of benefits they should get. The Government will be announcing very soon the sort of things that are required and necessary. Let me refer now to some of the things that are on the defence procurement list. Some of these are part of requirements which were ordered before we came to power but they are in the process of being commissioned. There are 12 medium lift helicopters, 5 utility helicopters, air traffic control surveillance radar, 37 CT4 basic trainer aircraft which are being built mostly in New Zealand.
– They should have been built here.
-Of course. If we had been in power then, they would have been built here. We were committed with the manufacture when we became the Government. Other matters on the defence procurement list were 10 Westland cargo helicopters, the oceanographic ship, additional Oberon class submarines, the refit of Oberon class submarines, the modernisation of River class destroyers, extra gun mountings and the DDG ship improvement and refit program. Of course, since that time we have obtained 24 Fill aircraft which are now operating in Australia. Of course there has been a reduced amount of flying time and some reduced steaming time.
In a situation where the Government was faced with huge welfare programs, including the amount of $200m for the Services, the Government had to make some reallocations. So there is a vast amount of work being done. It surprises me not that the Opposition should talk about the need to have additional improvements but that it tends to say that we are an extravagant government and that we spend millions of dollars on wages for servicemen and millions of dollars on pensions for civilians and every now and again it says that we should also be able to buy equipment faster than we are doing.
I referred earlier to some of the attitudes which Senator Withers had taken in the past and to which I objected. Only recently I reminded him about the statements he made concerning Commonwealth public servants. He made those attacks upon a section of the Public Service which obviously includes civilians in the defence Services. He said:
The Public servants are ripping off the Australian community. The only thing they add to the nation is wages and sadly enough the wages bill is not the end of this sorry story because there are ancillary services. Each public servant who puts a Toot outside his own town or city on official business is entitled to first class air travel.
He went on and like Senator Wright said that we should take first class air travel away from these people. Are we to take first class air travel away from the top servicemen, the Government’s advisers and specialists whom the previous Government employed and whom we now employ? Later on Senator Withers said:
Now let us take a look at housing . . .
Of course the Services have a rent allowance. It is not an allowance under regulation 97 but it is very similar. Senator Withers said: -a financial handout masquerading as regulation 97 allowances. For the unitiated, regulation 97 is a housing subsidy which provides eligible married officers with $33 a week towards their rent if they have no children and $40 a week if they have children. The original purpose of the allowance was to help officers- ‘where the quarters provided are temporarily not available for occupancy’.
Every serving man in the Navy, Army or Air Force, and civilian persons in the defence Services, receive an equivalent entitlement. Is Senator Withers saying that when a man is serving his country in isolated places away from his family his next of kin is not entitled to similar benefits? Senator Withers went on to say:
I wonder how age or invalid pensioners would feel about this continuing handout to Commonwealth public servants. . . . What would they think of this hypocritical Government which has insisted on continuing regulation 97 allowances?
Senator Withers admits that the regulation was introduced while his Party was in government, but he says that we should not continue it. He said:
Surely these officers on $ 1 7,000 a year should stop bludging on the Australian taxpayers and should go to the private sector for their housing needs.
He continued in the same vein and said that these public servants were bludgers and were not productive. He said that there was no production in the Public Service. In taking that attitude he attacks not only the Public Service but also the equivalent in the defence Services generally.
I shall refer very quickly to the very loose statements Senator Withers made about Mr Barnard’s visit to the West last week. Of course Mr Barnard went to Yampi Sound and flew over and investigated an area the acquisition of which he favoured as an exercise area for all the Services. Presumably it is his intention to make sure that all friendly nations would also be able to use the area in association with our own forces. So there is a positive intention on the part of Mr Barnard. 1 saw the area with him and there is no doubt that he will be making a recommendation to acquire the area concerned. It is not true that work has stopped at Cockburn Sound. Senator Drake-Brockman has been there and he would have seen the great progress that has been made.
It will be a fine area when it is finished. The structures are certainly very well developed at present.
I said when I commenced my speech that our Government is not hypocritical. We have accepted certain priorities which we are trying to maintain. We have done more in the 15 months in which we have been in office than the last Government did in all the years when it was in office. The previous Government considered many of the things which we have since done. As honourable senators know, there were so many divisions within that Government and between Ministers that Ministers who had accepted the sort of re-organisation which we have applied so quickly and so effectively were muzzled. There is certainly no intention to muzzle the Services or any officer. As I have pointed out, the defence officers have got more power under the reorganisation than they had before. There has been no civilian takeover. I suggest that honourable senators should quietly study what the Government has done and what it will announce very shortly. The massive improvements that have been effected in the conditions of servicemen are often forgotten. It is not unusual for people in industry to forget the great benefits and general conditions- including wages and annual leave- that are obtained. I mention also the improvements in housing. The value of the improvement in conditions, including repatriation benefits, would amount to about $300m. In the Services area alone the amount is very close to $200m.
I suggest that the motion moved by the Opposition Leader in the Senate is simply a tactic, before the Senate election, to alarm the people about matters which are at present in good hands. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition has a similar item on the notice paper already. So we can expect that before the Senate rises for the Senate election, Senator Withers will be moving a similar motion relating to the defence Services. Some servicemen, naturally, are not involved in foreign travel and in exercises overseas. But there have been plenty of joint exercises. The Minister for Defence is trying to organise and is organising exercises with Britain, the United States of America and various other countries and that will be the pattern of our commitments. We are withdrawing permanent forces from overseas but we are ensuring that they shall take part in joint exercises. That is why I hope we will obtain the Yampi Sound area.
I suggest that the Senate should take note that Senator Withers is simply playing the old political game of trying to float some scare propaganda before the Senate election in the same way as his leaders before him, including the great Sir Robert Menzies, who referred to the great Red perils. We put up with that and the people got on top of it. It was lived down and people are now looking for peace.
-I always feel a little bit sorry for the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) when he is trying to defend the indefensible. The Minister avoided, in the main, the charges levelled by Senator Withers. I will refer to one- the naval facility at Cockburn Sound. The Minister said that work has not been stopped there. Surely the Minister will not deny that work has been slowed down to such an extent that the completion of this facility will be put back some two or three years. Senator Withers, in his opening remarks, referred to the cynical and hypocritical approach of this Government to its responsibilities. Nothing illustrates this more than the field of defence. We have been bombarded by the Government with accusations about the actions of the Opposition in refusing to allow the Government to carry out its electoral mandates. If there is one electoral mandate the Government has not honoured it is that the Government clearly undertook not to reduce defence expenditure below the figure of between 3.2 per cent and 3.5 per cent of the gross national product. What was the first action the Government took when it assumed office? It reduced the figure to about 2.9 per cent. That alone is a breach of an electoral mandate for which it deserves the condemnation of the Senate.
I wish to speak very quickly this afternoon about the strategic assessments upon which the Government bases its decision to run down the Australian defence capacity. The Minister, assisting the Minister for Defence, used the words, I think, ‘the favourable strategic situation’. I challenge it. Even if it was correct when the assessment was made some 12 months ago, the question we ask is: Is it correct now? The Government based its defence policy on an assessment that the world was moving towards stability, that the situation in South East Asia was stabilising and that there was no discernible threat for a period of 10 or 15 years ahead. I ask again: Was that assessment correct? If it was correct then, is it correct now? If it was correct then, and it is not correct now, the Government is placing Australia in jeopardy. Did the strategic assessment state that a war in the Middle East was likely? Did it assess the energy crisis which at one stage brought the 2 super powers into confrontation? Were these assessments made? I do not think they were.
I challenge the wisdom of basing a defence policy on assumptions. Forecasting events has always been notoriously dangerous. I believe that for the Government to accept or to place the interpretation on the defence assessment which it has placed, that there is no foreseeable threat for 15 years ahead, is both naive and dangerous. The first point that I want to make- and the Minister referred to it- is that because there is no identifiable threat, this does not mean that there is no threat. Threats can arise suddenly, as the Middle East situation clearly indicated and as the energy crisis indicated, or with very little warning. History is full of such lessons. The lessons of history clearly prove the folly of basing defence policies upon long term or even short term assessments. But even if it were true that there is no discernible threat for 10 or 15 years, now is the time to prepare defence planning for an eventuality which may occur in 10 or 15 years time- not in 10 years time or when the threat becomes discernible.
I challenge the concept that last year, when the assessment was made, the world was moving towards detente or stability. There may have been some encouraging signs- but what was the situation? The world was dominated by the SinoSoviet dispute, and the possibilities of conflict between these two great powers create uncertainties and conflicts throughout the world: In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Indian Ocean, South-East Asia and the Pacific. All indications are that competition is more likely to increase than diminish. Russia fears China’s nuclear capacity in the 1980s and China has a continued fear of a preemptive nuclear strike by Russia. This all adds dangerous dimensions to this dispute. The Chinese-United States detente, so-called, is far from complete. It is based mainly on China’s fear of Russia and there are, unfortunately, growing signs of increasing tension. In today’s issue of the ‘Australian’ is a report of a statement by the Chinese Premier Chou En-lai at a State banquet for a Cambodian communist leader which I quote:
The revolutionary people do not at all believe in so-called lasting peace or a generation of peace.’ Mr Chou said. ‘So long as imperialism exists, revolution and war are inevitable’.
This is a statement by the Prime Minister of a country which Mr Whitlam called ‘a peace loving country’. He would be a brave man indeed who could look to the future of Chinese-United States relations with increasing confidence. There are, I repeat, signs of increasing tensions. Europe, mainly because of the energy crisis, is in disarray; the Atlantic Alliance is under great strain; United States-Russian relations have not improved. I think that we are all discouraged to learn that Dr Kissinger’s latest mission to the Soviet Union did not achieve the hoped for results and that the Russian position is obviously hardening, no doubt because of the domestic situation in the United States and the disunity in Europe.
In the Indian Ocean- and Senator Withers referred to this- we see a growing build-up of the Russian naval strength to an extent where Russia is the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean. I am not trying to encourage panic. It is not a major threat; the Russians do not threaten anybody through their naval power- but they are an influence and they are there partly to extend their global influence and, secondly, of course, as a continuing counter to Chinese influence. Whether we like it or not the Indian Ocean is an area of big power conflict. I think it is an absolutely extraordinary attitude for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, a Western Australian Minister, to adopt by immediately attacking the United States-United Kingdom agreement to extend facilities at Diego Garcia. The Government has protested to both the United States and Russia but I would have thought more of the Government if it had protested to Russia much earlier, when it was building up its naval strength. The opening of the Suez Canal will mean that the flexibility of Russian naval manoeuvre becomes so much greater.
The economic power of Japan is casting uncertainty over South-East Asia. China’s future policies to which I referred briefly, and her future leadership are unknown. The cultural revolution in China continues unabated. The 10th Congress which was held recently showed no signs of moderation; indeed, it indicated a continuing hard line. One fears the judgment of the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, on China. It seems to be affected by his amorous affair with the present Chinese leaders and with China as a whole. What Chou En-lai said cannot give any of us very much comfort. Chinese leaders believe in revolution. They have a fanatical wish to lead world revolution, a wish which they proclaim loudly and often. No one knows what will be the future direction of China’s policies. As the cultural revolution continues, however, we can be sure that those policies, as always under those circumstances, will become more hard line.
I say very briefly, because my time has nearly expired, that this indicates that the global situation is far from one of stability. Indeed, the indications unfortunately are that it may be one of growing instability. In South-East Asia the Indo-China war continues unabated, and no one knows what the result there will be. If the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) believes that there is growing stability in South-East Asia, I am sure that on his trip to South-East Asia he learned from the South-East Asian leaders that they do not believe there is growing stability in the area. I recommend to Government senators that they read the Dyason Memorial Lectures delivered by Mr S. Rajaratnum, the Foreign Minister of Singapore. I wish to refer very quickly to 2 things that he said. In dealing with the situation in South-East Asia he said that he does not believe that the great powers will leave South-East Asians to solve the problems of South-East Asia in their own way and in their own time. He went on:
Personally I should like to believe this, but there are many other miracles of comparable magnitude I should like to believe in but cannot rationally do.
All the indications are, of course, of growing competition or influence between Russia and China in South-East Asia. Mr Rajaratnum further stated:
If power is defined, as it should be, not merely as military power but as economic power and cultural attraction as well, then what is likely to emerge in South-East Asia is a multiple system of great power balance. These powers will contest for influence in the region because its strategic importance and its great economic potential have not been diminished in any way as a result of the detente and dimantling of the Cold War structure.
Mr Rajaratnum there sees continuing big power competition and conflict in South-East Asia. Here is a situation that is volatile; in fact the world situation is volatile. Any realistic assessmentI stress the words ‘realistic assessment’indicates continuing instability both in the global sense and in the regional sense. Defence policies should not be based upon wishful thinking but rather on an assessment of the situation in the world which at present is one of flux and uncertainty. This must be the basis of our planning, not assumptions of either assured dangers or assured safety. It is not confused situations that are likely to lead us to disaster, rather it is confused minds, and we have plenty of confused minds in the Australian Government at the present time. Any realistic assessment of the world situation and the regional situation makes nonsense of any assessment based upon no foreseeable threat for 10 or 15 years. In 1914 Lloyd George said that the situation had never been brighter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate today is debating an urgency motion. If one looks at page 188, item 8, of todays notice paper one sees that on 5 March 1974 Senator Withers gave notice that he intended to move the following motion:
That the continued rundown of the Australian defence force, the erosion of our defence capacity and the deliberate understatement of Australia’s vulnerability in a volatile world, are detrimental to the long-term security and wellbeing of the Australian people.
Senator Withers gave notice of that motion exactly one month ago. Today he moved, in accordance with standing order 64, this motion:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.59 a.m.- for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely, the alarming weakening of the Australian defence capability and capacity.
If the motion of which Senator Withers gave notice one month ago was so urgent, and if our defences were run down and were not capable of defending this country, why has the honourable senator waited one month before bringing before the Senate this matter of urgency? It seems that we are getting close to an election and the old fear bogy is starting to raise its head. The Opposition wants the people of Australia to believe that there is a threat to Australia and that we are about to be invaded at any time.
Soon after taking office the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) called for a fundamental assessment of Australia’s strategic situation and outlook over the next 15 years. Of course, 15 years is a long time. Although we may not be able to look into the crystal ball and see what is likely to happen in the next 1 5 years, I feel that the attitude of, and the action taken by, the Government in regard to the defence of Australia are correct. In his statement to the House on 22 August 1973 the Minister outlined the results of that assessment. He stated that at that time the Australian security situation was favourable and that various important factors and trends in the international situation supported Australia’s security into the longer term. These factors included international global developments affecting the relations between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America, the strong interest of other major powers in the avoidance of conflict, and various developments nearer home in and between the countries within our own neighbouring region. The Minister pointed out that these developments strongly supported the Government’s view that Australia was unlikely to come under strategic pressure or military threat, and that we could at this stage responsibly look to the future in reasonable confidence that no significant requirement was likely to arise for the operational commitment of our forces. It is this statement of the strategic situation and outlook to which the motion of which Senator Withers gave notice on 5 March refers and the charge means, although it does not state, that there has been a deliberate understatement of Australia ‘s vulnerability in a volatile world.
For many years, at election after election, the Australian people have been brainwashed by the propaganda of fear that was put out by the opponents of Labor. The propaganda was to the effect that Australia was in danger of invasion from the north by the red peril and the yellow peril. These fear tactics were adopted until Prime Minister Gorton in 1969 saw the fallacy of them and decided that these tactics were wearing thin and that the people of Australia were beginning to realise that the propaganda was not to be taken seriously. Consequently the 1969 election was fought on domestic issues, and the government of the day almost fell. With the survival of the Liberal-Country Party Government at stake, the coalition reverted to its traditional behaviour. Talk of any lack of threat to our security had to be avoided. The Australian people had to be convinced that they were in danger of external threat.
After the so-called dangerous and realistic pre-election acknowledgement of the fact that Australia was one of the most secure nations in the world, the Red and yellow peril campaign could only be made credible if supported by heavy expenditure on defence. In the first weeks of that new Parliament in 1970, a shopping list for defence hardware costing many hundreds of millions of dollars was presented to the Parliament. The Department of Defence and the Services had been forced to bring forward the list at a moment’s notice without proper analysis and, indeed, with less consideration being given to it than the average family would give to the purchase of a new washing machine. The point was that it really did not matter what was purchased. The opponents of the Australian Labor Party knew that there was no threat, and they were spending the money, not primarily to acquire a defence capability, but merely to support and to give some semblance of credibility to the cheap attempt to use the politics of fear to divert the electorate ‘s attention away from our true foreign policy interests and our then social and economic problems. This attempt failed, as it deserved to fail, and the Whitlam Government was elected to office in December 1972.
However, by the use of these tactics today the members of the Opposition are still attempting to create fear and uncertainty in the community. These are fear tactics of the worst type. One would have expected that they would have learned their lesson by now and that, in the words of the old saying, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. It was on 2 December 1972 that this nation cast off its paranoia. Yet, here again, like Pavlov’s dog the conservatives are trying to fool the people into believing that our country is in some sort of danger. It did not work in 1972 and it will not work now. Senator Bishop, who represents the Minister for Defence in the Senate, has pointed out just what the Australian Government is doing in regard to defence. He compared the strength of the Royal Australian Army at the present time with its strength in 1963. He mentioned the steps that were being taken by the Government to build up the Royal Australian Navy. He mentioned that the DDL program, which would have cost the people of Australia in the vicinity of $400m or more–
– Possibly more.
– As Senator Devitt says, possibly it could have cost more. The plans were not even on the drawing board. Were we going to have another Fill aircraft fiasco? The Government took this into consideration and decided that it would not be viable to continue with this program. Senator Bishop has pointed out that the Minister for Defence will be making a statement in the very near future regarding what is to be done in respect to the Navy projects.
– He made the same statement in March 1973,
– Yes, but in 1963 an order was placed for F 1 1 1 aircraft. At that time, they were not even on the drawing board -
– But we have got them.
– We received them in 1973.
– They are the best aircraft in the world.
– I am not doubting this.
– Do you accept that?
– I am not doubting this for a moment. I feel that they are a good aircraft and will be of benefit to the defence of Australia. I am not denying that. But the fact is that it took 10 years for Australia to acquire these aircraft. Yet,
Senator Marriott says that the Minister for Defence made this statement concerning the DDL program in 1973. That was a period of 12 months compared to a delay of 10 years in regard to the Fill aircraft. At least the Australian Government is trying to do something in regard to defence.
There is no evidence to lead us to believe that there is a direct threat to Australia at the present time. As I said earlier, we cannot look into a crystal ball and see what will happen in 15 years time. But at least the Government is trying to build up our defences. We inherited run down defence forces. The only time that the strength of our defence forces reached any sort of capacity at all was when Australia became involved in the Vietnam war. The present Australian Government promised the people in 1972 that if it were elected to office Australia would withdraw from the Vietnam war and that national servicemen would be discharged. This is what happened. Approximately 10,000 or 12,000 national servicemen were discharged from the Army bringing the strength down to about what it is at the present time. The Minister for Defence has stated that at the moment the enlistment figure for the Army only is in the vicinity of 3 1 ,000 men and that this figure will be made up by voluntary enlistment until 1 976 when it is expected that the enlistment figure will be approximately 34,000 men. The Minister has stated that the enlistment numbers will remain at that level but that a further review will be made of the position and if necessary the numbers will be increased. It is all right to talk about the number of men in the defence forces, but it must be remembered that defence forces cost money. Although the expenditure for defence as given in the Defence Budget last year was less than it was in the previous year, the Government has, by its management of the defence of this country, been able to do what it promised to do in regard to the servicemen. I am talking of the 3 arms of the Services now. Senator Bishop cited the figures in regard to what has been done. On page 138, paragraph 340 of the report on defence reorganisation it is stated- it was mentioned by one of the Opposition speakers that -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am one of those who believe that a very strong defence force is vital to an island continent like Australia that is far removed from most of the major powers and certainly from the sources of vital supplies and assistance that we need in times of conflict. It has always been interesting to note the policy of the Australian Labor Party, when in Opposition, every time we endeavoured to build up our defence forces or every time we sent troops overseas to assist friends against imperialistic advances, particularly by the communist countries. Members of the Opposition attacked us. They have always had a policy of isolation and lack of defence for this country. Of course, they believe that, if we run down our defence forces and portray a peaceful attitude to the world, no one will attack us and that we will always be safe. They believe that we could have a completely neutralist sort of policy towards our friends and foes alike. Of course, this policy, which I have always believed to be a dangerous policy, completely ignores 2 important facts. One is that the island continent of Australia is an outpost which would be very important in any world wide conflict. We separate two major oceans. In considering the possible operations of nuclear submarines in a world conflict obviously Australia could be a very important outpost for any combatant. The second important factor is our enormous resources which are badly needed, certainly in times of conflict between nations. There is no doubt that the resources of this country, particularly in the fields of mining and minerals, would attract the attention of a combatant nation.
At least it can be said that the policy of the Labor Policy in office is consistent with its policy when in Opposition. It is still one of isolation and of running down our defence structure. Undoubtedly the point upon which we differ from Labor’s policy is how far a threat to our shores can be foreseen. We have been told that the official attitude of the Government is that there will be no threat to this nation for at least 10 or 15 years. It is interesting to ask military experts: Even in an apparently peaceful situation which it seems may continue for many years, how far ahead can you predict that there will be no threat to this nation?’ I have yet to find a military expert who is prepared to predict more than a maximum of 5 years ahead. One can then ask the experts: ‘How long does it take to build up the armed Services or defence forces?’ They will say: It takes at least 10 years.’ It is clear that a threat or lack of a threat cannot properly be predicted for more than 3 years ahead, but it takes 10 years to build up the defence forces. Does it not really come down to the argument that it is essential to have strong defence forces all the time? This particularly applies in respect of senior officers and also the senior non-commissioned officers. It takes years to train these people. In any conflict that may arise it is essential to have trained personnel throughout the armed forces ready to become the leaders of an increased draft in an emergency.
It is said that there is no threat foreseeable in the next 1 0 to 1 5 years. As Senator Sim reminded us, in recent times who predicted that the Middle East conflict would break out again as quickly as it did and that the major powers, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America would nearly come into conflict? We all know what would have happened in that situation. Who could have predicted the energy crisis that is troubling the world today? Once an economic squeeze is applied to a nation military trouble can be expected. I believe that if the energy crisis continues for any length of time and has a great effect on certain nations conflict can be expected in our area. If we are to have trained personnel ready it is essential to maintain at all times a strong defence force.
The present tragedy is that despite what has been said by Government supporters many of our most capable and experienced officers and non-commissioned officers are getting out of the Services. This is happening despite the fact that when we were in government we initiated inquiries that produced reports containing recommendations to increase the pay of servicemen and to improve the conditions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Yet this Government takes all the credit because the recommendations were implemented after it came into office. The reports were produced at our instigation.
– But you refused to accept the reports.
-We did not. You know very well what happened on that occasion. Let us face it. Labor’s Minister for Defence faced exactly the same problem that certain benefits had to be checked back to ascertain the eventual effect. At present members of the Government are having second thoughts about the cost of improvements to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. I assume that Senator Milliner was referring to that aspect. Another interesting issue in recent times is the request by the Soviet Union for a so-called scientific base in this country. When Labor was in opposition and since it has been in government, the left wing of the Labor Party has opposed most vocally the proposal for the establishment of any foreign bases in this country, particularly for the United States. Today we understand that the request by the Soviet Union for a so-called scientific base in
Australia has been with the Government for some time. We have not heard any great outbursts from the vocal left wing of the ALP. Its members are saying: ‘I suppose that we have to be consistent. If we oppose Omega and other American bases here I suppose we have to be consistent’.
There is no doubt that somewhere along the line Labor’s left wing will be looking for an opportunity to grant the request, possibly using in support the fact that the base is required for socalled scientific purposes. Members of the left wing will use the opportunity to say: ‘OK. It is not to be of any military or strategic use and we believe that the Russians should come in here’. Why has not the Government already rejected the proposition out of hand? We will be very interested to hear the answer. Senator Bishop said that the Army and the Air Force had played an important role in the recent floods and other disasters in this country. I think we would all agree that they did a terrific job in the cyclone disaster a few years ago in Townsville and in the recent Queensland floods. But is this the role that is earmarked for them in the future? Are they to be nothing more than glorified civil defence forces? It is interesting that this part of their operations has been highlighted, because it seems to me that that is the role selected for our defence forces.
Senator Drury said that the only reason we have raised this matter of urgency is to introduce again the old fear bogy. The running down of our defence forces is concerning not only the servicemen who are dissatisfied and who are resigning but also those who are still in the forces. Service morale is very low today because some of our most experienced people are resigning. If in this situation we are to be regarded by the Government as merely raising a fear bogy I just cannot understand what the Government really intends. Of course we are interested in the defence of this country, and the Australian people are interested in the defence of this country, too. That is why they will support us in drawing attention to the running down of our defence forces.
Senator Drury said that he regarded that Fill business as a fiasco. I would like to know what the Government thinks of the FI 1 1 today. If the Government thinks that the FI 1 1 is a fiasco, why does it not get rid of the aircraft? The reason why it will not get rid of the aircraft is that it now knows that it is the most advanced and probably the best strike aircraft operating anywhere in the world. It will be interesting to hear the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence tell us whether he thinks that it is the most advanced aircraft in the world. The interesting thing about members of the Labor Party is that when they were in opposition they said that everything we did was completely wrong, but now that they are in government they carry on with the same equipment that we provided. They say: ‘It is OK’. It is a different story now. They say in relation to the FI 1 1: ‘It was a fiasco when you bought it, but it is a wonderful bit of equipment now that we are in government and we control it ‘.
Members of the Labor Party talk about the cost of the FI 1 1 and the fact that it was not on the drawing board when it was ordered. This is the very reason why we entered into the deal- so that we could assist the American defence structure to build an aircraft that was better than anything else available at that time. Of course, we could have sat back and waited until some other nation built an aircraft, or we could have spent millions of dollars in developing an aircraft ourselves. But we have not got the resources to build an aircraft like the FI 1 1. We would have to arrange sales of the aircraft all over the world in order to justify the building of the aircraft; otherwise, the individual cost of each aircraft would make it an impossible venture. So we had to take what I believe was a calculated risk, but it has turned out to be a risk that has certainly given us an advantage because we have a strike aircraft.
– At what cost?
– I think that the cost must be worked out on the basis of the value of each individual aircraft to the defence of this nation. The important thing is what each aircraft is worth to Australia in terms of defence capability, not that the aircraft might have been dearer than some other aircraft that we could have bought. That is the test.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-Here we are once again discussing a matter of urgency, namely, the rundown or weakening of the Australian defence capability and capacity. Anybody listening to this debate would get the impression that it was a question of anything but urgency. It has been a dismal, weary, lack-luster debate up to this stage, anyway. The debate was opened in a most casual manner by the Leader of the Liberal Party in this place, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), who read his speech right through. He could not find enough to say on the subject in order to take the period of 30 minutes which was available to him. It was an unimaginative, uninspiring and unimpressive performance, and that has been followed almost to the letter by those honourable senators opposite who have followed him in this debate. That is not to be wondered at, I suppose, because we have the same old actors, the same old act and the same old story, and it gets like a record with the needle stuck. Every time a debate on defence and matters associated with defence comes before this chamber we get the same tired, weary old performance from the same tired, weary old performers on the other side of the chamber.
We have to stand up and speak and waste the time of the Senate in debating the issue. It should be a lively, imaginative, impressive and invigorating debate because if anything should interest us and promote our interest it ought to be what sort of defence we should mount in the interests of Australia. So here we go again. I wonder why the Opposition does not have enough imagination to select another subject. One was tossed to it on a plate by Senator Wriedt today. We go over and over defence and foreign affairs. We churn it over and over again when there are some terribly lively issues which could be debated here. As I said, Senator Wriedt tossed right into the Opposition’s lap today an opportunity to debate as a matter of urgency the question of Australia’s primary industries, but I wonder how long it will be before that challenge is taken up. No, it looks as though the time of the chamber is to be taken up again in a debate on defence and foreign affairs. Every time the Opposition gets the inspiration to raise a matter of urgency in this place, it is the same old subjectdefence and foreign affairs. One would expect that over the years, after the study that obviously has been given to this subject, we would get some new ideas, some fresh ideas and some new imaginative approaches to these questions which perplex the mind of everybody in Australia.
So we come to the question of the rundown in the defence Services of Australia. Let us, firstly, look at the subject itself. What are the defence Services of a country? I do not accept, as the Opposition appears to believe, that the capacity of the defence system of a nation depends on the number of people in uniform. I imagine that it depends rather on a number of factors, all going into the general context of what constitutes the defence of a country. Certainly in the total context one must have the personnel in the 3 branches of the armed Services, one must have the backup services of the civilian population, and also one must have the industrial capacity of the country. Of course then we are reliant, to a degree, on what is available to us in the way of suitable and appropriate hardware from overseas. So we must have the equipment, the backup in the civilian component and the various resources which a country can muster to make up the total defence concept. But it is not merely a question of mounting numbers and being able to look at statistics across the board in relation to the total composition of the 3 branches of the armed Services; it is also a question of what a country can do in its own right, within its own resources and within the confines of its own boundaries to mount a total defence capacity.
I imagine, and I am not alone in my belief about this, that while we certainly need manpower in the 3 branches of the defence Servicesthat goes without saying- we also need to muster, foster and develop resources to the maximum extent possible in the civilian community and particularly in the areas of industrial activity. We need to muster, foster and develop those resources so that if a situation arises where we have to put men into the field and have the backup systems which are necessary to sustain the men there, at least we can do that from within our own capacity. What I said earlier about the interest in debates on defence and foreign affairs is borne out by the fact that as soon as a debate on these matters commences the chamber clears. One finds this great enthusiasm for a debate about the nation’s defence, but on every occasion the debate, instead of being one which carries the lively interest of all members in this chamber, succeeds, as far as I have been able to observe, in clearing the chamber.
– There is no Country Party member here.
– At one stage I observed 2 members of the Liberal Party and 2 members of the Country Party in the chamber when one of their members was speaking. That is the sort of enthusiasm that they have. When one comes to look at the question of defence- I think this is the son of thing that must be perplexing the mind of every professional person in this area- one wonders what sort of a defence system is needed in Australia. We talk about lead time. We talk about the fact, for instance, that it will take 10 years to build up an army. What rot! How can you sell that to the Australian community when during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945 we went from absolute cold. In those days we were under the control of a conservative government and in a totally rundown defence situation.
– That is not what Mr Curtin said.
– I do not care what you say. The National Liberation Front is talking to us now. I am not the slightest bit interested in your appreciation of the situation. The system was a totally rundown system, and within 5 years we trained some of the best officers that this country has seen. We mounted 3 branches of the defence Services, and they were second to none. From go to wo, the whole thing took 5 years. Mr Acting Deputy President, you and I can remember the armchair experts during the war. They wore their carpet slippers and sipped their glass of port in the drawing rooms and the board rooms. They said: ‘They are playing the war the wrong way. They are not doing it the right way. ‘ The sabre rattlers are still with us. While we are trying to commit the resources of this country to the development of the best interest of every man, woman and child in Australia, we are being told that we ought to be spending money on this, that or something else. Over $300m on 24 Fills. When we came into office we had a commitment of $335m for 3 DDL destroyers-$ 1 12m each. Have honourable senators ever heard anything so crazy in their lives? Senator Drury has told the Senate that the DDL was not even on the drawing board, but we committed ourselves to a program of $335m for 3 ships.
As Senator Bishop indicated earlier in the debate, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) has not been sitting down on this matter. Let me say, in passing, that we have no occasion to be ashamed of our record in relation to the defence of this nation. 1 can recall, and history will recall if anybody disbelieves me, that it was the Australian Labour Party which saw this country through 2 of its worst crises in terms of military commitment. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber should not be ashamed of our record. A moment or two ago I drew a great comment from the other side when I talked about the desperate situation of Australia’s defences in 1939. Everybody knows about that. Everybody knows that within a short space of time, under the guidance, the direction and the control of a Labor government, the defences were strengthened. The Labor Party had to assume the responsibility. Somebody had to take the responsibility for the defence of this country. The Labor Party assumed that responsibility, and saw that the war was adequately prosecuted in the interests of the defence and preservation of the integrity of this nation.
So we ought not to be thinking of defence in terms of numbers of men in uniform. Senator Maunsell ought to know this because recently he and I were members of a parliamentary delegation which visited the Soviet Union. Everywhere we went we saw vast numbers of people in uniform. I assumed that they were servicemen on leave.
– I thought you were about to say that you saw the Leader of the Opposition there.
– I do not know about the Leader of the Opposition, but you have your problems. Let me develop my speech.
– My problems are not as big as the one you have today.
– I would not say that. Your problems have only just started. Senator Maunsell, other members of the delegation and I saw evidence of what can happen. I believe that this is a realistic appraisal of what I saw there: A vast defence capacity or vast armed Services capacity, and the resources of the nation inadequately developed. In fact, they are so inadequately developed that the Soviet Union is now calling in expertise from the United States of America, France, Japan and other countries because it has been so committed- this is my view, and I am stating it publicly- to the proposition of having huge numbers of” men in uniform that many of the resources which the Soviet Union could have been developing for the good and the benefit of its people were left undeveloped. Now it has to call in expertise from outside.
Do we want a similar situation here? What do we want in our armed Services- quantity or quality? The Labor Party is committed to a program which will make life in the armed Services or life for the professional soldier as attractive as it has ever been in this country. There is no time in the history of Australia when service in peace time has been more attractive to those serving in the defence forces. So we are looking for quality. But we are going beyond looking for quality. We will not do as the previous Government did and not take the appropriate action to sustain industries. The light aircraft industry is one in particular. It went to New Zealand because the Government of the day was not prepared to support the light aircraft industry in this country. We are set upon a course which will develop our resources to the maximum degree possible. So the defence of Australia does not mean men in uniform but means a total capacity from within our resources to mount the defence of this nation.
That is what we are about. That is the course upon which we are set. That is the course we will pursue, regardless of whatever is said in these dismal, dreary debates which we have from time to time, because we must follow the Opposition’s wishes, on the question of Australia’s defence capacity.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner the Senate was debating an adjournment motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency which expresses alarm at the reduction in the defences of Australia which has taken place since the present Government took office. The Australian Democratic Labor Party, which continually has drawn attention to this steady reduction in our defence forces, associates itself with the motion. We support it to the full because we believe that one of the most disturbing features of the tenure of office of the Whitlam Government has been the manner in which it has set to work to white ant and to reduce to complete ineffectiveness the defences of our country. Mr Whitlam attempted in his policy speech to suggest that defence after all was not very important. He said that in his view defence need not worry us for about 10 years, perhaps 15 years, but that in spite of that fact he would see to it that the defences of Australia were maintained as they should be. That promise has been broken.
If we examine the statements made in recent weeks by former commanders of our Army, former commanders of our Navy and former commanders of the Royal Australian Air Force, they tell us that in this day and age, a period of the greatest violence that the world has ever known, the Whitlam Government has steadily reduced the forces of this country to a state of complete ineffectiveness. In spite of the fact that the Government said that it would maintain the level of preparedness of our forces we find that there has been a reduction in the money available to the forces, in spite of the fact that the money made available has been reduced in value by gross inflation.
What do we have today? We have an Army which has been reduced to ineffectiveness, a Navy which has been reduced to ineffectiveness, an Air Force which has been reduced to ineffectiveness and a Department of Supply which could not adequately maintain Australia’s forces in being. We are told that a number of the ships in the Navy are restricted to the degree that they can sail because it is necessary to conserve fuel. We are told that Air Force planes are not to be permitted to fly except on a limited number of occasions because it is desired to save money for other purposes. The Army has been reduced to the stage that today it has only about 30,000 men, and we who are on the Senate Committee which is inquiring into the Australian Army have been told that with 25,000 of those personnel required for other duties only 5,000 men would be availale in the event of hostilities. The circumstances therefore are that while Mr Whitlam periodically asserts that Australia ought to be isolationist, he goes to the United States of America and pleads for the ANZUS Treaty and says that Australia will not be isolationist. With a force of 5,000 men Australia could never be anything but isolationist.
What is the danger of this isolationist policy? We are engaged in a treaty- the ANZUS Treaty- which we regard as the backbone of our defence arrangements. One of the provisions of that Treaty is that mutual assistance shall be given by those who belong to it. We are not in a position to give mutual assistance because our Army has been reduced to such a degree that at the present time we are free-loading on the ANZUS Treaty. We are free-loading because we are not in a position, as a result of the reduction of our armed forces by the Whitlam Government, to make any contribution to that Treaty. It is supposed to be a mutual defence treaty; not one where Australia seeks all the advantages and refuses to accept any of the responsibilities.
What is happening today? In many of the places where we should be preparing our defences, such as Cockburn Sound and other areas, we find that cobwebs are to be seen and that there is little action. I would say that at the present time we are steadily advancing towards a situation when it will be very difficult to obtain the manpower to provide firing parties for the funerals of any of Australia’s generals. The whole situation is appalling. The best testimony about it is what is happening in the case of officers and non-commissioned officers who, of course, by virtue of their training, are almost irreplaceable. The number of officers retiring in disgust from the Services is attaining the proportions of a flood. The number of non-commissioned officers who are getting out is almost of the same proportion. When one asks those men why they are getting out of Australia’s forces they say that they trained for the forces as a career and are finding that they are completely disheartened. There is a shortage of manpower. There is a shortage of equipment. There is a complete lack of sympathy with the armed forces on the part of the Government whose attitude towards our Army, Navy and Air Force seems to be: How much more can we screw out of them to spend on other things such as ‘ Blue Poles ‘.
I belong to a Party which always has been very defence conscious. In every election from the time our Party was established we have said that the defence and security of the country ought to be a primary issue. In the last election, regrettably, the attitude was taken up by people not only on the side of the Australian Labor Party but also by some people who previously were sitting on the then Government side that Australia could look forward to 10 years during which she need not do anything about defence. The attitude was then taken up in the election that defence was not an issue. That was one of the greatest mistakes that has ever been made by the Australian people. They allowed themselves to be fooled into accepting that point of view.
One of the matters which the DLP brought forward with considerable force was the situation in the Indian Ocean. We pointed to the fact that the British fleet was leaving the Indian Ocean. Along with its departure came the arrival of a large Russian submarine fleet. In addition, Russian squadrons were to be found making their way through the Indian Ocean, carrying out observations and taking depths. In the case of the route around the Cape of Good Hope, they were placing direction finders in the sea. At that time, when we suggested that this was serious and ought to be attended to, we were scolded by the Press. We were accused by the Australian Labor Party of being warmongers. The ALP said that there was no possible danger and that nobody ought to bother about the Indian Ocean. What is the position today? What the DLP said has been vindicated. We said at that time that the major oil routes of the world went through the Indian Ocean and the dominance of the Indian Ocean by any one country such as the Soviet Union could result in those oil routes being blockaded and other countries being blackmailed into submission. That was not believed but it is believed now when the world has had a lesson about what happens when the oil routes are blocked. At the present time the situation has become so serious that the United States of America and Great Britain have agreed to the establishment of a base at Deigo Garcia facing the bases which the Soviet Union has acquired from some of the eastern countries. I would have thought, bearing in mind that 46 per cent of our trade goes around the Cape of Good Hope and that we are, therefore, in a position where we must look to the security of the Indian Ocean, that the Australian Government would have welcomed the establishment of that base. Instead we have a mean and contemptible attack upon the United States and Great Britain for taking an action which is to our advantage. There appears to be a complete lack of concern on the part of our Government, a dislike of the word ‘defence’, and a determination to reduce our defences to the degree that Australia will be unable to play its part in world affairs.
I believe that in Australia we have to spend more money and produce self-reliant defences which will enable us to say to our treaty supporters or our treaty friends that we are in a position, and we will be in a position, to play our part if the time of responsibility comes. We do not have self-reliant defences now. I had the honour of moving a motion calling for a committee of the Senate to inquire into the state of our Army. I was a member of that committee for a considerable period and what impressed me was the number of men, experts in the field of defence, who came before us and said that the plans of the present Government to defend this country were completely inadequate and that should there be trouble Australia’s security would be gravely endangered. We are in a serious situation today. In the Indian Ocean north of Australia we have the testimony of the South-East Asian countries that there is a grave danger today of insurgency, a grave danger of subversion. Not only are there dangers there. In the Pacific where there are new emerging countries there is the opportunity for some countries whose interests are not ours to make overtures to those emerging countries for the purpose of establishing bases. Let me point out that right throughout South-East Asia there are guerrilla forces supplied and countenanced by Communist China. Communist China admits it. A Thai diplomat told me that when one of his own country’s principal ministers went to Peking to discuss with the Chinese the insurgency and subversion movement on their borders which is supported and financed by China, he asked Chou En-lai whether China would agree to stop interfering in his country’s affairs. Chou En-lai said: ‘We promise willingly not to interfere in your affairs’. When he said that, the diplomat said: ‘Well, I must thank you very much. I presume you will no longer countenance the National Liberation Front’. Chou En-lai said: ‘Helping a National Liberation Front is not interference ‘.
In every one of those South-East Asian countries today there is a Communist sponsored guerrilla organisation which seeks subversion and which, in doing so, is a threat to the future of this country. What is being done about it by our
Government? It is seeking to withdraw our forces, the forces with which at least we say to some of these countries: ‘We are interested in your security’. The Government is adopting the attitude that so far as Australia is concernd we will expect American support through ANZUS. The Government will expect other countries to help us in the event of war but we will be free loaders completely. We will do nothing to play our part. If this Government’s attitude towards the Army, Navy and Air Force is satisfactory why is it that officers and non-commissioned officers are leaving in hundreds?
– You know the reasons.
-Senator Bishop should speak to the officers who have commanded those forces and who not so long ago retired. They will tell him that the present position is so dangerous that the future security of this country is in a very parlous state.
– Listening to Senator McManus of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, who has been railing at us very severely over the last quarter of an hour, and to some Liberal senators- not all of them- we go right back to the cold war situation. But we are emerging from that situation because it was one which for generations had ended with one result- world war. We all know now that because of technology, which in the last 20 years has advanced more than we have since the dawn of time and which in the next 20 years will advance further than we have now since the dawn of time, even including the last 20 years, we cannot go on having an arms race or having a cold war. We cannot continue drawing a line on a map and saying that all the baddies are on that side and all of us goodies are on this side. One day there will be der Tag, the day when we finally fight. We have survived world wars over the generations but because of the advance of technology and the splitting of the atom- things have never been the same in the fields of defence and aggression since the day they successfully split the atom- we will not survive another world war involving the use of atomic weapons. What this Government has done and what, to their credit, President Nixon, in spite of his home problems, and Dr Kissinger have done, is introduce into the international community a different approach. They have been able to break down the cold war situation and move into what is known as detente today. However, I wonder whether the people who still like to live in that cold war period, and who hear people like Senator McManus talk, have read or studied anything over the last 10 years, let alone the last few years, about the changes that have taken place. In our own area a few years ago in the days of cold war one had to stand up and be counted. One had to be on one side of the fence or the other, and the smaller nations were nervously looking over their shoulders to see whether their friends were smiling at them or frowning at them. History has shown that whenever there is an arms race it has inevitably led to war- world war. With modern armaments that we have today we might still reach a situation where we have a war to end all wars. I wonder, when I look around the world today, whether we have really recovered from the last world war. Sure, some of the defeated nations are very wealthy but there are still displaced persons camps, still lives that are wrecked, still people who have never been able to get their feet on the ground and live as normal human beings. Because of the breaking down of the cold war, when we had the Middle East crisis which went as close to world war as one could possibly get on that terrible Friday night, detente helped and held. A few years ago under the old regimes it would have been unthinkable that the United States of America would have dared to talk or even suggested talking to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In a period of confrontation, within 24 hours they were able to talk and were able to prevent a world war. Let no one think that anyone is immune. We had in the Middle East one of the most difficult and most dangerous situations in the world. Thank heavens it seems to be receding. As I have said to many Jewish and Arab friends, you will be the preferred creditors and the first people to die if a world war breaks out. But if a world war breaks out in this situation with the United States on one side and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the other side nearly every nation, and certainly Australians, Indonesians and the rest, will finally be dying in the field. It is all right to be theoretical. It is all right to say that we can keep out of these things but when super-powers are confronting each other, fighting and using atomic weapons, we with the small nations of the world will become mere pawns in the game and we will not be masters of our own destiny.
The reason why we have been able to retreat from the cold war situation is that the intelligent people of this world, the Dr Kissingers, realise that there is no future for us but there will be destruction for all if this situation goes on. In this situation the grand opportunity is given of backing away from a cold war. When we look back over recent history, it is amazing that there was able to be a confrontation for so long and that things did not blow up. What happens is that the smaller nations are given greater manoeuvreability. We have faced a different situation in our region over the last few years. A vastly different situation prevails in Indonesia at present to that which prevailed under the terrible period of the Sukarno regime. I always describe it as the 20 years of dropout. It was a period of 20 years when our nearest neighbour had all the potentiality of being one of the great nations of the world. And come what may, it will be great. Indonesia has rich soil, it has area, it has people, who are able people given the chance, and it has natural reserves of oil- that magic word today. There is no way in which Indonesia, whatever its setbacks may be, will not be one of the great countries and one of the greatly populated areas of the world.
– I agree with you.
-Senator Byrne, who has paid some attention to it over the years, agrees with me on this. Singapore has become one of the modern economic marvels of this area. There is a breaking down in Malaysia. There is a new situation in Thailand where in the next few months the people will move away from a military dictatorship to a position where they will be able to vote for themselves. All this is a change and all these possibilities have been given to these small nations by the fact that there has been removed from this area a situation of great power confrontation- I will not say rivalries; I think we will always get great power rivalries- in which people have to stand up and be counted and have to look over their shoulders to ascertain what their neighbours are thinking.
It is very easy for the cold war people to belittle and to write down the things which will be achieved. I have always said that if in the field of foreign affairs you are not an optimist then you should start giving up because if you start to look at the black side of things you will not get anywhere.
This Government has been berated and ridiculed because it has said that it supports ASEAN. ASEAN, a pact of 5 countries in SouthEast Asia, was ridiculed in its early days and was supposed to be a madman’s dream of people getting together but it has achieved more in that area than any of the other organisations in the area and very much more than all its critics ever thought it would achieve. Sure, it is not the perfect thing. Sure, it will not bring Utopia to the area. There are 5 countries, many of them having divergent outlooks and a couple of them being involved in very great confrontation situations which are being held down and handled because 5 lots of people are trying to do the best in their area. They have been very much more successful than any of us ever thought they would be. When they say that they want an area of peace and neutrality and when this Government wishes them well and tries to do its little bit to assist, we are scorned and it is said that that is not a cold war situation.
I refer now to the Indian Ocean area. When we say that we back the Sri Lankan proposal for an area of peace our critics say: ‘No, you do not want that situation. What you want is a race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. counting each day the number of ships in the area and fighting to see that the figures can be matched’. Nobody underrates the situation and says that it is only these 2 nations that have ships in the Indian Ocean. From time to time there are tremendous amounts of shipping from France, from Britain and from some of the littoral States. We could come back to a cold war situation. We could say to the United States of America that we want it to count the ships every day and to have the same as the U.S.S.R., or perhaps 10 per cent or even 20 per cent more. We say that the sensible and the logical thing to do is to get these great superpowers together and to agree to an arms limitation in this area. What is wrong with doing that in the Indian Ocean? It has been done between the super-powers at every other level; they have met and have agreed to an arms limitation. Is not that the sensible thing to be doing? I say to those people who scorn us when we try to have the reverse of an arms race: ‘What is your alternative?’ The alternative that is put to us, is to have an arms race and to say to the U.S.A. that it can have 10 per cent more arms than the Russians. What would the Russians say? They would say: Let us have 10 per cent more than the U.S.A.’. What would the situation finally be?
We have, as a government, become a member of a committee of the United Nations which is trying to do something about the Indian Ocean. People say: ‘What futility. Why do you do this? It is unreal ‘. It is not unreal if a study is made of what is being done. The first thing that you do when confronting people is to say: ‘Let us exclude the U.S.S.R. on the one side. Let us exclude the U.S.A. on the other’. That approach completely forgets ali the other neighbours that are in the area. But that is not the end of the story. The first things that are always looked at in any arms limitation are atomic weapons. The first thing we do in looking at the Indian Ocean is to say that atomic weapons should be excluded.
Immediately that puts the responsibility on the people in the area. We cannot sit on this area and say: ‘We are a littoral State. We do not want the great powers to come in with atomic weapons. What about ourselves, what about India and what about all those other countries?’ Immediately pressure is put upon those other countries. You immediately put pressure on the littoral States of Africa. What about our neighbours? Are we going to cause a war? It gets very much greater. What you are doing, as difficult as it might be and as long range as it might be, is to put that State in the situation of examining the whole question of the Indian Ocean.
These things are not futile. It is easy in the political sense to say that this is a madman’s dream. Of course there will be confrontation. If that negative approach is accepted we go back to the situation of World War I and World War II. The cold war should be dead and every country should contribute to killing it. I deplore very much the fact that the last of the Liberal Foreign Ministers, when he was in New York, said that we were a small and insignificant country and we can contribute nothing. The Americans often say: ‘It is no good being a super-power. We cannot even control Cuba’. The fact that big countries can push small countries around is no longer true. If you take a moral and independent view of the world situation today you can exert an influence far beyond your geographical area or the size of your numbers. All people should make such a contribution. We are criticised because we brought forces out of Singapore. No criticism was made when the previous Government shifted those forces from one country to another from Malaysia to Singapore. Those 2 countries at that stage were almost in a cold war situation.
We were friends of England for donkeys years. We did not have to have troops sitting on the Isle of Wight or on the South of England to prove our bona fides. This busines of stationing troops overseas went out years ago. It just does not mean a thing. It does not amount to isolation. Isolation is a state of mind. We do not have to have troops walking around in uniform and those sorts of things to prove our bona fides. The fact is that in the field of foreign affairs this Government has taken a new stand. We have taken a stand of independence. We have taken the stand that we will not accept the inevitability of war and that we will work wherever we can with the small nations near us, particularly in the Asian area, and also with the bigger countries to see that there is not an inevitability of war. It can be done. In spite of our geographical position, in spite of our size, we can through the United
Nations and the other multilateral institutions contribute something that is worth fighting forpeace and not the inevitability of war.
Australia’s Foreign Minister (Senator Willesee) has just delivered an abject apology for the Government’s lack of any defence or foreign policy. One can sum up what he said by saying: ‘Atomic weapons are terrible things, therefore we do not need any defence or foreign policy’. What he does not appreciate of course is that millions of men, women and children have been killed by conventional weapons from conventional aggressors ever since World War II ended. If I were a used car salesman and I wanted to get rid of a bomb, I would have the Minister very high on my list because I think he would believe anything. Anyone who believes that the cold war situation has been completely cured just knows nothing about international relationships. It is a great pity that the honourable senator happens to be our Foreign Minister or at least our nominal Foreign Minister. It is not true to say that, as he said the arms limitation talks have been a success. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks No. 1 have achieved partial success, the SALT talks No. 2 have been completely unsuccessful. Not that it matters a great deal since the 2 super powers- the United States and the Soviet Union- have enough to overkill one another many times over. The obvious thing which this Government overlooks is that because of the balance of terror it is unlikely in the near future that atomic weapons will be used at all. It is highly probable that sophisticated conventional weapons will be used as they have been used ever since the Korean aggression in 1 950-53.
The truth is that this Government is not interested in defence. The Army is in a parlous condition. There are, as Senator McManus pointed out, between only 5,000 and 6,000 men capable of bearing arms in the Australian Regular Army. We certainly could not put up the framework of one division. Whilst the Australian manufacture of hardware has been good and successful, much of it is old and badly in need of replacement. The question of replacement tanks has been under review for some considerable time. I do not blame this Government solely for the tank situation. It is a very complex and expensive matter which engaged the attention of the previous Government for some little time. This Government- and I will say this- has done a good deal to improve the conditions of service of men in the armed forces; but that has been its single, solitary contribution to defence. But despite improvement in wages and conditions, the resignation rate has increased. My recollection is that up to August last there had been 3 times as many resignations by Army officers as occurred in the whole of the previous year, the reason of course being that the Government not being interested in defence has conducted a policy by which Army officers can see that there is no future for them in the Service. Denis Warner, perhaps the most knowledgeable of all Australian comentators on defence and South-East Asian affairs, has pointed out in 3 articles in the Press the rock bottom to which Army morale has sunk; he did so not with pleasure but with great sadness. Warner has of course been sort of warned off by Government circles because of his outspoken criticisms in these matters.
The Air Force has lost its third Mirage squadron and the Navy has been shorn of its 3 DDL destroyers. True, they had a long way to go; and it is true, as the Government said, they were not in essay. But to my way of thinking there is a vast difference- and perhaps the Minister at the table, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) will agree with me- between replacing 3 DDLs, which are virtually light cruisers, with 2 frigates, which I understand the Government plans to do. The frigates will have to be very smart indeed if they are to do the jobs of destroyers. At the moment it would be vaguely possible to put a small task force off the eastern coast of Australia. If we had to have an engagement with an enemy we would have to persuade that enemy to attack us on our eastern coast.
I believe that we should have at least a task force off the western coast of Australia and that the Cockburn Sound base should be speeded up and made something rather more ample than a base suitable for 4 frigate-destroyer type vessels. This may sound old fashioned but I do not believe that aircraft carriers are out of date. Apparently the Soviet Union does not think so either because 2 months ago it launched a 45,000 ton carrier- and that of course will soon make its way into the Indian Ocean where we wish to preserve a zone of peace simply by saying that we like peace. I think that we should have a look at acquiring by lease- not necessarily by purchase- an aircraft carrier. Some of our friends- the British and the Americans- have had a number of servicable semi-modern aircraft carriers- certainly more modern than the carrier Melbourne’- available for lend lease. I believe that the Government should show some interest in acquiring another carrier which could at least be the nucleus of a task force if one is to operate off the western coast of Australia. I know that many consequential expenses would have to be met in connection with it, docking and servicing facilities and so on. I know that all that follows. But if this country is worth living in, it is certainly worth defending and making sure that we could at least repel the Seychelles Islands or the Maldive Islands if they turned nasty and attacked the country. At the moment it probably would not be on.
We have heard of this 15-year period of peace which is to be vouchsafed to us. I do not know on what basis the Government fixed that figure. A fortnight ago Admiral Peek delivered a real torpedo to the Government’s plans, which was followed at the weekend by Admiral McNicoll’s blast on the Government’s lack of planning in naval affairs. I would like to think that we are to have this 15 years of peace and that nothing can happen. Why it is 15 years instead of 14 or 16 years I do not know. But it is true that in 1937 Admiral Sir Francis Hyde, then Chief of the Naval Staff, announced that Australia had nothing to fear from any naval power, that our relations with Japan were satisfactory and that there was no danger of an attack from the Japanese. We know what happened within 4 years of Sir Francis Hyde making that pronunciamento; we were engaged in the life and death struggle with Japan.
One would have thought that if the Government were genuinely interested in defence that when the Americans wanted to set up an installation as a very minor counter to the 20 Soviet ships- surface ships, that is; Lord knows how many submarines are operating in the Indian Ocean- it would have welcomed its friend. It calls America its friend sometimes, its ally when it needs it. One would have thought that the Government would have been delighted that the United States proposed to set up defence facilities at Diego Garcia. Instead, what does it do? It issues a blast at the Americans but says not a word about the Russians having patrolled the Indian Ocean for the past several years. When the Suez Canal is opened the Russian fleet will be within two to three days steaming of our trade routes across the Indian Ocean.
Defence of course has to be associated with foreign policy. This Government has weakened ANZUS partly because at the 1971 Australian Labor Party congress at Launceston it was decided that ANZUS should be reduced to a social, cultural and economic arrangement. But even Mr Barnard says that ANZUS is an important pact. It was negotiated, to his everlasting credit, by Sir Robert Menzies in 1951 when that great Prime Minister was able to secure for Australia from the United States a guarantee of protection in peace time, a guarantee which has been given to no other country in peace time.
We have become accustomed to hearing the word ‘detente’ used. It is a fashionable word. One hears talk of detente between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the first place, it is necessary to recognise that detente means the lessening of tension; it is far removed from rapprochement. The strategic arms limitation agreements have probably been cited more often than anything else as a breakthrough in relationships between the 2 super powers. These agreements have been misunderstood, since both powers already have sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy themselves and the world several times over. The Government has failed in its attempt. Its so-called independent foreign policy has been a fraud and a delusion. All that has happened is that it has been rude and insulting to our friends, and it has picked up a few dubious acquaintances. In all these circumstances, it is clear that the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) is valid. I support it and I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! I make the follow ing statement to the Senate: Earlier in the sitting, I read to the Senate a letter I had received from Senator Gair relating to his place in the Senate. I now table that letter. I have considered Senator Gair’s letter in the light of my responsibility under section 21 of the Constitution, which requires the President to notify a vacancy in the Senate to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy has happened. Before taking any such action, I must satisfy myself that a vacancy has happened and when.
If Senator Gair’s letter were a simple one of resignation, in the usual form, my course would be clear and I would take immediate steps to notify the vacancy to the Governor of Queensland. Senator Gair’s letter, however, is not I think one of resignation, but a notification that the effect of his appointment as Ambassador to Ireland was to vacate his place as a senator by virtue of the disqualification provisions of sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. If the latter, I am in doubt as to the date upon which the vacancy happened.
In all the circumstances, I think this is a matter which should be determined by the Senate and, accordingly, I refer to the judgment of the Senate the question of whether a vacancy has happened in the Senate and when such vacancy happened. I table this statement.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to make a statement in relation to what you have said.
-Is leave granted?
- Mr President, we would not resist leave on the basis that that would not preempt me from moving a motion in respect of the statement which you have put down.
– I do not think that occurs. I think that this is a matter for discussion across the table between the 2 Leaders. We can deal with it by motion later, if necessary.
- Mr President–
– I take it that the Leader of the Government in the Senate will not resist my moving a motion in relation to the statement?
– I will hear what the honourable senator -
– I have a right to move a motion.
– There seems to be a certain amount of co-operation between the Leader of the Opposition and the President of which I am not aware.
- Mr President, I rise to order, and I think that the Leader of the Government ought to resume his seat.
- Mr President, I am before you.
– I am on my feet taking a point of order.
-Order! The question before the Senate is Senator Murphy’s request for leave to make a statement. That has not been resolved.
- Mr President, 1 was on my feet taking a point of order. Senator Murphy has made an allegation which I think is a reflection on the Chair. He is suggesting- he is more than suggesting- that there is some collusion between the Chair and myself as to what I wish to do. I have not informed you of what I intend to do. I would not do so in any circumstances. I think that Senator Murphy ought to withdraw that allegation.
- Mr President, I wish to address you on the point of order. I rose to ask for leave to make a statement. Earlier today, I was invited by the Leader of the Opposition to indicate whether I would be prepared to table certain statements. Having had that invitation issued to me and having stated publicly outside the Senate chamber that I was prepared to accede to the request that was made, there were certain agreements to be gained because, after all, certain of the documents were those of the GovernorGeneral and also of the Government of Ireland. Their concurrence would need to be gained. It seems to me -
– Is the Leader of the Government speaking to the point of order?
– Yes. The concurrence of these parties has been gained, as far as I can tell, and I am prepared and would wish to put certain documents before the Senate. Despite the request by the Leader of the Opposition, he now wishes to move some motion. As I say, regrettably, a statement has been made by the President before I have had an opportunity to table the documents. The documents have come from the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs. They were asked for and they are ready to be tabled. Yet somehow it is suggested that there should be some party political decision in the Senate on an important matter before the documents which are relevant to the matter and which were requested have been tabled. It is a very interesting position. The Senate, having had the opportunity to have the relevant documents put before it following a request actually made by the Leader of the Opposition, somehow intends not to have the documents tabled. The President of the Senate expresses a view and the Leader of the Opposition wants to move a motion on the matters before the Leader of the Government has an opportunity to produce those documents which have been requested. I have been asked to -
- Mr President, I rise to order.
- Senator Murphy, have you finished speaking to the point of order?
– No, I have not.
- Mr President, might I suggest that the Leader of the Government talk to the point of order which seeks the withdrawal of the allegation that there is collusion between the Chair and myself.
– Order !
– I am talking to the point of order because I am saying -
– The President is on his feet; sit down.
– The business before the Senate is Senator Murphy’s request for leave to make a statement. In the course of the argument following the asking for leave, which argument was quite improper, Senator Murphy made an observation to which the Leader of the Opposition has taken exception. Therefore, he asks for a withdrawal because he feels affronted by the statement that he has been in collusion with me. As far as I am concerned, I can look after myself. I am sure, Senator Murphy, that you will realise that I can give you an assurance that I have not been in collusion with anyone. I have been living in my own particular isolation ward since 4 o’clock this afternoon.
– I take it that Senator Murphy will now withdraw.
– I suggest that it would be in the interests of the Senate that before the Leader of the Opposition moves a motion on your statement, sir, the Senate have before it the documents which I seek to put. I would regard it as extremely regrettable that arising out of a statement made by you, Mr President, a motion should be immediately moved by the Leader of the Opposition without an opportunity being given to me to put before the Senate the documents which have been requested, and without the Leader of the Opposition or anyone having an opportunity to learn or even wanting to know what is in the documents. In that situation the Leader of the Opposition wants to move a motion in respect of your statement. It is not very satisfactory to me.
– I rise to a point of order. My point of order is that a point of order was taken by my Leader, the Leader of the Opposition, by way of exception to what Senator Murphy said. My Leader indicated that it was offensive to him, untrue and not in accordance with the practices of the Senate. Mr President, you have given to Senator Murphy what I thought was an indulgence unnecessary to be granted to him- an assurance that there had been no collusion. In those circumstances surely standing order 4 1 8 requires Senator Murphy to withdraw and I ask: Will the Standing Orders of the Senate be insisted upon?
- Senator Murphy, it is up to you.
– It seems to be a point of order upon a point of order which has been taken. I accept what you have said, Mr President, but I say also -
– Do you withdraw?
– I accept what the President has said, that he has not spoken to or cooperated with the Leader of the Opposition. I say also that it is a low point in politics when the Leader of the Opposition would seek -
– On a point of order, the Leader of the Government in the Senate is not entitled to debate another matter under the guise of a point of order. I submit that Senator Murphy ought to be told to resume his seat. The matter before the Senate is whether he ought to be granted leave to make a statement.
– Do you or do you not grant him leave?
– We will grant him immediate leave to make a statement and to table his documents provided that that does not pre-empt my right to move a motion, because the simple fact is that I wish to move a motion in relation to the statement and I do not wish to have something intervene which will take away my right to move a motion.
– What is your motion?
– My motion is, if I may foreshadow it, with the indulgence of the Senate: That consideration of the statement tabled by the President be an order of the day for the next day of sitting. ‘ That is the terrible motion I wish to move. We will certainly grant leave to Senator Murphy to make his statement immediately if he will say that the granting of leave to make this statement does not pre-empt my right to move that motion upon his finishing the making of his statement. I think that is a reasonable proposition.
– To cut it short I will accept what he says.
– And you will withdraw your allegation?
– I have already said that I accepted what your statement was. I have also indicated that I think it is deplorable that when I ask for leave to make a statement relating to an invitation issued to me by the Leader of the Opposition he should in any way attempt to prevent me from making it.
– I rise to a point of order. The point of order is that, according to the practice of the Senate from time immemorial when a request for a withdrawal is made a withdrawal is insisted upon. Senators have been suspended from the service of this chamber when they have refused to withdraw or have refused to withdraw unconditionally. My submission is that if there is consistency there ought to be a rule which applies to all senators, not one rule for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and a rule for other senators. The Leader of the Government should be called upon to withdraw.
- Senator Murphy, I am sure that you regret the statement. I have known you for a long time and I am sure that you made it in the heat of the moment. You will do me a favour if you will submit to my will.
– I will accede to your appeal to me. I will accede to it.
- Senator Murphy withdraws. Senator Murphy has asked for leave to make a statement. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)Today the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) invited me to table on behalf of the Government papers relating to the appointment of former Senator Gair to the office of Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.
– He is Senator Gair.
– If honourable senators wish to hear me respond to the invitation of the Leader of the Opposition they may do so. If they wish to interrupt I will wait until they are finished. The documents that I have come from the officers of the departments of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). The documents with which I have been supplied are set out in a list. There is the assignment from the Queen to the Governor-General under section 2 of the Constitution; that appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette’of21 June 1973.I table that document. The next document is the Prime Minister’s letter of 14 March 1974 to the Governor-General. Perhaps it would be convenient to the Senator if I were to read it. It is dated 14 March 1974 and reads:
The Government wishes to appoint The Honourable Mr Vincent Clair Gair, who is presently a Queensland member of the Australian Senate, as its Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Gair has occupied a Senate seat since 1965 and has been Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Labor Party since that year. He was Premier of Queensland from 1952 to 1957 and from 1932 to 1957 was a M.L.A. in Queensland. Mr Gair, who was born at Rockhampton, Queensland, in 1 90 1 , has been married since 1 944.
The Government considers that Mr Gair is well suited to the position of Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland and I recommend that you approve his appointment.
Yours sincerely, (E.G. Whitlam)
His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir Paul Hasluck, G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.St.J.,
On the letter appears the approval of the GovernorGeneral, as follows:
Paul Hasluck. 14 March 1974
The next document that I have is a cablegram from the Australian Embassy at Dublin to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Canberra, advising that agreement for Gair had been given by Ireland. The cablegram was despatched on 19 March and received on 20 March. Leaving aside the rather incomprehensible material that appears on a cablegram it reads:
Personal: For the Secretary- From Brennan.
Agreement for Gair has been given. Irish Government would appreciate advance information of date of announcement.
The next documents are the Executive Council papers of 21 March 1974 relating to the terms and conditions of the appointment. The heading is:
Appointment of Senator the Honourable Vincent Clair Gair as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Republic of Ireland.
Under the heading appears:
Recommended for the approval of His Excellency the Governor-General in Council that-
in relation to the appointment of Senator the Honourable Vincent Clair Gair as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Republic of Ireland, he shall be paid such salary and allowances as may be determined from time to time by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs;
such appointment be subject to such other terms and conditions as may be approved from time to time by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; and
such appointment commences on and from a date to be determined by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
It was signed ‘E. G. Whitlam, Acting Minister of State for Foreign Affairs’. That is the Minute
Paper which was put before the Executive Council. It has on it ‘Approved in Council’, the GovernorGeneral ‘s signature, and ‘21 March 1974’. There are other supporting documents. There is an explanatory memorandum which reads:
The attached Executive Council Minute refers to the appointment of Senator the Honourable Vincent Clair Gair as Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.
Senator Gair was educated in Rockhampton and became a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Queensland Parliament representing South Brisbane in 1932. He held this seat until 1960. He was Secretary for Mines from 1942-1947, Secretary for Labour and Industry from 1944-1950, Treasurer from 1950-1952 and Deputy Premier of the Queensland Government from 1947-1952. He was Premier, Chief Secretary and Vice President of the Executive Council in Queensland from 1952-1957. Senator Gair has been a member of the Senate representing Queensland since 1965 when he also became Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Labor Party. Senator Gair is married.
The attached Minute seeks authority for the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to determine the salary, allowances and other terms and conditions applicable to this appointment.
It is initialled by the Prime Minister.
The next on the list is a document, I think labelled ‘5’, and entitled ‘Minister for Foreign Affairs’ determination of terms and conditions’. It reads:
THE HONOURABLE VINCENT CLAIR GAIR
Pursuant to the approval of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in Council dated the twenty-first day of March one thousand nine hundred and seventy-four relating to the appointment of the honourable Vincent Clair Gair (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Head of Mission’), as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to Ireland I, Donald Robert Willesee, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Australia, hereby approve the following salary, allowances and terms and conditions in relation to this appointment:
The Head of Mission shall commence duty in that capacity on the date upon which he shall arrive in Dublin (hereinafter referred to as ‘the post’).
Unless otherwise provided herein, the undermentioned Terms and Conditions shall come into operation on the date upon which the Head of Mission shall arrive at the post provided that payment may be made or expenditure incurred under clauses (A), (B)(i), (B)(ii), (E)(b)(ii) and (1) hereof before that date . . .
-What is the date of that?
-It is dated the ‘Third day of April one thousand nine hundred and seventyfour’.
– It is a copy which I have. I assume that this is what it is. It is related to the pay and simple terms and conditions. I do not think that the Senate would want me to read out the various items, which are very lengthy, about this matter. It runs into about 10 pages, but I will table it in any event. Then the sixth document is the opinion of the Solicitor-General of Australia.
It is headed ‘Re sections 44 and 45 of the ConstitutionOpinion ‘.
– What date is that?
-It is dated 4 April 1 974. (Honourable senators interjecting) -
-I am glad that the hilarity of the Senate in relation to a misdating should illustrate how seriously it regards these matters of importance. If honourable senators wish to hear the opinion read, I shall proceed. It is as follows:
On 14 March 1974 His Excellency the Governor-General pursuant to section 2 of the Constitution and pursuant to the assignment of Her Majesty the Queen given on 30 May 1 973 approved the appointment of Mr Gair as the Ambassador of the Australian Government to the Republic of Ireland. This approval was noted by His Excellency on a letter addressed to him and bearing the date 14 March 1974 in the following words- ‘Approved Paul Hasluck 14 March 1974’. The assignment to which I have earlier referred was one whereby Her Majesty the Queen assigned to the Governor-General amongst other powers and functions Her Majesty’s powers and functions in respect of the appointment of Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary ‘to represent the interests of Australia’.
The letter to which I referred as being one directed to His Excellency was from the Prime Minister and contained the following statement:
The Government wishes to appoint The Honourable Mr Vincent Clair Gair, who is presently a Queensland member of the Australian Senate as its Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. ‘
By a minute dated 2 1 March 1974 it was recommended for the approval of His Excellency the Governor-General in Council that in relation to the appointment of Senator the Honourable Vincent Clair Gair as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Republic of Ireland, he shall be paid such salary and allowances as may be determined from time to time by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs’.
The same minute recommended for His Excellency’s approval that the appointment should be subject to such other terms and conditions as might be approved from time to time by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and further that such appointment commences on and from a date to be determined by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs ‘.
My opinion has been sought on the question of when the former Senator’s place became vacant by reason of the operation of sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution, lt is my view, although naturally the matter is not totally free of doubt, that as from 14 March the former Senator became a person who then held an office of profit under the Crown. I think the better view is that as from the appointment which in my view took place on 14 March, it could be said that notwithstanding the words from the Executive Council minute which I have above referred to, that the former Senator held an office of profit from the moment of his appointment which occurred with his concurrence as Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. It is my view further that he became that Ambassador on 14 March. The office is clearly an office of profit and is clearly held under the Crown.
1 think also that the provisions of section 45 (iii) apply as from that date because the appointment being one involving payment to him for services, the words of section 45 (iii) directly or indirectly agrees to take a fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth apply to his agreement to accept the emoluments which the post of Ambassador confers on him’. 1 do not read the words ‘services rendered’ as meaning either services in the past or services in any narrow sense. I would treat the expression as extending to the discharge by the Ambassador of his duties as such. It is my view, therefore, that as from 14 March but in any event, certainly as from 21 March, the former Senator’s place became vacant within the meaning of section 45 of the Constitution. It will be remembered that section 45(i) refers back to the provision of section 44 including that provision which I have earlier quoted relating to the holding of an office of profit under the Crown and which is to be found in paragraph (iv) of that section. I think that the better view is that a person holds an office of profit notwithstanding that he has not cither commenced his duties or received his salary or that the appointment is expressed to be operative as from a future date. I think the better view in this case is that the office of Ambassador was held by the former senator from the moment His Excellency the Governor-General exercised pursuant to the assignment and section 2 of the Constitution those powers of the Queen relating to the appointment of Ambassadors.
H. Byers Solicitor-General of Australia
The Leader of the Opposition invited me to table the documents. I am informed that they are being copied. As honourable senators would understand, certain concurrence had to be obtained. The documents will be copied, and copies will be circulated to all honourable senators. Despite the suggestions that were made in the Senate, admittedly in a moment perhaps of understandable anger or upset at what happened -
-Chagrin, as Senator James McClelland said- it ought to be clear to honourable senators opposite that the appointment of a member of the Senate to the position Ambassador to Ireland was made during last month. The idiotic suggestions that somehow the appointment and the documents were put together this morning, yesterday or something are fanciful. The minutes of the Executive Council and the approval of the Governor-General show the position and that a lot of foolish and wild things were said today.
If one cared to look carefully into the matter one would probably find previous occasions, although not rarely, when there has been a vacation of office under the relevant sections of the Constitution. In the normal run of things the person has resigned from the Senate, and no one has worried about looking closely at when offers were made, what was done about them and when the post actually became vacant, because it was immaterial. On this occasion, because of some manoeuvres in a northern State, it has become material to look closely at the questions. They have been looked into. The documents which have been requested have been brought into the Senate. Tensions have arisen and certain honourable senators have understandably been upset because of suggestions that the founder of the Australian Democratic Labor Party would be mixed up in something discreditable. In a moment of anger they expelled someone. All this puts a cloud around a situation in which their remarks may be understandable. I have been pleased to have the opportunity to produce the documents which the Leader of the Opposition has requested and which the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have made available.
– Pursuant to the notice which I gave earlier, although it was not given formally, I move:
All honourable senators know the statement to which I refer. I commence by thanking the AttorneyGeneral and Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) for his cooperation in tabling the documents this evening. We know not yet whether those documents are all or only some of the documents. Mr President, the statements which you made tonight is allied to the documents which were tabled by Senator Murphy. For that reason we would not seek to take cognisance of anything he said in his statement because it can be wrapped up in my motion.
Mr President, your statement ought to be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting because of the matters raised by you in that statement, the statements made by Senator Murphy and the documents tabled by him. We would claim that the matters arising both out of your statement and out of the documents tabled by Senator Murphy are to be resolved by the Senate in accordance with section 47 of the Con.sitition. I realise that the substance of the matter is not debatable at this stage. I merely indicate that we on this side of the chamber believe that we have an obligation under section 47 of the Constitution to investigate the whole of this matter. The only vehicle by which we can do so is the motion that your statement be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. By that means, not only will your statement be fully aired and not only will Senator Murphy’s statement and the documents which he tabled be thoroughly examined, but all honourable senators will have the right to put their views on whether section 47 of the Constitution applies or whether some other section of the Constitution applies. The whole question of this extraordinary appointment of Ambassador may be looked into. The Leader of the Government, in what might be termed a slight, referred to a friendly Statenamely, Queensland. Not only will the alleged machinations of that State be investigated, but more importantly the alleged machinations of the Government which is partly responsible to the people in this chamber will be investigated also, and that possibly is the nub of the whole question.
It is difficult to talk to the motion, to stay within its ambit and not to stray. Mr President, I do not intend to invoke your wrath and indignation by departing from the narrow field of the motion. I would hope that the Government would indicate that it welcomes my motion so that this matter may be thoroughly investigated and exposed and be open for public debate. No doubt the whole of the nation or at least that part of the nation which watches ‘This Day Tonight’ heard certain statements tonight by a learned professor of law from the Sydney University, I understand. Whether those statements are correct, they ought to be debated in this chamber.
– Who was that?
-I understand that Professor Lane of the Sydney University said that the proposition being put by Senator Murphy tonight is preposterous. He said some other very interesting things. I invite Government supporters to obtain a transcript of what was said tonight on ‘This Day Tonight’ because it could be very educational and helpful for them in the debate tomorrow. It is apparent from your looks, Mr President, that I must be wary of not trespassing into what is a matter for debate at a later stage. This matter should be aired and the Government ought to welcome its airing. I trust that the Government will support my motion that your statement be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Henderson report entitled ‘Poverty in Australia’, dated March 1974.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I lay on the table for the information of honourable senators the report of the Legal Aid Review Committee dated February 1974.
– I move:
Honourable senators will recall that towards the end of the last parliamentary session I introduced the Family Law Bill 1973. The purpose of that Bill was to repeal the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959-1966 and to replace it with an up-to-date, comprehensive set of provisions dealing not only with divorce but also other areas of family law. That Bill lapsed when the Parliament was prorogued. The Bill that is now before the Senate differs in a number of respects from the Bill I introduced last year. The changes have been made in response to the representations I have received from various persons and bodies. I shall explain the purpose and effect of the principal changes in a few minutes.
I have been criticised because the Human Rights Bill I introduced last year did not repeat certain provisions relating to the family to be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Particularly was I criticised for omitting that part of the Covenant which stated:
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
It was said that I had ignored the family. That was not an honest criticism. The Human Rights Bill contained a specific provision to protect the family against unlawful and arbitrary interference. It explicitly recognised the right to marry and to found a family. No account was taken by those who said I had ignored the family of the provisions in the Family Law Bill for marriage counselling and the services of welfare officers, or the special obligation laid on the courts and on those who will represent parties to proceedings under the Bill to consider the possibility of reconciling the parties. The provision I have quoted from the International Covenant was left out of the Human Rights Bill because it was not thought to give rise to a legal right capable of enforcement in the courts. It is a statement of a basic philosophic position that underlies rights specifically provided for in the Covenant. It is a statement of a basic philosophic position that I accept, and which underlies the provisions of this Bill.
The International Covenant also provides:
States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.
This Bill embodies provisions that I believe to be the ‘appropriate steps’ required by the Covenant. I believe it to be in support of the family that there should be provisions to enable a marriage that has irretrievably broken down to be dissolved and proper provision made for any children of that family, for fair adjustment of property interests, and for equitable maintenance on the basis of need, all in proceedings that are intended to avoid exacerbating relations between the parties. I believe this is the way in which legal effect can best be given to the declarations of principle concerning the family in the International Covenant.
The Bill does not necessarily go so far as I personally would have liked to go in reforming the present family law. But I believe it goes as far as the Parliament and the majority of the people would find acceptable at the present time. I have spoken before of the very great desire that the present law should be changed. It is important that those changes which are possible in practice should be made as soon as possible. I think there are a number of areas for reform that have yet to be explored in the field of family law. For example, I do not think we have yet given nearly enough attention to the rights of children. It was not so long ago that few would have regarded children as having any rights.
I now turn to a brief recapitulation of the basic features of the legislation, features which underly both the Bill introduced last year as well as the present Bill. The existing legal provisions for divorce are costly, often protracted, and involve indignity and humiliation to the parties because of the inquiry into fault that is the present foundation for the dissolution of a marriage. The evidence put before the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs fortified me in the view that the grounds of divorce based on the principle of matrimonial fault should be removed and replaced by a single ground of divorce- breakdown of marriage. I also reached the conclusion that an inquiry into the cause of breakdown was not proper and that it would be sufficient if the person seeking the divorce were to prove that the parties had separated and had lived separately and apart for a period of not less than one year. This, then, is the sole ground of divorce under this Bill.
It has been urged upon me that for some people I am not making divorce easier, but harder. The present quick ground of adultery, on which one third of all divorces in Australia are granted, will no longer be available. It has been said that there should be an additional ground of divorce, a ground of intolerable conduct, which would deal with the drunken, wife-beating husband case, as well as the adultery situation. Such a ground could be that the behaviour of the respondent had become intolerable to the applicant for dissolution, or merely that continued cohabitation with the respondent had become intolerable to the applicant. The problem with such a ground would be that because the conduct would have to be intolerable in the subjective opinion of the applicant, the court could not logically be permitted to inquire into the matter and form its view whether the conduct was intolerable. Such a ground could therefore be criticised as being too slight. If, on the other hand, the ground was framed in such a way as to make it objective, that is, intolerable to the ordinary person, we would be back with a ground involving inquiry into conduct and perhaps fault, and this is what we are aiming to get away from. With some hesitation, I have therefore decided not to include this additional ground.
There is, however, provision in the Bill for a party subjected to what he or she considers to be intolerable conduct to obtain immediate relief by way of injunction. Such an injunction could restrain a bullying husband from molesting his wife, or using insulting, offensive or humiliating language to her or in front of her, or from going into her bedroom, or even from going into the house where she is living, even if the house belongs to him. It is true that proceedings for such injunctions would generally involve an examination of conduct, but this is inescapable in this context.
As honourable senators are aware, the real issues in husband-wife disputes are custody, access, maintenance and the division of property. The criteria for making orders with respect to these matters should therefore be uniform throughout Australia, whether the parties are divorced or merely separated. Except in relation to divorce, these matters are presently dealt with by State and Territory laws. The BUI covers as much of this field as is constitutionally possible, so that custody, maintenance etc. will be uniformly dealt with by federal law, except in relation to illegitimate children.
In custody matters, the court is required by the Bill- as it is by the present Act- to regard the interests of the children as the paramount consideration. This Bill, however, provides a more practical approach than the present Act. It enables the court in any divorce case where there is a child under 1 8, or in any contested proceedings for custody of a child under 18, to order the parents to attend a conference with a welfare officer. The purpose is to enable the parties, with the assistance of the welfare officer, themselves to iron out difficulties affecting the welfare of the child. It is envisaged that greater use will be made of the skills of welfare officers in custody proceedings. It is thus hoped that so much of the bitterness engendered in contested custody proceedings under the present law will be removed.
There has been a great deal of criticism of the lack in the present legislation of guidelines for the court in maintenance and property proceedings, resulting sometimes in what one of the parties regards to be an unfair decision. This Bill lays down an extensive set of guidelines for the court, at the same time giving the court a discretion to act within the limits of those guidelines.
Not only has fault been abolished for divorce but it has also been abolished in relation to applications for maintenance. The criterion in future will be need. Applications for division of matrimonial property will be based on similar principles, but here there has been one concession in relation to conduct- a positive provision that the court shall take into account the contribution made to the acquisition of the matrimonial property by either party, in the capacity of homemaker or parent. 1 am convinced that the majority of persons becoming divorced wish to settle the financial ties between them as soon as practicable- if possible, by payment of a lump sum rather than by continuing periodic payments. Consequently the Bill requires the court, as far as practicable, to make such orders in post-divorce maintenance proceedings as will finally determine the financial relationship between the parties and avoid further proceedings between them. Moreover, such maintenance proceedings will have to be brought within 12 months of the decree nisi being granted. This latter restriction will not, of course, apply to proceedings for the maintenance of children.
As a result of the general reduction of the age of majority to 1 8, a maintenance order for a child should cease on the child attaining that age. However, the Bill has regard to the fact that some persons of 18 are still being educated, including receiving vocational training and under apprenticeship, and it enables an order to extend beyond 1 8 for a child to complete his education. However, such an order may not be made unless the court is satisfied that refusal to make the order would subject the child to substantial hardship.
The Bill provides for the approval by the court of maintenance agreements and for their registration. A maintenance agreement will not be enforceable unless it has been approved by the court. The court is not to approve an agreement unless it is satisfied that the provisions with respect to financial matters are proper. Maintenance agreements and transfers of property between spouses, or to children, pursuant to such agreements or to orders of the court are to be exempt from State and Territory stamp duty.
Honourable senators may recall that my previous Bill abolished the archaic notion of imprisonment for maintenance defaulters, and provided that any person in prison as a maintenance defaulter at the date of commencement of the Act was to be released immediately. This Bill has the same provision.
I shall now mention briefly the alterations of substance that I have made to the Bill previously introduced. I shall deal with them in the order in which they appear in both Bills. The new Bill will bring into operation on the one date, which is to be fixed by proclamation, all the provisions of the Act. The commencement provisions of the previous Bill were drafted on the basis that the validity of certain provisions of the Act- maintenance, custody and property disputes in nondivorce situations- would be tested in the High Court before those provisions were brought into operation. I now think that this caution was not justified and that the better course is to bring all the provisions into operation without delay.
I am conscious that magistrates throughout Australia will need to have ample opportunity to understand the new jurisdiction that will be given to them by this legislation. An explanatory handbook is in the course of preparation and copies will be circulated to all magistrates, as well as judges. I propose that seminars will be held at which magistrates will have the new legislation explained to them.
Marriage guidance organisations and marriage guidance counsellors are in this new Bill referred to as ‘marriage counselling organisations’ and ‘marriage counsellors’, as a more accurate description of the functions of the organisations and counsellors and one which has been sought by them.
Although it is unlikely that there will be any proceedings for restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation or jactitation of marriage pending at the date of commencement of the Act, it was thought better to provide that such proceedings may not be continued. However, pending proceedings for a separation order under State legislation may be continued until completed. No proceedings for any of these orders will be able to be instituted after the commencement of the Act.
The jurisdictional basis for proceedings under the present Act is domicile. Under both this Bill and the Bill I introduced earlier, the basis of jurisdiction is citizenship or residence in Australia for one year immediately preceding the application for dissolution. This new Bill provides for domicile as an additional, alternative basis of jurisdiction. The court will have jurisdiction if either party to the marriage is an Australian citizen or is domiciled in Australia or has been resident in Australia for the one year.
As the concept of domicile has been reintroduced, I have thought it desirable to include in the Bill provisions changing the law of domicile, which the Standing Committee of Australian and State Attorneys-General recently agreed should be introduced on an Australia-wide basis. Perhaps the most important of these changes will be to give married women an independent domicile.
The previous Bill enabled ancillary proceedings for maintenance or property to be instituted after the expiration of 12 months after the decree nisi in cases permitted by the regulations or by leave of the court. Consistent with my belief, mentioned earlier, that parties after divorce wish to settle the financial relations between them as soon as practicable and that it is in their interests that they should do so, the Bill now provides that no application by a party for maintenance or property should be made after the 12-month period. As I have also said before, this will not apply to applications for maintenance of children.
Doubts have been expressed by one or two writers whether clause 26 (2) of the previous Bill restricted proof of breakdown to evidence of one year’s separation. Words have been included in the same sub-clause in this Bill to make it clear beyond any doubt that evidence of separation is the only means by which breakdown can be proved.
Additional provisions have been included to give custody orders more teeth. These provisions will enable a court to issue a warrant which will enable a person entitled to custody to obtain physical possession of a child.
Turning now to maintenance, the matters to be taken into account by a court in dealing with maintenance applications have been extensively redrafted but the only change of substance has been to equate the position of husband and wife in relation to the criterion of the extent to which earning capacity has been affected by the marriage.
I have already mentioned that the court may make an order for the maintenance of a child over 18 to enable him to complete his education, but will be able to do so only where not making such an order would subject the child to substantial hardship.
This restriction has been included in the Bill because it does not seem right that a person should have to support an adult son over whom he has no control. The new Bill also enables a maintenance order to be made in favour of a mentally or physically handicapped child over the age of 1 8 years, but subject to the same restriction I have mentioned.
The clause in the previous Bill dealing with proceedings with respect to property- clause 57- has been split into two distinct sections, partly for constitutional reasons. New clause 57 deals with the power of the court to make declarations of interest in property and supersedes the similar power under State and Territory married women ‘s property legislation.
New clause 58 gives the court power to make orders altering property interests following dissolution of marriage and thus corresponds to section 86 of the present Act. The clause now lays down specific guidelines for the court to follow in determining the order it should make. Amongst other things, the court is to have regard to the same matters, so far as they are relevant, as it is required to consider in relation to maintenance applications. I have already referred to nonfinancial contribution to the acquisition of property by either party in the capacity of homemaker or parent.
The legislative direction to the court that it is to endeavour to put an end to financial relations between parties in maintenance and property proceedings following dissolution of marriage, contained in clause 58 (2) of the previous Bill, has been made a separate clause- clause 60. For those honourable senators who wish to compare this Bill with the previous Bill, I should explain that previous clause 59 has become clause 61, clause 60 has become clause 62, clause 61 has become clause 63, clause 62 has become clause 67, clause 63 has become clause 64, clause 64 has become clause 65 and clause 65 has become clause 66. The remaining clauses of the new Bill are each numbered two higher than the corresponding clauses in the previous Bill. A provision in the previous Bill enabling the court to revive a maintenance order of a party to a marriage after that party had remarried has been omitted.
The provisions in the previous Bill relating to maintenance agreements have been extensively redrafted. A maintenance agreement- which is denned and includes a variation of the maintenance agreement- will not be enforceable unless it has been approved by the court. The mutual cancellation of such an agreement will also have to be approved by the court. Agreements sanctioned by the court under section 87 (1) (k) of the present Matrimonial Causes Act are to remain completely unaffected by the new Act. The previous Bill contained a provision placing restrictions on questions the answer to which might show, or tend to show, that the witness had committed adultery. This has been replaced with a more general provision restricting the asking of offensive or scandalous questions. To make it quite clear that the circumstances in which the court is to make an order for costs against a party are to be a rarity, the expression special circumstances’ in the previous Bill has been altered to ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Finally the Bill makes provision for the establishment of a Family Law Advisory Committee, to consist of persons appointed by the AttorneyGeneral. The Committee is to consist of a Judge of the Family Division of the Superior Court of Australia and of such other judges, magistrates, public servants, representatives of marriage counselling organisations and other persons as the Attorney-General thinks fit. The function of the Committee will be to advise the AttorneyGeneral on the working of the Act and on other matters relating to family law. Members of the Committee will not receive any payment other than allowances in respect of expenses in connection with their duties. These alterations, with some minor amendments and drafting refinements I have not mentioned, have made for a much improved Bill. The suggestions for alteration that have been made to me since the previous Bill was introduced have been most helpful, and I am grateful for them. I assume the
Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs will wish to examine this new Bill.
Like the previous Bill, this Bill is a Government Bill only to the extent of facilitating its being debated and put to a vote. However, as I said when introducing the previous Bill, the Government supports the reform of the law and administration of divorce, custody and other family matters in the light of modern standards and sociology and especially so as to remove oppressive costs, delays, indignities and other injustices. All members of the Australian Labor Party will have a free vote on this Bill. I hope the Opposition parties will follow the same course.
I indicated, I think, earlier that I hoped that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs would look at the Bill. I know that there is a great deal of desire in the public to have this Bill dealt with by the Senate. I propose that the Bill, without technically leaving the control of the Senate, might be considered by the Committee in accordance with its reference, which is to report on the law and administration of divorce, custody and other family matters with particular regard to oppressive costs, delays, indignities and other injustices. I have sent a copy of the draft to the Chairman of the Committee. It may be that at some stage I will put a motion to the Senate asking the Committee to report on the matter. I think this can be done along with the Senate ‘s considering the matter at the second reading stage in order not to have an undue delay before we deal with the matter.
I suggest that the Bill be dealt with in the ordinary course, but at the same time I trust that the Committee will look at the Bill and report on it. If the Committee needed some particular reference from the Senate, other than which it already has, I would certainly be disposed to move accordingly. It might be convenient if that aspect were discussed with other honourable senators who are concerned.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Debate resumed from 2 April (vide page 577), on motion by Senator Murphy:
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 M arch 1 974, and that the Bill be so amended. (Quorum formed)
– I recall that Senator Greenwood, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, indicated that he thought the motion was self evident, one that ought to be accepted, and that the Opposition would not oppose it. I will not, at this late hour of the night, traverse all the things that were said. I was tempted to say some harsh things about what had been done by the Opposition and by others in the past in relation to trade practices. But 1 think the hour is too late for me to go through the long history of what was done by the Opposition when it was in government and its allies to prevent any reasonable laws being brought in against those restrictive practices which have been injuring the community. It is pretty clear to us all that if the Opposition parties can delay the introduction of effective laws against trade practices, whether it be by a day, a week or a month, so much more money will be made by those who support those parties. There are people in this community who have a vested interest in preventing any effective law against restrictive trade practices.
It is accepted an all hands that restrictive practices are one of the major influences in inflation, that they are injurious to the community and that in effect they are rackets perpetrated against the consumers and the rest of the community. It is some 12 years since this was exposed by the then Attorney-General and by royal commissions, yet we still have the attempts by those opposite to prevent any kind of effective legislation. I heard one of the Opposition’s former members, a very distinguished person in this community, say that he believed that no matter how sensible, how reasonable and how good your legislation is it will not get through this Parliament. He had not realised until he met it- and he was sure that I did not realise- how powerful were the lobbies which were present to prevent the laws against restrictive practices. Those lobbies, those powerful interests, are the ones which support the members opposite. They have held up this legislation since last August. I would not be surprised if they made another attempt to hold up this legislation. Any kind of excuse at all would be enough for them to say: ‘Look, let us put it off for another month or even longer’. One complaint they had was that since last November in order to get away with any possible basis of complaint, my Department, my officers and, on occasions, I myself listened to everything that could be said and that wherever we could meet something, even an almost absurd objection, we tried to meet it and give way.
The principles of the Bill are still there; but the Opposition points to the fact that there are 109 amendments, most of them simply drafting amendments to meet the changes that were made. In many cases they amount to a slight amelioration of the Bill. But I would not be surprised if the Opposition came up with any kind of excuse or wanted once again to defer the Bill. If it can put some more money into the pockets of those who practise the restrictive rackets it will do so. Let us be quite blunt: The interests of the consumer are at stake here. The interests opposed to the consumer are the interests which want, if possible, to defeat- but certainly to delay- the introduction of these laws. Every day that they can delay means profit to them. The manoeuvres that have gone on over 12 years, I think, ought to sicken anyone in this community. I know to their credit that a number of members of the Liberal Party and others are sickened by what has gone on. It is a terrible thing to think that even they who want to see some decent laws are unable to stand up against the pressures which are put against their parties in order to defeat or delay this kind of beneficial legislation.
However, we seem to be making tiny progress. The Senate may have the opportunity yet to discuss the Government’s proposals which are intended to benefit the people. We will see whether the Opposition here will prevent still further the endeavour to bring in reasonable legislation, legislation so reasonable that it has been praised even by those who came from over the seas- even from America- as sensible, reasonable legislation. Yet the Opposition for some reason has a desire to put the interests of the monopolies and those who are using these restrictive practices against the interests of the ordinary public and the consumers.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 37 1 ), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster) The Senate has amended the Trade Practices Bill 1973 (No. 2) 1974 in accordance with the memorandum circulated by the AttorneyGeneral on 19 March 1974. I think that I correctly interpret the intention of the Senate and the effect of the resolution to be that the debate on the second reading which will now proceed and the subsequent consideration of the Bill in
Committee of the Whole shall be on the basis of the Bill as set out in the Attorney-General’s memorandum. Is that the wish of the Senate? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– The motion for the adjournment of the debate is not arguable at the present moment. All we can do is oppose it.
– I rise on a point of order, namely, that if a motion ‘that the debate be now adjourned’ is moved, it should be put without debate. I would have welcomed the explanation, if the Standing Orders would have permitted it to me, to explain why I moved the motion. I adhere to the Standing Orders- I try to- and I simply moved the motion. I think it is only fair that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) should abide by the rules also. If the debate is adjourned, then on the motion for the resumption of the debate things can be said which have to be said-
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
What is happening in this chamber is that the Opposition is putting in question not only the right of the Government to have legislation passed through the Parliament but also the right of the Government even to have its legislation considered by the Parliament. The course of conduct of the Opposition puts in question not only the Government but also the system of government in this country. Over the past year the Government has been frustrated again and again in having passed through this Parliament the measures which it promised the people it would enact if voted into government. The election was a fair one and Labor won it for the first time in 23 years. Labor had a program and it stated that program specifically. The program was opposed by the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party, and they were defeated at the election. One of the specific things that was stated and explained again and again in the most definite terms right throughout the country was the nature of the trade practices legislation. The nature of the legislation was explained by me again and again. Articles were written on it. The Bill which has been introduced faithfully encompasses the principles that we said would be put in the legislation.
What has been the history of this legislation? The Trade Practices Bill was introduced on 27 September 1973, and on 24 October 1973 consideration of the Bill was postponed until the first sitting week in 1974. The Opposition parties, which had been defeated at the election, refused to allow the Government even to have this legislation considered or voted upon. It did not allow even the principle of the Bill to be considered, let alone the clause of the Bill. An identical Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 25 October 1973. On 7 November 1973 that Bill passed the House of Representatives. On 15
November 1973 it was introduced into the Senate. Without considering the Bill even in principle the Senate, on 6 December, refused to debate the motion for the second reading and deferred that Bill until the first sitting day of 1974. That was the end of that Bill. The same Bill was again passed by the House of Representatives, and when it was reintroduced here on 14 March I indicated what had been done in relation to it. I said that we had listened exhaustively to those in commerce and industry and that I understood from my officers that 90 per cent of the objections raised by industry and commerce were met in what had been done to the Bill. Those objections concerned mostly minor matters which were dealt with in the drafting. The amendments were circulated. The Senate knows that in commerce and in industry are powerful interests concerned with these restrictive practices. They have their lawyers who have been studying this legislation. Why, when the original Bill was introduced one prominent lawyer was able the next day to come out with an intensive analysis of the Bill. The laughable thing is that one hears these arguments from the splinter party it is not able to consider the legislation, that it is not able to do this, that it is not able to do that. I suppose if a Bill concerning the wool industry were introduced honourable senators opposite would complain that it was not able to consider it until its members had completed a course in shearing.
The Trade Practices Bill affects the public intimately. It is a technical Bill; of course it is. Technical experts are on tap, and they have been on tap all the time. They can tender advice, and advice has been given. But let us not beat about the bush. These powerful interests, these great lobbies, these special interests are making millions of dollars out of restrictive practices. They are in a position of unparalleled economic power in this community, and that economic power carries with it political power which extends right into these chambers. Everyone knows that. Sitting opposite are members of parties which are just puppets. These powerful interests can ring up Mr Snedden, Mr Lynch, or those sitting opposite and tell them what they have to do. The message has gone out: ‘Stop this legislation being introduced. If you cannot stop it being passed, delay it; delay it for as long as you can’. We go through this charade and we listen to this petty nonsense about having to look through 109 amendments. Any lawyer worth his salt would be able to go through them without any trouble at all. And lawyers have gone through them. We have had the experts who know about these matters run through the amendments in a matter of hours, and they know what the amendments signify. But honourable senators opposite made the pretence that each one of them, apparently has to do a course in law and accounting and this and that before they can even deal with a Bill which is dedicated to getting rid of these restrictive practices. It is a contemptible action on the part of the Opposition, probably one of the worst of all. Whatever excuse the Opposition might have had for rejecting other measures, it has set out on a course not merely of hurting the Government but also of determining to allow the public interest to suffer.
Despite the pretensions of the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party of looking after the public, this is a measure that they have had before them in substance- this same Billsince September last year. I made the offer to them, as well as to other Opposition senators, to have the experts come from the Department. They could sit with them when anyone was putting the propositions to them. The experts could explain what the Bill means. They could do this on a completely confidential basis with them. I did not want to know what was said or what happened. They could have had all the expert advice they wanted. This applies to other honourable senators also. But they are not interested in getting advice or assistance on a Bill which, above all, affects the public welfare. All they are seeking to do is to find one excuse or the other for saying: ‘Do not let us deal with it; it is too complicated. We are only a little party and we cannot follow all of these things’.
How much longer will they delay the passage of a Bill designed to protect the consumers and to outlaw restrictive practices? Do they want to stand over the Bill until next August. Is that their idea? And then, next August, would they say that it is hasty to deal with the Bill then and that they ought to stand it over until the next year? This has gone on for 12 years. The Commissioner for Trade Practices states in report after report that the present legislation is unworkable and that it is designed and calculated not to work. So the restrictive practices go on. I suppose that it is useless to appeal to decency and to appeal to the public interest. They will go on and find one excuse after another and talk about amendments. I challenge honourable senators opposite to say that any lawyer who has any reasonable expertise in this subject matter could not look through this Bill and advise on the amendments and the effect of them within a few hours, let alone days. All of the amendments have been before honourable senators opposite now since at least 14 March. Here it is 3 April and they say that it is too soon. I regret to see this happening to a measure which affects the public interest.
If this Bill is not even to be debated and put to a vote, let them say so. Let them say that they do not want to put up their hands on it and that they wish to keep on deferring the measure which is manifestly in the interests of the public. Indeed, the Bill has been well received and it is very difficult any longer to find any serious complaints against the Bill in industry or commerce. It is no longer said to be a bad Bill. But it is a Bill that is not to be debated in the Parliament. The pressure comes, although they cannot really complain about the Bill. It is a sensible and wise Bill, but the Opposition says: ‘Do not let us even debate it; let it be put off’. This is the intent in this motion.
Let me ask the Senate this question: How long does the Opposition want to defer the debate on this Bill? How much longer does it want to stop the passage of a Bill which deals with restrictive practices and consumer protection? Does it want another week before it will consider it, or is its intent really not to consider it at all in this session? If the Opposition wants another week, I will cheerfully agree to this. If it wants assistance, I will offer the assistance of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I will offer assistance if the Opposition wants some lawyers to advise it. There is legal assistance that can be made available. I will offer to have honourable senators opposite advised by the most eminent Queen’s Counsel. They can come and assist you. If the Opposition wants a week’s delay in order to do that so that this Bill can be dealt with during this period of sittings, I offer that to it. But if the Opposition ‘s intent is really simply to dissimulate and not have the Bill passed in this period of sittings, why not be honest and say so and say: ‘We are really prepared to bow to the pressures from outside and not have the Bill dealt with’.
I have moved that consideration of the Bill be stood over until the next day of sitting. If the Opposition wants some reasonable time in which the Bill could be dealt with and disposed of before the Parliament rises, I will agree to such a request, although I recognise that every day’s delay means the continuance of these rackets. But let us not beat about the bush. I ask Opposition members to tell me whether they want some further time to consider the Bill. Do they want some assistance? If that is what they want, I will concede it. But if they are really trying to delay the Bill perpetually, why do they not stand up and let the public know what they are really up to?
– If Senator Murphy had earlier used some of the conciliatory language which he employed in the last few sentences of his speech I think that we might have listened with more sympathy to what he had to say. I commence my remarks by saying that I object to being lectured on morality and ethics by the Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) who claimed, with honest pride, a major part in what has been done in the last few days in the appointment of an ambassador to Ireland. Like Senator Murphy, I believe in public decency. But I would expect that a person who wants a appeal to the public decency of others would try to set an example himself. The trouble with the legislation of this Government is that it is legislation in haste.
Whatever Senator Murphy says about this Bill, all last year we had, to use the classical expression, Ossa piled on Pelion. We had Bill after Bill brought into the Senate from another place. Where it is the normal practice of the Government to betray every decent democratic principle by not only guillotining Bills of no importance or little importance but also guillotining Bills which in many cases are of the utmost importance. Bills of a revolutionary character are treated in a way that allows only a few of the clauses to be dealt with in the very brief time that is allocated for discussion. Then the axe falls. These bills of tremendous importance are forced through the other place with perhaps three quarters of the clauses not even being considered. What are we to say of a Government which uses its numbers in another place in that way and which continually complains of the manner in which legislation is treated in the Senate? What does the AttorneyGeneral think of the way in which legislation is treated in the other place? It is churned through the mill by the continuous use of the guillotine. It is churned through the other place by a Leader of the House who regards it as a joke to rise in the House and say: ‘I am introducing this Bill now. In 4 hours it will be passed through the Parliament, whether or not the Parliament has had a look at most of the clauses’.
I make no apology for the fact that, because I have a sense of responsibility and because I belong to a small and overworked Party we have to take our time in our consideration of these matters. Are we to churn the Bills through the other place in a couple of hours and then churn them through the Senate in a similar manner? What about this original Bill that Senator Murphy has introduced? He brings it before the
Senate now and says that he has 109 amendments. He found 109 things that are no good. He set to work to remedy the mistakes. Then he introduces the amendments and says that any lawyer could run through these in 3 or 4 hours. I am not going to run through them in 3 or 4 hours. I am not a lawyer. I want to get advice and I am going to take my time over it. We hear charges that the Senate is holding up legislation. Does not the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) glory every time he gets on a public platform? My word, he does glory. I have never known a better glorier than he. Every time he is on the platform he says that the Senate is blocking his legislation, and obstructing his efforts to bring paradise into Australia in 5 minutes. Then he says that one of the glories of his Ministry is that it has passed a record number of Bills in the history of the Australian Parliament. In other words, when it suits him he says that we are blocking the legislation and when it suits him differently he says that we are putting through a record number of Bills.
I invite honourable senators to look at the figures. We control this House. We do not have to work hard here but we have worked harder, although we can determine how long the Senate sits, than any other Senate since 1919. This is the record of the Senate that is accused of holding up the Government, of blocking it and doing all sorts of things to it, but we have sat longer than any other Senate since 1919. We have increased the sitting hours. We have sat longer than any Senate since 1919 and all we get for it is abuse. Members of the Labor Party are running around the country saying: ‘We cannot get our legislation through. These people are absolutely holding up Paradise. ‘ And what is the situation? We are working harder than any Senate has worked for nearly 60 years and have passed a record number of Bills in the history of Australia.
I regard all this criticism as so much nonsense. As we were crossing the floor for a division tonight Senator Murphy said to me: ‘You promised that you would deal with it tonight’. I said: ‘When did I make that promise?’ He said: Last year.’ He came to me and wanted me to rush some of this legislation through and I said no. I said that I thought it ought to be looked at. I said: ‘We will have a look at it next year. We will agree to have a look at it next year.’ Senator Murphy did not come to me in the last couple of days about this legislation. I admit that he has been very busy fixing up diplomatic appointments. Naturally he is busy with those appointments. I knocked mine back, but in the course of fixing up other diplomatic appointments he has been very busy. Senator Murphy did not have the courtesy to come to me and say: ‘Look, I want to bring this Bill on now. ‘
– He does not trust you.
- Senator Milliner says that he does not trust me. I would not expect him to trust me. As far as Senator Murphy is concerned, he would do a lot better if he did not ignore people. He would do a lot better if he would let us know in good time which legislation is coming on. I know that some of his own supporters are in a fog half the time, wondering what he is going to bring on next or do next. He dances from one item to another like a butterfly going from flower to flower. Instead of having an orderly procession of legislation through this place all we get is something jammed in here and something jammed in there. He hops around like an Irish leprechaun from mushroom to mushroom. I say to Senator Murphy that I believe there is everything to be said for careful consideration of legislation. I believe that the Government’s troubles arise from the fact that it is giving the Parliament legislative indigestion. We are jammed with Bills and every day they flow in like that. How can any party, particularly a small party, cope with this kind of procedure? I tell Senator Murphy and his colleagues that if there was a little more co-operation, a little less abuse and a little less imagining that because the Government can use standover tactics in the other place it can use them here we would all get on very much better.
– Who is doing the standing over?
– I do not know who is doing the standing over. My definition of standover tactics would be when one party endeavours to arrange the membership of another party. That would be one kind of standover tactic. Another kind of standover tactic that I think ought to be looked at is that which says that a man is not a member of the Senate and then admits that for 3 weeks he has been sitting in the Senate, has voted in 9 divisions, has had all his expenses paid by the Parliament- by this Government- and then there is the claim by the Government that he has not been a member of the Parliament for the whole period. What is he doing in here under the eyes of the Leader of the Government in the Senate who knows he is not a member and then takes no action?
-Order! I think you had better get back to the subject matter.
-I will get back to it. We will get things done in an orderly way if there is no connivance by the Government in gross breaches of privilege and everybody will be happier.
– As my name was mentioned by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) I would like to give an explanation of why I just voted against the Government. From memory, this Bill was brought forward yesterday. Apparently the 109 amendments proposed were not set out in an order that could be readily understood and it was suggested that the debate be postponed. Now the amendments have been brought forward again today. I received from a member of the Opposition the information that the 109 amendments were set out in dark black type, but I cannot find them in dark black type. I was absent from the Senate attending the United Nations in New York when the Trade Practices Bill was brought in last year. I understand that this is the same legislation that the previous Attorney-General was trying to get around to doing something about. It was unfortunate that he did not get around to doing anything about it, perhaps because he was awfully busy on other matters. I seem to recall that when we discussed this legislation previously it came out that no matter what we did to it something would still be wrong with it.
I think that applies to a lot of the Bills that are passed in this Parliament. Someone can always pick faults in legislation we pass. I feel that the present Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) has done his best to amend the Trade Practices Act. At least he has tried to do something and we should endeavour to help him to put the amendments through. I venture to say that very few senators could understand whether the Trade Practices Act is any good without the proposed amendments. I understood from the previous Attorney-General that it was no good and that we could pick holes in it everywhere. Obviously we could pick holes in the amendments, but how many of us would know whether the amendments are right, wrong or indifferent? Let us give the Attorney-General a go. Let us give him a chance of having debated what we think is wrong with the amendments and let us try in the very near future to have the Bill put through.
– I am grateful that the Opposition has an opportunity to indicate its attitude to this matter because the Opposition recognises the difficulties expressed by Senator McManus and Senator Negus. We feel that all legislation coming into this chamber must be considered on its merits. We have taken the view- I think I speak here for all the Opposition parties- that legislation coming into this chamber is not to be rubber stamped. Legislation which is approved by the Senate will be given an expeditious passage and that has been the case, but legislation which the Senate feels has to be examined and scrutinised will be scrutinised. It is all very well for Government senators to claim that legislation ought to go through simply because the Government has introduced it. That is not the function of a deliberative chamber. We have shown that over the years. Since we have been in opposition we have shown that in respect of any measure to which we are opposed we will state the reasons for our opposition. We invite the Government to take the issue to the people and to have either a House of Representatives election or a double dissolution, because in that way the people will decide. No democrat- I know that there is a vaunted claim by members of the Government that they are virtually the only democrats in Australiashould challenge any course of action which enables the people themselves to decide what are the merits of legislation.
We are here considering trade practices legislation. Trade practices legislation is probably the most complex legislation which this Parliament ever has to consider. When the trade practices legislation was first introduced in 1965, months were taken up in the course of the second reading debate and in the course of consideration of the Bill at the Committee stage. It must be complex because if mistakes are made in this area the consequences to the consumer can be enormous. We ought to know what the consequences of small mistakes can be to consumers when we are dealing with the economy because those small mistakes which the Labor Government made in the initial days when it was ruling have caused enormous calamities for hosts of people in the intervening months. So we ought to take care and we ought to be cautious.
Tonight we heard the usual harangue from the Attorney-General. It is the harangue which is a mixture of the old shibboleths which he has been used to expounding the Labor Party caucuses and conferences for in the last 20 years. It is a mixture of misrepresentation and exaggeration and a mixture of facts which, if he were asked to verify them, he would not be able to sustain. But they are all part of the good old arguments or attacks which he can throw in against his opponents. But that is not the meat upon which this chamber really develops and makes its legislation. We believe that we ought to have the opportunity to consider this new Bill. Let us recognise that it is a new Bill because the Bill which was introduced last year, upon which the Opposition parties did a tremendous amount of work and in respect of which we would now be prepared to debate the issue if it was the Bill before us, is not the Bill which we are currently being asked to debate.
I know that that Bill of last year has been the subject of consideration by many interested groups in the community which have sent their representations to the Attorney-General and to the Opposition parties. Now in 1974 we are faced with a different situation. A fortnight ago we were given the original Bill, and that was fair enough. But then we were given a document which contained 109 amendments to a Bill containing 169 clauses. We were not even given the facility of having shown to us in the Bill which incorporated these amendments what were and what were not the amendments, and that is a most unreasonable way for a government to expect this legislation to be treated. What we have before us tonight, by agreement or by the concurrence of the Opposition, is a Bill which contains all these amendments.
What we ask for is time in which we can consider those amendments as they are incorporated in the new Bill. Therefore I move:
It means that we will return after the Easter recess and will have one week of sitting and then we would be prepared to debate this Bill. I am quite sure that it will be a lengthy debate, as it should be. It ought to be a debate in which we give consideration to all the issues which are raised because this is not a new version of a 1965 piece of legislation; it is a completely new Bill with a completely new approach. It provides for penalties of $250,000 and it contains new prohibitions the meaning of which no one, no matter how earnestly he might try to study the language, is really clear about. When it is stated that a person or a corporation which is substantially in control of a market shall not engage in conduct which might adversely affect a competitor, does that mean that that person or corporation cannot lower prices because it might put the competitor out of business? On the face of it, that is what it means. I believe that that sort of legislation has to be looked at far more closely and with a far greater attention than the Attorney-General is prepared to concede.
Mr President, when Senator Murphy was speaking you heard him castigate the Opposition as not being interested in this legislation and say that the sort of legislation which we introduced 8 years ago was a facade and a fraud. This is the claptrap which comes from a Labor Party which seeks to make cheap political tricks before an undiscerning audience. I shall read the first 2 paragraphs of the last report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices which was presented late last year during the term of the present Government. The Commissioner said:
For two years, more effective trade practices legislation has been a stated objective of both sides of the Parliament. It appears to be common ground now that the Parliament should decide and lay down more positively and comprehensively than before what the policy of trade practices legislation is to be.
I interpolate that that is a statement with which the Opposition concurs. When we were in government we showed that we were in earnest by the statement of intention which we gave in early 1972 and by the 2 Bills which we introduced in the later part of that year and which this Government has put into discard and is not even prepared to consider. The Commissioner continued:
The current legislation, which is clearly coming towards the end of its time, has nevertheless served a valuable role. Among other things, it provided an entry into a field substantially untouched for many years, it brought the problems to public and business attention, and it became a means of moving towards principle and demonstrating the need for further legislation. It was also an important vehicle for the development of constitutional law in this field and beyond it.
One of the tragedies of the current Bill is that it does not proceed along the lines which this earlier legislation had pointed to. The principles and the guidelines which the earlier legislation established have just been ignored, and the ideological commitments of the Labor Party are finding expression in Senator Murphy’s Bill. We have to make decisions as to what will interest and benefit the community and what will be in the public interest in this whole field. We believe that we have to have time to consider the Bill.
I said last night- I am sorry that the AttorneyGeneral did not respond to it today- that the present Government has put the cause of effective trade practices legislation back 2 years. We as an Opposition were committed to the Bills which we introduced prior to the election in 1972 and which we would have passed, as we said we would have done, if we had won that election. The Government could have introduced those Bills. We were committed to them and they would have gone through in pretty quick time. In the intervening period, while the Government was working out for itself what it wanted as good legislation, at least there would have been strengthened legislation operating at the present time. But no, the Government was not prepared to do that. It bears out so much of what Senator
McManus said, that the public and the community is not being served by the haste with which this Government is introducing legislation and expecting it to be passed. The community is not being served by legislation which is motivated by ideological and political commitments, rather than by scrutinisation and examination of what the community really needs. Until this Government recognises that the role of government is to meet the community needs and not to serve the political ideological interests of a group, it will never make any real impact on the people in this community. Nowhere is this more demonstrated, in my judgment, than in this legislation.
The Attorney-General said that he would offer us experts. Until he made that offer tonight I was unaware that any such offer had been made to the Opposition. He suggested that great combines and companies can just get on the telephone to leaders in the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Democratic Labor Party and say: Stop this Bill, or if you cannot stop it, delay it’. That is nonsense. It might have had some impact upon an uneducated community 50 or 60 years ago; but that sort of thing does not happen, and it is no credit to the Attorney-General’s intelligence or his perception of what people will appreciate that he should put forward that sort of nonsense.
I believe that it is only right that we in the Opposition, notwithstanding all the accusations and all the criticisms that are flung at us and all the misrepresentation to which we are subjected, should maintain our ground and say: ‘We will not be stampeded into pushing through legislation just because the Government wants that legislation through, even though, if the legislation does not go through, the Opposition will be regarded as frustrating and obstructing the Government’. I acknowledge that in 1973 ten Bills were rejected outright by the Senate, but 223 Bills were passed by it. Mr Whitlam cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that last year was a record year of achievement and in the same breath complain about the Senate’s frustration and obstruction. It just does not gel. The Senate, with the Opposition in the position in which it is at the moment, is exercising its powers responsibly, and it represents a safeguard and a bulwark for people who are apprehensive about the excesses to which they think this Government can commit the nation.
I have moved the amendment because we believe that it is completely unreasonable to expect that this new Bill, which has been thrown before us with 109 amendments to be considered virtually on the day on which they have been presented, should be considered now. We ask that we be given the time to consider the Bill.
– I enter the debate in the few minutes which remain to remind Senator Greenwood that he is in Opposition and that in Opposition he has certain facilities available to him as a senator and as a member of a party which has access to departmental officials and experts from whom he can seek advice concerning new legislation. That was the practice which we adopted when we were in Opposition. If Bills were coming through, we had the privilege of being able to ask for the service. We received the service. In that way we were able to scrutinise legislation such as this, and we were prepared for the debate. It is obvious that Senator Greenwood and his colleagues have not been prepared to do the work necessary to facilitate the passage of legislation through this place. His stand is hypocritical. His stand, the stand of his colleagues and the stand of his Party and the parties associated with it have been to obstruct all legislation. The obstruction of legislation has been considerable, although in number the Bills which have been stood over may be few.
– What do you suggest would be the solution to that problem- a double dissolution?
-The solution to the problem is for the Opposition to accept responsibility so that sound and reasonable legislation is debated. Having been debated, it should not be frustrated. Thirteen Bills have been rejected by this place. They are the 13 most important Bills that the Government brought into this place. The Trade Practices Bill is one of the major and most necessary Bills introduced by the Government. When we sought to put to the people the referendum on prices, we expected that the people would be given some reasonable case upon which they could judge the merits of some prices or incomes control. What happened in practice? The Opposition parties carried out a campaign of fear and confusion, to the extent that a ‘no’ vote was registered. That fact makes this legislation even more important.
– Was not that a mandate from the people? Is it only when the Government wins that it is a mandate?
-Your Party in particular has often been responsible for tactics which did not permit a case to be properly put before the people. If the honourable senator recalls the case on the nexus, there was so much, shall I say, distortion -
– You got thrashed then.
– Yes, because of the tactics used by your Party and by your ex-Leader who has recently departed from this place. He sat with you for 15 days, but apparently he was not entitled to sit there for 15 days. He must have been aware of it, even if the rest of you were not aware of it. Let me remind the honourable senator of the tactics that his Party used when cases were put before the people by way of referendum. His Party distorted, misled, obscured and panicked. That is not the way in which important issues should be placed before the people.
I return to the subject matter. The failure of the prices referendum and the incomes referendum makes the Trade Practices Bill the most important Bill if we are to combat inflation and the misuse of the economy which occurs each day. Yet honourable senators opposite say, and say falsely, that they need a better look at the legislation, they need more time and they need an extension of time for consideration. Yet the real motive is the obstruction of legislation which would be to the disadvantage of those concerns and those vested interests which support them. It is beyond me how Senator Greenwood can say that there is no contact between the mighty concerns which will suffer if this legislation is passed and his Party, because there is a growing lobby and a growing practice of lobbying in this place. He is as aware of it as I am. His Party is more subject to it than we are.
It would be possible to proceed with the debate, and in the Committee stage to scrutinise each amendment and make a decision. But on this occasion the Opposition is not prepared to proceed with the debate. It is using the old conservative instrument of delay by moving an amendment which seeks the adjournment of the debate.
– Would you favour a double dissolution of the Parliament to solve this problem?
– At this stage I am not in favour of a double dissolution because, in some ways, I hate change. As I am sitting comfortably in second place on the ticket, I am in a better position than the honourable senator is. Let me make this point: Although I may not be in favour of a double dissolution, I think the Senate should act responsibly and should allow the Government to govern. The Senate should pass that legislation which is important to the nation and to the economy of the nation. If the Opposition persists, as it is persisting, in rejecting legislation of this sort, it will force that thing which it seems to think will be to its disadvantage. If it goes to the people with a record of frustration of the Government, frustration of the Government’s desire to govern and frustration of the Government’s ability to carry out its policy, it is in for a shock. Those honourable senators who persist in continuing with the delay, with the confusion and with the referral of legislation are the ones who will bring about the thing which they would fear if they looked closely at the likely result. I strongly oppose the amendment, and I ask the Senate as a whole to oppose the amendment which has been moved by Senator Greenwood and which is not so much an honest intention to scrutinise the legislation properly but a delaying action because the Opposition does not wish to see the legislation passed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson)- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Tourism and Recreation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Fruit-growing Reconstruction Tree-Pull Scheme (Question No. 74)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Some research has already been carried out, particularly by CSIRO, but more work is needed to assess the effects of each specific mining operation.
River Murray Salinity
– On 12 March 1974, Senator Laucke asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation the following question, without notice:
I refer to the increasing threat of salinity to the viability of the River Murray irrigation areas which is due largely to the rising level of ground waters beneath the irrigation areas and the resultant increase in sub-surface inflows back into the River. Can the Minister indicate what control measures are being applied to ensure the continued productivity of these areas, especially in South Australia which is at the receiving end of an increasingly heavy accumulation of salt content particularly from irrigation areas up river?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In my reply of 12 March I indicated that I had answered an identical question on some earlier occasion, and undertook to locate the answer and make it available.
I have checked Hansard and found that I did reply to a question on River Murray salinity on 7 March 1973, and a copy of my reply is attached for your information. However, I have been informed by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation that there have been some additional developments since that time and you may find the following information helpful.
On 12 December 1973 I tabled in the Senate the Interim Report of the River Murray Working Party. This report was prepared in fulfilment of the first term of Reference of the Working Party. The report makes a number of recommendations concerning some minor salt mitigation works, which will go some way towards solving the salinity problem. However, there is still much to be done, and the Working Party is now addressing itself to item 2 of its terms of reference which is to recommend types of measures which need to be taken to protect, and where necessary improve the quality of the River Murray waters in respect of long term salinity control. lt is in this area that we are hopeful that the most significant solutions to the salinity problem will come forward.
I am fully aware that since the report of the River Murray Commission Salinity Consultants there has been considerable agitation from River Murray users for a concerted attack on the salinity problem. Nevertheless an analysis of the solutions proposed by the Consultants together with other possibilities which may arise as studies proceed requires a great deal of work and time in order to arrive at solutions which are satisfactory in terms of economic, environmental and social values.
The Working Party has recently established a committee to examine the effects of irrigation practices and steps that might bc taken to reduce the incidence of unsatisfactory practices, and another committee to examine the effects of the present management of the River Murray on the flora and fauna associated with it. I believe that these studies, together with existing programs on salinity and water quality generally, should point the way to achieving a significant improvement in the situation in the not too distant future.
I would stress however, that the whole study program, and the solutions arising from it, will require the full co-operation of the four Governments involved, and I consider it is most important that we all use our best endeavours to ensure that this co-operation is achieved.
RIVER MURRAY WATERS
Senator McLAREN- My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. Has the Government received new approaches from the South Australian Labor Government since the election in December last requesting that urgent action be taken to improve the quality of River Murray water, particularly of that part of the Murray which flows through South Australia? If so, what action has the Government taken on the matter?
– There have been representations from the South Australian Premier on the question of the flow and the quality of the water of the Murray. As a result, a conference has been held between the Victorian, New South Wales, South Australian and Commonwealth governmentsthose governments which constitute the River Murray Commission. That conference was attended by Dr Cass, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Conservation, the Honourable G. F. Freudenstein, M.L.A., Minister for Conservation in New South Wales, the Honourable Robert Dunstan, M.L.A., Minister for Water Supply in Victoria, and the Honourable J. D. Corcoran, M H A., the Minister of Works in South Australia. As a result of that conference the Prime Minister made a Press statement on 2 March, in which he pointed out that the River Murray Waters Agreement was entered into in 1914 when the States were concerned mostly with the water for navigation and with the quantity of the water, that the Agreement does not serve the purposes of 1973 and that there has to be a reconsideration of the Agreement. 1 have further information relating to a question which was asked last week concerning the possible increased pollution with the establishment of the new areas at AlburyWodonga and at Monarto in South Australia. The meeting decided to establish a working committee of senior officials of the Australian and State governments with terms of reference to bring down an urgent report on interim measures to deal with the salinity problems of the River Murray and how they might be financed and operated as a short term project; and further to go on with a long term project to control salinity and other forms of water polluton; and to examine and recommend changes which would be required in the River Murray Waters Agreement to enable the River Murray Commission to undertake measures to meet present day requirements. The membership of the committee comprises representatives of the Austraiian Government and the State governments -
The PRESIDENT-Order! I do not like interrupting Ministers, but this is getting very close to debating the question, Senator. For a question without notice, it is a very good answer.
– The answer was supplied, as I said, us further information on a question which was asked about the Albury-Wodonga area last week. I will conclude the answer by saying that representations have been made and the committee has been formed. An interim committee will make a short term report to the governments which constitute the River Murray Commission. There are proposals to keep control of and to purify more the waters that come under the River Murray Water Agreement.
Oil and Gas
-On 19 March 1974, Senator Mulvihill asked about the prospect of producing gas supplies for Sydney from coal in order to reduce dependence on certain types of oil.
On completion of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline next year Sydney will be supplied with natural gas from the Cooper Basin fields in South Australia thereby reducing the city’s dependence on both coal and oil.
– On 20 March 1974, Senator Marriott asked the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, the following question without notice:
The Minister for Tourism and Recreation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The conditions for distribution and use of this flag are as follows:
bona fide official Australian teams touting overseas.
It is not envisaged, at this stage, that affiliated State associations and local clubs would receive flags.
Australian Council tor the Arts (Question No. 1)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 April 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740403_senate_28_s59/>.