29th Parliament · 1st Session
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present a petition from 348 citizens of Australia praying that the Government urgently act to grant pensioners a $5 cash loading -
– Surprise, surprise!
– Not often has a petition been met before it has been presented. I present the following petition from 348 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That inflation which now besets so many countries today and in Australia is now at the rate of 1 4.4 per cent per annum is most seriously affecting and making life intolerable for those least able to take corrective action to maintain their position, namely, pensioners and those now retired living on fixed incomes.
Whilst the Australian Government is giving effect to its election policy of making $1.50 per week pension increases each Autumn and Spring such actions have been completely nullified by the stated rate of inflation.
This fact of life impels your petitioners to call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make a cash loading of $5 per week to those pensioners who have little means other than the present inadequate pension eroded by inflation.
That each Autumn and Spring the increase in social security pension payments be not less than $3 per week to ensure that within a reasonable period the Government’s policy pledge to affix all pensions at 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings be achieved.
In order that money may go to areas of greater need the Tapered Means Test ceilings of income and assets be frozen.
To allay the concern of social security recipients as to their future when in 1975 the means test has been abolished and replaced by a National Superannuation Act that there be an assurance by the Australian Government that the said Act will provide a guaranteed minimum income to social security recipients based on the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation and that of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, namely, the payment of 30 per cent of average weekly earnings adjusted from time to time in accordance with figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
A petition in identical terms from 148 citizens of Australia was presented by Senator Brown.
-I present the following petition from 23 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
That the present systems of financing of hospital and medical care in Australia are outdated, complex, unwieldy, and provide inadequate or no security against health care expenditure for a substantial proportion of the people of Australia;
That the costs associated with the present schemes fall disproportionately on people having low and middle incomes;
That there is an urgent need for a new national health insurance scheme, to which each person receiving an income should contribute an amount which is equitably calculated on the basis of that income, and which provides adequate security to each person against the costs of care for every kind of illness and injury.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament will speedily pass appropriate legislation to bring the benefits of an equitably financed, universal, and comprehensive health insurance scheme to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Petitions in identical terms were presented by Senator Button, Senator Primmer and Senator Melzer from 24, 28 and 23 citizens of the Commonwealth respectively.
– I present the following petition from 26 citizens of Australia.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners humbly pray that Part II, 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.
A petition in identical terms from 3 1 citizens of Australia was presented by Senator Murphy.
Notice of Motion
-! give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Tuesday- 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.:
Wednesday- 12 noon to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.;
Thursday- 10.15 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.;
Friday- 10a.m. to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to4p.m.
In giving notice of that motion, I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary to sit on Friday week, but the chances are that it may well be.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation give me any further information following my earlier request in relation to the desirability of providing repatriation coverage for members of the Australian police forces at present serving on United Nations duties in war torn Cyprus?
-Obviously the question that Senator Mulvihill has asked has some increased urgency owing to the more recent developments that have taken place in Cyprus. As the position stands at the moment, the members of the Australian police forces serving in Cyprus are not covered by repatriation benefits. They are serving in the United Nations force as members of the State, Territory and Commonwealth police forces, and during the terms of their engagement they are paid by the Commonwealth Police Force. They are eligible for compensation for injury in the terms of the legislation applying to other employees of the Australian Government. However, the issue which Senator Mulvihill has raised is certainly of interest to the Government, and an interdepartmental committee, which includes in its membership representatives from the Department of Repatriation and Compensation, has been established to inquire into the whole question of compensation for injury or death which may result to any of the policemen from Australia who are serving in the United Nations peace keeping forces. I have been told that the committee will be reporting to me soon. As soon as I have a report from the committee I shall advise Senator Mulvihill, and indeed the Senate, as I am sure that all honourable senators will be interested in this matter.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that the Prime Minister will tonight announce a 10c per gallon increase in the price of petrol?
– Well, I suppose anything can happen in this world. But I think we both had better wait and see.
– You will neither confirm nor deny?
– I might be as astonished as the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Has the situation regarding the accumulation of mail in New South Wales stemming from recent industrial action improved in recent days?
– Since I answered a question on this matter last week when there were, from memory, about 60,000 articles still being held up because of the industrial stoppage which occurred a few weeks before, the position has vastly improved. There are now fewer than 30,000 pieces of mail held up -
– Thirty thousand or 30 million?
-I think that the honourable senator’s interjection arises from the fact that unfortunately there was a report in one of the newspapers indicating that 60 million articles had been held up. I might say that I appreciate the work of one of my staff in helping to settle the dispute. The threat of another dispute this week has now been averted. The position has improved considerably. Last weekend a number of postal officials offered to work overtime and, except in a number of post offices, the mail clearance has been carried out very speedily.
Minister for Agriculture have any concern about the very strong attack made yesterday by the Government in another place on the Australian Woo) Corporation and on some individual members and staff of the Corporation? Is he concerned at the effects this attack might have on his own working relationship with the Corporation? Does he still hold to the view he expressed recently, namely, that if allegations made against certain members and staff of the Corporation are substantiated by evidence, that evidence should be produced by the person making the allegations?
– I do not know precisely what the terms ‘ attack ‘ or ‘ attack by the Government’ mean. Yesterday there was a debate in the House of Representatives in which certain honourable members took part. They included the Minister for Northern Development and also the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. I indicated in earlier answers to previous questions on this matter that as individual members of the House of Representatives they are entitled to express their point of view in a particular debate. I think that it should be made clear that, insofar as Dr Patterson’s remarks are concerned, he was not suggesting that there be a Government inquiry into the activities of the Australian Wool Corporation as such. He was questioning the activities of the Corporation in respect of its buying-in operations last week and as they apply to the guidelines laid down by the Government. I do not consider that the matters which have been raised by these honourable members in another place are matters that I should act upon. I will exercise my own judgment. Certainly, a great deal of information comes to me as Minister for Agriculture as it does to any Minister on all the matters for which he is responsible. But I am not in possession of any material which would convince me that I should take a similar stand. I shall be having discussions with the Chairman and General Manager of the Corporation on Monday. I shall certainly discuss with them the current operations of the Corporation in respect of the buying-in last week, and also seeking clarification of the Corporation’s future plans for the coming wool season. I am not concerned about the debate which took place yesterday. As the Minister it is my responsibility to determine the relationship that exists between the Corporation and the Government and I will make my own judgment on it.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation provide the number of ex-service men and women who have applied for treatment of malignant cancer?
– I can supply this information.
– What a power of recovery.
– Yes. As a matter of fact, I have the situation at my fingertips although, unfortunately, only up to 30 June 1974. As at 30 June 1974, 1,438 applications had been received from ex-service men and women who had served in a theatre of war for treatment of malignant cancer under the new provisions of the Repatriation Act.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: How can increases in prices generally be avoided when postal, telephone and installation charges are increased? Is it not a fact that these increases add to costs? And is it not a fact that increased costs lead to increased prices?
-That is a very simple, logical problem which the honourable senator sets. I suppose the answer is that generally if postal charges are increased they will tend to bring about increases in the cost of a number of commodities. I suppose the rationale of increases in postal charges is that, if there is an inflationary situation and the cost of running the Post Office goes up like the cost of other activities, then the charges ought to go up also; otherwise you would introduce a concept of the Post Office not paying its way. There is no doubt that each increase in charges for various services has a tendency to increase other costs. That, I think, is very difficult to refute; it is quite obvious. But we must look elsewhere for the answers to the problem of inflation and what we should do about it rather than point out such elementary deductions.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the DirectorGeneral of the Australian Post Office and the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are currently studying aspects of cable television?
– The decision to start such an examination was made by the previous
Government at about the time when colour television was mooted because it was considered that there would be some need to improve the signals. The examination is currently being made. I understand that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are almost in a position to make the report on suggested improvements to cable television. As far as I am aware, it will be available very soon.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Northern Development: What is the present position regarding the Queensland-Commonwealth Sugar Agreement which expired on 30 June last? When is it expected that the agreement will be renewed and for what period? What special problems, if any, are holding up finalisation of the negotiations?
-The 1969 agreement between Queensland and the Australian Government was to have expired on 30 June this year. However, the agreement has been extended to 30 September pending negotiations between the Minister for Northern Development and the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries. I cannot enlighten the honourable senator as to the specific reasons but there are general matters of economic concern to the sugar industry which have occasioned the delay of the renewal of the 5-year agreement. My understanding is that negotiations are proceeding in an amicable fashion and that by 30 September agreement will be reached.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of the numerous statements made by relevant Ministers to the effect that everything in the defence set-up is rosy, particularly where it concerns the pay and conditions of service and the defence forces retirement benefits scheme, will the Minister state why it has been found necessary to embark on a high pressure and costly advertising campaign in order to attract recruits to the armed Services?
– The Services have consistently followed a policy, even during the term of the previous Government- if the honourable senator read the information given to members of Parliament he would know this-that despite movements of manpower in all the Services there should be a continuing recruiting campaign. They argue that by following such a policy they are able to achieve more selective recruitment; they are able to choose a person who is more suited to their requirements than the person they would normally get. That is the policy which was pursued in the past and which is being pursued more vigorously now. The Minister for Defence has asked recruiting officials to make sure that recruiting is carried out in an attractive way. The honourable senator will remember that last week 1 said that the response to the new recruiting campaign has been more than satisfactory and that the Minister has been supplied with information from the Services that the people who are being recruited are of a high standard.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that a team of Royal Navy personnel will be testing a surface to air missile called ‘Seawolf at Woomera in the near future. Could the Minister indicate whether this means an increased work-load for personnel employed at Woomera?
– Last week either Senator Jessop or Senator Davidson asked me for information in relation to the work-load at Woomera, and I have sought the information. As I have mentioned, a study is being prepared for the Government, but it has not yet been completed. At present about 70 members of the Royal Navy are at Woomera to conduct trials of the ‘Seawolf’ missile. While these are the first trials to be held at Woomera for some time, I do not think that they have increased the work-load there. I will find out the answer, see whether my statement is correct or incorrect, and let the honourable senator know.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Following the Government’s statement last night that local telephone calls will be increased to 6c per call -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I have been pretty patient, but I point out that standing order 99 states:
Questions shall not anticipate discussion upon an Order of the Day or other matter which appears on the Notice Paper.
The statement that was given last night appears on page 8 1 of the notice paper. It is listed as item No. 4 under the heading ‘Orders of the day’. It is quite obvious that the Opposition intends to use 2 avenues to debate this matter- at question time and again when this matter comes before the Senate for debate.
- Mr President, I rise on the point of order. The technical position is as
Senator Poyser has said; but persons occupying your position, Mr President, have always treated that standing order with a degree of tolerance which its operation properly requires. If one is to take the position that a senator cannot ask any question about inflation, he cannot ask any question about costs and he cannot ask the Postmaster-General any questions about matters in the area of his responsibility, one just denies the opportunity for any questions to be asked at all; and that, I submit, is what Senator Poyser ‘s point of order actually involves. It would mean that, taken to the letter, a question can be ruled out of order because it relates to something which is covered by what I understood was a very comprehensive statement that was made last night. My submission is that if you look at what Senator Young was asking you will see that insofar as he had proceeded with his question, he was not asking about a matter which occurred last night. He had used prefatory words and he had not reached the stage at which his question had been asked. I submit that, if this point of order is to be taken, it may be taken on many other questions, and I do not think that is the way in which the Senate ought to be run.
-Acting on advice and the rulings of previous Presidents, I point out that the rule as to anticipation at question time has not been interpreted narrowly because, if it were, the rule could operate to block questions on a wide variety of subjects. I think it is a reasonable practice to allow questions seeking information on subjects related to matters on the notice paper but which do not necessarily amount to anticipating discussion. Questions and answers thereto, provided they are restricted to seeking and giving information, make for a more informed debate when one comes on. I shall allow the question.
-Thank you, Mr President. I shall repeat my question which is directed to the Postmaster-General. Following the Government’s statement last night that local telephone calls will be increased to 6c a call, what is the position regarding trunk and subscriber trunk dialling calls?
– Of course that information will come out during the debate. But the facts are that the cost of subscriber trunk dialling calls will be increased. There will be a reduction in the charge for STD calls up to a range of 50 kilometres. There will be some substantial savings. We have sent out a list to every member of Parliament. I hope Senator Young has one. If he has not he should get one soon. The list indicates the benefits which apply under these new arrangements. Calls at certain hours of the night over that distance will be charged at the local call rate. I think that answers the honourable senator’s question.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the report correct that military rule in Greece has ended? Can the Minister give us any information which might support this welcome news?
-We have had confirmation that the Greek military government has resigned and that Mr Constantine Karamanlis is returning to Greece to head a civilian government. Apart from that I cannot help Senator Georges very much. The news which we are getting from the area is still fairly confused. But we do accept this information as authentic. If this really means a return to civilian government and proper elections in Greece, the Australian Government certainly welcomes this situation because it has been denied to the Greek people since 1967.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security able to explain the rationale which allows a married pensioner couple only $6 a week additional pension while a single pensioner will receive an additional $5? What will be the difference under the new pension rates between the amount received by a couple and that received by 2 single pensioners?
-The answer to the second part of the question, I suppose, reminds one of one’s arithmetic lessons at school. The difference would be that a couple would receive $6 and that 2 single pensioners would receive -
– I think the honourable senator means the total.
– I am sorry. I thought the honourable senator was asking me about the addition.
– I could do that.
-Could you? I suggest to Senator Townley that if he can make that calculation he can just as easily make the other calculation as well by adding the increases to the existing pensions. There may well be some disagreement about the rationale of this matter but this is a practice which, for good or ill, has been followed not only by this Government but also by previous governments. I can understand the argument about this matter that two can live as cheaply, or almost as cheaply, as one.
– As long as it is 2 men.
-That is a matter for a different type of discussion which I do not think we should enter into at the moment. Apparently the argument has been that a single person requires more than half the income of a couple living together. Whether this is a good approach or a bad approach, it certainly seems to be something of a bi-partisan approach, because it was also done by the previous Government. That is the rationale for it.
– I ask the Postmaster-General: Has the Post Office considered the need to provide equipment for the telecommunications system which will enable telephone subscribers to obtain a record of subscriber trunk dialling calls which are made?
-The Australian Post Office already has a meter which is available to subscribers. The extra cost of the meter is about $8 and no installation fee is involved. In addition a new metering system is being looked at which will enable a subscriber not only to register calls but also, where necessary, to cancel them out. The improved or more sophisticated meter will be more expensive. From the information I have the presently available meter is fairly satisfactory. The only fluctuation in relation to its performance is in respect of the area which is accounted for by the Post Office, or the length of time in metering calls by the subscriber. Generally it has proved to be satisfactory. The new system will be much improved.
– Does the Minister for Agriculture agree with the assessment of wool industry leaders recently overseas that wool users are now accepting and looking for a stable price for wool to be established with a 12-month duration and to be adjusted each season through reference to changes in the cost situation? Is he aware that the current level at or about 300c clean for average 2 1 micron fleece is regarded as a reasonable base in the wool textile industry? Will he concede that the Australian Wool Corporation in arriving at this level has indicated a realistic commercial assessment of the market at a difficult time? Will he further agree that there is an absolute urgency for the Government to strongly support the Corporation because of the basic relationship of the wool industry to the overall balance of Australian primary production and that weakness at this point will herald another catastrophic era in a broad area of the economy?
– The question of what is a reasonable price for the sale of Australian wool is a matter of judgment. The question of whether it should be sold on contract for 12 months and varied after that time is one which has had a great area of debate since this Government has been in office. I emphasise that point because it was the Government that explored the possibility of selling Australian wool under those conditions on the world markets. I had discussions in Europe and Japan, as did Dr Cairns and officers of our departments, to achieve this very end. Certainly there was no unanimity of opinion on this matter. The Italians expressed real interest. The Japanese did not. Most of the rest of the European countries, including the United Kingdom did not express much interest either. It was because the Corporation had brought in the woolmarketing report that it would have been premature for the Government, or the Corporation for that matter, to have entered into any firm arrangement until such time as there had been a proper assessment of the report and the Government had been able to make a decision on it.
It is quite true that the price of 300c may be a reasonable figure. Up to that point I have no particular argument with the question, but I certainly do want to argue about the implication of the rest of the question. The implication is that the Government should now finance the Corporation in the installation of a floor price. That is not the policy of the Government. It was not the policy of our predecessors. For verification of that fact I refer the honourable senator to a Press release of 20 November 1970 by Mr Anthony who was then the Minister for Primary Industry. I will quote not the whole of the Press release but only the relevant point. Mr Anthony was talking about the flexible reserve price scheme. As the honourable senator knows this is the essential part of the whole operation. Mr Anthony said: 1 repeat what 1 have said on earlier occasions: the scheme is not intended to force or defy the wool market, but to test it and to get the best and most realistic price the market can pay.
We, as a government, have continued basically the same policy. It is a major move for a governmentand our predecessors thought exactly the same way- to accept the financial responsibility of the insertion of a floor price. The proper course for us is to look in depth at the wool marketing report and, in conjunction with the Corporation and the industry, to come up with some sane scheme whereby we can get into our wool sales the stability which we badly need.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Is it a fact that a television translator station will be built on Mount Taylor in Canberra to improve television reception at Tuggeranong? If so, why is it necessary, in view of a proposal to introduce a cable television pilot scheme at Tuggeranong? Can the Minister say whether the proposal is being considered?
– It is true that very early this year I approved of a recommendation coming to me from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the erection of a translator at Mount Taylor. The Board ‘s recommendation was made at the request of the National Capital Development Commission because the Commission was anxious that a television service be provided urgently as the first residents were expected to move into Tuggeranong about half way through the year. Therefore, the new translator is needed in the short term. As well as giving better reception to the residents of Tuggeranong- in particular, those who are at the foot of Mount Taylor- I am also given to understand that it will provide better reception for the residents of the suburb of Garran.
My colleague Senator Bishop earlier this afternoon, in reply to a question, mentioned the subject of cable television. He said that he, as the Postmaster-General, and I, as the Minister for the Media, expected to receive shortly a report from the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs on the one hand, and the Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board on the other, concerning a proposal about the introduction of cable television. I can tell the honourable senator that Tuggeranong is one of the sites which has been recommended already as a site to be looked at very closely for the possible experimental introduction of cable television to that area in order to improve reception for the residents.
-Will the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation explain why the increased repatriation pensions announced last night were confined to war widows and service pensioners? Will he assure the Senate that an increase will be extended to all repatriation pensioners in the September Budget?
-The other pension benefits are virtually automatic. I think that the honourable senator will find that these matters will be attended to when the Budget is presented later this year.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that a large and specially appointed aircraft is to be imported into Australia at great expense by the Queensland Government, to provide even more luxurious transport for the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen? Further, is the vast expenditure of taxpayers’ money involved in this purchase designed to be Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s special contribution to the restraint required for the fight against inflation?
-The first I heard about the purchase of a new aircraft by the Queensland Government was on the radio this morning. I do not think that the Department of Transport at this stage would have much notification of the intended purchase because of the habit of the Premier of Queensland of announcing these things when he first thinks of them. I do not know whether it is his contribution to the fight against inflation or whether he thinks it is his contribution. If it suits the Premier to suggest that, it is as logical as other moves he has made. The Premier of Queensland is certainly being transported in a state of luxury. Quick transport is essential to enable him to keep in touch with Aboriginal communities for support to retain the Torres Strait Islands as part of Queensland. I do not think that he can keep up his pretence without continuing to communicate with them. I think that this is one of the essential questions involved in the purchase of the plane.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, by referring to a question that I asked of him on 13 November 1973. At that time I asked:
Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of Press reports that 3 Aborigines are protesting at the bombing of Quail Island, which they claim is sacred? Will he inform the Senate what steps he intends to take to assist the Aborigines to preserve the right of their Aboriginal tribe which is making a claim regarding the sacredness of this island?
I ask: Is the Minister aware that the bombing is continuing? I have received this day a telegram from members of the Wagait tribe seeking my support. Will the Minister inform the Senate as to what steps he is taking as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to assist this Aboriginal group in its fight to preserve Quail Island?
-At the time when the previous question was asked and I made inquiries about this matter, I did not accept that there was any claim that it was sacred land. There was a claim that it was tribal land. At that time 4 Aborigines had settled on the island as a protest in order to stop further bombing. They were rescued from the island by the police at Darwin who had been advised that there was a high danger on the island because of the possible existence of unexploded bombs. We have had no communication from Aboriginal communities that they make a claim for Quail Island. Of course, as a result of the Woodward report, this whole question is the subject of an investigation now to determine whether there is a legitimate claim and whether we can meet the claim. Because of the high cost involved it is very doubtful whether the island could ever be occupied again. If it is not able to be occupied again we have to determine how we compensate anyone who has a claim to tribal land on the island for the loss of it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I refer to the recommendation made by Mr Justice Campbell in his report entitled Inquiry into Academic Salaries’ and dated May 1973 in which he proposed the establishment of an academic salaries tribunal. I ask: Firstly, is the Minister aware of the serious concern of academics at the continuing delay in the establishment of this tribunal and at the disadvantage that they are thereby suffering in this period of high and rising inflation? Secondly, when does the Minister propose to introduce legislation on this subject?
-This matter falls within the ambit of my colleague the Minister for Education whom I represent in the Senate. I am unaware of the details sought by the honourable senator. I ask him to place the question on the notice paper.
-I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: Are there any grounds for the suggestion that one hears from time to time that the need for a Repatriation Department is diminishing because of a decline in the number of persons seeking the services of that Department?
-The short answer to the question is no. In fact, it is estimated that the maximum demand for repatriation benefits will not be reached until some 10 years from now. At present some 800,000 people, including veterans of both World Wars, the South African War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, are eligible for repatriation benefits. Although it is true that the number of people receiving war pensions is declining with the advancing years, this of course is paralleled by the fact that the number of war widows who are entitled to repatriation benefits is increasing. Something like 20 per cent of the male population of Australia above the age of 20 years are ex-servicemen, and of those Australian males between the ages of 50 and 55 years well over half are ex-servicemen eligible for these benefits. So in fact the functions, not specifically those of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation but specifically those concerning the repatriation aspects handled by the Repatriation Commission, would appear to be increasing and will reach their peak- we hope that there will be no other war in which we are involved in the meantime- by the middle of the 1980s.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer refers to the withdrawal of Tasmania from the status of a claimant State under the Grants Commission and to the repeated refusal of the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, to provide the people of Tasmania with the detailed information on which this important decision was based. In view of the Federal Government’s persistent claim that it believes in open government I ask: Were these details set out in a letter from the Prime Minister to the Premier? If so, will the Treasurer table the letter or make the pertinent details available so that the people of Tasmania can be informed of this important decision?
-I think the question should be put on notice and an answer obtained from the Treasurer.
-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs any information in relation to the Press statements that Australia will be supplying troops to Cyprus?
-This matter is under active consideration by the United Nations Security Council at the moment. My general approach and the approach of the Government is to encourage the United Nations in its peace keeping endeavours. Having said that, it follows that we would give very sympathetic consideration to a request from Mr Waldheim, the SecretaryGeneral, to supply troops to Cyprus. As honourable senators will remember, we offered to do this in the case of the Middle East conflict, but because of the balance of forces we were not asked to supply troops. This was a matter for Kurt Waldheim. The same position obtains now. We want to encourage the United Nations to use its peace keeping endeavours because I think that is the very basis of the United Nations. We would give very sympathetic consideration to a request that we supply troops for the United Nations forces. As I understand it, the United Nations has virtually agreed to increase the number of troops in Cyprus but at the moment it has not worked out the details of that increase.
-The honourable senator gave a certain amount of information in asking his question. I have something in my notes on this matter. This also is one of the matters under consideration by the Security Council at the moment.
-Has the Minister for Agriculture reconsidered the matter of the provision of free milk to kindergartens and schools which may be attended by disadvantaged children? Does the Minister see any hope that the Labor Government, having been responsible for the withdrawal of free milk from schools, may reintroduce this benefit for the advantage of young Australians and those disadvantaged in the community?
-The responsibility for this matter falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Health, and I shall refer the question to him.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Health will recall that yesterday I asked a question concerning allegations that quarantine procedures in Western Australia were lax. Will the Minister investigate complaints by Mr Perry and Mr Burton of Western Australia who arrived at Fremantle on the ‘Khota Bali’ from Bali on 23 February and 14 June respectively that they requested an inspection of footwear and this was refused, Mr Perry being told that it was a Saturday and that only a skeleton staff was available and Mr Burton’s request for an inspection of footwear impregnated with mud being ignored? I further ask: From whom did the interdepartmental committee which investigated complaints seek evidence?
– In answer to the last part of Senator Sim’s question: My information is that the inderpartmental committee sought evidence from all of those persons who could possibly shed any light on the matter, that is, all the relevant officials and other functionaries in the port of Fremantle. With regard to the first part of the question: Certainly the matter Senator Sim has raised is a most serious one if the allegations which these 2 persons have made are correct. I say this because there has been a lot of concern just recently over the spread of foot and mouth disease of which there is some sort of epidemic at the moment, in Bali. All I can do is convey to the Minister for Health the information which Senator Sim has given, ask him to make a thorough investigation of the allegations which have been made by these 2 persons who were on the ‘Khota Bali’ and see that Senator Sim is provided with an answer as soon as those investigations are completed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Following the Treasurer’s announcement last night that the Government had decided to defer or drastically cut back its social welfare program, a program enunciated and much vaunted only 2 months ago when the Government must have known exactly the health of the nation’s economy, what programs other than those outlined by the Treasurer last night have been deferred or curtailed? In particular, I would like to know: Will this list include the curtailment of the Australian Labor Party’s only new 1974 welfare policy which was to exclude from death duties the matrimonial home when it passes to the spouse of the deceased?
-I think that the question should be placed on the notice paper. The Treasurer himself should answer it and I shall obtain an answer from him.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Is it a fact that an extensive newspaper advertising and promotion program is currently in operation in Great Britain inviting migrants to come to Australia? If so, does the Minister know whether the Department will be able to adhere to the target of British migrants envisaged in the promotional program? If not, will it mean that there will be a serious cut-back in the Government’s family reunion program or a cut-back in the selection of people with any special skills which are in particular need at this time?
-I think that I should obtain more detailed information about this matter for the honourable senator. But with respect to the general scope of the question I can state that the policy of the Minister for Labor and Immigration and the Government in relation to the present target about which the honourable senator asked last week is to ensure that half of the target should consist of skilled people. Senator Davidson will recall that even though targets of 120,000 people and 100,000 people have been set previously, they have never been successful because of people returning home. I do not know what will be the impact on our new target of 80,000 people of the advertising in the United Kingdom, but I shall find out and let Senator Davidson know the results of my inquiries.
- Mr President, I address a question to yourself. Will you give consideration to having senators’ telephone numbers included on the Senate information sheet which lists senators’ office addresses in their home States?
– I shall take a note of the honourable senator’s request and have the matter seen to as soon as I can.
– Does the Attorney-General agree that one of the important needs in the provision of a just court system for Aborigines is the availability of an adequate number of trained Aboriginal interpreters and the training of both the legal profession and magistrates in an understanding of Aboriginal culture, law and way of life where those legal practitioners or magistrates are involved in trials involving Aborigines? If the Minister does agree, what is he doing to provide for this need in the Northern Territory and so far as he can elsewhere?
-I think that the statement of principle by the honourable senator is correct. I can recall the controversy that arose about a case in Papua New Guinea, I think- not in Australia- which reached the High Court of Australia and in which there had been an interpretation of an interpretation. This was a very serious case and yet that was held to be not a miscarriage of justice. I am not aware of the details as to whether there is a real problem in this respect but I will look into it and inform the honourable senator and the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware of an acutely held sense of dissatisfaction existent among service personnel based on the Woodside Army camp in South Australia arising from the poor standards of domiciliary, recreational, transport and other facilities now being provided? Is consideration being given to an upgrading of these facilities which would have a beneficial effect on the morale, happiness and efficiency of the men now stationed at Woodside?
– Only this morning Senator Drury wrote me a letter asking me what was the result of an inspection we made at Woodside about a fortnight ago. A number of questions have been asked about this. In response to requests I went up there with Senator Drury and met the officers and personnel in the camp. Three main questions have been submitted to the Minister for Defence for consideration. One concerns those personnel who are on duty at the weekend and who normally would not be able to use the bus which is provided for them from their accommodation north of Adelaide to Woodside. We have asked the Minister to provide those servicemen on duty with a travelling allowance.
Secondly, we have asked that the accommodation which is now provided be upgraded. We have asked that those long huts with dormitorytype accommodation be partitioned. Thirdly, we have asked that the welfare huts or the premises which are set aside as amenities be upgraded with improved furniture. The Minister has promised to give those questions as much consideration as he can. I have not received his reply yet but when I get it I will see that the honourable senator gets a copy of it.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Have the Minister and the Government noted that new motor vehicle registrations are said to have fallen by more than 25 per cent in the month just ended? What steps does his Government propose to arrest this alarming decline which, if it continues, will seriously threaten employment in his own State and in Australia in general?
– I do not know the details. I will have to take the question up with the Minister. However, the suggestion in the question surprises me because I had thought that registrations had increased rather than decreased.
-Mr President, I ask that further questions without notice be placed on the notice paper.
– I have received a communication from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral conveying the following message from Her Majesty the Queen in reply to the Address agreed to by the Senate on 10 July:
I am most grateful for the Address unanimously agreed by the members of the Senate of Australia in Parliament assembled conveying to me their sorrow on the death of the Duke of Gloucester. I and my family much appreciate their sympathy.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators, I present the final report of the Lake Pedder Committee of Inquiry on the flooding of Lake Pedder, dated April 1974.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators, I table the interim report of the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry, dated June 1 974.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and
Excise)- I present the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal, dated 19 July 1974, on the price increases for certain breakfast foods proposed by Kellogg (Aust.) Pty Ltd.
– I present a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on mushrooms, dated 5 April 1974.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces on the Army Cadet Corps, dated June 1 974.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Evidence Act 1905-1973.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Evidence Act 1905-1973 to apply relevant provisions of that Act to a joint sitting of the 2 Houses of Parliament. The sections of the Act which the Bill seeks to amend are sections 4 and 7. Section 4 requires all courts to take judicial notice of the signature of a number of office holders, including the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Section 7 enables copies printed by the Government Printer of the votes and proceedings or journals or minutes of either House of the Parliament, or of papers presented to either House, to be admitted as evidence in the courts.
The amendments contained in the Bill seek to relate the provisions of these sections to a joint sitting of the 2 Houses. Clause 4 of the Bill provides for judicial notice to be taken of the official signature of the member presiding at a joint sitting. Clause 5 of the Bill provides for copies printed by the Government Printer of the formal records of the proceedings of a joint sitting, or of papers presented to a joint sitting, to be admitted in court in evidence. The Bill does not propose any changes in the principles embodied in the Act. Its purpose, as I have said, is to provide, in relation to a joint sitting, in the same manner as the Act now deals with the signatures of the presiding officers and the proceedings of the separate Houses of the Parliament. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
1 ) That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon foreign ownership and control of Australian commerce, industries, land and resources and, in particular, to report upon-
the increasing alienation of the beneficial ownership of Australian resources to non-Australian interests;
whether or not foreign ownership and control of Australian commerce, industries, land and resources is prejudicial to Australia’s interests in all circumstances;
whether in respect of any commerce, industry, land or resources foreign ownership or control is excessive;
the best method of mobilising Australian capital resources and attracting their commitment to national development;
the best method of reconciling the inflow of overseas capital for Australian development with the retention of Australian ownership and control; (0 the operation of exchange control restrictions which may prevent Australian investors from buying shares in companies registered overseas which have a major beneficial interest in an Australian company;
the advantages and disadvantages of existing and potential foreign investment, with particular regard to export performance, commercial and industrial initiatives, and introduction of valuable skills and technology;
whether the purpose for which foreign capital is sought or is made available should be a factor in determining its acceptability; and to recommend such legislative and administrative measures by the Commonwealth either alone or in cooperation with the States as will ensure such Australian ownership and control or Australian participation in the ownership and control of Australian commerce, industries, land and resources as will protect and advance the interests of Australia.
That the Committee consist of the following senators:
four to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;
three to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; and
one to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate.
That a quorum of the Committee shall be three.
That the Committee elect as Chairman one of the members nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy-Chairman of the Committee. The member so appointed shall act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee. In the event of an equality of voting the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
That the Committee shall have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the Committee is empowered to consider. The quorum of a sub-committee shall be 2 senators.
That the Committee or any sub-committee shall have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, and to meet and transact business in private and public, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament.
That the Committee shall be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it. A daily Hansard shall be published of such proceedings of the Committee or any sub-committee as takes place in public.
That the Committee shall be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and shall be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the Committee, with the approval of the President.
That the Committee shall have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, the evidence taken, and such recommendations as it may deem fit and is expected to make regular reports as to the progress of the proceedings of the Committee and any sub-committee and to present a final report as soon as possible.
10) That the Committee have power to consider the minutes of evidence and records of the Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control appointed during the previous session.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Debate resumed from 23 July (vide page 386), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Durack had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert
1 ) ‘ this Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted as a new Bill, because the Senate is of the opinion that it should not have been submitted to the GovernorGeneral by the Prime Minister as a ground for the double dissolution of Parliament on 1 1 April 1974 and should not now be introduced into the Parliament as the possible basis for advice to the GovernorGeneral that he should convene a joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, for the following reasons:
on 13 December 1973 the Bill was introduced into the Senate and read a first time.
On the same day, which was known to the Senate at the time to be the last sitting day in 1973, the motion was moved for the second reading of the Bill, the debate was adjourned and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Later on the same day, during the second reading debate, a non-Government senator, Senator Byrne, for reasons referred to in his speech, successfully moved that the debate on the motion for the second reading be adjourned and that the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for the first sitting day in February 1974- the next anticipated sitting day of the Senate.
Approximately one and a half hours after that event, on the motion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Senate adjourned to a day and hour to be fixed by the Presidentexpected to be a day and hour in February’ 1 974.
On 14 February 1974 His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, acting upon the advice of the Government, prorogued the Parliament until 28 February 1974, by which action all Bills on the Senate notice paper lapsed.
The Standing Orders of both Houses provide for Bills which have lapsed as a consequence of prorogation to be proceeded with in the subsequent session, and if a Bill is in the possession of the House in which it did not originate it can be restored to the notice paper at the stage which it had reached at the date of prorogation, provided a message has been received from the House in which it originated requesting that its consideration be resumed.
On 12 March 1974. the fifth sitting day of the new session, a message was received by the Senate from the House of Representatives requesting the Senate to resume its consideration of the Bill.
Upon receipt of the message, the Leader of the Government in the Senate moved that the request be complied with, to which the Senate agreed, without debate or dissent, on 1 3 March.
On 19 March the Senate resumed the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill and, on 2 April, the motion was defeated.
On 8 April 1974-3 sitting days after the defeat of the Bill on 2 April-the Bill was again received by the Senate from the House of Representatives and the Senate deferred the Bill for 6 months on 10 April 1974.
The events in (i) to (x) above reveal that the relevant requirements in section 57 of the Constitutionthat the Senate should reject or fail to pass a proposed law on 2 occasions, separated by a period of 3 months- have not been met in either respect, particularly in view of the Government’s specific request, on 12 March 1974, for the Senate to resume its consideration of the Bill at the state it had reached on 13 December 1973- the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill; and
The terms of this resolution be forwarded by the President to His Excellency the Governor-General forthwith.
– The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is very important. It is one which the Government used with 5 other Bills to submit to the Governor-General that grounds existed for a double dissolution of this Federal Parliament. We in the Opposition have questioned the constitutionality of this Bill being submitted to the Governor-General as grounds for a double dissolution. Accordingly on Thursday, 18 July, Senator Durack moved an amendment in this place on behalf of the Opposition. For the record I shall again read it into Hansard. It states:
Leave out all words after ‘That ‘, insert:
1 ) ‘ this Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted as a new Bill, because the Senate is of the opinion that it should not have been submitted to the Governor-Gener by the Prime Minister as a ground for the double d. solution of Parliament on 1 1 April 1974 and should not now be introduced into the Parliament as the possible basis for advice to the Governor-General that he should convene a joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, for the following reasons:
On 13 December 1973 the Bill was introduced into the Senate and read a first time.
On the same day, which was known to the Senate at the time to be the last sitting day in 1973, the motion was moved for the second reading of the Bill, the debate was adjourned and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Later on the same day, during the second reading debate, a non-Government senator. Senator Byrne, for reasons referred to in his speech, successfully moved that the debate on the motion for the second reading be adjourned and that the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for the first sitting day in February 1974- the next anticipated sitting day of the Senate.
Approximately one and a half hours after that event, on the motion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Senate adjourned to a day and hour to be fixed by the Presidentexpected to be a day and hour in February 1974.
On 14 February 1974 His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, acting upon the advice of the Government prorogued the Parliament until 28 February 1974, by which action all Bills on the Senate notice paper lapsed.
The Standing Orders of both Houses provide for Bills which have lapsed as a consequence of prorogation to be proceeded with in the subsequent session, and if a Bill is in the possession of the House in which it did not originate it can be restored to the notice paper at the stage which it had reached at the date of prorogation, provided a message has been received from the House in which it originated requesting that its consideration be resumed.
On 12 March 1974, the fifth sitting day of the new session, a message was received by the Senate from the House of Representatives requesting the Senate to resume its consideration of the Bill.
Upon receipt of the message, the Leader of the Government in the Senate moved that the request be complied with, to which the Senate agreed, without debate or dissent, on 1 3 March.
On 19 March the Senate resumed the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill and, on 2 April, the motion was defeated.
On 8 April 1974-3 sitting days after the defeat of the Bill on 2 April- the Bill was again received by the Senate from the House of Representatives and the Senate deferred the Bill for 6 months on 10 April 1974.
The events in (i) to (x) above reveal that the relevant requirements in section 57 of the Constitutionthat the Senate should reject or fail to pass a proposed law on 2 occasions, separated by a period of 3 months- have not been met in either respect, particularly in view of the Government’s specific request, on 12 March 1974, for the Senate to resume its consideration of the Bill at the state it had reached on 13
December 1973- the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill; and (2) The terms of this resolution be forwarded by the President to His Excellency the Governor-General forthwith.
Senator Durack spoke at great length and with great clarity when putting forward our amendment yesterday. I should like to make one point, without going into all the details because the record shows the argument excellently put forward by Senator Durack. I refer the Senate to page 196 of the Senate Hansard of 12 March 1974. Under the heading ‘Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill ‘ it states:
Message received from the House of Representatives in the following terms: Pursuant to the Standing Orders relating to the resumption of proceedings on lapsed bills, the House of Representatives requests the Senate to resume consideration -
I emphasise the words ‘to resume consideration ‘- of the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to establish a Petroleum and Minerals Authority’, which was transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence during the last session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament.
I repeat the words ‘the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament’. The argument of the Government has been, of course, that this Bill was rejected at this time. Yet the record shows conclusively that the message from the House of Representatives read by the Leader of the Government in this place, Senator Lionel Murphy, clearly spells out that debate on this Bill was interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament. The prorogation of the Parliament, when all matters are wiped off the notice paper, is the responsibility of the Government. Hence, if we go back to that date we find that the interruption of the passage of this Bill was the result of Government action, not the result of any action taken by the Opposition in this Senate. Accordingly, we must then come to the next occasion on which the debate on this Bill was continued and take that as the date of the first rejection of this Bill. From these dates one cannot arrive at a period of 3 months.
This is a most important and far-reaching Bill. Like most Australians, many of us for a long time have encouraged Australian participation in the development of the petroleum and mineral resources of Australia. When I use the word encouraged’ I refer to the fact that we have encouraged individuals to participate in companies for the exploration and exploitation of our petroleum and mineral resources and we have encouraged Australian companies to be involved in this activity. But we find at present that this has not been the role of the current Government. All of us agree that it is necessary for us, and the Government in particular, to have some form of control in an advisory and regulatory capacity to assist in the development of Australia’s resources, if I can put it that way. This is borne out in a report to which Senator Douglas Scott referred yesterday- the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources- which stated:
For these reasons the Committee believes that an advisory authority should be established with Commonwealth and State representation which would be empowered to make a comprehensive continuing survey of Australia’s fuel and energy needs and tender advice to Commonwealth and State Governments on all matters relevant to the use and production of fuel and energy.
There is no doubt that if that Committee had been dealing with minerals it would have made a very similar recommendation. I say that, Mr Deputy President, because you and I were members of that Committee. Therefore, I do not think that any honourable senator on the Government side can level at the Opposition the charge that we do not encourage and support increased Australian involvement in the exploration and exploitation of our minerals and energy resources.
For a long time this Government has talked about Australian ownership. Most people, if asked what that meant, would interpret it as individual support and participation, not what this Government is proposing in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. This Bill does not just involve a question of Australian ownership. It is very far-ranging and would clothe the Authority with terrific power. It does not stop at giving assistance in an advisory capacity to Australian industry while at the same time providing guidelines to assist in the proper development of our resources; it confers so much power that it could lead to the nationalisation of the mining and petroleum industries of this country. This is the thing that concerns me. The Government speaks in one way but then takes legislative action in another way.
Another factor is that the Government speaks of Australian ownership, but not just Australian ownership on an individual basis is implied in this legislation. This Bill implies the involvement of the Government to such an extent that it could lead to the nationalisation of great areas of our petroleum and mineral resources, as well as the energy requirements of this country. This would cost huge volumes of money, and all that money would be taxpayers’ money. There is a vast difference in interpretation between what one might have thought was Government philosophy and what is clearly shown in This Bill to be Government policy.
Since this Government came to power there has been a great down-turn in the volume of actual exploration, particularly in the off-shore areas, because of the lack of incentive from the Government. It regards overseas capital, for example, as dirty money. Any overseas company which is in partnership with Australian companies and which has been lucky enough to have some success is regarded as a multinational corporation, which is an international disease and should be wiped off the Australian continent. Criticism has been levelled at so many of these companies which have brought so much expertise and money to this country to explore and to assist in the exploitation and development of our resources. In Australia in 1972 the total number of wells drilled for petroleum was 135. In 1973 the figure dropped to 74, which represents a drop of about 45 per cent on what was previously being done actively in and around Australia. For the period from January to June this year the dismal figure is 35 wells.
The situation is an alarming one, at a time when there is a world energy crisis and a great demand for us to find more in our own areas. We have great areas, particularly off-shore, because we have the good fortune to be a coastal state. Many of these areas extend out to the 200-mile limit and beyond. We already know that there is great potential- this has been proven- in certain of our off-shore areas. Yet there is a great downturn in exploration today. Companies are being criticised. The attitude of the Government to companies which have had success in the finding of hydrocarbons, whether liquid or dry, is: ‘You go out and find it, and we, the Government, will keep it’. If the Government does not keep it in toto, it keeps it in bondage. This is happening at present. We must also realise that off-shore exploration is an extremely expensive exercise. It is one of those high risk areas in which the return is one successful or partly successful well in 40. Those statistics have world-wide application. We must realise that on the North- West Shelf it costs in the vicinity of $3m to drill a hole. After many of these $3m holes have been drilled, there is success and some return on the high risk capital invested. But the Government steps in and puts the commodity in bondage or virtually takes control of it. There is no incentive for a company to continue spending millions and millions of dollars on such a high risk venture as oil exploration.
So we have the unfortunate position today in which so many companies are turning away from Australia and going overseas. From what I can gather, there will be a continuation of the turning-away from Australia. Companies will go not very far away. They will go to our near neighbours. They will go to South East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and before long, no doubt, the Asian continent. One must question why these companies are leaving Australia and going to other countries. There is a very simple answer. It is that they have been given a far better deal than they can expect to receive from the present Australian Government. So we have the situation at the present time where instead of encouraging and accelerating exploration for our energy requirements we have a great downturn in exploration activity. This is something to which I think this Government must give a lot of consideration. Quite frankly, it should reconsider its whole attitude towards this question. But unfortunately when we look at the ultimate outcome of this Bill, we look pessimistically at the fact that the Bill may go before a joint sitting of this Parliament where, because of the brutality of numbers, what is proposed in the measure will become a reality. One can only expect that in the future companies will continue to drift away from Australia, a country that has shown a great deal of potential, particularly in the off-shore area. One could also refer to the great mineral development and expansion that we have had in recent years.
I will now refer to the Bill and, perhaps in a little detail, spell out a few of the things in the various clauses which give me and members of the Opposition so much concern. I refer to Part II of the Bill which is headed ‘Establishment, Functions and Powers of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority’. Under clause 6 of this legislation if it became law, the Government would have the power to explore for petroleum and petroliferous minerals on the Australian continental land mass and elsewhere; to recover petroleum, etc.; to refine petroleum in Australia or elsewhere; to manufacture petroleum products and petrochemicals in Australia or elsewhere; to buy and sell petroleum- I emphasise this, because the Government is getting into the commercial field, too- petroliferous minerals, petroleum products and petrochemicals, whether in Australia or elsewhere; and to transport petroleum, petroliferous minerals, petroleum products and petrochemicals on the Austraiian continental land mass and between Australia and other countries. I should like to return later to the question of transportation.
We find that under clause 7 exactly the same thing applies to minerals. The functions of the
Authority include the power to explore for minerals; to recover minerals; to treat minerals; to refine metals and other substances; to crush, screen or otherwise treat or prepare for sale coal and construction materials in Australia or elsewhere; to buy and sell materials, refined substances and manufactured materials and substances; and to transport minerals, refined substances, etc. I return to the definition of ‘Australian continental land mass’ which is referred to extensively, particularly in clauses 6 and 7. We find that ‘Australian continental land mass’ means ‘so much of the morphological unit of which Australia forms part as comprising Australia and the part of that unit surrounding Australia extending to the outer boundary of the continental shelf. Hence we see that this Bill would give the Government power to explore for petroleum, etc., and to explore and exploit minerals in the seabed to the outer boundary of the continental shelf. It means that the Government is taking over an area which is the subject of great question at the present time as to where Commonwealth authority and State authority lie. This area is covered in a part of another Bill which was rejected by the Senate on a previous occasion and which no doubt will again be subjected to great question when it is discussed.
While dealing with this matter I wish to refer to the attitude of the Labor Premier of South Australia, the Honourable Don Dunstan. He is reported in the ‘Advertiser’ of 5 July of this year as saying that South Australia will challenge the validity of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act in the High Court. The newspaper article continues:
The Federal Act, brought down in 1973, declared that sovereignty of the territorial seas, air space over it, its bed and sub-soil is vested in and exercisable by the Commonwealth.
The Federal Government thus asserted ownership over all Australian coastal waters beyond the low-water mark.
Mr Dunstan said South Australia would be in an impossible situation unless the position, regarding the internal waters of the State in the gulfs and adjacent to Kangaroo Island and the atypical position of South Australia’s letters patent founding the province and declaring the territory of the State, were put to the High Court.
The only way to ensure this is to issue proceedings ourselves, since the Federal Government has invited the challenge to the Act to get the law defined, Mr Dunstan said.
This is the very interesting part; it refers to this great co-operation between the Federal and State parliaments:
South Australia had suggested to the Commonwealth Government that it should invite the States to join in a test case in the High Court, which could be done co-operatively, but it- the Commonwealth Government- has refused the suggestion ‘, he said.
I return to what I was saying, before I quoted that statement of the Premier of South Australia, about the power that the Commonwealth Government is taking unto itself for the exploration and exploitation of minerals and petroleum in the off-shore areas of Australia. I am certain that many people, particularly the leaders, in the various States will not be very happy about such powers residing in the Commonwealth Government.
If we look at clause 43 ( 1 ) of the Bill we see the power that the Commonwealth gives to the Authority, and Senator Durack referred to this recently. Clause 43 states:
Before commencing to explore for, or carry on operations for the recovery of-
Here one must question how far the Authority, under this legislation, intends to go and how far it intends to override States authority.
Having said that, I want to return to what is involved in clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill. We find that not only will there be exploration and exploition, but also the authority will have the ability to move into the manufacturing and processing field in the area of hydro-carbons. We find that the same thing applies also in the minerals field. This again illustrates the wide ranging powers provided by this legislation. If we look further we find reference to transportation. Perhaps one could understand a reference to transportation of hydrocarbons, because of pipelines, etc., but the transportation does not just stop at the point where perhaps the hydrocarbons may be piped from off-shore areas onto the mainland and then via trunklines over the mainland. The legislation states very clearly that the Authority will have power to transport petroleum, petroliferous minerals, petroleum products and petrochemicals on the Australian continental land mass and between Australia and other countries. When this clause deals with the transportation of minerals we find exactly the same wording: on the Australian continental land mass and between Australia and other countries.
How far would this legislation enable this Government to go? One must, in all responsibility, question how far the Government would go in this regard, because we all can recall the provisions of the Pipeline Authority Bill which was passed in this Parliament last year and we can also see just how far the Minister and the Government have stretched to the extreme to use the very maximum power given to them by the Pipeline Authority Act. So one must question how far they will go in the area of transportation of our natural resources. Will it lead to the Government believing that under this legislation it will have power to move into the field of shipping between Australia and other countries? Knowing what the Government has already done regarding the Pipeline Authority Act I would not doubt for a moment that it would try to enter this field itself.
We find in clause 12 of the Bill that the Government has power to purchase land, to take land on lease, to take easements over land, to sell, or otherwise dispose of, land vested in the Authority but not required for the purposes of the Authority- in other words, the Government could become a real estate agent- to lease land vested in the Authority the use of which is not for the time being required by the Authority, to release any easements over land, to purchase or take on hire plant, machinery, equipment or other goods. Further on in clause 12 we find that the Authority has these powers:
to form, or participate in the formation of, a company;
I emphasise these next words- or elsewhere by another person or body; or
So we can see the great powers that this Government would take unto itself if the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill became law. It is no good Government senators opposite standing up and saying with pious voices: ‘It is not the intention of the Government to go to the extremes that you are talking about. It would not have the power to do it. In any case that is not the Government’s intention’. Let me refer to what has happened under the Pipeline Authority Act. We have seen the Minister for Minerals and Energy interfere to such an extent that he has caused great concern. I have referred to the fact that the Minister has virtually put under bond the gas that is found on the North West Shelf. I referred also to the interference of the Minister for Minerals and Energy in my own State of South Australia.
We have seen the multi-million dollar project at Redcliffs placed in great jeopardy. At the present time we still have no information as to whether the Redcliffs project will even get off the ground. It is a project which, when first mooted, was estimated to cost in the vicinity of $350m, but with inflation the way it is today I would hate to put a figure on it at the present time. However, we all realise that there will be a great escalation in the cost. In South Australia we have a consortium of companies in the gas fields area which, to my knowledge, at the present time has no idea what price it will be given for its liquid petroleum gas. Hence, because of the interference of the Minister, we have a situation of great concern and confusion. Nobody knows who will own the pipeline or who will have control of the transmission of the LPG to Redcliffs. So we have a situation in South Australia that is causing very great concern because of the powers given to the Minister under the Pipeline Authority Act. My time has expired, so for those reasons, as a responsible senator for my State, I must oppose the legislation before us at the present time and at the same time support the Opposition’s amendment.
– The Senate is discussing the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill and the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. The implications of this Bill are fairly fearful for my State of Tasmania. Quite a lot of the income of the people of that State comes from mining. This is particularly so for those people who live on the west coast and those who work at the zinc works in Hobart, as well as those who work at the aluminium refinery in Launceston and in other areas. At the outset I would like to say that I doubt very much whether direct participation by the Government in this kind of venture is necessary. I do not think it has been shown that the Government needs to interfere with the exploration for either petroleum or minerals. However, if we are to have an authority I suggest that the Government could say that it has ample precedent for its establishment. The precendents I would like to mention are the Australian National Airlines Commission, which runs Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd, and, of course, the Commonwealth Banking
Corporation, both of which compete on fairly even terms with other business enterprises around the country. I agree with some of the things that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said in relation to some aspects of this situation. On 12 July this year the Prime Minister said:
You will perceive 2 constant themes in our mineral and mining policies-the preservation of Australian ownership and the maximising of benefits to the Australian people from the sale of our natural resources.
I would agree, to a certain extent, with that kind of thinking. On that same day he also said:
With that I also agree. He then went on in the same speech to say:
Apart from exploration and development, there is a distinct need for the national Government to help smaller Australian mining ventures develop their discoveries without sacrificing control or ownership to overseas interests. We have a further obligation to examine and develop all sources of energy, including solar energy, which could contribute to our needs when more conventional sources are no longer available. The funds of the new Authority will promote the search for petroleum and help to ensure that future on-shore mining development is at least predominantly Australian owned and controlled.
I would agree, to a certain extent, with trying to retain a fair degree of Australian ownership. But my worry about this whole thing is the same as that which I expressed in relation to the Health Insurance Bill, namely, the tremendous cost that will be involved to the country. These sorts of schemes are all very well when they are written about and spoken about, but when it comes down to the facts we find that they are quite expensive. It is my feeling that if we have available in this country the money that will be needed to implement these schemes it certainly could be used in more urgent areas of need than this. For instance, just last night we saw the Government welsh on its election promise to phase out the means test. The other measures that were announced last night could lead to thousands of people being put out of work. So I do not know where we will get the money from to do those things that this Government would like to do under this Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
Since the Labor Government came to office we have seen almost a vendetta against one of Australia’s greatest money spinners, namely the income derived from exports of our mineral ores and things of that nature. I have never been able to understand why the Government has adopted this attitude. I believe that it is a matter which it has not thought through to the entire end result. At this time, Australia produces about 70 per cent of its own petroleum needs. We certainly need more exploration to continue to be able to produce this percentage of our needs in the future. But if this Bill is passed in its present form I think it will leave Australia in a situation in which we could well not be self-sufficient in petroleum needs in the years to come and have to import oil from the Middle East or from some other areas. Then, we will be placed in the position in which other countries are presently placed, namely, that their inflation is imported inflation due mainly to the extra cost of their petroleum and oil. We have heard it stated in this country that our inflation is being imported. I do not agree with that. I think that most of our inflation has been generated in this country.
If we are to have such a Petroleum and Minerals Authority, it must be placed on an equal footing with all the other companies that are looking for oil throughout the country. As the Bill stands, this Authority could disregard and override State legislation. It could disregard and override the rights of mining tenement holders and other land owners. In fact, it would be placed in a very privileged position. The Authority would be in a very special situation to obtain confidential information. It would be in a position of positive privilege compared with the remainder of the industry. It would not even have to operate under the same laws. I feel that the legislation should make it perfectly clear that the proposed Authority is subject to the same laws and regulations as those which apply to any other person with an interest in petroleum or any other mineral exploration and development. We heard the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) say in his second reading speech on the Bill:
The Government’s policy is to expand the search for and facilitate the development of the nation’s resources of hydrocarbons, particularly crude oil, and also of other minerals. We plan participation in this task through the Petroleum and Minerals Authority, a truly national instrumentality, both operating itself and also in partnership with technologically qualified private enterprise.
Instead of being described as a truly national instrumentality, I think that it would have been much better described as an instrument of nationalisation. Recently we have seen the invoking of a dormant provision in the 20-year- old Atomic Energy Act. It was used to take possession of the Ranger uranium deposits in the Northern Territory. If I may make an aside here, we are now coming to the stage of energy use throughout the world at which if uranium is not used fairly soon, there will be new techniques in the use of heavy water to produce power and the uranium that we now have may be completely useless. So we should be using these deposits now. But this Government has seen fit to attempt to nationalise this deposit in the Northern Territory. So I cannot be convinced that this Government will not use the provisions in this Bill whenever it wants to do so. As I have said, the Bill completely overrides and flouts State laws. It will be used to override mining agreements and it represents another attempt to get control for Canberra. We have seen 6 referendums in 6 months returned with a ‘ no ‘ vote which is a fairly positive indication, to me anyway, that the people of Australia do not want a lot of extra power to come to this part of Australia.
I want to be short in my remarks today because we have a fairly heavy legislative program ahead of us. I repeat that if we are to have such an Authority as is contemplated in this Bill, it must be made to compete on equal terms and such is not the case in this Bill. The Bill does not allow for equal competition. In fact, as I have said, it puts the private sector at a distinct disadvantage. It is put at such a disadvantage that I would not be surprised if this were sufficient to deter the private sector from further expansion. I would expect that the initiative and endeavour of that sector would disappear. I ask myself: Is this what the Government really wants? Senator Scott said earlier in this debate that this Bill represents the thin edge of the wedge of nationalisation. With that I agree. In my opinion, this Bill is hurriedly and badly drawn up. It is unfair and it gives the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) enormous powers. I repeat that it is a danger to my State of Tasmania. I cannot support the Bill and as I agree that there is some doubt about the legality of whether this Bill could be used as one upon which to hold a double dissolution, I will support the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition.
The Senate has nearly completed its consideration of the Bills that it has dealt with on previous occasions. Before I finish my remarks today, I would like to repeat that my attitude from now on will not be to oppose Government legislation just for the sake of opposition. I believe that the Senate is meant to represent the States and is meant to be a House of review. I have already made it quite plain that I am worried about the time that is required by one person to deal with all the facets of this job- to look at the legislation, to deal with the Press which naturally enough wants to know what is going on, to deal with those people from my own State who want representations made to Ministers, and so on. Therefore, I state that I will only deal with legislation in the future after I have had a chance to examine it fully. If in doubt, I will vote against such legislation or for measures that delay it until
I have had a chance to examine the legislation satisfactorily. (Quorum formed).
– I express my sympathies to those honourable senators who have been rather forcefully brought into the Senate chamber by the ringing of the bells to hear my speech, which will not be very notable, on the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. I am disappointed that the Government should move with such dramatic force as it is moving in relation to this Bill without explaining to the Parliament and the people just what its policies are and what its intentions are in relation to the powers that this Bill will confer on it. It would be much more satisfactory if we were informed just how far the Government was going to proceed with this legislation. For that reason I find myself in the position of having to vote against the Bill with which I have a great deal of sympathy.
– Are you a socialist?
-Senator Webster may call me a socialist. Anyone who moves from any of the previously well defined lines of about 1910 set by some honourable senators is called a socialist. If Senator Webster cares to join the brigade of the last century, that is his business. As I said, I have a great deal of sympathy with the stated intentions of the Government in regard to this Bill. What makes me worry are the unstated intentions and the great lack of explanation. I will also vote against the amendment moved by the Opposition. I have little sympathy for the delaying tactics involved in that move. If there is some dissension as to whether the Bill is constitutional, I hope that the High Court will fix up that dispute. I do not want to see any decisions delayed here by reference to any other committee. Therefore I will vote against the amendment. I find myself in a double negative situation.
– That is not unusual.
-The junior senator from South Australia is at it again. At least he provides some little back-drop which he does not often provide in his own right on his feet. The Government should understand, and I do not doubt that it does, that the successful oil search in Australia was begun some few years ago and maintained in the face of non-discovery and public disbelief that there was oil in Australia by a very notable South Austraiian company named Santos. Santos can really take credit for sustaining the oil search in this nation at a time when it was unpopular to proceed with it. I believe a great deal of credit is owed by all Australians to that company which fought against very large odds at that particular time after the last war. It was therefore private enterprise which developed and found Australian oil resources. As I have said, the Government in its moves into an all-embracing governmental power over the mining interests should understand that the dynamics of the free enterprise system are behind the mineral wealth of Australia and particularly behind the oil wealth which Australia has enjoyed recently at a time of very great disruption on the world oil markets.
It is true that all the minerals in Australia belong to the Australian people until by arrangement they are discovered in partnership in one form or another. The Government has always been a partner in the discovery and exploitation of the mineral wealth of this country and has shared by way of royalties such wealth as has been found by various entrepreneurs in Australia. It is true that too much of Australia’s mineral wealth is in the hands of overseas direction and ownership. There is not the slightest doubt among most Australians that the Australian Government should have a coherent policy at least to safeguard scarce mineral resources for the use of Australians and that those resources should not be allowed to be exported willy-nilly by entrepreneurial companies for the use of citizens in some other part of the world and for their profit. There is a need for a coherent minerals and energy policy which safeguards the very limited and finite resources of this country, particularly in petroleum. I too share the regret of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) that previous governments sold the resources of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries to interests outside Australia. I would much prefer to have seen those resources sold to Australian partners.
The explanation that the Government gives regarding the operation of its plans under this Bill, so far as it goes, seems to place very heavy emphasis on Government participation in ownership. 1 cannot see the necessity of the extent to which the Government emphasises this. It seems to me that it is the Government’s job to fix the rules of this industry and to encourage private operators to interest themselves economically in it and to invest in it on behalf of Australians. I do not think that we should bring into this area as a matter of ideological approach Government participation in the operating areas of the mineral industry, because there is no doubt that what the Government does it will do less efficiently than private industry. From our observations of how industries work in the community we do not have to go far to prove that. It would seem to be just common sense to encourage, on behalf of all Australians, the development of this mineral industry by private companies and private entrepreneurs, operating under quite strict Government direction and rules.
One must look quite deeply at the future development of the Australian Labor Party’s ideology before one confers the powers defined here. If one looks at Great Britain one sees all sorts of apparent excesses which are forecast in the name of the British Labor Government in relation to the very types of operations that we talk about in this BUI. It does nothing for the development of the United Kingdom or for the confidence of some of its industries in their future to be threatened with what appears to be complete nationalisation. We would not expect this to occur here in the next several years under this Labor Government, perhaps, but we have not the slightest guarantee that it Will not occur as soon as political conditions allow a Labor government to proceed. So anyone who believes in private enterprise gets no confidence from the Minister’s explanation of the Government’s intention.
In the ministerial statement on the Federal petroleum search policy which he made on 12 April 1 973, the Minister referred to many aspects of that policy. Having read that statement I found one part which is reasonably specific. The Minister said:
It specifies that there shall be at least a majority Australian control over both equity and policy in resources development, and that we will devise and implement an integrated and co-ordinated national fuel and energy policy.
One notes the words ‘there shall be at least’. I agree that there should be a majority of Australian ownership. I might say that during the election campaign preceding the contest on 18 May, Mr Snedden did no good for himself or his Party or our side of politics by coming to South Australia and saying he would not insist on a majority of Australian ownership in the Redcliffs plant on Spencers Gulf in South Australia. That is a policy with which I vigorously disagree. I think that a very large majority of South Australians also disagree with that policy, and certainly they show it in the vote that they give Labor in our State.
In rejecting this Bill I say that I listened with some doubt to Opposition senators who continue to champion the development of Australia’s vital and finite resources by overseas companies in the interests of overseas citizens. It seems to me that some of them have a quite fruitless and negative attitude in that regard. In his explanation the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) went on simply to illustrate the point that a great amount of our coal production and markets is in the hands of overseas owned companies. I take it that a great deal of it is earmarked for export overseas. He went on to say:
We plan to use these funds -
He was referring to the funds which he says will be available from funds previously given as search subsidies- under arrangements to be determined.
How are those arrangements to be determined? The House has not been informed and honourable senators are expected to vote without that information. The Minister went on to say:
We will consider assistance to the many small companies and syndicates, which have used up their capital on exploration . . .
What about the big companies in Australia? Are the big companies simply to be left for Government nationalisation or simply to be squeezed, because they do not give Government assistance and are prevented from getting overseas assistance into the Government’s hands? Is this the normal socialistic outlook of building up the weak and tearing down the strong? If that is to be our economic approach, we all know the answer.
The Minister spoke of the natural resources which are substantially controlled by overseas interests and of the off-shore leases which greatly favour some overseas companies. In that regard too I have a great deal of sympathy. I may say that in the years 1968 to 1970, when allocating one off-shore lease area in South Australia, the government of the day quite carefully and deliberately excluded an overseas company and gave the lease to a large Australian company in the hope that if oil was found on that lease it would remain in Australian hands. I think that is a very sensible approach. I would like to see it continued in the further issue or approval of exploration licences in valuable areas in and offshore from Australia.
– Did not that Australian company then merge or move in with an overseas company?
– No, not to my knowledge. That company was, and is, in partnership with a United States company in other areas off-shore from Australia. The Australian company has not yet been successful in this particular lease. The water is rather deep and the area has not yet been fully tested. Bearing in mind the odds associated with oil drilling, the company probably will not find anything. But the lease was allocated quite deliberately on the basis that if oil was found it would be in Australian hands and happily developed by an Australian free enterprise company.
– It was a Liberal government.
-That is correct, and I believe that it was probably the first decision made by that Government on that basis.
The rest of the speech goes into the emotional and, in very many places, the proper arguments for retaining these resources for Australians. But, as I said, there is no development of just what the policy is to be. I find it a sorry state of affairs that, as just one person among many in this chamber, I must oppose this Bill because I do not know what it means. That is not a good enough effort on the part of the Government. My vote does not mean anything as the votes of honourable senators on this side of the House will not mean anything in regard to this Bill. I suppose that we just express a point of view. But there might be better government in Australia if, during the time which they have available to them during parliamentary recesses, Government Ministers worked out in more detail the proposals that they put to this place and to another place. I think that this would contribute to the eventual success of the Bills which the Government puts forward.
I think that this Parliament is quite justified in expressing its opposition to this Bill on the basis that it is simply a blank cheque. It is a new procedure to enter into very competitive and disputed areas with the States. If one studies the Minister’s second reading speech properly and reads between the lines one can see that he makes threats to the existing system, which so far has been pretty successful in Australia. Despite the fact that we have had a very difficult time in the area of the ownership of off-shore minerals and oil in Australia and that the States have not always had, and have at times deliberately acted against what otherwise would be, a national fuel and energy policy, the Government still has not explained its full intentions. As I said, I hope that in the administration of this Bill, if it does proceed through the various disputes after it passes the Parliament, the Government will quickly define its intentions so that private industry in the mineral and oil field can proceed with confidence in those areas which the Government approves. At the present time I feel that all exploring companies in the mineral and oil field would be dismayed, and they certainly have expressed that dismay. It does not matter whether this expression has been made purely on behalf of their shareholders or on behalf of the industry in general; they are justified in their dismay that they do not know what this Government intends to do with them. For that reason I intend to vote against the Bill and against the amendment.
– It appears that at the end of this fairly lengthy debate we have reached a position of stalemate. It appears that the amendment moved by the Opposition will not be carried and then the motion proposed by the Government also will not be carried. I know that many matters were raised during the course of the debate. But the objections which have been raised appear to centre on the theory that the Government is to nationalise this industry, and in fact that it is another case of socialism being put into effect by this Government.
The Government proposed the Petroleum and Minerals Authority in the first place because it was legitimately concerned at what was happening to the natural resources of this country. I was pleased that Senator Steele Hall, for one, was prepared to acknowledge his concern that Australia’s interests in respect of this matter should be properly protected. That point of view, fortunately, went a little further than Senator Townley ‘s statement that he believed that only to a certain extent should Australia’s interests be protected. If we are to effect that protection we have to take some action, and the action proposed by the Government is to establish the Authority which in fact will be vested with powers in the interests of the Australian people.
I am sure that the Fitzgerald report will be debated in this Senate during the course of this Parliament. I am sure that all of us are aware that that report shows beyond any question that Australia’s interests have been neglected in recent years in respect of benefits accruing to overseas interests in the minerals area. The Government, not having the power to nationalise the industry under the Constitution, as we know, has taken the only effective step available to it, and that is the creation of this Authority which will in fact work in conjunction with private enterprise, where necessary, in order to establish a proper working arrangement between Government and private enterprise.
Before saying a few more words on this subject I want to make this point clear: It was said that the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, had been conducting a vendetta against the industry since he became Minister. Yet, it was the same Mr Connor who patiently but firmly renegotiated certain prices for our exports to
Japan. The value of our exports to Japan in the year ended 3 1 March 1974-1 quote these figures on the basis of approximate tonnages shippedwas $300m. Our estimates now, as a result of Mr Connor’s efforts, are that on the same or similar basis receipts for our exports shipped to that country will be $500m. An extra $200m has been secured for Australia’s interests by this person who is alleged to be conducting a vendetta against the mining industry in Australia. This is hardly an example of a Minister who is not interested in the welfare of the mining industry of this country. He took this action because he had the courage and the patience to do so. So let us put to rest this argument that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has some vendetta against the industry.
Is it practical and realistic to suggest that this legislation is an exercise to socialise the industry? It is ridiculous to suggest that because clause 8 of the Bill contains a provision to ensure that those Australian ventures which find mineral deposits and which are unable to finance their development on their own account can be assisted by the Authority. The clause should be read so that we can see exactly what the Bill provides. Clause 8 provides that the Authority will assist, except by grants or subsidies, others carrying on similar operations primarily directed at those Australian mining ventures which, having discovered a mineral resource that appears to have potential, are unable to finance the further exploration and development necessary to demonstrate the viability of the discovery. These companies normally would look to a larger operating company for the necessary help. But local Australian companies have a limited capacity to take on new ventures of this type and therefore find themselves turning to overseas companies which thereby secure an interest in our natural resources. To replace them the Government has decided that the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be authorised to assist those ventures. This is hardly legislation that would be put forward by a government that was determined to cripple private initiative. Certainly, they are not the proposals of a government determined simply to nationalise the industry. Early yesterday a couple of points were raised by Senator Scott. He referred to the fact that the Authority was not subject to State law. It is not subject to State law because its powers flow from the Commonwealth Constitution. It would be a denial of the Constitution to make the exercise of the Authority’s powers subject to a State. Again, in relation to this Bill, we have the argument which was raised in previous debates and that is that the Australian government would exercise some monstrous power to the detriment of the States.
– That has been demonstrated in 18 months.
– It has never been the intention of the Government to do that in respect of this legislation, despite Senator Greenwood’s interjection. It comes quite easily off the top of the honourable senator’s head that that has been done in the last 1 8 months. In fact, the States are getting a better deal from this Government than they ever had in the past from the Government of which the honourable senator was a member. It is unfortunate that this is the third or fourth time we have debated this Bill in this chamber. We have been through all the matters before. I appreciate the rights of honourable senators, especially those who have come into the Senate since the last time the Bill was debated, to put their views. However, I think it is necessary that we accept the fact that we are facing a stalemate. To those who oppose this legislation I say, as I said on the last occasion, that responsibility lies with them if this legislation cannot go forward. The Government is putting this legislation forward in the best faith and in the best interests of the Australian people. If this Bill is denied to the Australia people it will be on the responsibility of those who vote against it.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Durack’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. JustinO ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the basis for the examination and, as necessary, regulation of activities in the non-bank financial sector in the interests of effective management of the economy. There have been extensive prior consultations with groups which will be affected by the legislation, and this Bill incorporates a significant number of proposals made in the course of those consultations. As honourable senators are aware, non-bank financial institutions have grown rapidly over recent years. However, information available on the activities of the institutions has been seriously inadequate or, in some cases, completely lacking. An important purpose of the legislation will be to provide a means of obtaining additional basic information about the institutions covered in the Bill. This information will be of sufficient detail and sufficiently up to date as to enable the Government to assess for economic management purposes the need to regulate, in a variety of ways, the operations of the corporations concerned. It will also enable the publication of much more information than hitherto about the activities of the institutions.
The other main purpose of the legislation is to give the Government adequate control powers over non-bank financial institutions, in line with those that presently exist with regard to banks. These could supplement, as necessary, existing monetary policy weapons so as to assist in the effective overall management of the economy. The proposed control powers relate to asset ratios, directions regarding volume and direction of lending, and interest rates. The Government considers that the availability of such control powers over the non-bank financial sector is an essential requirement for a government charged with responsibilities for economic management. The Government is fully aware, however, of the difficulties of implementing direct controls over this sector, particularly controls that would be completely new. It is also well aware of the need to ensure that when any controls are imposed, they do not undermine confidence in the institutions concerned or unduly disrupt their legitimate activities.
The first objective of the Government, once the Bill is passed, will be to obtain the detailed information on which controls must necessarily be based. It is for this reason that the Bill itself does not attempt to specify the controls that will in fact be applied. It rather empowers the Government to apply specific controls, within the range provided for in the Bill, by way of the making of subsequent regulations. The Government does not regard direct controls over nonbank financial institutions as a substitute for, as distinct from supporting, other monetary policy actions or for responsible fiscal policies. However, in appropriate circumstances, such direct controls can help in meeting particular objectives.
The legislation is designed to cover those corporations, other than banks, which engage in the borrowing and lending of money in a major way. These are the corporations whose activities are of concern from the viewpoint of monetary policy and which are not currently subject to direct control. Their importance in financial markets- both as borrowers and lenders- gives them significant potential to undertake activities sometimes inimical to effective economic management.
The legislation will thus gather within its provisions corporations which may be generally described as finance companies, permanent building societies, merchant banks and money market groups, including the authorised dealers in the short term money market, pastoral finance companies and credit unions. Other corporations whose borrowing and lending activities are important, for example, corporate retailers which, within their own operations, have outstanding finance provided totalling $5m or more, will also be covered. The legislation has in fact been drafted with the aim of covering both existing major borrowing and lending institutions and any such new institutions that may spring up in the future.
There is, of course, a diverse range of other corporations operating in the financial sector, including life and general insurance companies, pension funds, terminating building societies, friendly and health societies, unit trusts, investment and trustee companies. However, the activities of these corporations either have limited implications for monetary policy or they are subject to other legislation of the Australian Parliament. Financial institutions of this kind are therefore excluded from the provisions of the Bill now before the Senate.
In considering the legislation it also needs to be borne in mind that most non-bank financial institutions are already subject to supervision under State or Territory laws which deal primarily with the rights of borrowers and lenders and the financial stability of companies. It is not the intention of the present Bill to exclude or limit the operations of such laws and it is anticipated that they will, in the normal course of events, operate concurrently with the present legislation.
Corporations of the type covered by the legislation will be required to register and to provide regular information about their activities if their total assets exceed $ 1 m or, in the case of retailers, if outstanding finance provided exceeds $5m. However, it is not envisaged that any controls which the Government may decide to impose would necessarily apply to all institutions. A sufficient coverage- in most cases about 90 per cent- of the assets of various groups would be obtained if any controls that were applied to financial institutions were applied only to those with total assets in excess of $5m. The application of controls in this way would also reduce the administrative burdens and, more importantly, allow more flexibility. There is provision for the amounts of $lm and $5m in the legislation to be varied by regulation if necessary.
In proposing that the registration and control provisions of the legislation should apply only to institutions that are above stipulated sizes, the Government has very much in mind that, in contrast to the small number of banks, there are a large number of non-bank financial institutions. It is estimated that there are operating in Australia about 1,000 finance company groups, 200 permanent building societies, 750 credit unions, and somewhere between 50 and 80 corporations operating generally in the merchant banking area. Individual institutions within these groups can also show a marked diversity in the nature of their borrowings and their lending business.
The Government has not been able to accept representations that certain groups of financial corporations should be exempted from the Bill because they are in a special position or because they are largely mutual, non-profit-making institutions. The activities of all the financial corporations covered by the Bill are currently or potentially important for economic conditions and therefore for economic policy. The exclusion of any group would materially weaken the proposed legislation and could make the achievement of the broad objectives of the legislation substantially more difficult to achieve. The fact that a group of institutions is nonprofitmaking, or that it is operating in an area of social importance, does not reduce the capacity of those institutions, in certain circumstances, to undertake activities that could be inimical to effective economic management and thereby involve both economic and social costs to the community.
As an explanatory memorandum on the various clauses of the Bill has been circulated to honourable senators, it is not proposed to outline them in detail here. However, I would draw honourable senators’ attention to certain key clauses in the Bill. Clause 8(1) determines the type of corporations that will be covered in the legislation, subject to clause 8(2) which provides certain specific exemptions as well as a general exemption for those corporations whose assets do not exceed Sim.
Clause 10 provides for the Treasurer to draw up and publish a list of registered corporations and for such a list to divide corporations into various categories. This provision will enable any controls that may be imposed to be applied in ways which will take account of the major differences in the structure and activities of the various categories of institutions that will be covered by the legislation. It will be apparent that any attempt to impose uniform controls across the whole range of institutions covered by the legislation would be both impracticable and inequitable.
Part IV of the Bill contains a description of the powers that are sought for control of the business activities of financial corporations. As has already been indicated, these powers will be implemented, when necessary, by way of regulations. Clause 13 provides that such regulations may require a corporation to maintain in specified assets such percentage of its assets or liabilities as is determined from time to time by the Reserve Bank. Such determinations are, as are determinations made under other clauses, to be subject to the approval of the Treasurer. It is not the Government’s intention to introduce reserve deposit requirements of the type placed on banks. The specification of statutory reserve deposits in the case of the banks is, of course, related to their special position.
Clause 14 provides that regulations may require a corporation to comply with directives with respect to the corporation’s general lending policy, or its policy in relation to specific types of lending. Clause 15 provides that regulations may specify the maximum interest rates payable by a corporation on its borrowings or chargeable by it on its lending, including the maximum rates of specific types of lending. There is provision for the prescription of a minimum period of not less than 30 days for complying with any asset ratio determination fixing an initial or increased ratio. However, it would not, of course, be desirable to stipulate any such minimum period for an interest rate or lending policy determination.
Provision has been made in clause 1 8 for the Treasurer, after consulting the Reserve Bank, to exempt a corporation from the application of any control determination if he considers that the public interest and the existence of special circumstances justify his doing so. An exemption under this clause may be subject to conditions and will be published in the Gazette not later than 90 days after the instrument of exemption is signed by the Treasurer. It is intended that this provision would be used only where unforeseen difficulties arise in the application of a determination but it provides an additional safeguard for corporations that may become subject to controls.
Since it is clear that several organisations representing finance groups place great store on provisions allowing for consultation, provision has been made in clause 30 for the Treasurer to appoint a committee or committees of persons to advise him on matters to be included in regulations to be made under the legislation and on the operation of the legislation. In addition, clause 3 1 provides for the Reserve Bank to consult with associations or other bodies representing registered corporations to keep itself informed of their views in relation to the exercise by the Bank of its powers under the legislation and of trends in activities of their members.
The Government attaches considerable importance to voluntary co-operation and consultation in economic management, and considers that the provisions for consultation with representatives of the non-bank finance sector will assist in obtaining voluntary co-operation from the institutions concerned. Such consultations will also provide a means by which representatives of the various industry groups will be able to express their views on proposed regulations and on how the legislation is operating generally.
It should be emphasised here that the Government proposes to consult appropriate advisory committees before making regulations to give effect to the control powers. In addition there will, of course, be the normal opportunity for Parliament to review regulations made under the legislation. The Government understands the concern that has been expressed about the use which could be made of the wide powers proposed to be taken in the Bill but it is most important to appreciate that the exercise of such powers will be given effect only by bringing down regulations in the manner described. Such regulations will, of course, impose limits on the extent to which the control powers will be subject to administrative discretion.
In conclusion, it should again be emphasised that the Government is fully aware of the difficulties involved in implementing direct controls over the activities of the non-bank financial sector and of the need to ensure that any controls imposed do not undermine confidence in the institutions concerned or unduly disrupt their legitimate activities. This is reflected, among other things, in the consultations that have already taken place with finance groups and the provision in the Bill to formalise such consultations in the future with regard to the formulation of regulations and on the operation of the proposed legislation.
The Government has taken note of the amendments proposed by the Opposition in the House of Representatives. It is giving consideration to them, and will respond to them during the debate on the Bill. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
- Mr President, it is not my normal practice to speak immediately after the making of a second reading speech, but on this occasion I shall do so very briefly and then seek leave to continue my remarks later. This is an extremely important piece of legislation for the whole Parliament, but particularly for the Senate. I do not mean in any way to derogate the House of Representatives, but I have long held the viewone which I have expressed in this chamber before and which I hope to express again- that there are certain areas of Australian interests which warrant long term consideration when they are affected by measures of magnitude, and quite serious consideration should be given to them in this Senate, sometimes for a greater duration of time than is possible in the House of Representatives.
My understanding of this Bill is that it was passed quite quickly by the House of Representatives. The Opposition in that place would have liked to have discussed a large number of amendments to the Bill. It was not able to do so. I think that the Government will fairly understand that the Opposition in the Senate will wish to take this Bill seriously and will wish to take equally seriously the amendments which we think will be useful to the Bill. Therefore the debate will take quite a period. We should stress to the Government that this matter is one of great financial magnitude which will have a marked effect on the Australian scene for many years. It confers substantial power on the Commonwealth in what might be called the monetary sector. It is fundamentally an umbrella type operation in which great overriding powers are to be expressed in a form of varying kinds of regulations. All these things would need to be examined in great detail. In general, the Opposition believes that there has been need for some sort of overall monetary authority. That is a better word than control’.
There are 2 points of view. One can opt for what one might call the policy of taking hands off everything. I imagine that that policy would be regarded by most of us as not workable in the current scene. Therefore, an overall authority which would bring under some degree of scrutiny and capacity to handle is, I think, in the overall interests of Australia, now becoming necessary. But safeguards must be found. The Bill must be examined critically. I will urge upon my colleagues in the Senate in due course that we take this matter very seriously, allowing some time to consider it. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18 July (vide page 267), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will support the Statute Law Revision Bill but I desire to say a few words about its purposes and about the circumstances in which it comes before the Senate. The Bill is the second Statute Law Revision Bill to have been introduced since this Government came into power. The first Bill was introduced late last year and passed through the Parliament. The second Bill is now before us. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy), when introducing the Bill into this place, said that its purpose is to take the process of statute revision one step further along the road in the long awaited and much needed consolidation of Commonwealth statutes. This is an amending Bill. It corrects some errors which appeared in the Statute Law Revision Bill which was passed last year.
The major Bill was last year’s Bill. It was of massive size. This Bill picks up some of the errors which have been detected as the work has proceeded. It also indicates the continuing nature of the work of revising the statutes preparatory to consolidation. Accordingly, some of the revision work- the excision of exhausted statutes and exhausted provisions and the tidying up of language in other provisions- is also taken care of. The purposes of the Bill have such general acceptance that the Opposition welcomes it and desires that it be passed. I think it is appropriate that we acknowledge that if this Bill is passed this evening it will, in all probability, be the first Bill to which the new Governor-General gives his assent. It is appropriate that that Bill be a Statute Law Revision Bill. Having regard to that fact it is also appropriate that the Opposition does not proceed with a certain amendment with which it had intended to proceed but which may now be left to a later stage because of certain assurances which have been given by the Attorney-General.
– A Public Service Bill will be introduced some time this year to which you will be able to move the amendment that you propose.
– I am grateful for the Attorney-General’s acknowledgment of the first of the 2 matters to which I was proposing to refer. That matter was the subject of communication between the Attorney-General and myself. It was adverted to in the debate in the House of Representatives. I think the Senate will recall that last year a Public Service Bill was introduced into the Parliament under which the oath or affirmation of allegiance was deleted. I think it might come as a surprise to a lot of people that members of the Public Service of the Commonwealth do not now subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance as part of their obligations upon entering into the Service. That provision was deleted last year. Anyone who desires to read the circumstances surrounding its deletion may do so by referring to the Hansard of the last day of sitting in 1973.
Difficulties arose because it was the wish of the Senate to give consideration to that matter. However, the Senate was precluded from doing so because at the time that the Bill came before the Senate the House of Representatives had risen. As the Attorney-General said, if the provisions deleting the oath or affirmation of allegiance had been removed from the Bill, the other matters contained in the Bill would have had to wait until 1974 before they could be considered by the House of Representatives. As the AttorneyGeneral gave the Senate an undertaking that in 1974 he would provide an opportunity for the matter of whether an oath or affirmation of allegiance should be part of the Public Service requirements to be debated on an appropriate Bill, the Opposition did not persist with its amendment at that time. When the Statute Law Revision Bill was introduced, it appeared to the Opposition to be an appropriate vehicle for raising this matter. Clause 7, 1 think, of the Bill contains a specific reference to the Public Service Act, and it would have been an easy matter to introduce the appropriate amendment.
The Attorney-General has confirmed that a Public Service Bill will be introduced into the
Parliament, not in the current session but in the Budget session. It will have a title sufficiently extensive to enable the matters which the Opposition desires to have considered by the Parliament considered in the appropriate way. Therefore we acknowledge that that is the proper way of proceeding with the Opposition’s intention. It will also enable the Statute Law Revision Bill to be passed without amendment and to become the first Bill to be passed during the period of Governor-Generalship of Sir John Kerr.
I refer to the second matter only because of certain remarks which were made by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby), who represents the Attorney-General. If he had not mentioned these matters I would not have adverted to them. The Attorney-General has not claimed that the Statute Law Revision Bills and the work of consolidating the statutes are matters which commenced in his period of office as Attorney-General. He has carried on work which was under way at the time that he took, office. A contrary view was expressed by Mr Enderby in the House of Representatives. He said:
Although it is not my wish to be unnecessarily political in this debate, I think it is to the discredit of the previous Government that for so long it did nothing about remedying that very bad situation.
I think that the record, particularly the report of evidence before the Estimates Committee, reveals that the work of preparing for the consolidation or the re-print of the statutes had commenced as early as late 1 97 1. This work was continuing throughout 1972, and it has been only because so much of that work had been done that the Attorney-General was able, I think in September or October 1973, to announce that there would be a consolidation of the statutes.
– I think he was probably referring to one of your predecessors who, I think, announced that the project had been abandoned- that is, some years after another one had said that it was just about finished.
– I do not doubt that if Senator Murphy makes inquiries from his officers he will find that the reason why he is able to introduce a Statute Law Revision Bill at the present time is that so much work in the preparation of that Bill had been done during 1972. 1 refer to the Senate Estimates Committee hearings in early 1972 when it was indicated that an officer of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel had been delegated to undertake preparation of a Statute Law Revision Bill as the essential first step to a general re-print or consolidation of the Commonwealth statutes. The nature of that reprint or consolidation was a matter for decision and, of course, it had to await the compilation of all the work. The present Attorney-General obviously decided that a consolidation was preferable to a general re-print, and I think that I would concur in that general decision.
In the hearings of the Senate Estimates Committee which dealt with the Attorney-General’s Department in September 1972 I gave an intimation that monthly reports on the progress of the work of the Statute Law Revision Bill had been received. My recollection is that I had been receiving them since November or December of 1 97 1 . Indeed, it is interesting to refer to what Mr Ewens, who was then the First Parliamentary Counsel, said to the Senate Estimates Committee. He said:
The preparation of a reprinted Commonwealth Act is very expensive. We would not want to reprint a number of Acts the operation of which is exhausted. In order to exclude them from the reprint it is necessary for Parliament to repeal them, otherwise they are still laws and must be included. Not only can whole Acts be repealed, but also substantial portions of Acts can be repealed. We take the opportunity also of tidying up mistakes that have been discovered in Acts, and generally getting the law into pretty shipshape fashion. When the Statute Law Revision Bill is introduced it will probably be a Bill of some hundreds of pages. When this Bill is enacted by Parliament the work of getting the manuscript of the reprint down to the Printer can begin.
It was interesting to hear from a former First Parliamentary Counsel what is involved in the work of statute law revision. He spoke with an unerring accuracy and prophecy in that what he said about the difficulties of getting the manuscript of the re-print to the printer referred to matters to which the Attorney-General himself referred, as I recall, when he introduced this Bill. Mr Ewens also said in Sepember 1972:
Our aim was to introduce the Statute Law Revision Bill this year but that proved impossible. It was so big that it could not be done in the year, and our hope now is to introduce it towards the end of next year, and then the reprint would be a reprint as at the end of 1 973.
In the current circumstances the announcement was able to be made at the end of 1973 but, I gather, the reprint will not be available until September or October of 1974. 1 mention these matters not in a carping way or unnecessarily to emphasise matters which I think need not have been emphasised but for the statements made by Mr Enderby in which it was sought once more to suggest that the previous Government had done nothing in that area, and had virtually done nothing in every area that could be thought of. It is a tendency which I think we on our side of the Parliament ought to correct, given every opportunity to do so. So much of what this Government is now claiming credit for is work which was started in the lifetime of the previous Government. The consolidation of the statutes is one such area, and I hasten to say that the present Attorney-General has not suggested otherwise.
There are so many other areas in which it is suggested that the work which is now being completed, or is now being claimed as magnificent achievements, was started in the lifetime of the McMahon Government. One refers, of course, to the question of foreign ownership and the legislation under which foreign takeovers can be controlled. The legislation under which this Government operates was passed in the lifetime of the McMahon Government and so far this Government has not altered it. Of course the legislation of the McMahon Government was preceded by the most exhaustive inquiry into foreign ownership that has ever been held in Australia. These things are inclined to be overlooked. It is overlooked, of course, that the work that Mr Uren’s Department is able to do arises from the functioning of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority which was created in the lifetime of the McMahon Government. The work being done in the area of Aborigines and Aboriginal land rights flows essentially from the statement which the previous Prime Minister made on Australia Day 1972. I could refer to a number of these matters merely to emphasise the point which a particular statement in the course of the debate on the Statute Law Revision Bill in the lower House has precipitated.
I do not desire to say anything more about the matter except to reflect that as history unfolds, the pattern of activity in all these areas will become more readily discernible, and that which is fact will be distinguished from that which is mere propaganda. The Opposition welcomes the progress which the present Government has made with regard to the consolidation of the Commonwealth statutes. It acknowledges that the Statute Law Revision Bill is an essential step towards ensuring that the Acts which are consolidated are as concise as lawyers’ revision and excision of dead wood can make them. We wish the Government all speed in the preparation of all the volumes of the consolidation so that those who rely upon them will be advantaged.
– in reply-I thank the Senate for the way in which it has dealt with this measure. Frankly, I have not read the remarks of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) who represents me in the other chamber. I think honourable senators will sympathise with me when I say that these days often there is not enough time to do that. I do not wish to deny any credit at all to the former AttorneyGeneral, Senator Greenwood, nor to others who have assisted in this massive task. I think that Mr Enderby ‘s remarks may have been directed more to the failure to do something about consolidation over a long period of time. I well remember that when I first came into this chamberI think it was in 1962-1 asked questions about the consolidation and was told that it was almost ready. A few years later we were told that the project had been abandoned. I think this is more the kind of complaint that Mr Enderby was making. However, since I have not read the precise remarks, I cannot be sure about this. But let us all be thankful that this massive task has gone forward so well, and I hope that very soon we will have the results of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23 July (vide page 379), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I wonder whether the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) would be agreeable to having a cognate debate covering this Bill and the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Bill 1974.
– I welcome the suggestion with open arms.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
-These Bills were introduced into the Senate last night, having passed through the House of Representatives yesterday. In his second reading speech the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) said: . . the passage of this Bill will be a further significant step in the exercise of the Australian Government’s sovereignty in respect of the offshore mining industry.
The history of this Bill is a long one, not in its present form but in the subject matter with which it deals and the issues which it raises. The Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill contains a mining code which is to be applied to the offshore areas of Australia, which include the areas we were partly discussing yesterday in regard to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. These areas extend, of course, to the outer limits of the continental shelf. This Bill had its origin as part of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which, as we all know, has a history going back to 1970. That Bill was introduced last year in 3 parts, Parts I and II of which were concerned with the claim by the Commonwealth Government to sovereignty over the whole of the offshore seabed of Australia and taking effect seawards from low water mark around the whole of the Australian coastline. The Bill made the claim that the Commonwealth Government, and not the States whose land was adjacent to the particular offshore areas, was the sovereign power as regards those offshore areas. Part III of that Bill contained a mining code which is virtually in the same terms as that in the Bill now presented.
In fact, two Bills were introduced into this chamber last year. Consideration of one of those Bills was set aside for some time and subsequently a second Bill was introduced. The Senate voted on the second Bill, and we in the Opposition took the view that the claim to sovereignty contained in Parts I and II of that Bill should be passed but we were opposed to and we voted against, and thereby amended, Part III of the Bill which contained the mining code. So, in effect, when we dealt with this subject last year we opposed exactly the same provisions as are contained in the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill. On that occasion there was a cognate debate incorporating a Seas and Submerged Lands (Royalties) Bill, which we also opposed because such a Bill would have meaning only as ancillary to or as part and parcel of the mining code. On this occasion the Opposition takes exactly the same view in relation to this legislation as it did last year.
When we dealt with the matter last year it was our view that it was appropriate for the Commonwealth of Australia to assert its broad sovereignty over adjacent seabed or, as it is known in popular terms, the continental shelf extending right around the Australian land mass. I do not propose to traverse the great debate which has taken place over a period of 4 years in relation to that matter. There was division in the Opposition on this matter. In fact, several members of the Opposition, including myself, were opposed to that claim to sovereignty by the Australian Government. But the stand the Opposition took then was to support the Government in asserting the claim to sovereignty to these areas. We took that view because there are grave legal doubts as to which governments- the Commonwealth Government or the State governments- has sovereignty in these areas. This matter has not been clearly resolved under the Constitution, and it ought to be resolved. The most desirable way in which it could be resolved was for the Commonwealth Government to make that claim and for the matter then to be resolved by the High Court of Australia. By the attitude that we adopted officially last year to the question we made it easy for the Government to have the matter resolved by the High Court. That was the reason and the only reason that we were prepared to support the Government’s claim in relation to sovereignty. However, for a number of reasons we were opposed to the implementation of a mining code to govern the offshore areas of Australia. Of course, it is for those reasons that we are now opposed to the present Bills.
Since the Senate dealt with the matter last year the position has moved forward. That is why I was very intrigued by the Minister’s claim in his second reading speech that these Bills represent some progress in the exercise of the Australian Government’s sovereignty. There could be nothing further from the truth than that claim. No further progress can be made in this matter until this very difficult legal and constitutional question is resolved by the High Court of Australiathe question which we facilitated, by vote in the Senate last year, being put to the High Court. Since then the State of Queensland and I think a number of other States- I think somebody drew to my attention only the other day the fact that South Australia can be included in this category- have all joined in proceedings in the High Court of Australia to have determined the claim contained in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. The proceedings are already under way. Presumably, within the next few months the High Court of Australia will hear the case and in due course give its judgment. Then the matter of whether the Commonwealth has the power over the area, whether the States have the power over the area or who has control over what areas will be resolved by the High Court judgment. But until that High Court judgment is obtained it is quite a futile exercise for the Commonwealth Parliament to be making any legislation in the area. It is entirely misleading for the Government to try to present to the Parliament and to the public of Australia any idea that it is progressing in any way with the resolution of this problem.
Apart altogether from that misleading aspect of these Bills, we in the Opposition have some basic philosophical objections to them. The Opposition believes that although it is appropriate for the question of the Commonwealth’s sovereignty over the off-shore areas to be resolved, although we support the claim to sovereignty and although we support in principle the idea that the Commonwealth Government should have a broad legal and constitutional sovereignty over these areas, when all is said and done we are even at the present time engaged in an international conference at which we are asserting very broad claims over the continental shelf extending seawards 200 miles or more. It is important that we as a nation make these claims and endeavour to achieve the maximum control of international law over the seabed, to the seabed subjacent to the Australian land mass and, of course, to the seas and the territorial waters around our coast. So although we accept this claim in principle and would want to do everything to facilitate its being made and to see the establishment in international law on these matters, we take the view that under our federal system of government and under our federal Constitution the appropriate bodies to have the jurisdiction in regard to the control of mining on the seabed are the respective State parliaments and State governments.
We have achieved in Australia in the off-shore petroleum legislation one of the most significant exercises in co-operative federalism that has been achieved anywhere in the world. Certainly, I think, it is one of the most notable examples of that modern concept of federalism in action that has been achieved in Australia. That legislation which I say is of historic significance in promoting the concept of co-operative federalism establishes the major administration in respect of oil exploration and development of oil discoveries in the off-shore areas in the hands of the State governments. That was joint legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament and the State parliaments because of these doubts that I have mentioned which have not yet been resolved and certainly were not resolved or even resolvable when this legislation was passed. But we believe that this type of legislation was a highly desirable exercise in the modern version of federalism which we call co-operative federalism.
We take the same view that if the Commonwealth establishes in the High Court the broad sovereignty over these areas, nevertheless although that would no doubt give the Commonwealth Parliament a power to legislate in these areas, whether it be in regard to mining or otherwise I will deal with some other aspects of that in a minute- we believe that it would be proper for mining laws in regard to the seabed to be passed essentially by the State parliaments. The State parliaments having jurisdiction to the lowwater mark, in our view it is unrealistic, apart from anything else, to say that the actual detailed administration and control of mining beyond that low-water mark on the seabed should be handled by an entirely different authority, namely, the Commonwealth Minister who is the person with the absolute control in regard to mining under this Bill.
– You regard him as an enemy alien when you talk about the matter.
-If he is regarded as an enemy alien, it is entirely his own fault because no Minister in your Government -
– He is a fellow Australian; he is not a foreigner.
-That is true. He may be an Australian, but his whole attitude to the mining industry and his whole attitude to the Statesparticularly Western Australia and Queensland -make the States believe very firmly that he is not only an enemy but also an alien. Mr President, I have been endeavouring to keep this debate on a reasonable level. Interjections such as the ones we have just heard required me to divert from that level of debate. Let me return to the serious question of what is the policy, regardless altogether of whether it is the present Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), whether the Minister be Senator Mulvihill- whom none of us would regard as an enemy alien- or whoever the Minister may be who is in charge of the portfolio.
The policies that I am now indicating as those of the Opposition would apply if we were the Government. Our policy, as I have stated and will repeat, is that the actual administration and the establishment of mining laws in respect of the seabed subjacent to any State of Australia should be in the hands of the State Parliament and the State Government concerned. It is quite absurd that there should be one law applying to mining in the on-shore areas of a State- the land mass of the State- and another law in the area immediately beyond the low-water mark. I emphasise that we are not necessarily talking about what happens 100 miles out to sea; the same mining operation can and frequently would be taking place on both the on-shore and the off-shore areas. The low-water mark line could pass right through the middle of a particular mining operation. That only emphasises in a stark form the absurdity of having a State law applying to part of the operation and a federal law applying to the other part of the operation. Although that may be an extreme example, it is not by any means an unlikely situation. Apart from that, we believe that the proper authorities to legislate with respect to mining and with respect to all those matters of local concern and interest in regard to the subjacent areas- the seabeds subjacent to the States- are the State governments and the State parliaments themselves.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was stating the view of the Opposition that the proper authorities in our Federal system to control the administration of mining in the offshore areas are the State parliaments and the State governments. But this Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill with which we are dealing has in it provisions which emphasise the centralist mentality and obsession which seems to dominate the present Government. Not only does it provide that the Commonwealth Minister for Minerals and Energy should be the controlling force for the administration of mining laws, the granting of mining rights and so forth in the offshore area; it also has a section which deals with the ordinary laws which would apply in these areas. We must bear in mind that the application of this Bill takes effect from low water mark seawards. It means that all the quite normal and ordinary human activities which take place just immediately off the coast, immediately off the beaches all around Australia, will be controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament and Commonwealth Government. It is not just a matter of controlling mining; it is a matter of controlling boating, swimming, surfing and so forth- a whole range of human activity which occurs beyond what is known as the low water mark but which in ordinary parlance means what happens just off the beaches of Australia. In all these matters this Bill has provision for application of laws to this area which are not the laws of the State adjacent to the sea. It applies to the area beyond low water mark off the beaches of Australia the laws of the Australian Capital Territory, an area about 150 miles or whatever distance it is in kilometers, from any breath or sight of the sea. These laws of the Australian Capital Territory are by this Bill made to apply to any of these activities which occur off our coast. Part II of this Bill provides that the provision of the laws, written or unwritten, for the time being in force in the Australian Capital Territory, and any instruments under them, or any awards or determinations or orders, shall apply to the off-shore zone as though the zone were part of the Australian Capital Territory. What more absurd and rampant exercise in obsessive centralism could we have in this nation than having the laws of the Australian Capital Territory apply to any one of us- any person in this country- as soon as he steps off the beaches of Australia, whatever State he might be in, whatever beach he might be on around the vast coastline of this nation?
The laws that will apply to him when he goes into the water or takes a boat into it will not be the laws of the State where he normally lives and acts and under which his daily life is governed; they will be the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. That is the extent, as I said, of the absurd, rampant and excessive centralised thinking of the provisions in this Bill. This is a Bill which provides that the laws of this Parliament shall apply not only to mines but to all activities that take place off the beaches of Australia.
Apart from those very basic philosophical objections which we in the Opposition have to this Bill, we have given very close consideration to the nature of the mining code contained in the Bill. Our objections were very fully stated here by Senator Greenwood when we last debated the measure and I do not propose to take up the time of the Senate tonight by again going over all those detailed objections to it as a mining code. However, I would just like to put two major objections which we have. First and foremost, throughout this Bill we have a provision that all powers are to be exercised by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Time and time again throughout this Bill there is a provision that the granting of permits, the renewal of permits, the cancellation of permits and the whole administration of this Bill shall be decided by the Minister. It contains ministerial discretions with which we as an Opposition could never agree and with which I would never expect this Senate to agree.
The other objections we have is that throughout the Bill there is no provision whatever, as there is in mining codes of the States, for these rights to be applied for at an open hearing in a warden’s court with consideration of argument, recommendation and so forth. For those reasons alone we would be strongly opposed to the provisions of this Bill; and for those reasons and for the philosophical reasons which I have indicated, the Opposition proposes to vote against it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I assume there is a very good reason for this debate being adjourned. I am not aware of it in terms of anything that has been said to me, I am not aware of anything that has been said to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), and
I am not aware of anything that has been said to anybody else in the Opposition. I can only make this protest and say that, whilst I am not indicating that there will be any vote against this motion, if the ordinary proprieties of the Senate are to be oberved there ought to be communication between the parties on occasions such as this. I assume, as I said, that there is a good reason for this debate being adjourned. But there ought to be consultation. I can say only that, when I am in charge of the Opposition, if there is no consultation then one can proceed only upon the basis that the ordinary rights which senators have ought to be followed. I say this by way of protest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am sorry that Senator Greenwood had not been informed of this matter. I had intended to break into the Senate’s time for about one minute. I thought that this arrangement had been made. The reason why it is necessary for me to intervene at this stage is that a report is being presented in the other House at the moment and I was informed that it was desirable that the report be presented in this place and the other House as close to simultaneously as possible. Therefore, Mr President, pursuant to section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, 1 present the following paper:
Remuneration Tribunal 1974 Review.
I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Again I rise. This episode has about it a character which depicts the contempt with which this Government is treating this Parliament. We were not told why the current debate was to be adjourned. I understand from what Senator Willesee has said that he was not aware that we had not been informed. I suspect that he was not concerned whether we were informed or not. I accepted that there was probably a good reason why the Government Whip moved for the adjournment of the current debate to allow the Deputy Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Willesee) to make a statement. I think that is a courtesy which would be expected, and it was extended.
Now we are told that there is a report which is tabled. However, I have not seen the report. We are then told that there is to be a debate on the statement and that the debate is to take place on the next day of sitting. What is the statement? Is not the Opposition to be given the statement? Are not members of the Opposition to be allowed to see it? Is this the way in which the Government expects democracy to be carried on? I believe that, search as they will, members of the Labor Party will not find that this sort of conduct ever took place in the lifetime of the previous Government. If there had been any attempt in the lifetime of the previous Government to do this sort of thing, I am quite sure that Senator Willesee and Senator Murphy would have been outspoken in their objection. We, on our part, will be outspoken because it is not right, if the Parliament is to function in the way it ought to function, for the Government to regard everybody else as being of no consequence and the convenience of its policies, its tactics and its Caucus.
If the Government wants to make the debate upon this statement an order of the day for the next day of sitting, so be it, we will not oppose that. But let us make our protest that we are not going to sit by and be silent when this Government thinks it can do what it likes without regard to the rights of anybody else. It is about time the Government accepted that if a document is to be tabled the practices of the past ought to be followed and the Opposition ought to be given confidential notice of the fact that the document is to be tabled. If there is a report which is going to be the subject of controversy, let us see it beforehand. If there is to be debate let us be told what the circumstances of the debate are. We are being asked to take note of a statement. We have not been told anything about the statement. We have not been shown it. I register our protest.
– I understand that the Senate is addressing itself to a motion to take note of the Remuneration Tribunal 1974 Review.
– Order! The question before the Chair is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-Yes. I take it that I am entitled to speak to that motion.
– You are entitled to speak to the motion.
-The Labor Party has been playing with a pig in the poke, or 100 squealing pigs in the poke, for the last 2 days. The subject with which we are now dealing is one in respect of which we rely upon the newspapers for information. We have been informed from that source that a majority of the Labor Caucus has approved of the recommendations of Mr Justice Campbell’s Remuneration Tribunal which deals, firstly, with the salaries of Ministers of the Crown, including the Prime Minister; secondly, with the salaries of members of Parliament -
– Order! I must draw the honourable senator’s attention to the Standing Orders which set out that he cannot debate the subject matter when the motion is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. This debate will take place on the next day of sitting.
-I do not want to go into the merits. I am just trying to bring the mind of the Senate into the focus of the debate which will come to the crunch point as to whether we should make the debate on the matter under discussion an order of the day for the next day of sitting or immediately pronounce some opinion upon the matter.
I was saying, Mr President, that the Tribunal has jurisdiction to deal with the salaries of people of no less status than, firstly, Ministers of the Crown, including the Prime Minister; secondly, members of Parliament; thirdly, judges of the Federal judiciary; and, fourthly, heads of all Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities. Mr President, I bring those to your attention only to indicate that the breadth of” the jurisdiction of this Tribunal makes it the superior wage fixing tribunal in the Commonwealth, the one which has the final responsibility to define a level beyond which wage inflation shall not go. For us to be asked to make the debate on the report of this Tribunal an order of the day for the next day of sitting and simply to take note of the paper denies the provisions of the Remuneration Tribunal statute itself, because the appropriate position under it is for this document to be laid upon the table of each House of the Parliament and then, uninhibited by any other motion, either House of the Parliament may move a resolution disapproving of the report or the determination.
If the newspapers are to be believed- in this instance I do not know whether they are to believed or disbelieved, and I had not seen the report until an attendant brought it to my table after I began making this speech- and if anything like an increase in salaries for members of Parliament is proposed in this episode of wage explosion which last night prompted the Government to introduce emergency taxation, I say quite emphatically that I will move at the first appropriate opportunity for disapproval of the report. That is why I rise to protest against these neutral procedural motions to simply take note of the paper -
– It is a subterfuge, without giving us information as to what they are doing.
– Hear, hear! I just want to say that I protest against these ordinary routine procedures being used to deal with a matter of this sort, especially if I can take it from what was said by my Deputy Leader, Senator Greenwood, as I can, because it is completely implied, that the Opposition has not been advised of the Government’s intentions with regard to this report. I simply say that I regard it as the depth of disgrace, in the interests of the principle of representation, that the people who spoke last night of imposing on ordinary people additional indirect taxation to the extent of $270m should come along tonight apparently approving of a tribunal and recommending at this time of wage inflation that we should take note of the report. I have expressed my protest, I hope quite unequivocally. It is a degradation of Parliament that a Minister should propose these procedures to us tonight.
– in replyAll those things which Senator Wright wants to do are not denied by what 1 have done. I have tabled the report- as is the general procedure here in relation to a report- and I assume that somebody would move that we would take note of it.
-The Minister could have explained what he was doing . He said not a word, apart from the motion.
-I will try not to join in the hysteria of my 2 friends opposite. They knew perfectly well that this report was being presented.
– That is not so. It came as a complete surprise.
-Those 2 gentlemen knew perfectly well that it was to be presented in the other place tonight. They would have been the first to complain if it had not been presented as close as possible to when it was presented in the other place. We have laid this down as a government document so that not only every honourable senator but also the Press and everybody else has it available. If Senator Wright or anybody else in this place wants to move to disallow and to throw out the report of the Tribunal which was unanimiously set up by statute here about 12 months ago, nothing I have done tonight in any way prevents them from doing that.
– The Tribunal was set up under a guillotine motion and the Minister knows it.
– It was not set up under a guillotine motion at all. But I will not get excited like my friend opposite. The situation is that the very act of laying this report on the table and putting a motion before this chamber means that the matter can come up for debate and be discussed. That is the very thing that I thought the Opposition would want. Of course that is what they want but because this is an emotional issue and because we are on the air our 2 friends, as we know so well, always limelight on occasions like this and they are not failing us tonight
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 42 1 ).
-The Senate is resuming debate on 2 cognate Bills. One is the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974 and the other is the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Bill 1974. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) indicated that the major Bill, which is the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill, is to provide a mining code which will be the legal framework for the exploitation and exploration of the off-shore mineral resources in exercise of the Australian Government’s sovereignty which was proclaimed under the Seas and Submerged Lands Act of 1973. I served on a select committee of the Senate known as the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources. The original Bill passed by this Senate was the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which paid particular reference to the recommendations and resolutions of that Committee. One of the important matters which was prompted by that Committee can be found on page 7 of the report. The Committee indicated:
That, notwithstanding the advantages to the national interest which the legislation and its underlying conceptions has produced, the larger national interest is not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth authority in the territorial sea-bed and the Continental Shelf.
It was in the light of that report and the facts relating to the constitutional right of either the States or the Commonwealth to have control over the off-shore submerged lands around this great continent that the original Bill- the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill- was given first and second readings by the Senate. A point of concern which arose from the report to which I have referred was the great problem which had existed in Australia and which was set right by an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth relating to the supervision and granting of title for exploration and exploitation in offshore land surrounding Australia. I take some very important words which are found at page 200 of the original report which states:
The question of whether the Commonwealth or the States has the responsibility within the Australian constitutional framework for the exercise of rights arising or the performance of obligations accepted under the International Convention on the Continental Shelf and under the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone is undecided. Questions of the same character exist with respect to the rights and obligations under other international conventions to which Australia is a party.
Accepting that the Commonwealth Government has the responsibility in the international community for actions taken and things done in the off-shore waters of Australia, the unresolved point is whether in the Australian community the Commonwealth or the States have the responsibility. Having regard to what Justices of the High Court have saidand all witnesses who gave evidence on this aspect generally concurred- it would appear that the Commonwealth has the constitutional power to legislate under its external affairs power to give effect to international obligations. But it is generally regarded as an open question whether the Commonwealth may successfully claim that ‘rights’ or ‘powers’ -as distinct from duties or obligations- accruing to Australia under international conventions will entitle it to legislate to give effect to them. If they do so, it would mean that in significant and, possibly, expanding areas the Commonwealth heads of power would become more extensive than the constitutional provisions expressly contemplate- and, consequentially, reduce the exclusive area of State authority.
I think that reference to our report highlights why originally, when the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill was before the Senate, the Opposition took the opportunity in Committee to object to Part III of that Bill. Indeed, Part III of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 was rejected by this Senate for the prime reason that we, who are elected to be senators in this chamber, have some obligation as senators. We are elected directly by the States to represent the States in this place. We feel that the exercise of the right of the Commonwealthor the Australian Government as it is now- to declare total control and then to pursue a section of legislation which seeks to declare how the organisation and regulation of control over submerged lands will be made, is abhorrent to a true honourable senator.
Whilst the Opposition holds firm to the view that it held in 1973 that there was no reason for the Government to declare the rules and obligations under which the mining code would be proclaimed in relation to exploration and exploitation of off-shore mineral resources, a sizeable number of senators- I take it that they are the 29 senators of the Labor Party- feel that they can ride roughshod over the rights of the States and over the pleas of the Labor Premier of South Australia who feels that the States should be consulted in these matters and that some residual right should be left with the States. The Premier feels that discussion should take place with the States on the rights of the existing State mining authorities and that their view should be taken into account. Those authorities have existed since the beginning of this century. It is strange that the Victorian Department of Mines- which was set up prior to that time and which has such great knowledge of the mining of land and also of mining in offshore areas- should be completely overlooked by a government which seeks to control and to concentrate its entire power in Canberra. I protest against that attitude.
It is difficult for me to understand how Government senators can be so subject to the demands of their Ministers and perhaps the demands of their own Caucus that they completely override any reaction or any cry from the States on this most important matter. As I illustrated by the Minister’s second reading speech, the Mineral (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974 seeks to declare a legal framework and to provide a mining code that will supersede and override anything which is established in the States. When this matter was before the Senate in October 1973 the attitude of the Opposition was well expressed by Senator Greenwood who led for the Opposition. The Opposition held the view that the present Government had declared that it would take between its teeth the challenge to declare Commonwealth Government right over submerged lands. The Opposition, while protesting in some way about that action, felt that it should not obstruct the Government-although remarks are often made that we are an obstructive Opposition. The Opposition had gone along with the Government so that while it could declare that right the States could at least challenge in the
High Court the right of the Commonwealth to control all submerged lands around this continent.
The Opposition was in accord with the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources in respect of a challenge to the High Court. 1 understand that proceedings have been instituted by a number of States, including South Australia. The Labor Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, disliked what the Australian Government had done and probably felt that the South Australian senators should at least have stood up for their State when the matter was before the Senate by saying that a challenge should be made in the High Court so that the matter could be resolved before this Government was allowed to bring in legislation which declared exclusive right over all off-shore mineral resources. On page 1446 of Senate Hansard of 24 October 1973 Senator Greenwood indicated the main basis upon which the Opposition refuted the extension of this legislation. Senator Greenwood said: . . -I do not believe that anyone can gainsay this- that State interests, State rights and State responsibilities are clearly involved. They are inherent in the matters which are raised by this legislation. I stress that there has been no cooperation and no attempt at co-operation by the Commonwealth Government with the State governments with regard to this legislation or the objectives of the Commonwealth Government. If one is to accept what the Premier of South Australia has stated publicly, the legislation is contrary to assurances which were given to him shortly after the Federal Government assumed office last December. But the fact that there is no attempt at co-operation is a matter which ought to cause concern to the Opposition.
This matter is of great concern to me and I oppose these two Bills. One can well see what can take place. The provisions of the main Bill, the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974, outline the great pressure that the Australian Government intends to bring on the various State mining authorities to see that very quickly the full weight of the Australian Government will be used to take over all the rights, privileges and obligations of every State mining authority in Australia.
What will be the case with a miner who is exploiting on land and his interest goes offshore? Perhaps he could be exploiting coal resources on shore and his interests could involve excavation into the submerged lands. If these Bills were passed the miner would be subject to Austraiian Government control, as it is set down in these Bills, as well as State Government control. He would be in great difficulty. Where conflict existed or where a variation occurred in the mineral rights as set down in this Bill, one of two things would happen. The first could be that the
State authority would be swamped by the Australian Government authority. I believe this really is the objective of this particular legislation. The second thing which could occur- and this is happening in Australia at present- is that exploration and exploitation of the mineral wealth of this country would very quickly come to a halt. We on this side of the House often protest against so many areas of government activity, including economic and mining matters, and we attempt to point out that this or that action of the Federal Government is wrong. We have protested in the last day or two about the very great authority that was attempted to be handed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in a Bill that was debated in the Senate. Thank heaven that legislation was rejected.
I believe that we have to look at Labor philosophy and understand that this is a very successful government. It is a very successful socialist government. It is achieving the policies which the Labor Party set out to achieve. The present Government has held the reins for nearly 2 years and I believe it is following the very harshest wishes of a socialist regime, not only in debauching the economy of Australia- as has been demonstrated in the last 18 months and is being currently demonstrated- but also in pursuing a course which eventually will bring about Labor’s philosophy of total ownership and control of our economy by a central government. One cannot help saying that looming ahead of us is the gloom of unemployment. Private enterprise, due to various actions of this Government, is closing up at the present time. The Government has made various declarations, and if one only had time to deal with its economic pronouncements one could ask where it intends to go economically. One Minister has proclaimed that unemployment will be no bother. He says that people in the textile trade will be guaranteed an average wage until they get a job or for 6 months. I have been in a variety of unions in my time and I do not know too many people, perhaps including most honourable senators, who would seek a job within 5 or 5Vi months if they were guaranteed 6 months pay. That shows the intelligence of one Minister. But the abject stupidity of the balance of the Ministers is shown by their statements that if people are unemployed the Government will give them an average weekly wage of about $80.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! I do not want to interrupt, Senator, but I wonder what relevance what you are saying at the moment has to the Bill that is before the Senate.
– It is very relevant. At this time of night, Mr Acting Deputy President, I realise it is a little difficult to tie up all the points if you are not following my speech closely. If I were to go over my points again and bring them to your attention you would realise that what I see in this Bill is the result of the actions of a successful socialist government. In very nearly every Bill that is now brought before this House the Government is moving towards the elimination of private enterprise from this community and developing the growth of government ownership and control. 1 was making the point, Mr Acting Deputy President, that last night one of your Party’s Ministers had to make a statement relating to the great problems of the conomy. If one had time to speak about those matters one could tie in the drastic problems that are presented to this Government. Promises made 6 weeks ago by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have been broken. Assurances were given. Therefore, this Prime Minister -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I think you are now straying well away from the Bill and I ask you to come back to it.
-As far as I am concerned, this is very relevant to the Bill. It emphasises what is before us in the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974. You know, Mr Acting Deputy President, that this Bill seeks to declare Federal Government control over the whole of the off-shore areas. The Government is asking this Parliament to approve a mining code to override those which exist in the various States. I see this Bill as an attempt not only to get rid of private enterprise and to concentrate power in Canberra but also to get rid of the various State governments and the various State authorities.
Why would the Labor Party have acted in this way, other than in pursuance of socialist policies? I oppose such policies. I do not think they are for the good of Australia. If anybody could stand and say that the actions of the Labor Party in its 1 8 months in government have been for the good of the Australian community in any area, I would applaud and say that there must be something good in Labor philosophy You interrupted me, Mr Acting Deputy President when I was speaking about how this Government had debauched the economy of Australia. The Treasurer, Mr Crean, even had to indicate in his speech last night that people who had saved their money had lost over $1,000 each during the reign of the
Labor Party because of depreciation in the value of their money. That factor is of great relevance to this Bill.
The Labor Party, in seeking the passage of this Bill, is pursuing something which it thinks is right. It thinks that it can gain control over the States. The very wording of this Bill and this mining code will give to the Minister for Minerals and Energy power such as we have never before seen conferred in Bills presented to this Parliament. If this Bill is passed I believe that we will see, as we have seen in the past 18 months, a gradual reduction of interest in exploiting our great mining wealth around the coastline of Australia as well as on the land.
My attention has been drawn to one or two clauses in this Bill and I think they would be of particular interest to anyone who is interested in mining as a business or to any Australian who believes that mining activities in Australia have been encouraged and developed so much over the past six or seven years and now sees those activities being diminished under Labor rule. If this Bill is passed those people will find that those activities will cease. One could point to clause 27 of the Bill which refers to the grant or refusal of the renewal of a permit. For the record, I point out that this 5 1-page Bill is very wide-ranging. It deals with the application of laws in the off-shore areas and with delegations by the Minister. The Minister will have great ability to delegate. It also deals with applications for certain reconnaissance authorities, the effect of the grant of a permit, exploration permits, production licences, access authorities and the registration of instruments. At least 50 clauses in the Bill relate to general matters such as the information to be furnished and the ability of the Minister to reject the right of somebody to explore at any time.
However, I was referring to clause 27 which clearly points out that the Minister may at any time refuse to grant the renewal of a permit. If my interpretation is correct, a miner, having spent his energies in bringing together overseas interests in a consortium or in exploring a particular permit area in the early stages, will find that it is quite possible for the Minister at any stage to refuse to grant a permit for that miner to further explore the area.
– To which clause are you referring?
– I am referring to clause 27. Admittedly, the Minister must send some communication, some instrument in writing. That notification has to be served on the permitee and the Minister must give some reason, but there is no body to which that permitee can appeal in order to have the Minister’s authority overridden. One must take into account the interests which over the last few years have been involved in the exploration and exploitation of the petroleum resources of our coast. Consider a consortium such as Esso-BHP. It may have spent $150m before getting to the stage where an application has to be made to the Minister. Under the socialist proposals of this Government, after the exploring company had found minerals the Government could find some reason to dislike that company. If we take the attitude of the Labor Party over past years, the reason could well be some content of overseas interest in the consortium.
There are other matters in the main Bill to which I would refer and which I abhor. To process these matters quickly, the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Bill, is being debated cognately with the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill. We would seek the deletion of certain clauses in the royalty Bill. The legislation is totally abhorrent to me. It is against the interests of the States. I will vote against both Bills.
– I wish to speak for a few minutes on the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974. 1 think it is appropriate to discuss this Bill because I believe that under the Australian Labor Party Government Australia is becoming a submerged land. The essence of the Bill is to take away from the States controls which they have had for a large number of years. I believe that it is a retrograde step for the nation.
– Do not read your speech.
– I am not reading my speech. I notice that Government senators do it quite frequently. They make great play about overseas investment in Australia. I do not think that we need be ashamed of what overseas capital has done for Australia over the years leading up to the advent of the Labor Government in Canberra because if it had not been for overseas investment Australia would not have been able to progress to such a degree. Therefore, I reject any suggestion that we ought to disregard entirely the value of overseas capital to the development of this country.
The Liberal and Country Parties believe that Australian equity in the development of Australian resources ought to be encouraged. It has always been the aim and the policy of the Liberal and Country Parties that 51 per cent of any investment in Australia’s mineral resources ought to be in the hands of Australians but we realise that it is necessary to provide some flexibility in our policy. We do not encourage the idea of the present Government which would like to bring into the development of Australia the resources of the Australian Government. I think that the policy which we promoted during out term of government is the correct one, that is, to encourage Australian equity but not to force the Australian people to provide finance or to insist upon a particular amount being provided for mineral development.
I am rather concerned about this Bill because I am concerned about the future of Australia’s development. I have had complaints from many people in the mining industry that because of the policies of this Government they have been forced to seek employment overseas. Since this Government has been in power there has been an exodus from Australia of geologists and mining engineers. This is a luxury which Australia cannot afford. I have heard comments about the development of mining interests in South Australia, and Redcliffs has been mentioned in this place during the last day or so. I believe that the Redcliffs project is a classic example of development being discouraged because of the policies promoted by this Government. We believe that Australia must take some interest in the development of our resources. I am very concerned about what is happening to the Redcliffs project. About 12 months ago a company was interested in developing a petro-chemical industry in South Australia. This company had the technical capacity to do the work. It had the financial resources to proceed. But this Government decided that because of insufficient Australian equity in the company it should discourage the project. As a result, there is now a delay in that development. The delay is simple because the consortium concerned with the project at present has not the technical capacity to proceed with it. Because of that fact, other Australian companies which were interested in the project have not been prepared to come forward with the Australian equity which this Government has suggested ought to be involved in that area in order to allow the company to proceed.
I believe that the Bill is a continuation of this discouragement of development in the mining industry of Australia and therefore I oppose it. It seems to me to be directing more and more control towards the central government, which is certainly the purpose of the Labor Government. I suggest that we ought to re-assess our attitude to foreign investment in Australia. We ought to adopt some sort of policy which is designed to encourage Australian interests to develop our resources. The way to do that is to apply a taxation incentive which will encourage Australian people to invest in Australian companies. If we apply some sort of disincentive to foreign interests in this area there may be some purpose in the policies of the nation. I oppose the Bill and encourage the Government to provide some incentive by which Australians will invest in Australian development.
– I oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I think that it epitomises the style of this Government. It introduces a Bill into this chamber and is not concerned to support it. In the House of Representatives the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) introduced the Bill. One column of Hansard was sufficient to justify it. In the House of Representatives there was one speaker in support of the Bill. There were two Opposition speakers. The Bill was introduced to this chamber and was brought on for debate almost within 24 hours of its introduction. What is the position? The second reading speech is the only speech which the Government offers in support of its measure. I am the fourth Opposition senator to speak against this measure.
– You were not even down to speak.
-If what I am saying arouses some murmur from the Caucus members who have spent their day fighting in Caucus and now have appeared in the chamber, at least we should be grateful for that fact.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! Senator Greenwood, will you please address yourself to the Bills before the Senate?
-Mr Acting Deputy President, you may wish to protect your Caucus, but it is the first time today -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I wish that you would address yourself to the measures before the Senate.
– It is the first time today that we have seen 10 members of the Labor Party in this chamber, except for divisions. I only make the point that there is little concern amongst members of the Australian Labor Party about the welfare of this country or of the legislation which the Government is putting forward. Their behaviour and attendance in the chamber throughout the day indicates that they are more concerned about their internal problems than the problems of this nation.
– There are only 4 members of your Party here now.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! The Senate will come to order. Senator Greenwood, I expect you to address yourself to the measures before the Senate.
-Yes. I must say, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I regret being digressed by interjections.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Address yourself to the Chair.
-As I said, the greatest number of Government senators in this chamber today has appeared in the last five or ten minutes. But, as I said, this Bill represents the style of government because apart from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) who, in this chamber, delivered the second reading speech which was made by the Minister for Minerals and Energy in the House of Representatives, not one member of the Labor Party in this chamber has come out in support of this proposal. Is the Government really concerned about this measure? Do members of the Australian Labor Party support it, or are they sufficiently interested only to give their votes when the division is called to support their Party’s policy? That seems to be the pattern under which the Government is running this country at the present time. There will be the fights in the areas outside this chamber, but when the vote has to be taken honourable senators opposite will troop into the chamber and, even on the night when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, without giving the Australian people some idea as to why they are supporting or proposing this Bill they will simply vote in favour of it and remain silent.
– How many times has it been discussed before?
-This is the first time that the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill has come into this chamber, and I would have thought that there would have been some interest on the part of Labor Party senators to give some support to the measure. But in the traditional authoritarian manner which this Government now regards as its style of government, the Government puts the measure up and if the Senate does not forthwith agree to it, those who oppose the measure are labelled as obstructionists. It is a tactic which might have some appeal for a few weeks, a few months and maybe for one election, but sooner or later the falsity of the style will become apparent. It is becoming apparent with this particular Bill. I challenge the Labor Party in this Senate: Is there a speaker on the Labor Party side who sufficiently believes in this measure to get up and support it? As I have said, I am the fourth successive Opposition senator who has spoken and opposed the measure.
We have substantial arguments against this measure. I said that on matters of style, on questions of method, on questions of substance and on questions of detail, this Bill ought to be opposed. I have dealt with what I can broadly term the style and method by which this Government treats the Parliament with ignore and contempt and expects Opposition members to support Bills without any speakers on behalf of the Government indicating why the Bills have been introduced. I look at the House of Representatives Hansard and I look at the Senate Hansard and I find a column of explanation which the Minister gives for a 5 1 -page Bill. He simply says: This will represent the rules under which the exploration and exploitation of minerals on the offshore areas can be conducted’. That is good enough in the eyes of this Labor Government by way of explanation to the Parliament of this nation. I think it is indicative of the contemptuous way in which the Parliament is treated by the Labor Party. Why should there be rules of the character which are set out in this Bill and to which I will refer in some detail, without explanation as to why this particular method should be preferred in place of some other method? When we come to look at the substance, then it is a unilateral act by the Commonwealth Parliament under a Labor Government which represents the politics of a confrontation which the Labor Government abhors in industrial relations but which it believes it can pursue and eulogise in terms of Commonwealth-State relations.
In the last year of the McMahon Government in 1972, there was a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministers with responsibilities in the area of off-shore minerals with the State Ministers for Mines. The purpose of the meeting, which took place in August 1972, was to endeavour to work out a way in which this vexing problem of where sovereignty lay in the off-shore area could be resolved. It was the consensus, the unanimous agreement of that meeting, that an examination should be made by departmental officers of each of the Governments, firstly, along the lines of whether or not there could be a solution of the problems of off-shore minerals by means of complementary State and Commonwealth legislation. Secondly, there was to be an examination of whether or not legal questions surrounding the control of the territorial sea and the continental shelf by means of Commonwealth-State resolution could not be achieved. Thirdly, there was agreement that there should be examination with a view to denning the internal waters of the States and the base lines from which the territorial sea is to be measured, and whether or not that could not be arranged by CommonwealthState co-operation.
Prior to 1972 it had been a tremendously difficult task to reach a basis upon which one could get even common ground on which an examination had to take place. I leave aside the rights and wrongs of why that difficulty had arisen. The fact is that the difficulty was there. But by the middle of 1 972 the Commonwealth and State Ministers had got around the table and were prepared to talk and define the areas which had to be considered. I believe that if that examination had been pursued by this Government instead of its adopting a confrontation policy, we would have worked out a system which was to the interests of all those involved in these offshore areas. But unfortunately that policy was not pursued. It was the attitude which State Liberal, Labor and Country Party Premiers had been prepared to follow. It was an approach which was completely denied by the Labor Party when it came to office.
What did the Labor Party do? It said: ‘The Commonwealth has got the sovereignty in this area. We do not care what the States say; we have got the sovereignty and we are going to declare it by Act of Parliament.’ Notwithstanding the promise which had been given to Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia- he himself declared in my hearing that before the Commonwealth introduced any legislation in this area there would at least be consultation between Mr Whitlam and himself- legislation was introduced which unilaterally gave effect to the Commonwealth’s assertion of sovereignty. That legislation came before this Parliament and we in the Opposition reluctantly, but because we recognised that it was another way of getting a resolution of the problem, supported the matter when it came before the Senate. We did so because we recognised that if the States were to take the Commonwealth legislation to the High Court as the Commonwealth Government anticipated they would, it would provide the forum where the matter could be decided and indicate where the sovereignty of the States ended and where the sovereignty of the Commonwealth began. The legislation was passed and, as I understand the position, each of the States irrespective of its political colour is challenging the Commonwealth legislation. I have heard that it is anticipated that the matter will come before the High Court as contested litigation within the next 6 months. When the matter comes before the High Court it is to be hoped that the High Court will be able to resolve the question in a way that answers that which has been a bugbear in this country ever since the issue arose some 13 or 14 years ago. When the matter is resolved we shall know where the area of State sovereignty lies and where the area of Commonwealth sovereignty lies.
But having that knowledge, helpful though it is, will not in itself resolve the questions which are sought to be resolved by this legislation. Those basic questions which have to be resolved are the questions of what are the rules and what is the mining code under which exploration for minerals is to take place. I believe, and I have always believed, that the only satisfactory way in which that matter can be answered is by joint cooperative Commonwealth-State action. I do not believe that either the Commonwealth or the States, irrespective of what the answer of the High Court might be, would have the ability or the complete control of all the relevant circumstances to impose a mining code or a set of rules without regard to the opinions and approaches and attitudes of the other party to the CommonwealthState compact.
I think we ought to take heed of what has happened in the United States of America and Canada, which are 2 of the world’s great federations. This problem arose in the United States of America in the 1940s and, although the Congress of the United States was given the authority by a decision of the Supreme Court and although the United States Congress vested the power which the Supreme Court had conferred in that Congress in the States of the Atlantic seaboard, still that has not resolved the legal problems. There is, as I discovered when I was in the United States earlier this year, a vast area of grey still unresolved as regards the authority of the States and Congress. We find in Canada a position which has remained unresolved for the last 7 years.
Quite coincidentally, about the time that the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill was introduced into this Parliament and similar legislation was introduced into the State parliaments in 1967 a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada had declared that the sovereignty of the off-shore waters, seawards from low water mark, in British Columbia was vested in the Dominion Government. One might have supposed that because the central government had the sovereignty in these off-shore waters that clarified the position in a way that brooked any doubt. Maybe it did indicate quite clearly where sovereignty lay, but it has not resolved the problem as to how you can get into those areas those explorers for minerals, be they petroleum or other minerals, in order to test what resources the off-shore seabed of Canada may have. For 7 years a dispute has been going on unresolved because there is no ability on the part of the Dominion Government and the provinces to come together on a joint basis which takes account of what are the claimed rights and acknowledged responsibilities of each.
It is so obvious that these difficulties will arise. It is not only a matter of what royalties the provinces or the States might have or might claim to have; it is also a question of where the expertise to manage the exploration and exploitation of these areas rests. In the Australian Commonwealth that expertise rests with the State mines departments. There is not to be found in the Commonwealth arena the expertise which currently resides with State mining officials. It is absolutely pointless to develop in this country a duplicated bureaucracy in which we have in the Commonwealth arena persons who are to act for Commonwealth purposes and at the same time maintain in the State arenas State officials who will act for State purposes, when each could perform the task of the other if only the agreement could be reached which brought the range of functions of each into the one arena.
So just mentioning some of those matters explains why I take the view that in this area of our off-shore waters no ultimate solution will be arrived at until there is co-operation between the State and the Commonwealth governments. Irrespective of what is the outcome of the current High Court litigation, still the problem will not be solved until the States and the Commonwealth sit down around the table and work out their common program. That approach, of course, is the antithesis of what the Commonwealth Government has proposed since it took office at the end of 1 972. It is the complete antithesis of what is contained in this legislation. The legislation currently before the Parliament represents the Commonwealth’s idea, without any consultation with the States, as to what should be the program or the method of conducting exploration and exploitation.
Throughout the 1960s the Commonwealth and the States, faced with what was demonstrated by the Suez conflict of 1956, had worked together to establish an Australian oil industry. The purpose was to endeavour to promote all the available efforts and opportunities for discovering oil throughout Australia. It was recognised in the early 1960s that the most potential was to be found in our off-shore waters. As a result of Commonwealth-State co-operation, in 1967 there was passed through this Parliament and each of the State parliaments legislation which enabled a joint scheme to operate under which exploration for petroleum could take place. Under that scheme the whole of the off-shore areas of Australia were allocated to various companies for the purpose of searching for oil. We have found in the Bass Strait area that that search has been successful. We have found in a vast range of areas outside northern Western Australia that the search has been successful. But the effort was mounted and was able to be mounted because there was a joint scheme, and that effort was productive. Companies were prepared to move into the areas because they were guaranteed a security of title and they knew what the conditions would be if they found oil. As a result Australia has benefited. We in Australia were not subjected to the threefold increase in petrol prices to which most of the other countries in the western world were subjected when the price of oil was raised by the Arab nations, and that was because we had a degree of selfsufficiency in this country. It was the result of what initially had been a bipartisan policy by both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party in this country.
The only tragedy is that that policy is not now bipartisan. The Labor Party is shutting off exploration in this country, and we as a nation will pay the penalty for that in due course. I mention these matters only to indicate that what we discovered in the way of petroleum, natural gas and crude oil flowed from the fact that we had a joint scheme in which the Commonwealth and the States were able to work together and lay down rules which were satisfactory to each partner in the Commonwealth-State arrangements. In those circumstances we have an evident illustration of what co-operation can produce.
This Senate appointed a select committee to examine the scheme of the legislation which was introduced in 1 967. Whatever criticisms the committee made of that scheme, and it did make substantial criticisms, it accepted the fact that in the area of minerals exploration there ought to be a joint Commonwealth and State scheme. Unless that co-operation existed it could not be expected that the appropriate exploration and consequent exploitation would take place. So we of the Opposition reject this style and method of going about the work of endeavouring to exploit our minerals in our off-shore areas. It is a unilateral Commonwealth approach sought to be imposed upon the States. I simply say that it will not work if the real objective of the effort is to find out what minerals we have and to exploit those minerals in the interests of the Australian people. It will not work until there is a willingness on the part of the Commonwealth Government to discuss with the States the issues which are involved and to make the necessary compromises as the States must make compromises in the interests of all. Therefore we reject the Bills as a matter of substance.
Might I look also at the detail of the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill and consider the reasons why it is a measure which ought never to have obtained the approval of the Parliament. For example, the scheme of the Bill is that in the off-shore areas right around Australia the laws of the Australian Capital Territory ought to apply in respect of exploration and exploitation of minerals. What a farce that is. Laws with respect to the exploration and exploitation of minerals mean laws which will govern the relations and conduct of the people who are engaged on the off-shore rigs or who are engaged in this type of activity. What a farce it is to say that in the northwest of Western Australia when people are engaged in the activity of exploring for minerals and endeavouring to exploit minerals their relationships will be governed not by the law of Western Australia where they live or with which they have the closest connection but the law of the Australian Capital Territory. Only a centralist government with ideological fixations like the Australian Labor Party could think up a nonsensical proposition such as this.
Not only are those laws to apply but also the Minister is to have the power to say from time to time whether some of those laws will not apply and that general power of giving to the Minister or to a group of Ministers to advise the Governor-General in Council that some laws shall or shall not apply in an area is in my submission the type of action which you, Mr Acting Deputy President, will recognise ought not to be conferred by regulation upon anybody. There is a wide power of delegation by the Minister to any public servant. Whilst the power of delegation is a power properly to be exercised from time to time, an examination of the provisions of this legislation indicates that the type of delegation which is engaged in is such that any public servant might exercise powers which ought properly, if they are to be exercised at all, be exercised by a Minister. The system provides for the whole of the off-shore area to be divided into graticular blocks by longitudes and latitudes, for there to be reconnaissance authorities, for there to be exploration permits and provisions for the renewal of those permits for production licences and for access authority. There is provision for the register of instruments and so on.
The scheme of administration rests very heavily on the Minister’s discretion. I propose in what time is available to me to refer to some of those discretions which are vested in the Minister. The provisions of the Bill are taken almost wholly from the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) legislation which was passed by the Parliament in 1967 and upon which the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources had expressed some fairly trenchant views. For example, the recommendations of that Committee contained, among other things, the recommendation that there should be a reexamination of the provisions of the legislation with a view to limiting where practicable the areas of discretion and delegated authority. It was suggested that there should be a requirement for the circumstances surrounding decisions, and reasons for decisions for actions, taken by the Minister to be made public and reported to the Parliament at least in instances where it is reasonably practicable to do so. It was also a recommendation that there be in as many instances as are appropriate the insertion in the legislation of some objective criteria which the Designated Authority- in this particular legislation, the Minister- should observe in the exercise of his discretionary powers. The Committee recommended provision for legal redress or appeal if it is believed on an examination of the criteria or the reasons on which the decision was based that there is arguable ground as to whether the Minister had exercised his discretion properly. We suggested that the legislation should provide for a regular report to Parliament and that there should be an advisory authority. The provisions of the legislation which led to these recommendations were discussed at length in the report of that Committee. But it would seem that in this Bill the recommendations of that Committee have been completely ignored. That ought to be a consideration also which affects the judgment of this discretion.
I now turn to examine some of the actual discretions which are contained in the legislation. I have mentioned the fact that there is a wide power of delegation contained in clause 10 by which the Minister may delegate his powers to Commonwealth Public Service officers. There is a power vested in the Minister simply to grant or refuse a reconnaissance authority, to grant or refuse exploration permits, to grant or refuse renewals of permits, and the grounds upon which these grants or refusals may be taken or made are not specified. In clause 30 it is stated that if a production licence is refused, the applicant is entitled to make a further submission but the Minister may grant or refuse the production licence. In clause 6 1 we find a provision that the Minister may by instrument in writing served on a person give to that person a direction as to any matter with respect to which regulations may be made under proposed section 112. It is stated that such a direction has effect and shall be complied with notwithstanding anything in the regulations. So the Minister is given the power to override the regulations which are made under the Act of Parliament. No Parliament should be prepared to give to a Minister that power in his own discretion without criteria to override the regulations, the laws of the land. Clause 75 contains a provision of enormous magnitude. Clause 75 (h) states:
The Minister may, if, in his opinion, it is necessary in the interests of safety of navigation or of the conservation of the natural resources of the off-shore zone, or otherwise in the public interest, -
I stress the amplitude of the words ‘or otherwise in the public interest’- so to do, by instrument in writing served on a permittee or licencee, cancel the permit or licence as to all or some of the blocks in respect of which it is in force.
The power to take away a permit or licence from a person who is engaged in the actual work of exploring for minerals on the basis that the Minister, in his own discretion, unexaminable and unchallengeable by the courts, makes such a decision is in my opinion the antithesis of all that democracy and responsible government recognise. For those reasons and for a host of other reasons this Bill ought to be rejected. It is about time someone from the Labor Party rose and explained to the Senate why honourable senators opposite support such an authoritarian piece of legislation.
– I understand that the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) would like to conclude the second reading debate on these Bills. I will not hold up the Senate very long. I am somewhat confusedand I hope that the Minister will be able to clear up as much confusion as possible when he winds up the debate- as to what the Opposition’s attitude really is to these measures.
– Do you expect the Minister would clear that up for your?
– I can only hope. I was in office in the South Australian Government when this issue first blew up significantly between the States and the Commonwealth as to who had jurisdiction in the off-shore submerged lands areas of Australia. Senator Greenwood talks of confrontation by this Government. Certainly we had a confrontation then by the Government of which he was then a member. It was a confrontation that should not have taken -
– I was but a little boy then.
– I do not blame Senator Greenwood. I am just filling in with facts. I remember clearly how the States got their huff up and stood firmly against the Commonwealth and that the Right Honourable John Gorton did not come around and talk with us about the general solution that might then have been arranged. I remember saying at the time: ‘If only the Prime Minister would take the trouble to talk affably and amicably on this subject with the State Premiers we might very well reach some compromise solution.’ My view always had been, and it was a simple view- probably too simple to be workable- that the States should have settled on the 3-mile limit and the internal waters as then measured by whatever the petroleum agreement is and that the Commonwealth should have got everything outside those boundaries. It seemed to me to be a very sensible approach in that any on-shore mining that extended under the sea for a mile or two or any particular extraction of minerals or substance included in the definition within the 3-mile limit should have been managed by the States. However, that compromise was not to be.
We have since had passed the Submerged Lands Bill with this piece of it excised, as I understand it, by the Senate last year. I also understand, or I think I understand, that if the High Court challenge by the States to the Submerged Lands Bill does not succeed the Commonwealth will find itself in possession of a huge amount of submerged land for which it will have responsibility of management in relation to minerals and mineral exploration. As the agreement already exists for oil I take it that, as the Minister’s second reading speech indicates, the urgency may not be nearly so great as that which pertained to the oil agreement of some past years. But it also seems to me that if the Commonwealth becomes properly in possession of the administration of this quite large amount of territory it will certainly need a mining code to be able to develop it on behalf of Australia. What is the Commonwealth to do if it has its jurisdiction confirmed and has no means of managing its development? That, to me, is the puzzling thing in the Opposition’s argument.
– You tell us about it.
-No. Mr President, I am new to this Senate. Senator Jessop can tell the House, if he likes, why it is sensible to deprive the Commonwealth of what is a working part of all the submerged lands legislation. If the honourable senator will get up and tell me, I will be very happy to listen to him.
– He is a junior senator.
– We know that he is a junior senator with 2 years to go, or a little less than 2 years. But that is by the way. The Minister is talking of national significance, and that is what I want to get at.
– We are interested -
- Senator Steele Hall has made a better contribution in the time he has been here than you have in all the years you have been here.
– Are you talking to me?
– Yes, to you.
-Mr President, I feel at home once more. I have listened to Senator Greenwood’s dissection of some of the detail of the Bill. He may be right in some of it; I do not know. Certainly I do not agree with some of it. He criticises the application of the civil law as it is in the Australian Capital Territory to, as he put it, people working on a platform or some such project off the north-west coast of Western Australia. What if they happen to be working on 2 platforms and are daily crossing the border from the Northern Territory into Western Australia? Would that mean, under Senator Greenwood’s recommendation, that they would exist for breakfast in the Northern Territory under Commonwealth law and for lunch and during their working hours under the laws of Western Australia? That to me would be the height of nonsense. It would be quite nonsensical if that is what Senator Greenwood is saying, and that is all I can decipher from what he said.
– The same application must go to an off-shore and to an on-shore base. Your argument is equally fallacious under what you are supporting.
– Yes, I suppose it does raise a very large difficulty.
– Then, deal with that one sensibly.
-The only sensibility I can give to that is that at least we have 2 divisions of civil authority; whereas on what Senator Greenwood is saying we have three, as projected by Senator Webster. Not only would the men go from the Northern Territory to Western Australian law but they could come to one or the other across that as a base. It seems to me that at least those who may operate off-shore ought to know under what law they operate, whether they be living on ships or platforms and wherever those vessels may be manufactured and taken. All sorts of regulations must be adhered to under State administration, and surely there must be some common thing in relation to them.
– They do today. Your State agreed with the Commonwealth as to a set of mining codes.
-That seems to be a very sensible thing to do. I wonder whether Queensland has done the same.
– It has. All States have.
– Well, that is very good. I see no reason to divide it by Senator Greenwood’s device. Duplicated bureaucracy also was mentioned. I take it that the gist of Senator Greenwood’s criticism was that the States are best left to conduct mining affairs rather than have a mining organisation set up by the Commonwealth to attend to off-shore operations while the States do it on-shore. I can only say here that there has been a very great division between States at certain times in the past as to what ought to be amicable relationships in working mineral deposits. I remember that before the petroleum question was settled by legislation of the States and the Commonwealth Mr Dunstan journeyed to Melbourne to take Sir Henry Bolte down a peg or two and to win from him a disputed area of territory which was of a D shape between a projection of the border with South Australia and a type of right-angled base to the coast. I remember how Mr Dunstan came back with his tail between his legs, having achieved nothing in his confrontation with Sir Henry.
– The only people who agreed with Mr Dunstan were the Indonesians.
– I shall not comment on that. All I can say is that it was an area of dispute which, I believe, held up exploration for a few months at least.
– Do you think that Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, should be challenging the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill?
-Mr Dunstan will do everything he needs to do to capture votes in South Australia. That is the only objective he has in political life.
– That is not a mutually exclusive objective.
-No, it may not be. But that is the only action he will take. If I have to disagree with him, I again will feel very much at home.
– Do you or do you not disagree?
– I understand that Mr Gorton and people -
– Are you going to tell us where you stand?
– If you will let me finish, I will tell you. The honourable senator is very impatient, Mr President. What I am saying is that I understood that Mr Gorton had said in the past and this Government says now: ‘Let us have the test to settle the validity of the legislation’. On that basis, who can criticise a government for testing it? The test has been invited; people are responding. Therefore I do not disagree with Mr Dunstan ‘s approach to this or with the other Premiers’ approach. I take it that everyone wants the issue settled. Mr President, does that satisfy Senator Durack as an answer? I am sorry that I took 10 seconds to tell him instead of one second. So, as I say, I am rather puzzled that the Opposition can apparently pass the parent Act, the Seas and Submerged Lands Act, which is now under challenge, but does not want to pass the machinery to make it work. That is the puzzle I have. Certainly, my inclination is to support this Bill since the Opposition supported the other major part of the legislation when it came through as a single Bill in the first instance. I am not voting on any political ideology there. I just want to make the thing work, when the issue is settled as to who administers it.
– Do you not think that it may be best settled when the matter is determined by the Court? We could then bring in a code.
– Well, that is certainly one way of looking at it, and it is certainly one way in which I have looked at it. I might even vote that way. It depends.
– Hear, hear!
-Senator Webster should not jump to conclusions. If he is as easily led as that, he will be in real danger in this place. All I am saying is that this could be a very serious piece of legislation for Australia. It has international ramifications which even the junior senator from South Australia, Senator Jessop, recognises. As I say, I am inclined to support it. But, as it is obviously a matter of great administrative importance, I would like to hear the Minister’s reply.
– I think it was Senator Greenwood who said that this Bill epitomises the attitude of this Government. He is quite right. It does epitomise the attitude of this Government, because the purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the benefits of the resources of this country can be shared equally by all Australians. We take the approach that people who live in this country are Australians. During the course of the debate on the previous Bill Senator Durack was quite vocal in talking about who were good Australians and who were not good Australians when he was referring to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that the Australian people can share eq ally the benefits of the mineral resources that lie off our shores.
Senator Greenwood adopted a holier than thou attitude. He moralised about how many senators were in the chamber today during the course of the debate on this Bill. I wonder on how many occasions he could really moralise about that or anything else. When this debate commenced the understanding was that there would be one speaker from the Opposition side, namely Senator Durack. This arrangement did not deny any other speaker the right to take part in the debate. But we were not aware that a number of honourable senators from the Opposition side would stand up and speak. This legislation was before the Senate twice last year. The subject matter of this legislation was Part III of the old Bill. Senator Greenwood knows that this matter was thoroughly debated in this chamber twice.
– The basis was -
– Look, Senator, when you spoke I did not interrupt you. So just give me a go. All of the matters that were canvassed tonight by Senator Greenwood were canvassed before. For example, we heard about the Canadian federal system and the problems of getting legal decisions in that country. We had heard it all before. Apparently the honourable senator had no new ideas to bring forward. In fact, the only new contribution that was made to this debate was that brought forward by Senator Hall, which I suppose is understandable as he is a new senator.
So it becomes a matter of sheer hypocrisy for Senator Greenwood to stand up and talk the son of stuff that he did. He spoke about duplicated bureaucracies and the rights of the States. Senator Hall made a comment about the record of the previous Government in getting co-operation from the States. It is quite true that any federal government, irrespective of its colour, will have problems in getting that co-operation because the States will tend to look after their own interests. The record of the previous Administration was no better than that of this one. It is not a question of ignoring the States. It is a question of taking the only course open to this Government, and that is to bring legislation into this Parliament so that we can get a law. Certainly the law is being challenged in the High Court. I do not know what the result of that challenge will be; but, assuming that the Court opted in favour of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth would still have to work in co-operation with the States. It is not a question of someone using a bludgeon on anybody.
I emphasise the point that it is essential that this legislation be brought into operation so that we can determine what is in the best interests of Australia in respect of the off-shore areas. Senator Greenwood raised several matters. He raised the usual hoary old arguments. We had heard them before. But I believe that two or three of them ought to be answered again. He referred, of course, to the discretionary powers of the Minister. It is true that the Minister has wide discretionary powers under this legislation. But that is not new in legislation. Off-shore mining in this country is in its infancy. It is therefore essential that, until adequate experience is gained in the administration of the legislation, discretionary powers be given to the Minister. As to his ability to override regulations, under the legislation he is required to report any such actions to the Parliament, and this is an additional safeguard that is written into the legislation.
Senator Greenwood also seemed to think that the Minister did not have the right to delegate power. How else could the Minister operate? He must have the right to delegate power. But Senator Greenwood did not choose to elaborate on why he opposed this function of the Minister. These are the sorts of things which have been brought up in the old way to create the old fears; the sorts of things that we heard from Senator Webster earlier in the night when he jumped on the political bandwagon and turned the debate into a political session. He did not tell the Senate that this year the States will receive approximately 30 per cent more financial assistance from the Federal Government than they received last year. He did not tell us about the other things which have been done by this Government. He described this Government as a successful government. I hope that goes down in the record, because he is quite right. This Government has been successful. It has had the courage to do things that the previous Government when in power was never prepared to do.
The last matter I want to raise concerns the laws that would apply in the event of this legislation being carried. I think that Senator Hall raised this matter. I think that he made a legitimate point. As I mentioned earlier, we are in a new area and it was necessary for some common legal code to be applied under the legislation. It may have been preferable for a completely new code to have been devised. But the fact is that the law of the Australian Capital Territory would be adequate for the purposes of the legislation and as time went by, if necessary, those laws could be amended. I cannot say specifically that the Commonwealth would do this or would do that in the event of the High Court making a decision in its favour. But I think it is obvious in practical political terms that the Federal Government of this day, or any future day, would still be required to act with discretion and in co-operation with the States. The High Court must first make its determination. It is unfortunate that once again, as we saw twice last year, many red herrings have been drawn across this debate by members of the Liberal and Country Parties. Of course, the Australian Democratic Labor Party was guilty of this last year, too. The fact of the matter is that this Government is endeavouring to bring forward a code and legislation which will enable it to distribute to the Australian people on an equitable basis the benefits that accrue from our off-shore resources. If that is not a worthwhile end, I do not know what is.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 23 July (vide page 380), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 18 July (vide page 267), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I call Senator Sheil. I am sorry, I call Senator Greenwood.
-I appreciate, Mr President, your hope that Senator Sheil might be called upon. It was merely a vain hope that it would not be I who was called upon to speak on this matter. I regret that it has so happened that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) or the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) has put so many legal matters on the notice paper today. I say by way of compensation, and I am sure I will be forgiven for saying so, that it has also meant we have had a lot of Senator Murphy’s attendance in the chamber today on the same matters. He knows that there is some consolation in that at least one of the matters was passed by the Senate earlier.
The Opposition supports the Extradition (Foreign States) Bill 1974. The Bill warrants support because it extends the ability of this country to bring before its courts of justice those who it is believed have left Australia in order to avoid the justice of this country. I understand that the particular purpose for which this Bill has been introduced is to facilitate- to the extent that Australian law may facilitate it- the extradition of persons currently being sought by State authorities in Brazil. As I understand the position, the nation of Brazil does not have any extradition treaty with Australia. Therefore any Australian who seeks to avoid what the courts of this country may wish to impose upon him by leaving Australia and going to Brazil at present has high prospects that he cannot be extradited to Australia. Certainly the New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments have made efforts to extradite certain persons from Brazil at present but have been unsuccessful.
The position which relates to Brazil is the position which relates to other countries. I recall that either the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) or another Minister stressed this point by saying that it is not in the public interest to declare what those countries are, but persons who are interested doubtless can find out for themselves. This Bill seeks to facilitate the extradition processes. Extradition essentially is based upon reciprocity. It always has been. No country will allow another country to arrest foreigners within its boundaries and to take them back to the country from which they came. Australia will not allow any foreign country just to claim a national of its country and to take him out of Australia to face some charge in another country. That is understandable. Over the years there have been treaties under which nationals of either country might be extradited. These treaties have an ancient history.
In 1903 Australia inherited a system which, as far as the British dominions were concerned, rested upon the Fugitive Offenders Act of the United Kingdom. The extradition of nationals of foreign countries rested upon the Extradition Acts which I think were introduced initially in England in 1 870. In the case of British Commonwealth countries no action was required because in a British dominion a law of the Imperial Parliament applying to the dominions had ample effect. As far as extradition arrangements with foreign countries were concerned particular arrangements could be made so that some of the treaties applied in certain circumstances to Australia.
All of this ancient system was rationalised by legislation which was introduced in 1966 and at the moment is the governing legislation in Australia. The Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act applies certain rules under which persons seeking to be extradited from Australia to a Commonwealth country and certain rules under which Australia desires to extradite to Australia people from a Commonwealth country must be observed. The operation of extradition between Commonwealth countries depends upon the provisions of the extradition legislation. This Bill, of course, does not apply to extradition from Commonwealth countries. This Bill applies only to extradition from foreign countries. Extradition from foreign countries still depends, as it depended in 1966 and previously, upon whether or not treaties exist between Australia and the foreign country with which we are making arrangements. Since 1966 there has been an increasing number of countries with which Australia has made extradition treaties. There has been also a development for which an amendment was introduced, I think in the latter days of the previous Government, under which extradition provisions could be incorporated in treaties of a broad character which covered matters other than extradition.
The Bill currently before the Senate introduces a completely new concept. It is a concept which is to be encouraged if we can find there is a true reciprocity which can exist between various countries. It will certainly facilitate extradition procedures in a way which could never have been expedited 50 or 100 years ago. If, as is the position under this Bill, we find a country which has a law under which extradition will be permitted from that country and if the only thing which is to be established is the existence of a similar law in Australia, I think it is a concept which we ought to encourage. May I explain that in terms of certain principles? I believe extradition has 2 major principles which ought to be acknowledged. The first is that we in Australia- and I apply the principle in terms of the Australian situation- can have the greatest facility which our arrangements with other countries can make whereby anybody who is required to face courts in terms of a justice which is to be administered and who has left Australia ought to be able to be extradited back to Australia. I do not believe we should tolerate a situation in which a person who is guilty or accused of wrongdoing in this country can flee the country possibly with his ill-gotten gains and not be brought before the courts.
We desire in this country to facilitate extradition from other countries to Australia. As I understand it, this is the real point behind this legislation. The other major principle is that other countries, when they seek to extradite persons from Australia, can do so only in circumstances over which Australia has absolute control. I would not tolerate any situation under which representatives of a foreign country could come to Australia and simply ask for a person to be extradited. I think it must be disclosed why the country wants a person extradited, the crime of which the person is accused and the prima facie evidence upon which that accusation is based. I think we should maintain the position which is written into our foreign countries extradition law that no person should be extradited from this country for a political crime or for a crime which has political connotations. In those circumstances this nation must have control over the question of whether a person is to be extradited. That is a principle to which the Liberal Party in this nation has always adhered and to which I trust we always shall adhere. We have, of course, the further requirement that that decision primarily is a decision to be made by the courts. As a further safeguard the AttorneyGeneral has residual power to determine whether- even if the courts say a proper case exists for extradition- a person ought to be extradited.
I recall last year a debate on extradition. Some amendments were made in this area. The amendments were prompted by the Opposition to proposals which were put forward by the Labor Government. The discussion on the amendments was conducted in an harmonious atmosphere, and out of that discussion emerged a sensible change which I think has enhanced the protection which our legislation should give. I think the legislation could well go further, but that is a matter which I trust evolution will produce. Those are the principles which I think should be observed. This Bill simply deals with the first of those principles. It deals with the circumstances under which the authorities in Australiathe Commonwealth Government or State governments-can arrange for the extradition back to Australia of persons who are required to appear before the courts in this country. The way in which the legislation operates is to ensure that, where the Governor-General is satisfied that there is a law in a foreign country which, because of its reciprocal provisions, is to be equated with Australian law, then by regulation the Australian law can be made to apply to that country. That would have the facility of disclosing to the foreign country that its provisions of reciprocity are being measured and recognised in Australia. In the present circumstances it would facilitate an application to the Brazilian courts, as I understand the position, whereby it can be urged in that country that there is now a reciprocal law in Australia. The decision then will be for the courts or, if not the courts, the Executive in Brazil.
Initially we looked closely at the procedure whereby this new system could be invoked by regulation; but it does appear that the treaty making power is an Executive power and the extradition processes therefore depend on Executive action. This procedure of regulation is but another facet of Executive action; one might say a facet that has added advantage because a regulation may be disallowed. In all those circumstances we think that there is no reason for having apprehension about this provision. We acknowledge the purposes for which the Bill was introduced. We recognise the potential in the concept which is being introduced. We support the Bill.
– in reply-I am glad that the Opposition supports the Bill. The history of extradition is rather curious and contains many anomalies. In January last year I was at a conference in London at which the whole matter of extradition was discussed. Because of that conference I had to look deeply into the subject. It seems to me that it is time we got away even from notions of reciprocity, whether by way of treaty or by way of the type of action that we are engaged upon now. In the early stages it was reasonable to seek reciprocity in order to get operating around the world a system whereby countries would agree to return persons who were charged with serious criminal offences. But now there are some fairly established principles I think we would all agree upon thesethat persons should not be extradited for political offences, in cases where one country is not satisfied that there would be a just trial in the other country, and so on. Those principles are agreed and are common ground.
However, it seems to me that countries such as Australia ought to be able to agree on extradition whether or not they have reciprocity, provided the respective countries agree on the safeguards which apply generally in the extradition laws. I refer to safeguards against extradition for political offences, the safeguard that there must be a just method or trial, and so forth. We ought to be ready to extradite if we are satisfied that there is a proper case which should be determined judicially in the first place. Consider what would happen if the representatives of a country came to us and said: ‘We have positive proof which we can put before a magistrate in your country to demonstrate that this man who migrated to Australia a few years ago and became an Australian citizen is in fact a mass murderer who killed three or four people. It has taken us a long time to discover this, but now we want him back to stand trial’. I would hate to think that we would have to say that that request could not be granted for some reason or other. I would think that that would not be very satisfactory. I think that we would want to be able to agree if we were satisfied- as we have to be in cases where there are treaties, and as we will be under the reciprocity principle- that the offence was not a political offence, that there was satisfactory prima facie evidence and that there was a proper mode of trial in the other country. I think our law ought to be in the state that if we are satisfied about those things- and there is still an Executive discretion- we can extradite that person. I would think that we would not have to insist upon a principle of reciprocity.
– Did not the High Court suggest that that could be done?
-I think that that is the direction in which the law should develop. I hope that that is the way in which the law will develop all around the world. Despite the invitation of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood), I do not want to get into any of the constitutional niceties or difficulties. I am talking about this as a matter of principle and as to how we ought to be trying to have the law evolve. Having said that, I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his contribution and the Opposition’s support for this measure. I assure the Senate that the Government will move with great speed in respect of a number of problems which we are facing. We hope that the efficacy of this legislation will be demonstrated very soon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18 July (vide page 270), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– It is very nice to have occasionally in the Senate the rarefied atmosphere of high principle that we had during the debate on the last Bill. One would hope that the Bill now before the Senate will provide us with a similar opportunity. Parliamentary approval is sought for this Bill. If honourable senators refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) they will see that he made it clear that in regard to this legislation we are involved not in an atmosphere of violent controversy but rather in a atmosphere of further informing ourselves. This Bill was read a third time in the House of Representatives in March this year. It did not get beyond the second reading stage in the Senate because the Parliament was dissolved prior to an election being held. Therefore it was introduced again in the House of Representatives where it was passed without objection, although a number of comments were made about it. It now comes before us again and I imagine that it will be passed by the Senate without objection.
This is a rather important measure. It has quite an effect on the world scene and has some historical association with the monetary events after World War II. Honourable senators are called upon to look at an increase of $41. 14m in our subscription to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Only 10 per cent of that sum is payable, the balance being on call. That is consistent with the general pattern of the Bank- to have a substantial amount of authorised or issued capital of which a great portion is uncalled. The Bill has been welcomed and approved in the House of Representatives and will, I am sure, meet with some approbation in the senior House of the Australian Parliament.
This Bill has its origins in the Bretton Woods discussions just after the Second World War when there was some considerable concern about the need to enlighten and open the international trading and monetary world. It is of massive importance to Australia because we have been involved in the international trading scene as a nation and our involvement is increasing. The outcome of the Bretton Woods discussions was the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has 2 affiliated associations- the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association. I excuse myself to my colleagues for taking longer about this matter, which is not controversial, than I might normally take because I believe it is a matter of some importance on which we might illuminate our minds further.
The purpose of the IBRD is to promote a faster rate of economic growth and the development of the world, particularly in the poorer member countries. It makes loans to countries on conventional terms, and it makes them to creditworthy countries. It finances soundly conceived and viable projects, mostly in the infrastructure area, and the sort of things which meet the following economic tests: agricultural development, irrigation development which leads to agricultural intensivity, road and rail communication and improvement, port improvement, telecommunication improvement and electric power development. Further, it is involved, where it can justifiably be so involved, in later developments where there are masses of needy people in developing countries and where there are considerations of urban renewal, which might sound strange in the context of Australia which is such a wealthy country. It is involved in much poorer countries in lifting the level of practically everything. It lifts the level of housing from just about nothing to something which is a little more adequate. It works in the area of population control. It looks at the help which it might give in public health and in sewerage. Those are logically areas in which an economic viability test cannot be put down, but it is logical work for the IBRD, in the expansion of its facilities, to help developing and needy countries.
Then there is the area of agricultural credit and extension services for small farmers. This matter could well be the subject of a separate debate because agriculture in the under privileged countries and in the developing countries is very much subject to the problem of lack of agricultural credit and lack of extension services. The interest rates which are paid by small farmers in some under developed parts of the world are quite extortionate to say the least. They are one of the principal problems which mitigate against the logical development of agricultural crop production in some areas. These are areas which do not meet the economic test which has to be taken into consideration in those countries which are more fortunate than the countries to which aid is being extended.
The International Development Association is almost permanently short of funds. It is operating in the area of assistance, non-economic, noncommercially viable. Therefore, it has a great task in getting adequate money to meet its purpose. It is almost always short of funds. The IBRD is, I think, the largest organisation of its kind. When one looks at what it seeks to do and the problems which it has to meet, one is rather moved at times by the area of difficulty. Although this does not relate directly to the Bill, I have some material which I gathered together quite a while ago and which relates to the problem of agricultural development in the underdeveloped countries and to the disparity around the world. It is this disparity which the IBRD and others are supposed to be trying to lift. When one looks at the massive injections of funds and, as against that, the tendency for the results to be not quite so good, it becomes rather depressing. I have an article by Nigel Heseltine, dated 19 March 1 974. 1 will quote from it briefly. I will not seek leave to incorporate it because it is rather a large article. It begins by making this observation:
But Australia’s primary industries not only Teed 12 million people . . .
That figure is now 1 3 million- rattier well, they also earn substantial foreign exchange through exports.
The situation is quite different in the so-called ‘developing’ countries . . .
They are the countries which the IBRD is designed to assist- which, although they are all building large universities, new ministry buildings in their capitals, and creating national airlines, see their food imports rising, and at rising cost. In spite of very large expenditure, much of it in the form of ‘aid’, over the last 1 5 years or so, agricultural production in many of these countries shows no sign of rising to meet demand.
The article concludes with a rather sober observation:
During the rest of this decade, the question will arise each year of who is going to feed the ‘developing countries’. The undoubted technical advances of the ‘Green Revolution’ showed that the technology and resources exist to increase yields in specific areas. Massive capital grants over the past 1 5 years have shown that money is also available.
Hence the IBRD. The article continues:
But the package has not yet been put together, so that a single food-deficit country has turned into a country exporting rice or maize or sorghum.
That is the tragedy. With the injection of massive amounts of money and assistance, it has yet to be demonstrated that a country which is traditionally capable of agricultural expansion has reached a point of creating not only its selfsustenance but also a surplus which is available, after a reasonable time, for export to gain some quantity of foreign exchange which will allow the living standards of that nation to be advanced. That, in itself, is one of the great commentaries upon what has happened since Bretton- Woods and the IBRD. There have been massive injections of money, massive assistance and a tremendous need for things to be done to help, but a net position which, to say the least, is a little alarming. One wonders whether we are not still moving in a world of nations, not individuals, where the rich nations will become richer and the poor nations will become poorer. If that trend continues we will reach the inevitable stage of some massive disaster.
I believe there is a need to help a great deal more in this area, and I have been impressed for some years now that what is required, in addition to capital injection, is the sort of technological assistance which accompanies the capital from those know-how countries which have achieved agricultural production expertise and surplus. I think that that is a matter which Australia might well consider taking up. We have a tendency to export money in the form of aid and to hope that everything will be all right. There are some cases in which we have exported people as well. They have been notably successful. This is something that we will need to think about as the years pass. We might well consider doing something more than this if the world situation is to be alleviated by those who are privileged helping those who are not quite so well off.
The total amount of IBRD loans is US$20,335m. Much of this lending has gone to developing countries. They are of interest to Australia. They are in Asia in particular and in the Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea. If one has a little time to study this matter it is interesting to look at the report of the IBRD and to find with some fascination that Australia, with its rather extraordinary wealth and state of overseas reserves, which the current Government says embarrasses it, is a net borrower of funds from the IBRD. We have actually had available to us from the IBRD since the last war US$4 17m. We have repaid a substantial amount, but we still owe US$ 108m. If we are in a situation of a massive surplus of exchange reserves, as we are, and if they were created by previous governments, as they were, and if they are now being run down by the current Government, as they are, and if the position is an embarrassment to the current Government, we might well consider paying off* the outstanding debt and it might help somebody else who is not quite so well placed.
In addition, a substantial amount of IBRD money has been borrowed by Papua New Guinea. That totalled $45m at the last recording I have. As honourable senators know from previous debate in this chamber, we have guaranteed the indebtedness of Papua New Guinea at the point of its obtaining independence and for some stage unascertained but implicit beyond that point of time. So we for our own part and on behalf of Papua New Guinea have a fairly substantial capital debt that we might think about relieving if we find ourselves not quite so flush. That is something that I commend to honourable senators for later consideration. These are not matters that one disposes of in an instant.
The IBRD as an organisation is really a composite stemming from a great emotional aim at the end of the last World War on the part of countries which had resources to help countries which did not have resources. It operates on the world’s capital markets. It borrows principally from private investors. It has an uncalled capital of $27,000m available to be called up if there is a deficiency of capital. Hence its credit-worthiness is very sound as against that of a private lender. The IBRD has a quite remarkably good record. It has 120 member countries. We joined it 27 years ago, in 1 947. At that time we were allotted $643m of capital. We have not subscribed all that amount; we have subscribed about 10 per cent of it, which is the common practice in the
IBRD. But we should look at our position as such and our capital subscription status in the IBRD. I might persuade honourable senators who have an interest in this matter to take it a little further and look at the table attached to the second reading speech. There they will see the relative order of capital subscription and will note that we are in a reasonable position. But we are a long way behind some other countries that are involved in the IBRD. For instance, we rate about equal with countries such as Libya. We are a long way behind Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and naturally the United States. But countries smaller than us are relatively equally placed with us in the level of capital support to the IBRD. Countries such as Sweden, South Africa and Spain are a long way ahead of us.
Again I revert to the fact that we are an extremely wealthy country by world standards. We rank eleventh in world trade. Therefore we have a great interest in countries that have to be developed to a higher standard of living. We are in the Group of Twenty. I think that we rate No. 14 in the world monetary situation. Therefore we, as a nation, ought to be considering whether we cannot get ourselves a little higher up the scale of support for the IBRD if that organisation can continue to do useful work in that area of the world which needs support. I think that will be worth considering in the future. Our overseas reserves are quite remarkable now. I would rather think that there might be some benefit in putting more of our money into a situation of international monetary support rather than letting it run down the drain in Australia through improvident government action. I can recall, I think that other honourable senators will recall, the days when we were very glad that we were substantial subscribers to the International Monetary Fund. The second line of reserves that we had in the IMF were a great comfort to us at a time when our overseas reserves were quite minimal. We were waiting on the great mining boom in order to develop our resources and we were glad to have those reserves in the IMF to back up our import bill.
We are not in that position today, because we have developed this country a great deal more in past years. But we are members of the IMF- the IBRD is part of the IMF- and I would argue that in Australia’s present context we would be well advised to be strong members of the IMF and perhaps to think a little more about supporting that body’s constituent activities, particularly the IBRD. We did delay in taking up the additional allotment in the IMF, but we are now doing so. Not a very great amount of money is involved and, because of relative changes in our currency, we are able to take up our allotment really at a profit when one considers our currency against other currencies. That in itself presents an interesting opportunity for us because we have become larger shareholders in the IMF without any cash flow leaving Australia.
As I mentioned earlier, the Opposition believes that this is a good measure. We approach it in a bipartisan way. The observations that I have made have been made in the hope that something will be done in my own country so that it will be a little more forthcoming in the international world. Perhaps this might demonstrate that we are a little less selfish than many people believe us to be. I shall close my remarks by observing that in our relations with the IBRD we are really living in the world of the International Monetary Fund. We are living in the world of international financial support and international currency maintenance which is designed to provide for the proper regulation of world trade. That is extremely important to Australia standing, as it does, as a high trading nation with an ability to finance its trade in sensible terms.
We want to see that the money supply in the world throught the IMF and its regulatory authorities is at least equal to the demands that world trade makes upon that supply. In that context, many of us are quite disturbed at the attitude which the present Government has adopted and its failure to do something more sensible and positive about the relationship between Australia’s currency and its present linkage with the United States dollar. We in my Party hold the view that the time is overdue for us to unhinge ourselves from the United States dollar. I make these points to my honourable colleagues in the Senate: We in Australia have maintained the link with the American dollar long after the situation in which the American dollar was a stable world currency ended. This continued link has meant that the value of the Australian dollar is determined by the monetary and trading experience of another country, quite apart from our own country. Not one of our major trading partners has maintained a fixed link with the American dollar.
We believe that there is great wisdom in freeing the Australian dollar from an arbitrary link with the American dollar. We believe that in the light of our changing balance of payments position a more flexible exchange rate policy would be most sensible, because our own economic situation is in a state of some uncertainty. Overseas conditions are not easy. We believe that a flexible exchange rate policy would determine a much better state of equilibrium. It would allow us to determine relatively what our true position is, and it would allow us to deal with balance of payments problems promptly and sensibly and not in an aggravated and acute form. To unhinge the Australian dollar and to put it on to some regular basis of flexibility would remove the temptation to speculation and would obviate any particular excess generation of liquidity by some people who might hold the view that our currency, in effect, will rise in value because of its unreal state of linkage or, on the other hand, who might be tempted, as many people will be tempted in the current Australian economic position, to sell us short on the prospect that we are going to get into trouble. These are matters that ought to be of very grave concern to a Senate which approaches the economic problems of this country with something a little higher than trying to make purely political gains.
I recommend to the Government serious consideration of its exchange rate policy and that it might consider it wise to move the Australian dollar from its fixed position. We believe that it would be wise to remove it from its link with the American dollar and to put it in a situation in which it has a value calculated on a weighted index in relation to our principal trading partners. We would then need to take an additional step which would be essential to what I have suggested: We would need the Reserve Bank of Australia to maintain a daily exchange rate for the Australian dollar within a band of fluctuation of Vh per cent to 5 per cent in any 3-month period. This would allow the world monetary trading scene to determine relatively what is the adequate and true value of the Australian dollar as the currency of a trading and economic nation without any false premises. It would stop the speculator from moving against us either to oversell or to overbuy. It would put the Reserve Bank in the position of controlling our currency, where I think it ought to be. Although this might appear to many people to be the attitude of a brave new world, it is really something which the Australian community has to measure up to.
In size we are the eleventh trading nation in the world. I think that, relative to our size, when we handed over the government of Australia, at the request of the people, to the present incumbents we had the strongest reserve position in the world. We had, I think, the strongest currency other than perhaps the Swiss franc. That shows how strong we were. Relative to that we have not done quite as well since that time, but we do not want to continue a speculative situation in our currency position. It is just not good enough. We are big enough; we are strong enough. We mean enough in trade in the world ‘s monetary scene to be taken into consultation in the council of the world’s leaders in monetary and trade policy. We have to stand on our own feet and run our currency in a proper and relative value in the world scene.
We have the Reserve Bank which is a very highly regarded institution quite capable of handling this position. The time has come for Australia to put its currency in a position in which it sets a value which the world itself can judge and which at the same time will not be subected to raids by smart characters who want to profit against it. All these things can be overcome. No problem is not manageable. We have managed many other problems in this country in our time. As we get older and stronger we must pick up the burdens. One of the new burdens is this burden of managing our own currency. I add the proposition that we are a wealthy country. We are a strong country and we have a responsibility to the world at large to be expressed through the IMF and the IBRD. That to me is a better posture for my country than the selfish absorption by ourselves of our own particular and special selfish interests. Accordingly, the Opposition will support the measure.
– I rise to support the International Monetary Agreements Bill but at the same time to express some fears or doubts about Australian aid, particularly within the context of this Bill. When moving that the Bill be read a second time the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the other place pointed out that the purpose of the Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to take up a special increase of US$4 1.1 4m in its subscription to the capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development- or, as it is more commonly called, the IBRD. The Treasurer went on to outline the functions of the IBRD and its affiliated institutions. The Treasurer pointed out, as did Senator Cotton, that the IBRD extends loans on conventional terms to creditworthy members.
Unfortunately, the Bill does not outline the areas or the countries which will receive aid indirectly as a result of Australia’s generosity, but one wonders whether any of it may be going to such places as South Vietnam. If it is, I am somewhat concerned about it, particularly when the Treasurer used the term ‘creditworthy’. I understand that the World Bank as a result of a meeting last year sent an economic survey mission to Saigon in May and November to assess the economic situation in South Vietnam. I also understand that the findings of the mission were that the economy in that country was in a very bad shape, that in fact the economy can pay for only 6 per cent of its total imports and less than one-fifth of its total budget. If that be the case therein lies the reason for my apprehension. It would appear that as a result of meetings of some countries connected with the World Bank organisation it was decided that the United States of America would grant, through the World Bank, up to US$400m per annum to Saigon for at least 20 years to aid that country’s economy.
It seems somewhat strange also that whilst the United States government is content to pour aid, by way of the World Bank, into South Vietnam, there is no recognition by that government or in this Bill of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam- the Government that was recognised by the Paris agreements and a body that controls a rather extensive area of South Vietnam. One would think that if the World Bank was in any way impartial it would at least allow some of its aid to be used by that Government in that country. It leads me to ask whether the World Bank is purely and simply an economic wing of American foreign policy. I also ask whether- no one has been able to answer me so far- Canada has declined to participate in discussions on this question of aid through the World Bank and, if so, why? If possible I would like someone to answer that question because it seems to me that the Canadians may well be expressing some doubts about America’s role and the role of the World Bank as regards aid to underdeveloped countries. Just as an aside, I think we should also look at the role Australia has played in relation to aid given to some countries and South Vietnam in particular. That is again the reason why I express some apprehension about the role of the World Bank, and it is the reason I ask where this money will finish up, which government will get it and to what end it will be used.
Australian aid in South Vietnam in the past has in some cases been utilised to provide water supply systems at military bases. Da Nang is an example of this. Australian aid has been utilised also to provide water supplies at Vung Tau, which previously was an American base and where I understand the United States is now planning a major port development. Australian SEATO aid to South Vietnam has been utilised to supply water systems at strategic military command centres at Bien Hoa, Can Tho and another base in the central delta region.
Finally, I want to say that I have grave doubts as to the proper utilisation of Australian government funds, in this instance by way of government to government aid. My own experience overseas earlier this year showed me that there was a great deal left to be desired. It does seem to me that we are content to pour money into underdeveloped countries. We send to these places a number of people of high repute. They are well meaning people but unfortunately they are people who do not understand the grass root problems. It seems to me that the country and the people applying the aid would, in many areas, be far better served by utilising the services of some of the thousands of tradesmen who are available in their own country- bricklayers, people who do electric wiring, carpenters, practical farmerswho can get right down on the ground and show these people in other countries the way a job should be tackled. I do not by any means denigrate the efforts that people in underdeveloped countries, particularly their tradesmen, are making, but some of the things I saw overseas would make one weep blood- all for the lack of a good practical man who would get down on the ground and, using his skill, pass on his knowledge to his kind in these underdeveloped countries.
– Although I am not in charge of this Bill, since I am looking after the business of the Senate at the present time I think it will be accepted that my contribution to the debate will be for the purpose of replying to what has been said. Therefore, my remarks will conclude the debate on this Bill. The Minister appreciates the attitude of the Opposition in not opposing this Bill. I believe that the Opposition is on record as not opposing the Bill when it was before the Senate on the previous occasion. Obviously, those questions which Senator Cotton raised, of which I heard portion when I was in the Senate chamber, are ones for the Treasurer to decide and Senator Cotton’s remarks will be conveyed to the Treasurer. The question he raised of the weighted index which we should have in relation to our exchange rate with our major trading partners will be referred to the Treasurer for his comment and any reply that he may decide to give will be sent to Senator Cotton.
We cannot give the assurances which Senator Primmer seeks. The money is sent to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and is spent in developing countries according to the directions of the Directors of the Bank. It is not a condition of the agreement that we enter that we can stipulate where the money can be spent and for what purpose it can be spent. Once we decide to take further shares in the Bank, any money contributed can be used as the Bank itself decides. Senator Primmer said that he has seen some misuse of funds. I think such matters should be reported at the time so that our representative can take up the matter with the Bank. But it is generally agreed that over a period of years that the fund has served a useful purpose in the developing countries. The question of the Canadian contribution was also raised. I am advised that Canada contributes to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and takes its shares with the other developed nations in the assistance of the underdeveloped nations. Again, I thank the Opposition for its support of the Bill.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Notice of Motion
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to give notice of motions for the disapproval of the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal tabled in the Senate this day.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Is leave granted?
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I think -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I move:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I take it that I may speak to my motion.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, the honourable senator is in order.
– I believe that the matter of the determinations which were laid on the Senate table today should be settled very quickly. Any honourable senator would know from his contacts with the people of Australia that there is extreme and very widespread disquiet throughout the community about whether the Parliament will accept the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal. Time is a very important factor in the public’s confidence in the economy as a whole and in members of Parliament and the attitudes they may take to the acceptance of the determinations. I believe that not one more day than necessary should go by, because of the public’s disquiet, without having this matter settled in this House of Parliament or the other, whichever the case may be. Therefore I have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders on the basis that the Parliament would co-operate in at least settling the question. I do not believe that there are many honourable senators who have not been approached in some way or another by their constituents or the media in relation to their attitude. I believe that it is quite wrong if the consideration of this matter is delayed and the public loses confidence not only in the economic scene but also in the Parliament. I can assure honourable senators that the matter is quite urgent in the public’s thinking.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I know that you would not let me proceed into the actual reasoning behind the intended motions for disapproval. But the Act specifically makes mention of this type of parliamentary scrutiny. I would like to think that the Senate can save one more day’s doubt- it will be another day before the Senate sits again- as to whether this matter will be discussed properly and publicly in the Senate. I would have thought that, as I sought only to give notice of motion and this implies no commital to the motion by honourable senators who might allow me to give notice of the motion, the Senate in its wisdom would allow me to proceed. This is one more chance to do that. Of course, by allowing for the suspension of Standing Orders the Senate does nothing more than allow me to proceed along the lines of giving notice, as was my original intention. Therefore, as the motion involves no committal and by allowing the motion to be passed honourable senators may pursue their own viewpoints later, I believe they ought to take what I submit is an extremely wise view, namely, facilitate the settling of this matter quickly. As tomorrow is the last sitting day this week I suggest that honourable senators could support and ought to support the motion I have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I wish to indicate that the Opposition will oppose the suspension of Standing Orders which has been moved by Senator Hall tonight. It will do so for the very simple reason that, as I recall, at approximately 8 p.m. this evening my colleague, Senator Wright, in a speech that he was making on another matter indicated that at the earliest opportunity tomorrow he would move a like motion. Senator Wright was prepared to abide by the normal procedures of the Senate. I imagine that after the reading of petitions tomorrow morning Senator Wright would have risen in his place and attempted to get the call to give notice of motion on a similar subject. I do not know whether Senator Hall knew that. But I think that it is fair enough that if Senator Wright indicated his intentions slightly after 8 p.m. tonight he ought not to be pre-empted from his opportunity of seeking the first call tomorrow morning to put down the motion of which he has spoken. As to the urgency of putting it down tonight, as I understand the Act 15 sitting days are allowed. I do not think that this chamber has ever got into such a state of excitement that when a report came down at 8 o’clock one night we wished to rush in to have a vote at 10 a.m. on the next day. I know that they do odd things in the other place, but this chamber has always operated on the basis that senators ought to have an opportunity to study thoroughly the reports presented to them, to consult their colleagues and to come to a proper decision when they vote. I do not think that to rush in is the right procedure at this stage.
– 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 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Committee on Technical and Further Education (Question No. 36)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740724_senate_29_s60/>.