29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1,057 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth that: the decision to recognize the incorporation of the Baltic countries- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania- into the Soviet Union is an alarming and dangerous reversal of foreign policy by the Australian Government, this decision legitimizes the occupation of formerly free and independent nations by an imperialist power, the Soviet Union has suppressed civil liberties in the Baltic states and has tried to ruthlessly eliminate movements for national identity and self-determination among the Baltic people, the desires of the Baltic people have always been and will continue to be for an end to occupation by a foreign power and a return to self-determination of government, there are neither moral nor legal grounds for legitimizing the present regime in the Baltic countries, all other democratic nations have refused to recognize the illegal incorporation of these countries.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government rescind its decision to acknowledge the Soviet Union as the rightful government of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and support the continuing struggle of the Baltic people for national liberation and self-determination.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1,043 electors of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth that:
The Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, has revealed the detail’s of the crimes against tens of millions of people in the Soviet Union through the activities of the secret police and vast concentration camps.
Whereas on the 14th February 1974, the day after the banishment of Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his homeland, nine Soviet citizens headed by Dr Andrei Sakharov addressed an appeal to the peoples of the world. The four points of this petition are as requested by the nine Soviet citizens. The signatories were Dr Andrei Sakharov, physicist, Helena Non maire physicist, Vladimir Maximov, Mikhail Agouraki historian, Boris Shraghin, art-historian, Paul Litvinov, Yuri Orlov, Anatoli Marshenko and Father Sergei Zhalutkov.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should request that the Prime Minister of Australia take immediate and determined steps to call upon the Government of the U.S.S.R. and the Secretary-General of the United Nations:
1 ) To permit publication in the U.S.S.R. of the ‘Gulag Archipelago’.
To create an international tribunal to examine the alleged crimes committed in the U.S.S.R.
To open the files of all Soviet secret police agencies including the Cheka, the OGPU, and NKVD and the KGB.
To protect Solzhenitsyn from all persecution and allow him to return to his homeland.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 14 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government’s willingness to officially recognise the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union will cause considerable difficulties to former citizens of Baltic countries who have acquired Australian citizenship and are revisiting the countries of their origin.
By this hasty act, taken without consultation with the groups of Australian citizens concerned, the Australian Government has seemingly recognised the Soviet claim that the Baltic immigrants, upon their arrival in Australia, were really citizens of the U.S.S.R., and as such are not entitled to assume the protection of Australian citizenship until released from the citizenship of the Soviet Union.
Considering the difficulties involved, we the undersigned, humbly petition the Senate that the action which has been taken, be nullified.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 24 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
The undersigned citizens of Australia of Baltic origin wish to express their concern at the announced intention of the Australian Government to recognize the annexation of the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union. We submit that these once free and independent States were occupied by force of arms and beg the Senate to disallow such recognition as a matter of principle.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 24 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
The undersigned citizens of Australia of Baltic origin wish to express their concern at the announced intention of the Australian Government to recognize the annexation of the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union. We submit that these once free and independent Slates were occupied by force of arms and beg the Senate to disallow such recognition as a matter of principle.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– As a petition similarly worded has already been presented by Senator Davidson I do not propose that the petition be read.
-I present the following petition from 1 1 1 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government’s diplomatic action to recognise officially the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union has been taken contrary to the Prime Minister’s assurances to Australian citizens of Baltic origin given as recently as 1 7 May 1974.
We the undersigned therefore humbly petition the Senate to ensure that the above action is rescinded.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– As petitions similarly worded have already been presented by Senator Baume and other honourable senators I do not propose that the petition be read.
– I present the following petition from 24 citizens of the Commonwealth:
Whereas the six million people of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, occupied and unlawfully annexed by the Soviet Union, have been deprived of freedom. Human Rights and civil liberties and are therefore unable to express their will, we the undersigned Australian citizens of Baltic origin humbly petition the Senate to express its moral support to the rights of the Baltic States to freedom and self-determination.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate condemns the Government for
1 ) The de jure recognition of the three Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia thereby recognising the conquest by force of those States by the Russian Army, and thereby repudiating undertakings given by the Prime Minister to the representatives in Australia of those nations that there would be no change in Australia’s policy towards those states.
The Government’s failure to inform the Australian people and Parliament of a significant foreign policy decision.
Its complete disregard for the freedom, justice, and right to self determination of the people of the states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
And the Senate requests that the Australian Government revokes its de jure recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That all correspondence and any other papers that have passed between the Government, the Royal Australian Air Force and Qantas Airways Ltd relating to the purchase by the Royal Australian Air Force of any aircraft from Qantas Airways Ltd to be used as VIP aircraft, be laid on the table of the Senate.
-I give notice that 6 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the City Area Leases Ordinance (No. 2) 1974, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 19 of 1974, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973, be disallowed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Will the Minister give an undertaking that the Russian violinist Georgi Ermolenko will be given the fullest opportunity for such period as he, Ermolenko, requires, being, say, not less than 24 hours, to consider free from duress and improper pressures and with the help of advisers of his choice whether he wishes to remain in Australia? Further, will the Minister take such action as may be necessary to prevent pressures being brought upon Mr Ermolenko by officials of the Russian Embassy?
-I think, answering the last part of the honourable senator’s question that I have already done that. However, because of the interest being shown in this matter I think I should run over briefly for Senator Withers and other interested people what the situation is up to this time. On Sunday Mr Ermolenko, an 18 year old who has been visiting Australia with other Russians to participate in a music festival in Perth, went to the Perth Airport to leave this country. Mr Ermolenko, who does not speak
English very well, then said that he did not want to leave. He was taken to a non-public area of the airport terminal by the Immigration Officer on duty. It was then agreed that he would stay in Australia and talk to the Department of Labor and Immigration on Monday morning. He left the airport in the care of the sub-warden of St George’s College of the University of Western Australia. The remainder of the party decided not to catch the plane. Professor Kabalevsky, who is a very noted composer and who is in charge of the group, and Mr Alexandroff, a clerk at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, sought to talk to Mr Ermolenko on Sunday night, but he indicated that he did not wish to talk to them at that time.
On Monday Mr Ermolenko contacted Professor Kabalevsky at the Parmelia Hotel and arranged to see him at 1 1 o’clock after he had an interview with an official from the Department of Labor and Immigration. After talking to Professor Kabalevsky he decided that he wanted to go back to Russia. A note on where things stood was prepared for me when I arrived by plane in Canberra at 5 o’clock yesterday. The group went to the airport again last night to leave this country. My information was that they were refused entry to the plane on which they were to travel because their visas for Singapore were not in order. I understand that one is allowed to stay in Singapore for 24 hours without a visa, but the group intended to stay there for 40 hours. For this reason they were not permitted to board the aircraft.
I understand that some sort of demonstration was mounted, mainly by members of the Transport Workers Union and the clerks union. I was in contact with the officer of my Department in Perth during the evening. I noticed in this morning’s Press that Professor Callaway indicated that he felt that this young man wanted to go back to Russia. He said also that the young man was quite relaxed, and this was the view of my officer. But because of the doubt raised in Senator Withers’ question and because very obviously this action raises some doubts as to whether Mr Ermolenko is under duress from one side or the other, I asked the department officer in Perth to speak to him again this morning to arrange a meeting today. In the meantime I have been told that 2 lawyers, one representing some university students and the other representing Amnesty, are taking an interest in the matter. I anticipated that a question would be asked on this matter and therefore I have jotted down the names of some of the people who will be attending this meeting. Apparently Mr Hollingsworth, the secretary of the Australian Journalist’s Association of Western Australia will be present. I have asked whether he would be kind enough to attend because I do not want a situation in which there will be a battery of television cameras and a lot of questions asked of an 18-year old who is in a strange country. Representatives of the two unions involved will be there also.
Last night I gave instructions that the 2 lawyers involved were to be given every facility that could be given to them. They will be invited to be there. I tried to get another Foreign Affairs man over to Perth but the fog in Canberra this morning put paid to that little exercise. However, we have our own local man over there. Mr Grayden, the Western Australian State Minister for Immigration, has asked to be present and he will be most welcome. All of this exercise is merely to do one thing.
– And a medical officer.
– Also a medical officer will be present because it has been suggested- there is always the suggestion in such a case- that he might be under sedation or drugs.
– Whose medical officer?
-Will it be the Commonwealth Medical Officer?
– The Commonwealth Medical Officer will be at the interview today. I take it that the interview will be held at the Parmelia Hotel. The whole purpose of this meeting is to give Mr Ermolenko a chance to say quite categorically what he wants to do. I want the Australian public to be convinced of this. We all want to be convinced.
Mr Ermolenko made 2 decisions. Firstly he said that he did not want to go and secondly he said that he did want to go. This meeting will give him an opportunity to express his wish in front of a group of people who I think honourable senators will agree are a fairly representative group.
– Will any embassy officials be present?
– Yes, our man will be there.
– No, I mean Russian Embassy officials.
– I think there will be. We were talking about this matter this morning. The Russians have put it to us that they would want somebody from their Embassy to be at the interview. So I think I would prefer Professor Kabalevsky to come along. In this situation I do not think we should be denying consular access to the Russian Embassy. If the position were reversed, we would not like that to happen. As honourable senators know, many questions have been asked in the Senate about our demanding consular access to our nationals in other countries. Therefore, I think the Russians should have such access. In fact, I think they could demand it under international law. So I anticipate that Professor Kabalevsky or somebody else may be at the interview today. I repeat that what we are doing is merely giving this lad a chance to state openly what he wants and we are showing the Australian people that this is what we are doing.
The other matter that has been raised this morning is that two writs have been issued. One has been issued against the Russian officer concerned and the other one calls on the Commissioner of Police to produce the lad in court at a certain time. I cannot give the honourable senators any advice on this matter. Very obviously, the Russian officer concerned can claim diplomatic immunity and he probably will do so. I also point out that Ermolenko is not in custody. He spent last night at the Parmelia Hotel -
– With whom?
– With whom?
-Wait until I finish. I am about to tell honourable senators. (Opposition senators interjecting)-
– Order! The Minister is answering the question.
-He spent last night at the Parmelia Hotel with the other Russians.
– That is what I was asking.
-Will the honourable senator wait until I finish? Mr Carl Henne, the officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs who is in charge of our office in Perth, also spent the evening at the Parmelia Hotel. They occupied three adjoining rooms. I do not know how the position in regard to the two writs will work out. One of them asks for the lad to be delivered up by the Commonwealth Police. He is not in custody. He is at the Parmelia Hotel.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Will the Minister tell the Senate what was the outcome of the Australia-United
Kingdom air services negotiations in Melbourne during April? Did the Minister see the newspaper accounts to the effect that Australia requested British Airways Ltd to reduce services on the Kangaroo Route? If so, can the Minister advise the Senate as to the accuracy of these reports?
-This agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom, which was signed in 1958, was the subject of a discussion between the British transport section and the Australian Minister for Transport. I am informed that the last full scale discussion on the agreement was in 1964.I point out that the discussion which took place in April of this year in Melbourne was not for the purpose of a reduction of the services. The Australian Government did ask British Airways Ltd to discontinue the service to Australia via the United States of America. The question of Hong Kong- Australia air services also was discussed with the British Airways representatives. I believe that subsequentlylast month- the responsible Ministers discussed this question in London. As soon as there is any finality in the discussions, the Minister for Transport will be making a statement on the issue.
Mr GEORGI ERMOLENKO
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, follows on the question asked earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Minister aware that the students who have actively concerned themselves with the affairs of Mr Ermolenko regard him as being subject to pressure whilst he is in the company of the Russians? Does the Minister believe what the students have said? Is he aware that others believe that no questions answered by the student yesterday in the presence of the Russians were answered except by reference to the Russians? Will he give the undertaking for which the Leader of the Opposition asked, namely, that this man be free from the Russians to make his decision without improper pressures or influences being available to prevent him from giving a decision which is a decision of his choice?
-I thought that I had made perfectly clear that that is exactly what we are trying to do. The Russians are entitled to consular access to this person. He will be brought before a group of people this afternoon at 1 o’clock or at whatever time is arranged in Perth. These people will be able to see perfectly well what he is going to do.
– The Russian will be present.
-Yes, the Russian will be present.
– Is that fair?
– It is very obvious that we are going to be at cross-purposes here. What this exercise is all about is to give the freedom of choice to a young man in a foreign country. It is not about grandstanding; it is not about trying to make political capital; and it is not about trying to exacerbate a situation between 2 countries which already have diplomatic relations. But it is obvious that some people will try to make it that way. What I have done in arranging this meeting this afternoon is as fair as I can possibly make it. There will be a cross-section of people at the meeting. The lawyers who want to be there are entitled to be present. Because one Russian wants to be there people are going to say that this is going to make the whole thing null and void. What would the honourable senator say if the same situation existed in Russia and one of our embassy staff was denied the right to be present? He would be the first on his feet accusing us of kowtowing to the Russians or something else.
9LLEGAL EXPORT OF AUSTRALIAN FAUNA
-I direct my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. What action has been taken to punish the motor cruiser owner- either a knave or a fool- who illegally introduced into Australia 40 birds and 2 monkeys from Bali which had to be destroyed in conformity with Australian health laws?
-On this general subject of the illegal smuggling of birds and other fauna, I point out that regrettably a good deal of it is still going on in the export field. Senator Mulvihill has asked me a number of questions on this matter. It seems that massive increases in export controls would be necessary to improve the rate of detection to any significant degree. However 1 am endeavouring to find some ways by which there can be legal exports of fauna to approved zoos which would cut this problem down and no doubt the same could be done in respect of the importing of fauna in order to take the profit motive out of the illegal activities which are going on. I have been advised that the case to which the honourable sentator referred involved a shipment of birds and monkeys to the value of approximately $100,000. 1 have with me a note which says that investigations are proceeding into the matter. Some people have already been charged under the Customs Act and it may be that further charges will be laid against other persons. As the honourable senator implied in his question, apart from the illegal smuggling aspect there is also the important question of health. The importation of fauna which come from areas where there are diseases does present a very serious risk to Australian fauna and livestock.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that carpet layers were sent to the Australian Embassy in Peking because, for security reasons, local tradesmen could not be employed to lay carpets in the Australian Embassy and staff apartments? How many Chinese nationals are employed in the Australian Embassy in Peking and how many are employed by Australian staff in their apartments? Has the Minister any knowledge of any other of our embassies where local tradesmen, for security reasons, would not be employed to lay carpets? What countries which have embassies in Canberra import their tradesment to lay carpets in their Canberra offices and residences?
-Two carpet layers were sent from Australia to lay carpets in 15 apartments made available by the Chinese authorities for accommodation of the Australian staff of the Embassy. However, this was not for security reasons but because the Chinese authorities would not make the services of local tradesmen available, nor would they allow entry of tradesmen from Hong Kong to carry out this work. At present 12 Chinese nationals are employed in the Australian Embassy in Peking. Approval has been obtained to employ another two, and the Embassy is at present seeking to fill these positions. Thirteen Chinese nationals are employed by the Australian staff in their apartments m Peking, including five employed at the official residence. There are a considerable number of Australian embassies and other missions overseas where, when certain work is undertaken, local tradesmen are not employed for security reasons. However, such work does not include carpet laying. As far as I am aware, we have received no formal request to facilitate the entry of tradesmen to Australia for this purpose.
-Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to reports appearing in the South Australian Press which state that public telephone booths in that State have been destroyed? Can the Minister inform the Senate as to what action has been taken by the Postmaster-General’s Department to protect itself against this vandalism?
– I am sorry to say that these irresponsible acts are continuing. Not only are instruments being destroyed and is the cost of maintaining such instruments being increasedthe Post Office spends over $lm a year in repairing these instruments- but also unfortunately very serious situations could be created in the case of injuries or sickness. My Department is cooperating with the police to make sure that whatever can be done will be done.
Recently the reward for information leading to the discovery of persons causing damage was increased from $40 to $100 and the criteria for obtaining the reward were changed. Previously if a person was seen damaging a telephone instrument and was reported, an effective conviction against him would have to be obtained. Under the new arrangements it is necessary only to identify that person. However, I feel that the matter is very serious. Some publicity is being given to it in local areas. The problem applies not only in South Australia but also in the other States. It is pretty wide. I will ask the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs whether it is possible to commence an Australia-wide program of publicity to encourage people to take a social stand on the question and thus reduce the current vandalism.
Mr GEORGI ERMOLENKO
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, follows upon the answer that he gave to Senator Greenwood. In relation to the present position of Mr Georgi Ermolenko in Perth, does he not agree that the desire of the Australian Government to see its own citizens when in custody in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is quite different from the request that is now made- that there should be some period when this young man can make up his own mind and consult privately in the absence of Russian consular officials who may be in a position to intimidate him?
-The moment a government did that, it would lay itself open to the charge that we were putting pressure on him. That has already been suggested.
– He is asking for asylum.
-He has not asked for asylum. If the honourable senator wants to get on a band wagon he should get on a truthful one.
I know honourable senators opposite are very anxious to stir up this matter and I do not hold very much respect for them. It is a very sensitive position concerning a young man whom we are trying to protect and give a chance to. That is what we are doing. I do not see a great deal of difference in the 2 examples mentioned in the question.
The Australian Government wants to encourage consular access, and the world wants to encourage it. It is to Australia’s benefit as well as to the benefit of other countries to allow officials to see their own nationals in another country. I will have to go through the facts of the situation again. At first the man did not want to go. He has repeated several times that he does want to go. Now, because of what is going on, because of what happened last night, because a doubt has been raised, the Australian Government is trying to give this man an opportunity to make up his mind, with a reasonable cross-section of people present who have interested themselves in the case and wish to be assured that he is not under too much pressure in making his decisions. I do not know what else one could do.
– I ask: Has the AttorneyGeneral seen a report published in a Melbourne weekly newspaper of 10 August which alleges that the former Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, ordered investigations by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation intoamong myself and others- two of his party colleagues, namely, Mr Killen and Mr Chipp? If so, can the Attorney-General verify the authenticity of the allegations?
-I understand that the reference is to an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Truth’ and referred to certain documents. One document purports to have been initiated by the former Attorney-General and one purports to have been a letter from the DirectorGeneral of the Austraiian Security Intelligence Organisation to the former Attorney-General. I have investigated the matter. On the information which I have, it should be made quite clear that the documents are not authentic. There is no substance whatever in the suggestion that that document was sent by the former Attorney-General or that answer was sent to the then AttorneyGeneral by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the hope that questions asked in the Senate might advance the possibility that this young man will have freedom of choice as to whether he remains in Australia. Can the Minister confirm that Mr Ermolenko originally refused to see Professor Kabalevsky but was persuaded by some Australian friends to see him and that he saw Professor Kabalevsky for a period of 4’A hours in the presence of a Russian Consular official? Does the Minister know whether during that period requests by persons to see Mr Ermolenko were refused? I ask the Minister whether the consular access to which he has referred means consular access permanently between the time of the interview and Mr Ermolenko leaving the country. In other words, is the Minister suggesting that the principle is that consular access- with which we all agree- permits an Embassy official to remain with Mr Ermolenko day and night during that period?
– In the first part of Senator Chaney ‘s question he repeats what I said, that originally on Sunday Mr Ermolenko said that he did not want to see any Russians. I think that included Professor Kabalevsky. Then next day, as Senator Chaney has said, Mr Ermolenko saw them.
– I want to know for what period. Was it 4V4 hours?
-I cannot answer that; I do not know. During yesterday afternoon Mr Ermolenko spent quite a lot of time with our man Mr Henne who told me that he agreed with Professor Callaway that Mr Ermolenko was relaxed and wanted to leave. I do not know for how long he was there. As to the next part of the question, I take the honourable senator to be referring to the meeting today and when Mr Ermolenko will leave, should he be there. I do not know whether he will decide to leave. Quite frankly, I do not know what the position will be.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether he can inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that the Queensland Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department pays to a single Aboriginal mother approximately only half the allowance paid to similar nonAboriginal mothers by the appropriate State department during the first 6 month period after the birth of the child. Is it also a fact that the allowance paid to Aboriginal mothers in these circumstances is mostly by way of food vouchers? Will the Minister cause an immediate investigation to be established? If the facts are as outlined, will he take the necessary steps to have such discriminatory treatment abolished and the full allowance paid?
– In the first place I am not quite clear what this allowance is. I thought the payment of social service benefits was a responsibility of the Australian Government under the Social Service Act.
– I asked about the first 6 months.
-I believe that there is an agreement between the Australian Government and the State governments as to payment for the first 6 months where it is a payment by a State government using Commonwealth revenue, which means that the payment is subsidised by the Commonwealth. If the full entitlement of the individual as a deserted wife is not paid for the first 6 months, it is something that needs investigation. I shall immediately take the matter up with the appropriate authorities. I do not know whether it should be handled through my Department or the Department of Social Security. I will take the matter up and have some investigations made. If there is any truth in the allegations we shall endeavour to take remedial action.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has Australia decided to grant de jure recognition to the incorporation of the independent states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union?
-Because of the interest in this matter I have prepared a reply. With your permission, Mr President, I will read it. It is a little long -
– Make a statement after question time.
-Would you prefer to make a statement by leave after question time?
– No, I think it ought to be given as an answer to the question.
– The Minister will answer the question.
– The Australian Government decided last month to accord de jure recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics. This action was a logical step following the de facto recognition successive Australian governments have extended for over 20 years. This decision represented a logical application to these states of the principle the Government has adhered to firmly since it came into office, that is, the recognition of existing realities in the world whether or not we like or approve of those realities. This policy has been criticised by the Opposition from the beginning -over China, over North Vietnam and over North Korea- although the Opposition conveniently forgets this Government has also recognised the new regime in Chile, a decision which was most emphatically not made without grave thought. All these decisions are consistent one with another and with the Government’s view that one has to recognise and deal with existing realities regardless of ideological preconceptions.
The realities in the Baltic states are quite evident from a number of points of view. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been part of the U.S.S.R. for 34 years. Before 19 IS, they had formed part of Russian territory for over 100 years. At present they have the status of republics within the Soviet federation. It is unlikely that the Soviet Government will grant independence to these territories. The decision does not place Australia out of step with other countries. Most other governments of the world recognise the incorporation of the Baltic republics. Most governments which recognised the U.S.S.R. after World War II in effect granted de jure recognition to the Baltic republics which by then had been incorporated. Nor is Australia the first Western country to recognise the incorporation. Finland and Switzerlandto name two- also do so.
Recognition will facilitate the carrying out of certain consular activities, including matters relating to reunion of families and settlement of estates which require contact with the governments in the Baltic states. It will also be easier to offer any consular assistance to members of the Baltic communities in Australia to visit their family homeland. The Australian Ambassador in Moscow is now able to visit the republics and observe developments there at first hand. It is instructive to recall the practice of the previous Liberal/Country Party Government on this and related questions. Under its administration, Australian officials in Moscow- but not the Ambassador- and some parliamentarians had visited the Baltic states. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), when AttorneyGeneral, himself accepted during a debate in
Parliament on extradition treaties that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania no longer existed as independent nations- a fact pointed out in another place by the present Prime Minister as long ago as 20 October 1966 (Hansard p. 2037). It is interesting to see from where we develop this technique.
The technique was adopted by our predecessors, when in government, with regard to the forcible annexation by India of Goa. Goa was annexed from Portugal by India in December 1 96 1 by military means. In March 1 964, that is, some 2 years and 3 months later, the Australian Government of the day agreed that Sir James Plimsoll, the then Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi, should pay an official visit to Goa. The Government intended by this decision to convey that Australia recognised India’s incorporation of Goa, and before leaving Goa, Sir James made public statements which made this clear. The Australian Government of the day never made any official announcement about Sir James Plimsoll’s visit, either before or after the event. Its attitude, nevertheless, was the sensible one, namely, that while Australia did not approve of the manner of Goa ‘s absorption into India it had accepted the present realities of the situation.
That is precisely what we did, and, strange to say, the same Ambassador was involved, namely, Sir James Plimsoll. It is true that NATO countries do not accord de jure recognition. However, the interests of these governments in Europe are not the same as those of the Australian Government, and the Australian Government need not wait for these countries to move before taking action itself. It was stated by the Prime Minister at a Press conference as early as December 1972 that the Government seeks to avoid situations in which Australia takes decisions in international affairs late.
Finally, no pressure was applied from any quarter on the Australian Government, as some have suggested, to take this decision. Australia did, however, consult a number of friendly countries beforehand to inform them of its intention to review its position on this matter, and neither then nor since has any criticism been raised by those countries of the course we proposed to follow. As I have already said, ours was a logical action based on reality. By the same token, the Australian Government does not see itself as having taken a lead in this matter, as also has been suggested. What other governments which have not extended de jure recognition do will, of course, be a matter for their own decision in their own time.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education seen a Press report in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 8 August in which it is reported that parent and teacher groups in Victoria have described the state school building program as a disaster? Is the Minister aware of concern about the Victorian Government’s inability to spend $4.2m of Schools Commission grants on primary school libraries within the next 2 years? Has the Australian Government made grants promptly available to the Victorian Government for the purpose of school libraries? If so, can the Minister inform the Senate why the money is not being spent?
– I did see the statement to which the honourable senator has alluded and, because of the interest in it, I sought some information from my colleague the Minister for Education. I am given to understand by the Minister for Education that the Australian Government has made grants to the Victorian Government, which would include provision for the establishment of school libraries. In the first quarter of this year the Victorian Government asked for $8. 5m as a result of the Karmel report. In that quarter it spent $6.4m. In the second quarter it asked for $7.5m and also received that amount from the Australian Government. However, my colleague the Minister for Education advises me that the Victorian Government will not supply information about the state school libraries and that of all the State governments it alone refuses to do this. I do not know what pro.ortion of the funds for which Victoria is eligible as been earmarked for the construction of school libraries, but I assure the honourable senator that as far as the Australian Government is concerned the money is available.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: In view of the fact that the Russian student violinist Ermolenko spent many hours yesterday in the company of his Russian colleagues and the consular official and in view of the fact that he spent last night at the same hotel and is apparently still with these Russian colleagues and the consular official, will the Minister for Foreign Affairs enable him to have a private conversation and discussion with his Australian friends whom he made during the conference at which he discussed the question of his staying in Australia and also with the subwarden of St George’s College, who had been his spiritual adviser in these matters, before the somewhat large conference which the Minister is arranging for later today?
-Senator Durack said and the consul’. I do not know whether he means the Russian consul.
-Our officer is also with them. I think he missed that point. They are all together in the Parmelia Hotel. Our officer slept there last night and maintained communications with him. As I understand it, yesterday Mr Ermolenko spent a lot of the morning with his Russian compatriots. He spent a lot of the afternoon with our man, who told me last night by telephone that overall he probably had about 2Vi hours with Mr Ermolenko. The honourable senator has now asked whether Mr Ermolenko can have a talk with the sub-warden. I do not know. I will pass it on to see whether it is possible, if that is what he wants. I thought Senator Durack referred a little deprecatingly to having a large body of people at the meeting. I tried to explain why those people were there and. why I tried to keep the gathering as small as possible. I could have let in a lot of Press people but this would have made the pressure twice as great.
I was told that there were 2 lawyers. I did not want to stop them in any way. There are representatives of the 2 trade unions which have gone out or demonstrated. I brought them into it. I brought the doctor into it. I brought in one pressman to try to cut out the rest of the Press. If Mr Grayden wants to come along I think he ought to do so, and our own officer will be there. Perhaps it sounds a little big, but I would like the honourable senator to tell me in those circumstances who else he would have cut out. I believe it is not too big.
– My question refers to statements made recently by Mr Jack Hallett, former member of the House of Representatives for the electorate of Canning, at the Western Australian Country Party conference. Mr Hallett, who was a Country Party member of the House of Representatives, described Sir Charles Court, the Liberal Party Premier of Western Australia, as a hypocrite and attacked the Liberal Party for its support of the Industries Assistance Commission legislation.
– I rise to a point of order. The honourable senator has asked three or four similar questions. I say that he is now giving information instead of asking a question.
– I have been listening very closely to the question. I would like Senator Walsh to put his question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I ask Senator Murphy: Does Mr Hallett ‘s statement expose innate conflicts between the Liberal Party and the Country Party which are normally plastered over for electoral convenience? Can it be assumed from the Country Party’s trenchant opposition to the Industries Assistance Commission that the Country Party realises that an adequately informed electorate would not tolerate the sordid and secretive political pork barrelling in which the Country Party specialised prior to its dismissal from government?
– I rise to a point of order. This is not a matter relating to public affairs. It is a question asked by one senator of the Leader of the Government in his own Party, calling for comment about the other parties. I recall that the point of order I am taking was developed to a fine stage of perfection by Senator Murphy when he was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I submit that no better authority in this area ought to be referred to and that the question should be ruled out of order.
– I will leave it to Senator Murphy representing the Prime Minister to take up the responsibility of answering if he feels that it is within his field.
-I will do my best, Mr President. It is obvious that the Industries Assistance Commission, which has been established through the efforts of this Government, is an extremely valuable institution. There is no doubt that the Liberal Party and the Country Party are fighting about it. It is unfortunate that they use such words as ‘hypocrite’ and so forth in relation to one another, but I suppose that as long as they keep fighting this Government can keep on administering the country in the way that it should. I think it is best just to leave them to their quarrels and hope that they will allow us to get through the necessary legislation and to introduce some wise administration.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the situation concerning the Government’s recognition of the Baltic states as part of the Soviet Union. At what period of last month did the Government take the decision for recognition? Does the Minister not consider that such decision should have been reported to Parliament at the time? Was the decision made by the full Cabinet? Was it made on the recommendation of the Foreign Minister and was he present at the meeting of the Cabinet when the decision was made?
– Notice has been given that a similar subject will be discussed by the Senate pursuant to an urgency motion. I leave to the Minister’s discretion whether he wishes to answer the question now or at some later time.
-I think we are to debate this subject tomorrow. Perhaps the question could be left till then.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President -
-A11 right. You want me to answer it.
– I have only given notice of motion. I may not proceed with it.
– I do not recall on what date Sir James Plimsoll went there.
-No; on what date last month did the Government make the decision?
-It is the same thing. The decision that was made was to send him there. I do not recall the date. I could find out for the honourable senator. Was I present at the Cabinet meeting? No, it was not a Cabinet decision. It is clear policy and therefore it is carried out by the Minister. Those were the 2 points of the question, I think.
– Did you make the decision?
– The decision was made while I was overseas, but I concurred in it when I returned. The situation was that I ordered a paper to be prepared on the pros and cons of the subject as one always does before making decisions such as this. The paper was submitted to the Acting Minister while I was away. He made the decision. I concur in what he did.
– Shades of the Gair affair.
-No; I concur in this one.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that last Thursday 27 students were arrested at the Australian National University following a disagreement between the administration and students? Is it a fact that the students had legitimate grievances and these included greater student participation in course design, freedom of choice of the means of assessment, reduced class sizes and the introduction of a women’s study course? In view of the obvious desirability of these reforms, will the Minister advise the Austraiian National University that he regards the use of police on campus grounds and the subsequent arrests as undesirable and give consideration to the withdrawal of charges against the students? Will the Minister also give consideration to denying the use of police on the campus in matters which are entirely internal? Further, will the Minister, as a result of these experiences and on a matter of principle, state that the Government is opposed to the use of police in legitimate disputes between students and university administrations on campuses?
-I think everyone would agree that it is very unfortunate if police have to be involved in matters of students. We have seen the experience in other countries where this has had very unfortunate repercussions. I hear the law and order gang opposite protesting, but we saw what its attitudes and its sympathisers did in the United States in connection with students. Since there are particular matters in respect of which students are charged- I understand that they are on bail- I shall not say any more about the matters themselves. I assure the honourable senator that I shall look into the question. But I think everyone would hope that matters such as this could be resolved in some sensible and reasonable way and, above all, without the involvement of police with students.
-I ask the Attorney-General a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Gietzelt and answered by the Attorney-General. Were the students of the Australian National University in physical possession of the Vice-Chancellor’s office? Did they refuse to move when the proper authorities of the University asked them to move and did their further defiance cause the Vice-Chancellor of the University to call in the police to remove the students from their illegal possession? Is this not on all fours with the activities of students at the Flinders University in Adelaide where the Governor himself, as the Official Visitor, attempted to have them removed? Is it not on all fours with the actual taking of possession of the Vice-Chancellor’s quarters at the University of Melbourne where the Victorian police had to be called in to remove the students?
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, with his intimate knowledge of judicial procedures, would be aware that it would be most improper for me to commence to answer the question that he has asked. I have indicated already that these matters were coming before the court and for that reason I said that I would not go any further into them. I think he will agree with me that it would be most undesirable for me to start to enter into any factual matters concerning the cases.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it not a fact that the Australian Government’s recognition of forceful incorporation of the three Baltic states into the Russian empire is clear ratification of Hitler’s 1939 agreement with Stalin? May it be taken that, by its action, this Government has firmly committed itself to a principle that was hitherto anathema to all Australian governments and the Australian people, that is, that might is right in international affairs?
– No. What the Government has done is exactly what the Opposition, when in Government, did in relation to Goa. We followed its example.
– My question to the Minister for the Media is prompted by the situation which was revealed by the Attorney-General when answering an earlier question about an alleged letter to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation by the former Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood. It was featured in a recent edition of the Melbourne Truth’ and other papers, and the AttorneyGeneral advised the Senate, in answer to that question, that the allegations were completely untrue. Has the Minister seen a series of recent articles in the Melbourne ‘Age’ concerning himself and his Department? Can he give any clarification of the position which now appears to be a concerted attack upon himself and his Department by feature writers of this newspaper? What is the basis of this apparent attempt to present the Minister and his Department in such a bad light? What opportunity is available to him to answer these articles and to present the other side of the picture so that a full and accurate picture can be presented to the Australian public?
– My attention has been’ drawn to a series of articles appearing recently in the Melbourne ‘Age’. I think it is fair to say that they started about 12 months ago when I had occasion to complain about one of them. That writer, incidentally, had another go last Saturday when he wrote something about alternative films. The honourable senator asks me the basis for the attack. I think it all relates to the fact that some of the feature writers, either directly or indirectly, are connected with the Film and Television Board of the Australian Council for the Arts or a voluntary organisation known as the Australian Film Institute. Apparently some of their members want to declare war on me and on my Department. Apparently they are fearful that their little empires in one way or another might be affected. I assure them, however, that I and my Department want to co-operate in building a viable film industry in Australia. On our part we will not do anything which will further split an industry which when we came into office was very much divided and which apparently still is feeling some traumatic form of suicidal mania.
Further in reply to the honourable senator, let me say that a concerted campaign was launched against me by one of the feature writers of the Melbourne ‘Age’ shortly after the recent double dissolution election and prior to the election by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party of the new Ministry. Some cynics in my Party have suggested that I put him up to it in order that I might be helped in topping the poll for the election of senators to the Ministry. I am always prepared to accept what I regard as justifiable and constructive criticism. However, I feel that the scurrilous attacks that have been launched against my Department and its officers in the Age’ come within quite a different category. All I can say is that now I certainly have very little respect- and I say this with a great deal of passion because as a member of the Australian Journalists Association I genuinely believe in the integrity of the profession of journalism- for the professional integrity of the feature writers of the Age’ following publication of the articles that have been referred to. By their deliberate distortions they have done their newspaper a great disservice. So far as I am concerned they have taken the features section of the ‘Age’ from the area of responsibility to one of irresponsibility. In my opinion they do not bring credit to the worthy profession of journalism or to the Australian Journalists Association of which I am proudly a member.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that on 4 August the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, posed a series of questions to the Prime Minister relating to reports that Australia had recognised the Soviet Union’s jurisdiction over the Baltic states? Has the Prime Minister responded? If not, can the Minister say when he will do so? Will the Minister say when the Government of the Soviet Union was informed of the Australian Government’s change of policy?
– No, I was not aware that some questions had been asked. Evidently, from what Senator Drake-Brockman says, there are some on notice. I will chase them up to see that they are answered. The question of advising the Soviet Union did not come into it. All we did was send Sir James Plimsoll, the Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to visit these areas. By that action- similar to the technique adopted in the Goa incident- recognition of the incorporation became de jure -
– Are you going to do that with Rhodesia?
– Rhodesia is completely different -
– In this case it is a communist country.
– No, it is quite a different matter. It is not a question of its being a communist country. The fact is that Rhodesia has been declared black by the United Nations. The difference between the Government which the honourable senators opposite supported and this Government is that we are prepared to carry out the decisions of the United Nations wholeheartedly, not half-heartedly as did the previous Government.
-Is the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware that the Papua New Guinea branch of the Returned Services League is asking that war pensions be provided for Papuans and New Guineans injured during World War II and their relatives? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the action he proposes to take in these matters?
– From Press reports I have learnt that 2 representatives of the Papua New Guinea branch of the Returned Services League are at present in Australia. It has been reported that they have come here to seek benefits for death and injury suffered by indigenous inhabitants of Papua New Guinea who served with the Australian armed forces during the Second World War. I am a little puzzled as to the nature of this visit. They have neither been in touch with me nor endeavoured to get in touch with me as far as I know since they came to
Australia. As Minister for Repatriation and Compensation I am in close contact with the National Executive of the Returned Services League. However, at no stage has the national office of the League in any way indicated to me that these people from the Papua New Guinea branch are in Australia. I am not quite clear as to what they are really asking for, because as I understand it they already have the benefits which they say they are seeking. The War Cabinet during the Second World War made provision for the payment of compensation to Papua New Guinea servicemen or their dependants in the case of injury or death. Following the war the repatriation benefits generally were extended to indigenous inhabitants of Papua New Guinea. This is what they are now claiming, or apparently are claiming, they wish to obtain.
Provision is being made under existing legislation for the continuation of the payment of these repatriation benefits after Papua New Guinea obtains independence. The answer to the question is that I do not really know what it is that I or the Government could be expected to do. I can only assume that if there is a delegation from the branch in Australia it will try to see me in due course. But until the members of the delegation make some effort to see me, it is very difficult for me to say what they want.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. When was the Australian Ambassador in Moscow informed of the Australian Government’s decision to recognise the jurisdiction of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics over the Baltic States?
-I do not know the exact date. If this matter is so important to the honourable senator I will find out the answer and let him know.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to his second last answer about the Baltic States. Did the Minister imply or state that the United Nations had made a decision to extend recognition of Russian suzerainty over these Baltic States? If so, when was that decision made and in what terms?
-No, I did not say that.
- Mr President, may I refer to a question which was asked by Senator
Townley of me on 1 August about VIP aircraft? The Minister for Defence has provided additional information, and I will read what he said.
There has been no decision by the Government to acquire a Boeing 707 aircraft being disposed of by Qantas. The Defence Force Development Committee, comprising the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff, the Service Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of the Defence Department, has for some time been considering the numbers and mix of aircraft, as between aircraft of the Hercules type and jet transports, to replace the Hercules CI 30 A transports which go out of Royal Australian Air Force service later in this decade. Second hand Qantas Boeing aircraft have been under consideration in this context. They are an older model but have many years of useful life remaining. They are well suited for use in the long range transport role for the carriage of both freight and personnel. If acquired it is planned that the aircraft would be based at Richmond which is the current location of the RAAF Hercules transport squadrons.
Exploratory inquiries have been made of Qantas as to when the next aircraft will become available for disposal. This is likely to be during 1975. The terms of the discussions with Qantas are a matter of commercial confidence. I can say, however, that the possible amounts for acquisition suggested in the honourable senator’s question very greatly exaggerate the possible cost which would be well below $20m. Similarly, the cost which the honourable senator cited of running these aircraft- about $12m a year- is grossly exaggerated. Recurring operating costs for two such aircraft would not be expected to exceed $1.5m a year. I repeat that no decision has been taken by the Government in this matter. That is the information supplied by the Minister for Defence. Honourable senators will understand that the use of the word T in that answer refers to the Minister for Defence.
-On 25 July Senator Rae asked me a question without notice concerning the establishment of a national translator station for St Helens in Tasmania. I now advise the honourable senator that I have been able to obtain some information. On 20 March of this year I approved of the establishment of a national translator station to improve television reception for St Helens in Tasmania. I informed the Minister for Defence, the Honourable Lance Barnard, at that time. The translator, which will be installed at a cost of $20,000, will transmit the same program as the national station Channel 0 in Launceston. The target date for completion of the translator is April 1976. In conformity with Government policy that there should be a dual system of national and commercial television, I also requested the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to advise TNT 9 Northern Television Pty Ltd of Launceston that consideration would be given by the Government to the granting of a licence for a television translator station to provide a commercial service to St Helens if the licensee were interested in this extension of service.
-Under the Standing Orders I ask for the indulgence of the Senate to be heard on a matter of a personal nature.
– Leave is sought by Senator Greenwood to make a personal explanation. Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate, Mr President. In the Melbourne publication of Truth ‘dated 10 August 1974 a front page article appeared which publicised 2 purported requests allegedly made by me, when I was AttorneyGeneral in 1972, to the Director-General of Security. The article contained reproduced photocopies of the purported requests. There was also a reproduction of a photocopy reply purporting to come to me from the DirectorGeneral of Security. The purported requests to the Director-General of Security are made on a document which bears what appears to be my signature. These documents, which I categorise as forgeries, are particularly clumsy fabrications. I say specifically that I did not sign the documents to which my signature appears to be appended at the foot. I made no such request nor did I receive information of the character alleged.
The publication of the documents and the stories accompanying them by a very small section of the Australian Press is contemptible. I was not asked prior to publication as to the authenticity or otherwise of the documents. It is a serious matter when the copy of a signature of a Minister of the Crown, present or past, is appended to documents so that the result is a fake document. There is incalculable opportunity for mischief and immense injury to individuals and to the nation. I regret that action could not have been taken forthwith by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to declare, as he has today, that the material was not authentic. I welcome the fact that he has now done so. Having regard to the circumstances in which the documents were purportedly received, I imagine that the investigations which can be made are not likely to be productive. I hope, nevertheless, that investigations will be made.
– On that subject matter may I be permitted to ask -
– Leave is sought for Senator Wright to make a personal explanation.
– No. I wish to ask a question on that subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-Is it not the intention of somebody in the Senate to move, as a matter of privilege, on that matter- the publication of forged signatures of a Minister of the Crown in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation?
– May I have leave to reply to the honourable senator?
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I shall take into consideration what has been put by Senator Wright. I have already indicated that the documentation which was published was false. After investigation I considered that the appropriate place to make this statement was in the Parliament and not outside in some less formal manner. The matter which Senator Wright raised is very serious. Proper consideration should be given to it, and it will be given to it.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the following reports entitled: ‘The Technological Significance of Electronic Component Manufacture in Australia’; ‘Identification of Electronic Components Having Technological Significance’; Survey of Technological Significance of Electronic Components Manufactured in Australia’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the resolutions of the eightyeighth and eighty-ninth meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following report entitled The Electronic Components Industry’.
– I report to the Senate that the Clerk of the Senate has informed me that on 2 August 1974 he was served with a writ of summons and other documents in connection with an action in the High Court of Australia at the suit of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and Senator Webster. The. writ of summons commands the Clerk of the Senate within 21 days to cause an appearance to be entered in the High Court. The President of the Senate is also named as a defendant but I inform the Senate that I have not been served with any documents. I lay on the table the documents served on the Clerk of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leaveagreed to:
That consideration of the President’s statement be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Canberra Water Supply (Googong Dam) Bill 1974
Glebe Lands (Appropriation) Bill 1974
Financial Corporations Bill 1974
National Health Bill 1974
– I inform the Senate that messages have been received from His Excellency the Governor-General assenting in the name of Her Majesty to the following laws as last proposed by the House of Representatives and as affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Joint Sitting convened by the Governor-General pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution:
Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973
Senate ( Representation of Territories) Act 1 973
Representation Act 1973
Health Insurance Commission Act 1973
Health Insurance Act 1973
Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973.
-What is the date of that, Mr President?
– Assent to the last 3 Bills is from Government House Canberra on 8 August 1974 and to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, Senate (Representation of Territories) Act and the Representation Act 1973 from Government House Canberra on 7 August 1 974.
-I present the first report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Discharge from Notice Paper
– I move:
– Will the Minister indicate a little more clearly to what the matter refers?
– Order of the Day No. 14 on the notice paper.
– It is your motion for consideration. Thank you.
-My notice is that consideration of the review by the Remuneration Tribunal be discharged from the notice paper.
-The Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) has moved that the motion that the Senate take note of the paper be discharged from the notice paper. I rise only to say that it is my understanding that the reason for moving for this discharge is that the Senate has already taken effectively the decision to disapprove the report. I agree that this is the proper course to follow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask for leave to move a motion relating to the days and times of sitting of the Senate this week.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Before moving the motion, let me say that I have had discussions on this matter with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senate Drake-Brockman). I move:
Tuesday- 1 1 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.;
Wednesday- 10.30 a.m. to1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.;
Thursday- 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.. 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.:
Friday-10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2. 15 p.m. to 5 p.m.
– The Opposition does not oppose this motion. We take this attitude for a number of reasons. As we do not oppose it, I trust that Government senators will not now continue to go on radio and television and talk about the obstruction of the Opposition in the Senate and the filibustering of the Opposition in the Senate. We recognise that the Government has on the notice paper some legislation which it wants to get through and that this Parliament is here to deal with that legislation, amongst other things. But it comes a little hard occasionally, when one comes properly to an arrangement with the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland), to find that he- I am not saying that it is his fault- and his colleagues spend a lot of their time talking about obstruction in the Senate and I hope that the spirit of co-operation which has been displayed on this occasion and which has been most noticeable since the commencement of this period of sittings will enable us to put the debate on a little higher level and to get away from the use of this worn out word ‘obstruction’. We hope that we will be able to get on with dealing with legislation and other matters concerning the Senate this week with our customary good humour and good sense and our normal sense of proportion.
– But will we finish?
-Whether we finish the business will be determined by the will of the Senate. I still have in my drawer a copy of a motion moved by Senator Murphy on a June day back in 1972. It is one of the great precedents of the place and it might yet be brought down this week also.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As this second reading speech is identical with that which was delivered in the House of Representatives I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to extend to 30 June 1976 the operation of the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act 1970, which will otherwise expire on 26 July; and to provide legislative authority for a substantial part of the dairy industry adjustment program announced by the Government on 8 April. Our earlier commitment to such a program was confirmed in the Labor Party Rural Policy Speech delivered at Goulburn on 1 May 1974, as follows:
The announced program comprises three elements: First, a continuation and broadening of the Marginal Dairy Farms Reconstruction Scheme; second, the provision of interest free loans with flexible repayment periods, to assist the changeover of producers to refrigerated bulk milk supply, with concurrent assistance as necessary to factories; third, relocation assistance for displaced dairy farmers and displaced factory workers.
The present Bill comprehends those elements of the program which can be brought into effect within the context and spirit of agreements made with the States under the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act. A further Bill in the Budget session will provide for elements not included in the present Bill, principally the provision of assistance to factories. For reasons explained in the preamble, the assistance to be provided under the 2-year adjustment program from 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1976 will be exempted from the need for reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. In essence we believe the national interest requires that reconstruction already commenced should not be interrupted and that legislation for extending the adjustment process in accordance with announced policies should be proceeded with without delay. The question of Government assistance to the dairy industry after 30 June 1976 has already been referred for inquiry and report by the Industries Assistance Commission.
I turn now to the details of the Bill. The 1970 Act defined a marginal dairy farm so that the operation of the scheme was concerned predominantly with small scale dairy farmers supplying the manufacturing sector of the industry. The present Bill extends eligibility to marginal dairy farms in the market milk sector. It also maintains the authority for assistance for amalgamation of marginal dairy farm land and considerably develops and strengthens the existing arrangements. The new features, included in clause 4 of the Bill, are as follows: Provision is made for direct conveyancing in the amalgamation of land, thereby overcoming a mechanical difficulty that has caused delay in the completion of transfers of land under the scheme in certain States. Authority is also conferred to enable the writing-off of redundant assets on the home property. Previously the writing off was confined to assets on the acquired property only. The arrangement now proposed will permit the farmer to make the best use of the structural improvements irrespective of where they are located.
Authority is provided to enable interest free loans to be made to dairy farmers so that they can purchase and install vats and make such other improvements on the farm as are required to enable them to be able to supply refrigerated bulk milk. The installation may necessitate such things as modification to the dairy, connection or alteration to electricity supply to the dairy, changes to water supply and so on. Such modifications related to the installation of a refrigerated bulk milk vat would be eligible for interest free assistance. Improvement in the access road on-farm to enable the bulk milk tanker to collect the refrigerated milk would also be eligible for this type of loan, where in the opinion of the State authority such improvement is warranted. Marginal farmers who supply milk in cans or whose vats are only water cooled will also be able to apply to convert to refrigerated bulk milk supply.
The interest free loans will also be available to those who borrowed to install their vats on or after 23 July 1973. This date marked the announcement of the decision by the Government that bounty was to be phased out and replaced by enhanced assistance for adjustment. For grant of interest free loans only one test is to be applied: Will the producer have reasonable prospects of economic viability after assistance? If he lacks the prospect of viability, then it would be pointless to make assistance available to him out of public funds. Producers who would not be able to become economic will be eligible for relocation assistance, about which I will speak in a moment. The Bill goes on to provide authority to enable the development of a marginal dairy farm into an economic unit including provision for carry-on loans during the period of development. These forms of assistance were not available under the 1 970 Act.
The Bill also strengthens the provisions for encouraging diversification. Where a marginal dairy farm is being converted in whole or part to rural uses other than dairying, loans will be available for the purchase of additional land, for making structural improvements, for buying livestock or equipment and for carry-on purposes during the period of conversion, and grants will be available for the writing off of milking plant, - bails and so on that would cease to be needed under the new form of land use. The Bill also develops the present scheme by providing for finance to enable the incoming producer, after amalgamation, to develop more readily the full potential of the enlarged property. The present Bill makes provision for loans again for structural improvements, purchase of livestock and equipment and for carry-on loans during the development period after amalgamation. These forms of assistance for development and diversification will be subject to the test that the State authority would have to be satisfied that the person to be assisted has been unable to obtain a loan on reasonable terms from normal financial sources.
The Government has also given further consideration to the welfare of those who will be leaving the industry. The Bill provides that outgoing marginal dairy farmers can be accorded relocation assistance. It is intended that such assistance will be of a range and to an extent similar to that accorded to other out-going rural producers under the general rural reconstruction scheme. Of the $2Sm provided for use as needed under the original marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme, some $15m has been expended to date. The Bill therefore provides for anticipated expenditure under the expanded dairy adjustment program by adding $28m to the amount already spent. However, because all of the money which could have been made available under the earlier scheme was not used and because of the difficulty in putting a firm figure on a scheme which involves voluntary participation the Government is prepared to consider provision of further moneys if necessary after agreement between the Minister and the Treasurer.
I am pleased to acknowledge the assistance received from State government authorities and from industry organisations in the considerations which led to the development of the present scheme. The States have been associated with the administration of the existing arrangements since their inception and the Bill provides for the continuation of this association under arrangements to be made by agreement with each State. Arrangements for consultation with them to make the necessary revisions to existing agreements are well in hand. It must be recognised that no single program will resolve all of the problems being faced by this important industry in the rural sector. There should also be a ready acceptance that planning for its future is primarily the responsibility of the industry itself but with support as appropriate from governments both Federal and State.
The program I have outlined represents the Australian Government’s contribution aimed at encouraging natural adjustment already under way within the industry. It seeks to make a direct attack on industry problems. In particular, the aim is to consolidate at a reasonable income level those who remain in dairying whilst giving encouragement to low income producers who wish to do so to move out. It encourages diversification of less suitable dairying land into other uses and makes a direct contribution to the problems of cream suppliers. The total program will provide appropriately for necessary aid to factories where this is necessary in association with supplier changeover to refrigerated bulk milk delivery, and will give assistance to displaced factory workers so that they are treated equitably in relation to displaced producers. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
-The present Bill marks the third occasion on which this Government has advanced amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act designed to facilitate the amalgamation of organisations. Within the current economic climate, the need for procedures enabling amalgamations is imperative: I shall return to this later, but at the outset I would indicate to the chamber that rejection of this measure will be attended by grave economic consequencesthe persistent pursuit, by a multiplicity of unions, of spiralling wage claims. Both this measure and another I am shortly to introduce are concerned with moderation of wage demands. Each is a detailed and self-contained code, this measure dealing with amalgamation and the other, industrial agreements. Taken together, they will, if acceded to, assist in achieving 2 major objectives of this Government: rationalisation of our industrial relations system and a dampening of inflation. The Opposition will, if it is genuine in its concern to contain inflation, enable the Government to take action designed to achieve some moderation in inflationary wage claims.
The Government and Opposition would not seem to be divided in relation to the need for amalgamation. The policy of the Liberal Party itself admonishes the industrial partners in the following terms: ‘Consultation, negotiation, cooperation between employees and employers would be assisted by a structure of industry unions’. The Liberal Party would ‘seek to work with the Australian Council of Trade Unions in encouraging industry-based unions’. The provisions of this Bill enable unions to obtain such a structure. The trade union movement will be placed in a position whereby it may rationalise its structure. The need for such a rationalisation can be seen from the number and overlapping organisation of trade unions in this country, and the consequential unorderly operation of awards and agreements.
At the end of 1973 there were 294 separate unions in Australia, 226 of which had a membership of fewer than 5,000 members and of these 103 had fewer than 500 members. At the same time, there is a significant degree of overlapping coverage by trade unions. There are, for example, at least 6 unions registered under the Act which have coverage of fitters. This fragmentation gives rise to duplication of effort and a waste of human and other resources while, at the same time, generating demarcation disputes between trade unions as to their coverage of both work and members. Amalgamation of organisations will make for more efficient and more responsible unions because of their increased ability to attract officials and staff of high calibre. Unions will be better placed to obtain improved research facilities which may lead them to an increased understanding of the complex relationship between wage increases, productivity and inflation. It could reasonably be expected that unions themselves would then pay more attention to the question of productivity and perceive the need for some co-ordination in the presentation of their wage claims.
The fragmented nature of the trade union movement has been reflected in an unorderly operation of industrial regulation. It is not uncommon for several unions to be party to a single award or agreement, as is the case in the metal industry award, or for a multiplicity of separate awards and agreements which are to operate in single establishments and which therefore have to be observed by the employers concerned. Amalgamation of organisations will operate in this situation not only by reducing the number of unions party to single awards and agreements but also by limiting the number of awards and agreements applying within single establishments. Significantly, amalgamation will also facilitate negotiations on industrial matters and the reaching of agreement because the employer will deal with one organisation instead of a number which are operating under different rules and procedures and are not necessarily pursuing common policies. The Liberal Party itself recognises that ‘the multiplicity of unions and the spread of certain unions through many industries makes the task of consultation and negotiations more difficult with problems of one industry unnecessarily flowing to others’. The successful negotiation and operation of industrial agreements is crucial for the survival of our industrial relations system and I will deal with this in the presentation of the second Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. My present purpose is to indicate to honourable senators the inter-relation of these diverse industrial relations matters. In responding to this inter-relation, the Government has formulated a comprehensive and integrated industrial relations policy which has consistency throughout in adapting our industrial arrangements to current needs. I can further instance its wages policy, trade union education policy and so on.
I have explained above how amalgamation will achieve a rationalisation of our industrial relations system. I turn now to the issue of amalgamation in the context of inflation. Amalgamation of organisations provides one means of easing run-away wage demands. The present fragmentation of the trade union movement can only result in unco-ordinated wage claims being pursued by 300-odd unions, each operating as a separate independent unit. A wage increase obtained in one area is not however contained to that area. It provides impetus for fresh claims elsewhere and hence we witness a leap-frogging of wage increases from one area to another as unions outbid each other in an endeavour to protect themselves against an erosion of the purchasing power of the wages of their members. This issue has been the subject of separate detailed consideration by the Government which will place proposals before the conference called by Mr Justice Moore, President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, on wage fixation methods and indexation.
Within this context, the amalgamation of organisations will operate to produce 3 significant hedges to inflation. It will limit the area available for leap-frogging of wage increases. It will, in the long term, pave the way for some co-ordination in the presentation of union wage demands. This is almost impossible to achieve with the large number of existing unions and the unordered nature of existing arbitral arrangements. Finally, amalgamation will remove obstacles to agreement being reached between unions and employers and so operate to produce more stability in industrial relationships. The Opposition must bear a heavy responsibility for rejection of a measure so obviously in the interests of wage moderation and the orderly operation of our industrial arrangements.
The restrictive amalgamation provisions adopted in 1972 by the former Government have effectively prevented the amalgamation of organisations. These provisions were apparently prompted by a fear of big powerful unions. The whole argument as to big powerful unions is misplaced. It ignores the fact that if unions desire to amalgamate and if the statutory procedures do not enable this or if they impede it, de facto amalgamation can be achieved outside the existing arbitral machinery. The existing statutory procedures can be circumvented by unions establishing controlling councils to direct their affairs and operations. Unions can establish common memberships with common officials so that there is a de facto amalgamation, though not legally. Unions can withdraw from the system and operate as unregistered associations.
These are the devices to which unions have been driven by the 1972 provisions introduced by a party which professes a belief in the need to uphold Australia’s system of conciliation and arbitration. Not one amalgamation has been achieved in the 2 years since those provisions came into operation. Prior to that time we had witnessed, in the federal sphere, the amalgamation of the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Societies in 1965; the Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia and the Amalgamated Printing Trades Employees Union in 1 966; the Australian Leather and Allied Industry Employees Federation and the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union in 1967; in 1971 the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union and the North Australian Workers Union; and in 1972 the 3 metal trades unions. The Opposition bears a heavy responsibility for the current fragmentation of the trade union movement and for the creature of that fragmentation, spiralling wage demands.
A responsible Government should have been concerned to ensure that industrial organisations might place themselves in a position where they may meet their industrial partners on an equal footing. Industrial and technological development in the twentieth century has been accompanied in highly industrialised countries by the greater concentration of economic power. The ‘conglomerates’ as they are known are playing an increasingly important role in commerce and industry in Australia. Takeovers and mergers are available as a means of consolidating commercial operations. Corresponding procedures must be attainable by industrial organisations if they are to meet commercial enterprises as their equal partners and perform their proper and profound function of representing the wage and salary earners of this country.
I have described the impact of the 1972 amalgamation provisions in the domestic sphere. Within the international sphere the continuation of the 1 972 amalgamation provisions has meant that Australia is not honouring its international obligations. Australia has ratified International Labour Organisation Convention No. 87, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, and did so on a commitment to undertake amendments to the amalgamation provisions which infringe that Convention. This, the Government attempted twice in 1973. Opposition rejection of those amendments has meant that Australia is not fulfilling its international obligations.
The Bill provides a self-contained code for amalgamation and, as I have explained above, it emanates from a comprehensive and integrated industrial relations policy. The Bill is based on the fundamental assumption that organisations registered under the Act are voluntary bodies and that the Government should not interfere in their affairs unless attainment of the objectives of the Act is in jeopardy. The procedures for amalgamation are simplified. There will be no mandatory requirement for an officially conducted amalgamation ballot in the case of each organisation concerned in a proposed amalgamation. Nor, for acceptance of the amalgamation, will there be a requirement that SO per cent plus one of the members must vote nor that SO per cent plus one of those voting must favour the proposed amalgamation. A majority of financial members voting formally will be sufficient for acceptance of the amalgamation.
Under the Bill the following steps will be involved in the procedure for amalgamation: the committee of management of each organisation concerned will be required to resolve upon the proposed amalgamation and accept a scheme of amalgamation; publication of the proposed amalgamation in the Press and in journals of the organisation concerned; the scheme of amalgamation will be filed with the Industrial Registrar, the existing procedures in relation to the registration of organisations and the alteration of rules of existing organisations will then apply, and under these, objections may be lodged on specified grounds; the determination by the Registrar of the application following a hearing; conduct of the ballot(s); and, if the proposed amalgamation is to proceed, the carrying out of the necessary formal steps of registration, alteration of rules and deregistration.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– In addition to these procedures, a specified percentage of the members of an organisation will be able to request an officially conducted amalgamation ballot where the committee of management has failed to formulate an amalgamation proposal. Costs of such a ballot would be borne by the Australian Government. This provision was not included in the amendments proposed in 1973. Time did not then permit the effective working out of the proposal. This has now been done. The provision is designed to enable the members to initiate amalgamation. Under the existing procedures, this may be done only by the committee of management. The existing procedures rest upon that committee undertaking certain defined steps. Enabling the members of an organisation to initiate amalgamation provides one means of overcoming a natural reluctance to amalgamate on the part of some union officials. A committee of management of a small union may prefer to preserve the status quo so far as its customary rights and privileges are concerned, even though the preservation of the union as a separate entity may in the long term work against the interests of the members. This provision therefore answers normal disincentives to amalgamation. I will deal with the other provisions of the Bill in detail during the Committee stage.
Procedures facilitating the amalgamation of organisations have the support of employee and employer bodies alike. This was made abundantly clear during the parties’ consideration of the whole topic during the tripartite industrial peace conference I called in December last year to examine ways and means of achieving stability in industrial relations in Australia. Representatives of the leading employer organisations in this country are clearly on record supporting amalgamation. The provisions of the Bill apply to employee and employer organisations alike. Honourable senators opposite will be aware that the Metal Trades Industry Association is itself a product of amalgamation and that the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Australian Council of Employers Federations have integrated their industrial relations activities. Rejection of this measure will therefore be contrary to the wishes of the industrial partners who are most intimately concerned in its operation. Rejection will accelerate the pace of inflationary wage demands and at the same time, exacerbate our present unordered industrial relations arrangements. Mr President, I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion ( by Senator Bishop) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order or the day Tor the next day of sitting.
– Before the question is put, I ask the Minister would he indicate in his reply whether it is the intention of the Government that this Bill should be dealt with this week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-This Bill is concerned exclusively with industrial agreements. Its preoccupation with this issue springs from the desire of the Government to encourage such agreements as a means of achieving moderation in present inflationary wage demands, thereby paving the way for some co-ordination in the presentation of union wage claims. At the same time agreements provide the rational alternative to industrial strife. In my second reading speech on the Bill dealing with amalgamation, I indicated that each Bill sets forth a detailed and self-contained code. Taken together, they will assist in achieving 2 major objectives of the Governmentrationalisation of our industrial relations system and a dampening of inflation. The successful negotiation and operation of industrial agreements is crucial for the survival of our industrial relations system. The alternative is a leapfrogging of wage increases from one area to another as unions outbid each other in an endeavour to protect themselves against an erosion of the purchasing power of the wages of their members.
I would again remind honourable senators of the complex inter-relation of various industrial relations issues to which the Government has responded by formulating a comprehensive and integrated industrial relations policy. It is this policy which informs both Bills and other measures such as the Australian Government submission put to the conference called by Mr Justice Moore, President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, on wage fixation methods and wage indexation. Inflation and structural change are focal points for policies of the present Government. This Bill not only complements such policies, it seeks to fill the vacuum created by the real lack of industrial relations policies of past Liberal governments.
The Bill recognises the wide and increasing incidence of voluntary agreements. Of a total of 800-odd Federal awards, approximately 500 were arrived at wholly by agreement. Many of the remaining 300 incorporate agreed portions. Thus the Bill responds to the needs arising from this industrial environment by providing procedures facilitating both the certification of agreements and their operation according to their tenor. Honourable senators will appreciate the significance of the successful operation of agreements at a time when, because of inflationary pressures, shortages exist across a wide range of goods and where the immediate impact of work stoppages is to limit manufacturers’ ability to meet consumer needs.
The whole area of industrial agreements is so significant that it was included on the agenda of the tripartite industrial peace conference called by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in December last year to examine ways and means of achieving stability in industrial relations in Australia. Part of his concern in relation to industrial agreements was to have the parties consider what may be described as deficiencies in their current practices in relation to industrial agreements. These include the degree to which the terms of the agreement clearly express the intention and understanding of the parties. Matters dealt with in the agreement should not be a source of disputation while the agreement is in force. Another deficiency appears to be the extent of membership involvement during the various stages of the negotiation of agreements. Lack of acceptance of the agreement by the employees concerned can only generate disputes at the shop-floor level which may be resolved only with difficulty, if at all, at the union’s Federal level. Such a situation possesses obvious ramifications for the orderly operation of our overall industrial arrangements.
It has been claimed in some employer quarters that, while industrial agreements extend benefits to employees by way of increased wages and improved conditions, the employer obtains nothing in return. It has also been claimed that employers cannot obtain union approval for industrial agreements of any fixed duration. I believe both of these claims spring from a basic lack of understanding as to the necessity for the parties to service or maintain agreements after they have been negotiated. Industrial agreements do not maintain themselves. They require on-going efforts or some standing machinery to ensure and to monitor their operation.
This is clearly the responsibility of the parties alone, and more particularly of employers. The adoption of such servicing machinery would go a large distance towards ensuring that agreements do operate for their fixed term. This, in itself, provides a return to an employer. During the term of the agreement the employer has obtained some stability in industrial relations and a sure knowledge of labour costs and may plan accordingly. Additionally, it is open to an employer to seek, in the negotiation of an agreement, other returns such as dispute settlement procedures which on being implemented would operate to reduce stoppages arising out of matters dealt with in the agreement, thereby beneficially affecting productivity. The significance for inflationary wage claims of this situation where industrial agreements operate in an orderly manner for their fixed terms will not escape the attention of honourable senators. In passing, I would observe that some employers have recently used the fear of unemployment to gain, via industry agreements, the co-operation of unions in protecting their profits against Government measures designed to achieve optimum allocation of resources by way of the tariff. It hardly lies in the mouths of these employers to claim that there is no return for them in industrial agreements, ill-gotten returns though they are. Presumably, such a return is an instance of ‘the partnership relationship between employers and employees’ advocated by the Liberal Party in its new look policy.
I turn now to the Bill. Its principal provisions can be summarised as dealing with the certification of agreements, their operation and cancellation. Dealing firstly with the certification of agreements, it is the Government’s concern to encourage the free negotiation of agreements and to ensure that such agreements do in fact represent the wishes of the members of the organisations affected. Prior acceptance by those individual employees and employers intimately concerned with the day to day working of the agreement promotes industrial dealings based on trust and so ensures, so far as this is possible, that the agreement will be honoured by those actually concerned in its operation.
In summary, the Bill provides as to certification that the Commission shall not refuse to certify an agreement unless its certification would result in a major detriment to the public interest; for a single member of the Commission to certify agreements which contain matters previously reserved for a Full Bench only; for the reference of an agreement by a member of the Commission to the President where the member believes that its certification could result in major detriment to the public interest; the President is then empowered to determine whether the matter should be considered by a Full Bench; and prior to certification, the member of the Commission is to be satisfied that the principal terms of the agreement are acceptable to the majority of the financial members of the organisations affected by the agreement; where he is not so satisfied, he may direct the conduct of an official ballot in order to ascertain the views of those members.
I have explained above that this last provision is concerned with the honouring of agreements. The first 3 provisions are designed to facilitate the certification of agreements by reducing the scope of the Commission’s discretion to refuse to certify an agreement. If the parties themselves are in agreement as to terms and conditions of employment, it should be incumbent upon the Commission to give those agreed provisions the force of an award unless to do so would involve a major detriment to the public interest. Where the parties arrive at responsible and acceptable solutions, they may now do so without fear of arbitrary Government interference. These provisions will also ensure the more rapid implementation of agreements by enabling a single member of the Commission to handle the whole application. Delays occur under the existing procedures whereby part of the application may be handled by a single member, but specified aspects of it must be dealt with by a Full Bench.
This part of the Bill also deals with terms in agreements limiting industrial action. The inclusion of such provisions in the Bill arises from the deficiency I mentioned above in current practices in relation to the negotiation of industrial agreement- the failure of the parties to formulate terms of agreement which clearly embody their intention and understanding. Whether agreements are negotiated with terms limiting industrial action is for the parties themselves to determine. The Government’s concern is that open-ended commitments should not be unwittingly entered into. Opportunities should not be afforded to parties to capitalise on such commitments going beyond the spirit and intent of the agreement. Should this occur, a reluctance to enter future agreements might well be induced. Hence the Bill provides that limitations on industrial action may be included in agreements only where the limitation applies to industrial action against the settlement terms of the agreement. Provisions in agreements extending to industrial action taken in relation to matters not covered by the agreement are to prevent the certification of the agreement.
As to the operation of certified agreements, the provisions of the Bill are designed to achieve 2 ends: To ensure continuity of coverage of employees’ entitlements and to encourage the timely re-negotiation of agreements. There can be no argument, however, that certified agreements should not continue to operate against the wishes of the parties. If a time-expired agreement no longer represents the wishes of a party, a warning system may be set in motion. Where such a warning is given, the parties are afforded a period of 30 days to re-negotiate their agreement in the knowledge that if they do not do so, the area concerned will be award free at the end of 30 days. The Bill provides that a certified agreement is to continue to operate after its expiry until one of the parties acts to bring about its cessation. The Bill provides for the giving of notice by a party to the Registrar, 30 days after which the operation of the agreement is to cease. Prior to the cessation of its operation, all other parties to the agreement are to be advised of its impending cessation.
Finally, I refer to the provisions concerning the cancellation of certified agreements, which again reflect the Government’s belief that agreements freely entered into should be honoured by the parties. If such an agreement is not honoured by one of the parties, the other parties should not automatically continue to be bound by its provisions. In such a situation, means should be afforded to the other party whereby he may act to bring about an end to the agreement. The Bill therefore enables a party to an agreement to seek its suspension or cancellation by a full bench of the Commission where another party has repudiated the agreement by persistently contravening its terms. Mr President, I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I again ask: Is it intended by the Government that this Bill should be dealt with this week?
– If it is, I invite the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop), who represents the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in this place, to give some attention to an aspect which has not been adverted to at all in the second reading speech explaining the Bill. The aspect to which I refer is how this policy which is expressed in the Bill squares with the newly expressed policy of the Government supporting the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal which will not allow employers who agree to wage demands to pass on the cost of increased wages in the form of increased prices. There may be a way in which that fits in with this Bill but as I listened to the Minister and as I read the speech it seemed to me that there was a great gap. I invite the Minister to give, when the debate is resumed, some indication to the Senate as to how these apparently conflicting policies can live together.
– It is the intention of the Government to have the legislation passed this week. I could answer off the cuff the question raised by Senator Greenwood. However, I think it may be best to get a considered reply from the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), and I will do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I inform the Senate that I have a prepared second reading speech which covers 1 1 pages. I also have a statement from the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) which clears up some misapprehensions that have existed as a result of the announcement in another place on new road arrangements. The second reading speech was printed in the Hansard of the. other place a fortnight ago. Copies are available for circulation. Accordingly, I ask that the speech and statement made by the Minister be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
The purpose of the Roads Grants Bill 1974 is to provide $700m in financial assistance over the period 1974-75 to 1976-77 for the construction of rural arterial roads, developmental roads, rural local roads, minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements, urban arterial roads, urban local roads and beef roads. Assistance for rural local roads, as in the past, will also include maintenance. As honourable senators will appreciate from the categories of roads which I have outlined above, the opportunity has been taken to consolidate in this Bill assistance previously provided under the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, assistance for beef roads and the continued provisions of assistance for minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements. The States will benefit from the $700m as follows:
New South Wales $207.5m
Queensland $ 1 47.7m
South Australia $45.0m
Western Australia $ 1 1 3.2m
Urban arterial roads will be the largest category of grants with $355m being provided for this purpose. The road needs survey conducted by the Bureau of Roads and State roads authorities showed that at June 1972 this category of road performed the major portion of the traffic task in urban areas by carrying the greatest volume of traffic and the highest proportions of heavy vehicles. Whilst urban arterial and sub-arterial roads constitute only 20 per cent of urban road mileage they carry up to 75 per cent of the total vehicle miles of travel in the cities. They also comprise only 2 per cent of all roads in Australia and carry about 50 per cent of all road travel. Approximately 780 miles, or 17 per cent, of the arterial and sub-arterial roads in built up urban areas are carrying traffic volumes in excess of 20,000 vehicles per day. Freeways, a particular type of urban arterial road, have become the centre of controversy in nearly ever State capital. Australia still has time to avoid the problems which massive programs have inflicted on American cities. A special report recently prepared by the Bureau of Roads, in response to a request by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), identified many advantages of freeways over heavily loaded arterial roads. These advantages include very significant reductions in road accidents, decreases in the operating costs of commercial and private vehicles, savings in travel time and reductions in air pollution, noise and community disruption and very substantial improvement in route times for public transport. On the other hand the report found most Australian capital cities have a radial pattern of railways and roads emanating from the centre of the city. The difficulty with this pattern is that as roads and railways approach the centre of the city, distances between them become less and less and the volume of traffic per lane increases. The inner areas are, as a result, polluted by noise and congestion and are dissected into areas which are too small to act as true communities. These adverse aspects frequently outweigh any potential advantages.
The report also analysed individual freeways on the basis of certain principles formulated by the Bureau for satisfactory freeway development and it takes into account economic, social and environmental matters. There are indications that proposals for freeways in outer areas of capital cities are fairly limited and do not conflict with the Bureau’s principles. Some freeways in middle to outer areas and more so in inner areas will cause problems and may not be justified.
Under these new road arrangements the Australian Government will look very closely at freeway proposals. We intend to ensure that detailed investigations are made into the environmental, social and economic aspects of freeway proposals. We shall only approve the construction of major projects of this type if we are convinced that they are justified.
Previous arrangements for financial assistance for roads have essentially ignored urban local roads. In the pre- 1969 legislation some local government authorities on the fringes of urban areas were treated as rural and thus had access to Commonwealth aid roads grants for minor rural roads. This represented nominal assistance only for urban local roads. This Government intends to redress this neglect and as an initial step we shall provide $30m over the next 3 years for this purpose. We shall be looking forward, in particular, to redressing problems identified by the Bureau in 4 broad areas of neglect. The first concerned the need to assist local government authorities on the fringes of the urban area which face difficulties in financing the road programs required to keep pace with development. In these areas local road development often precedes growth in local rates from which urban local roads are normally financed. The second situation relates to the need to assist local government authorities with special burdens on street re-construction and with environmentally deficient streets caused by abnormal traffic conditions due to congested arterials. The long term solution of course is to provide arterial roads adequate to traffic needs. The third situation is to assist with areas such as the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne where the Australian Government has been implementing area improvement programs. Finally, these funds could be used to allow for initial road construction in system cities ahead of the availability of development capital and local government rate finance for this purpose.
I now wish to turn to the minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements category. This was one of the important initiatives in respect of road safety that this Government took soon after coming into power. We made a provision of $3m in 1 973-74 for a program of traffic management and other low cost improvements at locations with poor accident records. The long term objective of course is to provide properly planned roads designed with major safety features built in. However, much can be done at little cost in modifying existing roads to improve their traffic management and safety capabilities. For this reason we are providing $30m over the next 3 years with a view to accelerating this work. This represents a significant increase in expenditure in this area and it will undoubtedly pay substantial dividends in the short term. The money provided for minor traffic improvements is available for rectifying problems on both State owned roads and local government roads. It will also be available for use on roads in both urban and rural areas.
As for rural areas the intention is to provide $105m for rural arterial roads. Under the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act this category included the great bulk of roads which are now to be included in the national highways category of the National Roads Bill. However, the category has now been augmented by the transfer of Class 3 regional connecting roads which previously formed part of the rural roads other than arterial roads category. These roads are those whose main function is to provide an avenue of communication between those roads which were previously classified as rural arterial, between important centres, and those that are of an arterial nature within towns. The development of rural arterial roads is important. They play a major role in joining the cities, towns and principal centres of population in the regions, outside the capital and major provincial cities.
An amount of $156m is to be provided for the construction and maintenance of rural local roads. With the deletion of Class 3 interconnecting roads from this category these roads now largely provide an access function to residences within rural cities, towns and other centres of population and to farm properties. It is also proposed to have a developmental category comprising selected rural roads. These roads will be nominated by the Minister who can determine that up to 10 per cent of the moneys available under the rural arterial category be provided for their development. Developmental roads will include, for example, roads of importance to the tourist industries and roads serving growth centres.
I now want to turn to beef roads. The Australian Government has decided to continue this type of assistance and has provided $24m for expenditure on these roads in Queensland. This action gives effect to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech. In accordance with those promises it is also proposed to further develop the Fitzroy Crossing- Wyndham road in Western Australia at a cost of $5.23m. The finance for this purpose will be provided under the National Roads Bill. I now want to make one particularly important point and this concerns the division of these grant moneys between rural and urban areas. There has already been a lot of uninformed comment about these road proposals favouring urban areas at the expense of rural areas. This I quite categorically deny. The following figures indicate quite clearly that the road arrangements decided upon by this Government show a greater proportional distribution of road moneys to rural areas compared with that provided by the previous Government under the last three years of the 1 969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and that recommended by the Bureau of Roads for the next 3 years. The relevant figures are as follows:
There has also been a lot of uninformed comparison about the level of grants provided for certain categories in the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act compared with that recommended by the Bureau and this is likely to spill over into this Bill. Many roads previously included in the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads categories, rural arterial particularly, are now being provided for separately under the National Roads Bill. Furthermore as I indicated earlier Class 3 roads have been transferred from rural local to rural arterial. The only really satisfactory comparison is the overall percentage of rural versus urban which I have already given you. Secondly these uninformed comparisons ignore the fact that the Australian Government has decided to take full responsibility for financing the construction of national roads. This will relieve State Governments completely of any financial responsibility in that area and thus allow them to devote all their own resources to the categories covered by this Bill.
In this regard I want to make the particular point that previously local government authorities relied on Commonwealth Aid Road grants. While local government is still eligible for assistance under this legislation these authorities will now have to turn more to State governments for assistance. I emphasise what I said earlier, namely that with the Australian Government meeting the full cost of national roads, State governments will be able to meet this increased demand for financial assistance from their local authorities. The quota requirements in this Bill have been left much more flexible than that proposed by the Bureau of Roads which envisaged matching by categories in some instances. Thus States will have freedom to augment the level of grants in those categories of roads on which they place their priorities. I might say also that the Australian Government after considering representations by the States has agreed to reduce the level of quotas recommended by the Bureau by an overall 10 per cent. This will relieve the States to a large extent of the responsibility of increasing user charges. In any case, of course, there is no requirement on the States as to where they raise their own road finance funds. That is a matter essentially for them to decide.
Finally I want to turn to the program approval arrangements provided for in this Bill. In order to facilitate the Senate’s consideration of this matter I wish to table a detailed statement from the Minister outlining the way in which it is intended to administer the programming arrangements associated with this legislation. Clause 4(1) of the Bill provides that the Australian Government may require States and local government to submit for Australian Government approval programs of works financed from their own resources. States and local government will not be required to submit for approval the road works program financed from their own resources for urban local roads, rural local roads, developmental roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements. However the Government will be requiring programs of all road works for urban arterial roads, irrespective of whether they are financed from Australian Government Grants, together with a partial program for rural arterials. In regard to the latter we shall be seeking only road works on those roads in which the Australian Government is interested. The statement outlines the Australian Government’s reasons for requiring these.
In order to become more closely associated with the problems of transport planning in the States the intention is to require Australian representation on State bodies responsible for programming and providing policy advice on matters relating to roads. As you will be aware, the State agreed to this approach in the Urban Public Transport Agreement. Apart from giving the Australian Government a better first hand appreciation of problems associated with transport planning it will also give us the opportunity to inject some of our views in early planning stages. Finally, it will assist the Australian Government in considering its attitude to program approvals in that it will remove the need for the provision of detailed information at the programming stage. The reason being of course that we shall have seen at first hand the development of solutions to particular problems over a period of time. This Bill in its own way brings a new era to the provision of assistance to the States for roads. Accordingly, I commend this Bill to the Senate.
NEW ROAD ARRANGEMENTS
(Statement by the Hon. C. K. Jones, M.P., Minister for Transport)
The Roads Grants Bill provides for Australian Government assistance to the States and local government Tor the following categories of roads: urban arterial roads, urban local roads, rural arterial roads, rural local roads, developmental roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements.
The Bill provides for appropriate Australian Government Ministers to approve programs of road works financed by Australian Government grants. The Bill in Clause 4(1), provides that the Australian Government may require the States and local government to submit for Australian Government approval programs of road works financed from their own resources. The sub clause reads as follows:
A Minister may notify a State the date before which a program of projects in respect of a period to which the section applies, being projects of a specified kind, is to be submitted to him for approval, and may, in the notice, inform the State that the program should include all the projects of that kind that are to be carried out by the State and by a municipal, shire and other local authorities in that period. ‘
As I have said on a number of occasions this later provision was included because this Government recognises the inter-connection of the various modes and is determined to promote the development of a more national approach to transport overall. We believe it is illogical to provide large sums of money in a number of important areas, including urban public transport and national highways, without recognising that roads built by States and municipal authorities form just as much a part of the transport system as to roads and trains and buses financed by Australian Government grants.
The provisions I refer to however, are not mandatory and it may help the Parliament in its consideration of the Bill if I indicate the manner in which it is intended they be administered. This should also clear up some of the misunderstanding that may exist in the minds of State and local government.
The States and local government will not be required to submit for approval the road works program financed from their own funds for the following categories: urban local roads, rural local roads, developmental roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements.
This means that the Australian Government will not be approving road projects financed from a State’s or local government’s own resources for the above categories nor was it ever the Australian Government’s intention that local councils would have to seek approval for the purchase from their own resources of individual items of road plant, such as tractors, as claimed by Opposition spokesmen.
The Australian Government will, however, require the submission for approval of road programs for all urban arterial roads, irrespective of whether financed from Australian Government sources. We believe that this measure must be implemented immediately. As you will be aware the Australian Government’s stated objectives are to improve the quality of life in the cities and, in particular, to substantially improve urban public transport.
The proper development of urban arterial roads is extremely important to this objective. For example, freeways have a number of transport advantages over the upgrading of existing arterial roads. However, they can also have a detrimental effect on people who have to be moved to make way for them and on the environment in the inner city areas.
Furthermore the relationship between the development of urban arterial roads and urban public transport needs careful consideration. As I have said many times previously much of urban public transport, for example buses and taxis, runs on roads. Road based transport must interconnect with the urban rail and ferry system. If the Australian Government is to ensure its grants for urban arterial roads and urban public transport are to bear fruit it must be in a position to influence decisions on the development of all urban arterial roads, not just those financed by Australian Governments grants.
The Australian Government will also be looking for the States to submit for approval a partial program only of road work to be financed from its own resources in respect of rural arterial roads. This partial program will cover only those arterial roads in which the Australian Government has a particular interest. There are road works on rural arterial roads forming part of an interstate road link and those which affect designated growth centres, of which Albury/Wodonga is the only one at this stage.
Where a full program of road works to be financed from State or local government sources is not required to be submitted for approval the States will be asked to provide details of their works for information. Following a meeting of State Premiers which discussed the road arrangements, Sir Charles Cutler, then acting Premier of New South Wales, wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of all Premiers saying they would have no objection to the provision of these details for information.
I would emphasise that the realities of the current situation are that the Australian Government is becoming more and more involved in the provision of large amounts of financial assistance to the States. We will not abdicate our responsibilities with relation to policy and planning in these areas. On the other hand we wish to work with the States and do not intend to impose unnecessary or time consuming constraints on them. 1 hope this statement clarifies our approach.
Lastly, I have mentioned on other occasions that the Government intends to legislate towards the end of 1975 for the 1977-80 transport assistance, which will include roads. Over the next 12 months I shall be closely reviewing the effectiveness of our proposals, including the arrangements outlined in this Statement. If changes become necessary these could be announced at that time.
Dear Mr Whitlam,
You will recall that at the June Premiers’ Conference all Premiers expressed disquiet at the proposals you outlined relating to Commonwealth Aid Roads for the next three years.
This matter was further discussed at yesterday’s meeting of Premiers in Melbourne and I have been requested to raise three specific issues with you on behalf of all States.
The first of these relates to the level of funds to be provided for the various categories of roads, apart from National Highways. Due to the emphasis which your Government has placed on this latter category and to the impact which inflation can be expected to have on the program generally, the quantum of funds available for other roads and particularly rural local roads falls seriously short of what is required to maintain a satisfactory works effort. It is certain that the authorities concerned will have to reduce their workforce with quite serious social consequences unless your Government is prepared to review its proposed allocations. If you are unwilling to increase the total amount of Commonwealth assistance we would press strongly for a reassessment of priorities as between National Highways and the other categories in order to moderate the impact of your proposals. However, the real need is for an increase in the level of funds to be provided by your Government and we would urge that you reconsider your decision to cut back by some 17 per cent the overall allocations recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
The second aspect of your Government’s proposals which is causing all States grave concern is the extent to which your Government seeks to review our roads programs. The proposed requirement that all proposed projects for all proposed categories be submitted for approval by Commonwealth Ministers, irrespective of whether individual works are to be financed from Commonwealth or State funds, is completely unacceptable both from a policy viewpoint and in terms of its administrative practicability. It can only lead to costly duplication, delays and disputes and the States would lose the flexibility they now have to meet changing circumstances as they arise.
We would see no objection to the States advising your Government of the details of their overall roads works programs and we recognise that this information would be of benefit in assessing future roads needs. However, we do not accept the proposition that the States should be required to obtain your Government’s prior approval to road projects which will be wholly financed from State funds and we request that this requirement be dropped from the proposed new arrangements.
Finally, we wish to raise an issue of principle associated with the determination of the minimum levels of State expenditure on roads necessary to qualify for the full level of Commonwealth assistance. As the matter now stands, your Government has announced that the levels of its financial support for roads over the next three years will be substantially less than the amounts recommended for this period by the Bureau of Roads. At the same time, however, you are proposing to retain the quotas of State matching expenditure recommended by the Bureau on the basis of a much higher level of Commonwealth financial involvement. This is neither consistent nor equitable.
While, as I have already stated, the real need is for an increase in the proposed level of Commonwealth assistance for arterial and other roads, the proposed matching requirements have serious implications for the States, particularly in view of the financial burdens which we willhave to impose on our citizens to overcome the serious budget difficulties facing the States. Accordingly, if your Government is not prepared to provide the level of assistance for roads recommended by the Bureau, the Premiers request that the matching quotas of State expenditure recommended by the Bureau be fixed at the same percentage increase on 1973-74 as the Commonwealth grants.
Your early and favourable consideration of the matters we have raised would be greatly appreciated by all Premiers.
Yours faithfully, C. B. CUTLER Acting Premier and Treasurer
The Hon. E. G. Whitlam. Q.C.. M.P., Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
This second reading speech was delivered in the other place a fortnight ago. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill, together with the Roads Grants Bill and the Transport Planning and Research Bill, makes provision for financial assistance to the States for road construction and maintenance and transport planning and research totalling $1,1 26m over the next 3 years (1974-75 to 1976-77). The delay in the introduction of this legislation was due to the double dissolution which, as honourable senators opposite know, was not of the Government’s making. These three Bills will provide for the continuation of financial assistance previously provided or to be provided under a number of programs including: The 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act; the 1968 States (Beef Cattle Roads) Act; the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974; the traffic engineering and road safety improvement programs; and specific assistance to South Australia to assist in sealing the Eyre Highway. The Government’s proposal is to restrict the period of financial assistance provided in these Acts to 3 years rather than 5, as has been the practice under previous CAR arrangements. The reason for this is that over the next 18 months we shall be working towards rationalising our separate road and urban transport assistance measures into a closely co-ordinated and integrated set of arrangements. It is intended to legislate further in about 18 months time to give effect to the new set of integrated transport arrangements. This will provide the States with about 18 months lead time for forward planning pending the commencement of the legislation and will be an important step in the introduction of a rolling program for transport development.
During its consideration of the new road arrangements the Government had before it the Bureau of Roads’ ‘Report on Roads in Australia 1973’. As honourable senators will recall this report was tabled in the Parliament on 12 December last. Comments on the report were subsequently obtained from the States at a meeting of Highway Ministers in Sydney earlier in the year and from representatives of State local government associations and the parent body. The report having been made public, many local government authorities, motoring bodies, other organisations and individuals took advantage of the opportunity to provide their views on it. This is the first time that an Australian Government has sought and obtained the views of a widespread sector of the community interested in roads. It has been an especially important exercise in open government which the previous Government might well have engaged m when finalising previous road arrangements.
The Bureau’s report recommended the provision of financial assistance to the States of $ 1,345m over the next 3 years and a number of major new initiatives which I shall come to at a later stage. The Government has decided to provide grants of $ 1 , 1 26m for road construction and maintenance and transport planning and research over the next 3 years. This figure of $1,1 26m represents a significant increase of 30 per cent over the $870m provided for the various forms of road assistance in the previous 3 years. The Government in deciding the amount of road finance had to take account of its proposed commitments for other major transport initiatives, including urban public transport and the recently completed agreements for new railways joining Adelaide to the standard gauge railway and Tarcoola to Alice Springs. We also had to take account of our commitments to other programs of high priority such as education, health and social welfare and above all of the general state of the economy.
The 3 Bills together will provide financial assistance of $350m in 1974-75; $369min 1975-76 and $407m in 1976-77. The States will receive the following allocations over the next 3 year period:
A further $1 lm is provided under the Transport Planning and Research Bill for distribution according to the merit of projects submitted.
I now want to turn specifically to the National Roads Bill which is a major milestone in the history of Australian Government road assistance to the States. Previous governments have repeatedly refused to accept the need to do something specific to upgrade major roads of national importance to acceptable standards. As has been said on many occasions Australia’s major highway, the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne, is in a deplorable condition. Other major highways are similarly placed. For example, a national highways study team, composed of Australian and State Government officials, has carried out a substantial study of Australia’s major arterial roads. It found that in 1972, the Pacific, New England, Hume and Princes Highways in New South Wales; the Hume, Princes East and Western Highways in Victoria; the Bruce, Warrego, Landsborough, Barkly and Flinders Highways in Queensland; the Eyre and Stuart Highways in South Australia; the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia; the Midland, Bass and Tamar Highways in Tasmania; the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory were significantly deficient.
Road sections were considered deficient if one or more of the following conditions existed or would exist in the year under consideration: Surface deficiency; width deficiency; structural deficiency; and alignment or curve deficiency. The study team in looking at a system of national roads substantially similar to the system eventually recommended by the Bureau found that many miles had one or more of the deficiencies I have just mentioned. Then on the assumption that no improvements were undertaken they worked out the number of miles that would be deficient by 1979 and 1989 respectively. The following table expresses the study team’s findings in regard to the number of deficient miles in the system as a percentage of the total number of miles in the system:
This Government is determined that the situation which I have outlined must change and has decided to adopt the Bureau of Roads’ recommendations to develop a national roads system. The Bureau of Roads m its report concluded that States tended to allocate road finance to all areas of the States and consequently it was difficult for the States to assemble the large resources to construct long segments of main arterial roads joining major centres. We agree with this conclusion. It should be obvious to any thinking person that without a major initiative by the Australian Government current State policies will continue and major arterial roads will still be neglected.
The Bureau envisaged the Australian Government financing 80 per cent of the cost of developing and maintaining the system with the States supplying the balance. The Government, however, has decided that the task is of such national importance to justify the Australian Government taking full responsibility for the cost, thus freeing the States to use their own sources of finance for the construction of other roads covered by the Roads Grants Bill. In order that a substantial start may be made on developing and maintaining the system it is proposed to provide $400m over the 3 year period, with $ 103m being provided in 1974-75, $130m in 1975-76 and $167m in 1976-77. This is the measure of the Government’s determination to ensure that a significant start is made to arrest the continuing deterioration in the important roads of this nation.
The Bill provides for the following roads to be eligible for inclusion in the system as national highways, that is, those roads which in the opinion of the Minister constitute the principal road between: Two or more State capital cities; a State capital city and Canberra; a State capital city and Darwin; Brisbane and Cairns and Hobart and Burnie; together with other roads which the Minister considers justify inclusion on the basis of their national importance. The Government has also decided that the national roads system should include roads or proposed roads which facilitate or, if built, would facilitate the development of trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. These are referred to in the legislation as ‘export roads’ and major commercial roads’. These would generally be intrastate roads serving seaports and airports in both urban and rural areas.
When this Bill comes into operation it is the Minister’s intention to declare as ‘national highways’ a series of roads which would give effect to that system recommended on page 158 of the Bureau of Roads’ ‘Report on Roads in Australia 1973’. In brief these roads include: The Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne; a road between Brisbane and Sydney; a road between Brisbane and Cairns; the portion within the State of a road between Brisbane and
Darwin via Mount Isa; a road between Melbourne and Adelaide; a road between Adelaide and Perth; the portion within the State of a road between Adelaide and Darwin; the portion within the State of a road between Perth and Darwin via Port Hedland; and a road between Hobart and Burnie.
This system will directly serve over 150 towns with populations exceeding 2,000 people and a total urban population of 9.5m, or about 75 per cent of Australia’s population. In 1972 the system carried about 4,000m vehicle miles of travel. Preliminary discussions have been held with the States with a view to identifying roads which might be declared as ‘export’ roads and ‘major commericial’ roads. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has written to the then Acting Premier of New South Wales canvassing, in particular, the possibility of including access roads to the new Botany Bay port complex in these categories. We look forward with anticipation to a positive response from the State to this suggestion.
Periodically the national roads system will be reviewed with a view to determining whether new roads might be added. However, I venture a word of caution. The initial national highways which the Minister proposes to declare could take upward of 10 years to develop to acceptable standards. The system comprises about’ 9,800 miles of road. About 100 miles of these roads are divided highways. Nearly 6,600 miles of roads have single carriageways with a sealed surface. The remaining 3,100 miles are unsealed. About 70 per cent of the system requires construction or reconstruction. It is therefore essential that an intensive effort be made to develop the initial system. The inclusion of additional roads in any number would be counter-productive and lead to a dissipation of effort similar to the present circumstances.
I would also point out that the ultimate routes of some ‘national highways’ are yet to be determined. It is envisaged that a number of corridor studies will be necessary to determine the ‘location’ of some parts of roads forming part of a national highway’. As honourable senators may be aware the Australian Government has already taken the initiative to have a joint investigation made of a new route between Goulburn and Albury. The New South Wales Government has agreed to the study. The Minister favours a more direct route via Wee Jasper, Tumut and Batlow and coming closer to the Australian Capital Territory. Such a road would provide a more direct link between Sydney and Melbourne and provide a considerable shortening of the road distance between Canberra and the new growth centre of Albury-Wodonga. The outcome of these investigations on the Goulburn-Albury route is expected to be known in about 6 months time. If a road on the new route is found to be feasible and desirable every effort will be made to have a substantive start made on the road during the life of this Act.
Other corridor studies are being considered. In this context the road between Port Augusta and Alice Springs will have a high priority. This road currently deviates to the south of the Woomera rocket range. A more direct route may be preferable. Other corridor studies that may be considered desirable include those for: A Newcastle by-pass; the road from Perth to east of Norseman- alternative routes are available which could save considerable distances; the approaches to Hobart, the location of which could influence the location of the highway north of the city; Broome in Western Australia to Katherine in the Northern Territory; and Camooweal in Queensland to Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. The Australian Government is to be responsible for the strategic planning of the national roads system. Given the Australian Government’s acceptance of the responsibility for fully financing the development and maintenance of the system this approach is fully justified. Furthermore, it is the only reliable way of ensuring that national objectives are taken fully into account.
Practical expression is given to the Australian Government’s intention to be responsible for strategic planning in clause 5 of the Bill. Provision is made there for the Minister, after consultation with the States, to notify to the States details of works on the system which the Australian Government believes to be necessary, the order in which such works should be carried out and the standards of construction and maintenance to apply. The States will then design the projects and submit them to the Australian Government for approval. Each year the States will prepare annual programs of construction and maintenance for approval. These programs can be modified by the Minister before approving them. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development will have the right to concur in the approval of any projects undertaken in the area of Albury-Wodonga growth centre and such other growth centres as are declared for the purpose of this Act.
The development of a national roads system will bring with it major benefits to motorists using them. Very importantly these roads will incorporate on a systematic basis accepted features of safety design. Safety will be enhanced not only for the motorists using the system, but also for the residents of those centres in which the hazards from heavy fast moving through traffic will be reduced. These benefits will arise from reduction in the likelihood of accidents and their severity. The design standards which will be examined for incorporation in the national highways system will include good sight distances, greater uniformity of standards, particularly the absence of dangerous curves and other unexpected hazards, the elimination of roadside objects, control of access, appropriate pavement markings and delineation. Where a 4-lane divided road with wide medians is provided, this will lead to a significant reduction in head-on collisions, side impacts and running into fixed objects.
Accident rates are markedly affected by the standard of the road. We know that in 1970, there were 3.2 accidents per million vehicle miles on New South Wales rural highways while the comparable rate on the Sydney-Newcastle expressway was 1.4 accidents per million vehicle miles. On the Hume Highway in 1971-72 there were 838 casualty accidents. I would expect this number would be significantly reduced, as much as by half, where the existing 2-lane sections of this road are replaced by a 4-lane divided highway.
Finally, 1 want to stress that the selection of roads eligible for inclusion in this scheme has been based on the possibility that the State roads included in this scheme might in the future be constructed, at least in part, by the Australian Government itself. Legal advice indicates that constitutional authority exists to support Australian Government construction of many, if not most, of the roads to be included in this scheme. This will be explored further. One cannot rule out the possibility that in the longer term the appropriate course to follow would be for the Aus.tralian Government to be responsible in every way for the conduct of the national roads system provided for in this Bill. On that final note I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia-
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (2.37)- I move:
I thank the Senate for its assistance in expediting the business of the House in what I hope is the final week of this period of sittings. This second reading speech was delivered in the other place, and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill complements the National Roads Bill and the Roads Grants Bill 1974 which I previously introduced into the Senate. I foreshadowed the introduction of this Bill when I recently introduced the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974. At that time I explained that that Bill allocated funds only for 1973-74 and was intended to operate retrospectively to authorise reimbursements for the States in respect of projects they had initiated in anticipation of that legislation being passed before the end of the 1973-74 financial year. The Bill authorises expenditure over the next 3 years, 1974-75 to 1976-77, of $26m on grants to the States for research and planning associated with roads and urban public transport. Under the terms of the Bill the Australian Government will meet twothirds of the cost of approved studies.
As has been mentioned on previous occasions the intention of the Australian Government is to introduce legislation in about 18 months time providing financial assistance to the States for transport generally in place of separate programs of assistance for various modes. In other words, our intention is to ensure that the whole question of transport is dealt with as an entity with each mode playing its proper part in the transport task. In respect of planning and research, however, it is possible immediately to take the step of ensuring that read projects are considered in relation to their priority with urban public transport projects and vice versa. To this end this Bill covers planning and research for both roads and urban public transport. This is most appropriate and will be a step towards greater flexibility in the use of available transport funds in the area of greatest need. My Government took immediate steps when it came to office to draw together its various transport responsibilities into one department and under one Minister.
This Bill will, I hope, be tangible evidence to the States of our policy for integrated transport development and will assist them in a similar aim.
Much planning and research needs to be done to facilitate the development of the new transport initiatives of this Government and we are prepared to assist with a significant allocation of money to help the States in the huge task of updating Australia’s transport. There is a major need for more sophisticated planning and research in Australia in regard to all transport modes. The provision of assistance under this Act will be directed towards developing in the States more comprehensive planning processes than hitherto existed. There is also a need to look at the scope for rationalising our research and planning in Australia, exchanging information between the various authorities and developing data and information for use by interested research bodies.
Turning to road research this is an area where much needs to be done. Research into the physical attributes of various types of pavements and materials used for construction needs to be continuously developed along with research into road structures. This Government will endeavour to ensure that new areas of research into roads and road transport are developed. The financial assistance provided under this Bill will also be available to the States for use on road safety research. As honourable senators will be aware, the Australian Government has decided to establish its own road safety authority to extend research into this important area. However, the provisions of this Bill recognise that there will still be a very significant role for the States also.
The inclusion of research and planning for roads and urban public transport in the one bill is a logical step from many viewpoints. Much of urban public transport, especially buses and taxis, runs on roads. Furthermore road based public transport needs to be closely co-ordinated with the urban train and ferry systems. It is therefore appropriate that planning and research projects for both these areas be treated in the one Bill and that proposed projects impinging on these areas be considered together. This can only add to the understanding of the various transport modes, their relative merits and the interaction between them. This Government places considerable importance on the need to restore the place of urban public transport as a means of transporting people, especially in urban areas. Much therefore needs to be done in the way of research into new technologies, the planning of their introduction into service in Australia and the development of management techniques required to facilitate these developments.
Mention has been made on previous occasions of the necessity for studies to be undertaken into fare structures including the possibility of zoned fares, flat fare charges or a one fare structure for all modes. In addition, the applicability of technological advances, such as personal rapid transport, to our Australian conditions needs to be examined. The Australian Government has commenced some of this work with its own resources and honourable senators will recall that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) mentioned the development of the Australian urban passenger train and similar proposals for the development of new and improved urban buses. This Bill will assist the States in similar projects and enable them to investigate, for instance, the increased use of modern water transport in some cities, the use of special priority systems for buses and many other projects that will contribute to an improved quality of life for the majority of Australians dependent on public transport in our major cities.
The Bill provides for a basic allocation of $15m among the States for expenditure on both road and urban public transport planning and research. Subject to the submission of acceptable projects a State can look forward to receiving the basic entitlement. In addition to this money the States will be able to submit projects for consideration beyond their basic entitlement. The Bill provides for additional assistance of $ lim which has not been allocated between States. This will give some flexibility to the arrangements and allow projects competing for these funds to be judged on their merits. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate of this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
– The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following resolution which has been agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on Prices:
Imports in respect of which evidence is presented to the Committee that the Australian dollar price to consumers or users failed to respond to reductions in landed costs following the revaluation of the Australian dollar in December 1972 or following other relevant currency changes in 1973, with particular reference to those imports having a significant effect on domestic costs and prices.
Debate resumed from 30 July (vide page 596), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– I assume it is accepted by the Government that these 2 measures will be debated cognately but that they will be voted on separately. We have an amendment to these 2 measures.
-Evidently there is an agreement that the Bills will be debated together and voted upon together.
-Thank you. We have an amendment which is available for circulation. Last week I gave a copy to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) who is the appropriate Minister. The amendment states:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert: ‘These Bills be referred for inquiry, and report as soon as possible, but not later than 1 October 1974, to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, which is hereby authorised to consider the Bills ‘.
I do not think it was fair of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) in his speech in the other place to make claims of wilful delay by the Senate. I will advert briefly to the statements which he made, I think quite unnecessarily and in a quite unwarranted style. First of all I pay tribute to ex-Senator Harry Cant who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control when it considered these Bills. I thought he did a very solid, thorough and satisfactory job. I believe that his work and the work of the Committee and of the officers who assisted the Committee, Mr Bennett and Mr Beetham ought to be recognised. One could not speak too highly of these officers. On 28 November 1973 the first 2 Bills, namely, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill, were referred to the Committee which I have mentioned. This was done with the consent of the Minister. That action was supported by Government senators as well as by
Opposition senators. Work began fairly early in January and went on through February. The work was quite solidly done and a lot of time was taken.
On 13 March 1974 a new session of the Parliament began, following a prorogation. The Committee then resumed its work, having been delayed by the prorogation. I think that a solid, detailed and objective study was made of the 2 measures by the Committee. Many witnesses took the opportunity to come to the Senate Select Committee because it was there and that made it possible for them to put their views. There were a great number of documents and many submissions. Of course, one cannot refer in detail to the work of the Committee because it has not yet brought down its report. I thought its work was extremely thorough, and bipartisan. I enjoyed taking part. But at the end of its work I reached the conclusion that some things were yet to be disposed of. To me- I am speaking only for myself- a couple of them were of quite some consequence. One was: What would really happen to the Australian savings pool under the National Investment Fund? I needed to do more work on that. Equally, I was concerned that the claim that the 2 Bills were joined together on a constitutional basis was not satisfactorily proven to me; nor, I think, to anybody else at the time the work ceased.
The work was coming to a conclusion when the Parliament was prorogued in February 1974 by the Government- not by the Opposition. The Committee was reappointed on 13 March following a question asked by Senator Guilfoyle of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in this chamber. So quite a considerable delay was caused by the Government by the prorogation and in reappointing the Committee. But, despite all that, when 2 Houses of Parliament rose for the election the work of the Committee was largely concluded; a draft report was practically ready. After the election we came back to be met by 2 new Bills which took up a great number of the issues raised by the Committee when examining witnesses and which also took up quite a number of areas of concern about which people had spoken in the Committee and to the Committee in public hearings. So the AIDC Bill which we now have before us has, without any doubt at all in the minds of myself and others, drawn very heavily on the work performed by the Senate Committee and it has made quite a lot of consequential and substantial changes. They, of course, are welcomed by the Senate and by the members of the Committee who worked on this measure. I think too, that debates in this chamber and in the House of Representatives had some effect on the Government and on the Minister and led to their making changes to the AIDC Bill in particular. That illustrates the value of the work of a Senate select committee in examining legislation as far-reaching in its import as this. As a result of that examination and observations flowing out of that examination, the Government was prepared to make and to bring forward changes.
There are still some areas of concern in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and in the National Investment Fund. I shall refer to them quite briefly. The Corporation is now to review annually its holding of equity securities. It still remains a captive buyer in the National Investment Fund. Although the Corporation is now limited to a controlling interest in companies where Australian control is likely to pass to overseas residents or where the boards of directors of the companies concerned approve the Corporation’s acquisition of control, no such limitation applies to purchasers on account of the National Investment Fund. The legislation still facilitates the transfer of a company’s control from the private sector to government instrumentalities. The Corporation still enjoys unfair exemption from stamp duty. The Corporation still enjoys exemption from compliance with State laws m relation to the securities industry. The National Investment Fund still enjoys the unfair 10 per cent capital subsidy on individual holding of bonds. The National Investment Fund still enjoys exemption from compliance with investment and other requirements which apply to other institutions offering tax deductibility schemes.
There are some other areas which I think would be more familiar to the members of the Committee who sat on this particular examination. The matters I have outlined are ones which, in particular, people who have been involved in this legislation and will be affected by it have mentioned as being matters which might well be subject to a further examination and changeover at short period. One was told prior to coming into this chamber this morning that some people have another amendment which the Government is prepared to accept. If that is the case the Government should bring the amendment forward. It is the Government’s job to govern; not the Opposition’s.
I wish to illustrate my next point in as restrained a style as I possibly can because one could really become quite annoyed about the unnecessary and not very wise rudeness on the part of the Minister. Concern still remains over the
National Investment Fund. Some areas in particular are open to examination over quite a short period. Particularly I have regard to the area of savings. I wonder whether or not this legislation will increase the amount of savings in Australia and whether or not there will be any direction, implied or otherwise, out of the current savings pool to other areas. It is very clear that during the debate in the House of Representatives there was substantial comment about the need for the Senate work to conclude. I intend to quote from a speech by Mr Anthony which is reported in the House of Representatives Hansard of 24 July 1974. Mr Anthony said:
As it is, there is already a considerable degree of preference provided in the legislation for exemption from stamp duty and other State taxation, although we understand that it is the intention to pay rates. This is an area of the legislation that no doubt the Senate will want to examine more closely.
I have stated that the Opposition, on the basis of the legislation before us, cannot see a basis for objection to the National Investment Fund so strong as to cause us to prevent its passage by opposing it at all stages. On the other hand, we express severe reservations as to the positive requirement under Australian economic circumstances for the establishment of an institute of this nature. To make clear our concern, I want to state that we are opposed to the passage of this Bill until such time as we have the advantage of examining the Senate Committee’s report, and until we have the benefit of the considered views which the Committee no doubt will want to have on the National Investment Fund.
Dr Edwards also referred to that area. He said at page 657 of Hansard of 25 July:
Surely it is reasonable that not only we, but also the Government which has already seen fit to make such considerable amendments to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, should await the report of the Senate committee of inquiry. Then we, and the Government, will be in a position to make a more informed and a more effective judgement about this important measure designed to foster the participation of Australians in the development of Australia with the maximum of Australian ownership and control.
It is very clear that the Opposition in the House of Representatives agreed to the passage of both Bills so that they could come to the Senate and so that the Senate committee could finish off its work on the two new Bills and the changes contained in those Bills in the short period of time available to it. I do not think the work of the Senate Committee has been well enough acknowledged by the Minister, and I say that to him advisedly. I read the Minister’s speech very carefully, and I would have thought that it would not have hurt him to acknowledge the work of his colleagues and my colleagues in the Senate on the legislation. I think also we ought to look at it and say to ourselves: ‘The Senate as an institution did a job on those 2 Bills that ought to merit the acceptance of those views by the Australian people, by the Government, and by the advisers, as having been worth while’. So I believe that it was a huie discourteous.
Nonetheless, putting all that to one side, we have before us 2 Bills which contain some changes. Although the Bills are welcome, there are some areas in relation to which we feel some further changes might usefully be made. We do have a Senate Committee considering this matter, but that Committee has not yet put in its report. The Opposition believes that it would be sensible, courteous, wise and fair for that work to conclude in the terms of the amendment which I will read out. But I observe in passing that the Opposition feels that it has a responsibility to say to the Senate that if the proposal in the amendment is not agreed to we will feel that we have no alternative other than to vote against the 2 Bills in protest. We feel that that is the only course open to us. I move:
In so moving, I point out that the Committee is in existence, has been formed, and would stand ready to finish off the job.
– I rise to support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill which are before the chamber and, naturally, to oppose the amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Cotton. I note that Senator Cotton quoted from the House of Representatives Hansard words attributed to the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) when he said in that place the Opposition supported the Bills provided that when the Bills reached the Senate they would be referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control to enable that Committee to complete its report. I am not denying that that remark was made by the Leader of the Country Party in the other place. But it was never taken on board by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) who was in charge of the Bill. As a consequence, we are justified in opposing the amendment here.
Before I say anything further I would like to tell the Senate of something that happened at the first meeting of the reconstituted Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. At that meeting the members of that Committee elected me as their chairman and, when I was responding to the honour that they had bestowed upon me, I mentioned the services rendered to the Committee by its former chairman, the former Western Australian senator, Hartley Cant. The Committee members unanimously requested that I forward to Senator Cant a letter of appreciation of his outstanding services to the Committee, both as a member and then as chairman, to convey the best wishes of the members of the Committee to him, and to take the first available opportunity to inform the Senate of the actions of the Committee. I am happy to do that. I inform the Senate that a letter has already been forwarded to him adequately expressing the thanks of the Committee members for his services as chairman. I think that that action is supported in this chamber because over the years Senator Cant accumulated a knowledge not equalled by any other member of this Parliament, of Australia’s resources, both rnining and energy. At another time- possibly when the Committee brings in a report- I will be able to deal at greater length with the services of former Senator Cant so that our appreciation may be permanently recorded in Hansard for posterity.
The Government’s new Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill includes a number of major concessions to the objections raised by business people and the Opposition to the original amending Bill. However, the provisions for the expanding role of the AIDC through its affiliates, the National Interest Committee and the National Investment Fund, remain practically unaltered. The new Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and National Investment Fund Bill were introduced in July last in the other place and the ensuing debate was described by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) as being most constructive. That debate was in sharp contrast to the debate that took place when the original Bills were introduced in October 1973.
On this occasion concessions have been made by both the Government and the Opposition as some of the amendments that have been put forward by each side are an endeavour to clarify the functions and purposes of the AIDC. In view of that objective the Government accepted the amendments proposed by the Opposition. Bearing that in mind, one would have expected the Senate to give a speedy passage to the legislation this afternoon. However, there are to be further delays because Senator Cotton, on behalf of the Opposition, has proposed that the Bills be referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control for report back to the Senate by 1 October. The Government is totally opposed to that proposition. Naturally, I am opposing the amendment. While Senator Cotton has advanced reasons for his amendment, we on this side feel that no good purpose would be served by referring the measures to a committee for report.
At this point it might be appropriate to trace briefly the history of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. We all know that it was introduced in 1970 under the GortonMcEwen Government by Mr McEwen. The underlying principle was to buy back the farm with money attracted from overseas. Any buying back of the farm was not to be financed by money taken out of the capital market in Australia. At the time the Bill was roundly acclaimed as a practical move to place Australia’s resources under Australian ownership. On 17 October 1973 the present Government introduced 2 amending Bills which were passed in the other place and then presented to the Senate. On 29 November 1 973 the Senate, by a majority vote, referred the 2 Bills to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control for investigation and report back to the Senate not later than 12 March 1974. As Senator Cotton has correctly said, submissions were invited from interested persons, firms and organisations through advertisements placed in the national Press.
In the instance of some major industries and trade associations, personal approaches were made by the secretariat to have those organisations make submissions. Altogether 28 formal submissions were made. As a result of these submissions the Committee called representatives of 12 organisations to give further oral evidence before it at public hearings. These hearings were completed before the prorogation of the Parliament on 14 February 1974. The Committee was again reconstituted on 14 March 1974 and on 19 March 1974 the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill were again referred to the Committee for its consideration and report as early as possible.
We all know that there was a further delay because the Opposition forced the Parliament into a double dissolution. The Senate was dissolved and naturally the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill were removed from the business paper of the Senate. It was only last week that the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control was reconstituted. Today for the third time the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill are before this House.
– A very different Bill.
– We will come to that in a moment. After the honourable senators opposite had read the Bill and seen the amendments that the Government had taken on board as a result of submissions and the amendments put forward by the Opposition they should have given the BUI speedy passage through this House. But now the Bill is to be delayed again. Its consideration is to be deferred and it is to be referred to a committee. I do not want to have my views regarding the Committee misinterpreted, as I have the highest respect and regard for the members that served on the Committee that considered this Bill just as I have a high regard for the knowledge and the intelligence of the members of the newly constituted Committee. In no way am I reflecting on the people who comprise the Committee. I am really talking about the principle involved on this occasion.
It is true that some time ago I did favour and support the idea of having the Bill again referred to the Committee so that it could complete its report. But there are changed circumstances now. Since I have examined the Bill and studied the amendments that the Minister has accepted in the other place I truthfully believe that the circumstances have changed completely and that no good purposes would be served by delaying the Bill any longer by referring it to a committee for report. The report will not alter the situation one way or another.
As I was developing my case I said that I did not want my attitude regarding the Committee’s work to be misinterpreted. I am highly complimentary of the excellent study it made of the Bill. But at this stage, so that I shall have the record right, permit me to express my appreciation of the work of that Committee. I should like to mention particularly the invaluable assistance of Mr R. Beetham of the Department of the Treasury and Mr F. Bennett of the Department of Manufacturing Industry, who gave sterling service to that Committee. Members who served on that Committee will recall that the inquiry was conducted against a background of intense adverse criticism of the Bill by particular industry groups. So intense was that criticism that a witness before the Committee- I refer to Sir John Dunlop- was subsequently subjected to personal embarrassment and his integrity reflected upon following an appearance before the Committee. As one of the members of that Committee, I felt that the Committee should have sought advice and taken privilege proceedings against the company that made the outburst against Sir John
Dunlop. However, that Committee had not finalised its report and so its intentions in the matter will have to remain buried until the report is completed.
During the hearings of the Committee it was clear to me, as it was to other members of the Committee, that there was a lot of misunderstanding and conjecture regarding the meaning of the powers conferred by particular provisions in the Bills. There was misunderstanding and conjecture regarding the purpose behind some of the amendments to the original Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. The majority of submissions and evidence expressed strong and generally pessimistic views regarding the implications of the Bills. But this in the main stemmed from misunderstanding and conjecture, as I said previously. I think it is true and fair to say at this juncture that the legislation was complex and that statements issued by the Government provided huie detail about important issues which the Bills raised. I think that is fair comment to make at this stage, but the Committee consideration has been helpful and has served a good purpose. The amendments that have been accepted by the Governmentamendments put forward by the Government and by the Opposition- have clarified the position. They have eliminated the misunderstanding and the conjecture that were evident when the submissions were being put before the Committee. Indeed, the Committee served a most useful purpose in bringing to the notice of the Government and the Opposition the necessity for amendments. These amendments have been accepted by the Government.
– It is a new ball game.
– Yes, it is a new ball game. True, the Bills before the Senate are new Bills but the Government has taken on board most of the major suggestions that were made by the Opposition and were contained in submissions made to the Committee. I honestly thought that when these amendments were accepted by the Government there would be agreement on both sides of the House. If there is any doubt about that, one has only to read the speech delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) in the other place. This brings us to the point: What purpose really will be served by referring these Bills to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control again? Have Senator Cotton or the Opposition further amendments in mind?
– I think so.
- Senator Cotton and Senator Guilfoyle say they have further amendments in mind. I have a high regard for their contributions and the services they gave to the Committee when they were members of it. They were highly respected by all other Committee members and the contributions of both of them were very valuable and useful. If they felt there were amendments of sufficient importance still to be included in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, why did not both senators remain on the Committee instead of having these amendments brought about by proxy? They were people with accumulated knowledge and experience who could have served this Committee well when it was finalising its report. But apparently they did not think there was an amendment important enough to warrant their remaining on the Committee and yet they now seek to introduce an amendment by proxy.
Neither Senator Cotton nor Senator Guilfoyle is now on this Committee. Why should the Government be asked to take seriously the claim that Senator Cotton has made today- that there is still important work to be done by the Committeewhen both he and Senator Guilfoyle have retired as serving members of that Committee? I should like to say again that of the newly reconstituted Committee of eight there are only 2 senators who served on the previous Committee. They are my colleague from Queensland, Senator Maunsell, and me. It is true that the 6 new members of the Committee are men with experience and expertise in this field. They have a good knowledge of foreign ownership and control and they will make a valuable contribution to the work of the Committee in the future. But let us be realistic. What do they know of the submissions that were given by the 28 organisations to the previous Committee? The new members of the Committee did not hear the witnesses examined and were not present to get the benefit of the expert advice given by Mr Bennett and Mr Beetham. They now have to try to pick up the threads.
Only someone out of his mind would say he could bring forward significant amendments to this Bill. The two people who could have brought forward such amendments are Senator Cotton and Senator Guilfoyle; but they did not think it important enough to remain as members of the Committee to see the report to its conclusion. I say, with respect to the 6 new senators who constitute this Committee- valuable as their assistance will be- that we are talking about something that has passed, something that should be rounded off. This in itself should be sufficient reason and proof why it would be a useless exercise to refer these Bills to the Committee again for further investigation and report. If people feel that there is a need for this and they still are not convinced otherwise, I quote to them remarks attributed to Dr J. F. Cairns, the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Minister in charge of this Bill. These remarks appear at page 66S of Hansard of 25 July for the other place. Dr Cairns said:
I appreciate the attitude of the Opposition to the legislation on this occasion, especially the detailed speeches made by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) in relation to the foreshadowed amendments.
That was the claim made by the Minister in charge of the Bill in the other place. He was roundly acclaimed by the Opposition for having made it; and, the Opposition having received it in silence, one can only assume that he was correctly interpreting the attitude of the Opposition in the other place to these 2 Bills. So what divine right have Opposition senators got to take a different position from their colleagues in the other place? Why does the Senate want to be different and difficult in these situations? What knowledge do Opposition senators have which their colleagues in another place do not have because of which they will put forward amendments, suggested either here or by their representatives on the Committee, amendments which no one in the other place could think of? It is another exercise in frustration and delay; it cannot be interpreted as anything else. I would like to leave honourable senators opposite with this question: Why must honourable senators opposite be so difficult and so different in their attitude to these measures compared with their colleagues in another place? I leave that question with honourable senators opposite so that they may think about it and come up with the answer later on.
– I wish to associate the Australian Country Party with the amendment moved by Senator Cotton.
– Naturally. We have very good reason for it too. In the first place, we welcome this new Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill; it is a vastly different Bill from the one introduced last year. We know as a result of the deliberations of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control that business people from all over this nation made submissions to that Committee and demonstrated their attitude towards the previous Bill. There is no doubt that concern was expressed by the business world throughout this country, and I believe it was justified. But of course most of the problem areas have been taken out, and this new Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill is one which, in most parts, we can welcome.
What is the reason for the change of attitude by the Government in respect of this Bill? I can say quite clearly, and I think that most members of that Committee will agree, that it is a result of the deliberations of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. There is no doubt that the Government and its advisers took notice of the wealth of evidence that came before that Committee. People closely associated with the Government gave evidence. They included Sir Alan Westerman who, when we put questions to him, agreed that the intention of the original Bill and the intention of the Australian Industry Development Corporation was not to develop certain ideas that could have been developed through the provisions of that Bill. Therefore, we have decided that safeguards should be put in the Bill, although I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to accept our proposals. However, I believe that safeguards should be put in because future governments- I do not know whether we could get worse governments than the one we have at the momentmight have the nationalisation of our industries foremost in their minds. We are told that the present Government does not have that intention. However, I believe it is necessary to include these safeguards in the Bill.
Fortunately most of the problem areas have been looked after in the new Bill that is now before us. I, like Senator Cotton, want to refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in which I believe he made an unwarranted attack on the Committee and on its deliberations. This is not only an attack on the Committee members from this side of the Senate; it is an attack also on Committee members from the Government side which after all, had a majority of members on the Committee. Also, the Chairman was a Government supporter. 1 believe that members of the Committee carried out their duties to the best of their ability. It was not our fault that the Parliament was prorogued last, February. The fact that we had a double dissolution and an election campaign which interfered -
– Whose fault?
– It could have been your fault, because after all you decided to go to a double dissolution, not us. (Government supporters interjecting)-
– Government supporters ought to read the Hansards again. Who wanted to hold the double dissolution? All that the Opposition decided was that the House of Representatives should go to the people.
– Anthony wanted a double dissolution and fell on his face.
– It was the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who decided the date on which the election would be held. It was the Prime Minister who decided when the Parliament would resume. These decisions affected the operations and deliberations of the Committee. As Senator McAuliffe said, the Committee was reconstituted only the other day.
Along with Senator Cotton and Senator McAuliffe, I would like to pay a tribute to the work done by Senator Cant, the previous Chairman of the Committee, who was dedicated in his work in the field of foreign ownership and control. I have been a member of the Committee since it was formed. Senator Cant also was a member of the Committee right from its beginning. He always showed a particular interest in mining ventures. I believe that his deliberations on that Committee were fair. Along with Senator McAuliffe. the new Chairman of the Committee, I believe that Senator Cant was responsible to a large extent for persuading the Government to adopt the amendments that are contained in this Bill.
As Senator Cotton has said, Mr Anthony made it quite clear in his speech in the other place that the Opposition at that stage was not prepared to oppose the provisions of the Bill because of the uncertainties that surround this matter. The Opposition in the other place felt that it would be better if the Bill went through the House of Representatives and came to the Senate for deliberation. I for one cannot understand the Government’s opposition to the Committee bringing in its full report. As Senator McAuliffe would well know, we do not have to worry about the fact that new members on the Committee have not been in a position to consider these matters because the Committee had taken all the evidence that it needed and had closed off the references from bodies giving submissions. It is true that there are a few areas which still need to be cleaned up. Senator Cotton mentioned some of them. I am talking mainly of areas of unfair advantage in the market place which the AIDC and the National Investment Fund may have. I believe that we need not wait until 1 October which is only the deadline which the Minister has put on the time by which the Committee shall report. The Committee could meet next week and probably finalise its report then. The report could be introduced in the first week of the Budget session when we in this place do very little.
– Speak for yourself.
– I know what you do, Senator Wheeldon, but, I will not repeat it here. The Budget session will commence in only a month’s time and there is no reason why the report of the Committee cannot then be discussed by both sides of the Senate so that a Bill which is acceptable to all members of Parliament can be introduced. I believe that if the legislation has the support of the whole Parliament it will allay the fears of members of the general public and so enable the passage of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill which I believe is an important piece of legislation. I think that it has a very important part to play in the national interest. After all, it was our Governmentthe previous Liberal-Country Party Government- which introduced the legislation. It was the Senate Select Committee of which Senator McAuliffe and I were members which stated in its first report that the scope of the Australian Industry Development Corporation should be widened and enlarged.
Consequently, if the Government and the Opposition can come to an agreement on the Bill- I point out that there are only a few areas in which we have disagreement at the moment- I believe that this will be in the interests of the nation. I say this because of the disquiet that at present is attributed to some business people who say that there may be unfair competition. I think that many of their fears would be allayed if both sides of the Parliament were in agreement. If we can assure such people that the areas about which they are still worried will come before a committee of the Parliament before the Bill is passed, that should allay many of those fears. I have a great deal of pleasure in supporting Senator Cotton’s amendment. I cannot see that it will hold up the passage of this Bill for any length of time. It will mean that a better Bill will be presented to the Governor-General for his signature.
– I rise to support the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill and to oppose the amendment. The presentation of this legislation represents the outcome of an election promise made by the Prime
Minister (Mr Whitlam) prior to the 1972 election. In the course of that election campaign, the Prime Minister said:
The Labor Government will enable Australia and ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources. We will expand the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to enable it to join with Australian and foreign companies in the exploration, development and processing of Australian resources.
It has taken quite some time to fulfil that promise which was made in 1972. It is now 8 1/2 months since the legislation relating to the National Investment Fund and the Australian Industry Development Corporation was first presented in the House of Representatives. Today, we have an amendment moved by Senator Cotton and supported by Senator Maunsell to refer this legislation to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. I point out that when the legislation was last referred to that Committee it was with the specific rider that the Committee report not later than 12 March 1974. Yet in August of 1974, with the Senate Committee now reconstituted, it is again proposed that the legislation be referred to that Committee for further consideration. If the new Committee, inexperienced as its members may be compared with the members of the previous Committee, takes the same amount of time to consider this legislation as the last Committee did, this legislation will again be delayed for a long period.
I have said that this legislation is the result of an election promise the implementation of which was delayed. Much of that delay has occurred in the Senate. Last year when the legislation came before the Senate there was an attitude of total opposition from members of the Opposition to the Australian Industry Development Corporation proposals.
-To that Bill.
-To that Bill which was before the Senate last year. Of course, some minor amendments have been made to the legislation in the House of Representatives in the last few weeks, which in some way appeared to satisfy the Opposition. Nonetheless, mere is still, in the words of Opposition senators, anxiety about the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund. In the lower house- the House of Representativesthe legislation was passed quite recently without any significant dissent and as a result of a fair degree of co-operation between Opposition and Government members in that place. I point out that it was passed in the other place with the expressed approval of a former Liberal Party
Prime Minister. But in this House that sort of attitude apparently is not good enough. In spite of popular support for this legislation, conceded by Opposition spokesmen, further delays are still considered to be necessary.
A distinguished Italian playwright, Pirandello, once wrote a play called ‘Six characters in search of an author’. In this House we have, by analogy, 29 senators in search of a role. We hear much talk about the role of the Senate as being that of a States House or, alternatively, a House of Review. But in the popular imagination in Australia it is becoming nothing more than a House of delay. That delay is very apparent in relation to this legislation. The Senate is a House of delay because Opposition senators still see themselves as supporters of some sort of government in exile possessed by a Bonnie Prince Charlie syndrome which will somehow bring them back over the waters and then they will be able to control the AIDC. But of course, some of their strongest supporters in relation to this legislation criticised the Liberal Party. I recall an article which appeared on 17 February 1974 in The Independent’ newspaper in Perth. That article stated:
Why the AIDC was ever established-and by a Liberal Government-is beyond comprehension except that perhaps as governments do they thought they would rule forever.
– Who wrote that?
– I am not sure who wrote it. It is in an editorial in the Perth newspaper The Independent’.
– It does not support the Liberal Party.
– It seems to do so. If you want me to read the whole article I will but it seems to be a fairly consistent newspaper. It can never be said that it consistently supported us.
– It might support the National Alliance.
– It supports Mr Hancock. The view concerning the divine right to govern which was referred to in that article in ‘The Independent’ and which is undoubtedly shared by Senator Sim and Mr Lang Hancock has now become a divine right to delay Government legislation at every conceivable opportunity. I support the comments made by my colleague Senator McAuliffe earlier in this debate when he commented on the tactics of referring this matter again to the same committee, differently constituted, when that committee had taken up so much time in its deliberations during 1 973.
I should like briefly to refer to the history of this legislation. As I have already said, it was first introduced in 1970 by Sir John McEwen at the time of the Gorton Government and it is a not unnoticeable legacy from that era that the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, still strongly supports the legislation in its amended form. At the time the legislation was introduced in 1970 there was a great deal of emotive talk about buying back the farm- an expression which, I think, originated with Sir John McEwen and which no doubt appealed to him greatly as a leader of the Australian Country Party. The fact of the matter is that it was not really the farm in the strict sense of the term which was being sold out; rather, it was very significant areas of Australian manufacturing industry, of the Australian rnining industry and so on. It was the sell-out of these sectors of the Australian economy which led the Australian people to express tremendous concern about the whole question of foreign investment in Australia in 1 972. The position was illustrated by the sort of advertisements which were being displayed by Californian newspapers indicating that Australia was still a soft cop for American investors who wanted to invest money overseas.
That was the situation in 1972 when the issue of foreign investment in Australia was a key one in the minds of the Australian people and was undoubtedly very alarming to most Australians. At that time the Australian Industry Development Corporation, which was established in 1970, was something of a toothless tiger because unrealistic restrictions had been placed on its activities because of business anxieties and business fears expressed through members of the previous Government. Those restrictions meant that the AIDC could not buy a shareholding in an Australian company in an attempt to stave off a foreign takeover, that it could not be the Aus.tralian partner in a joint venture with foreign companies and that it could not take a lead in forming an Australian consortium for major resources developments such as the Alwest development in respect of which there has recently been much publicity. The AIDC had no possible role in relation to any of these matters under the legislation which was introduced in 1970 and which is to be amended by the present legislation.
All the things which I have said that the AIDC could not do between 1970 and 1973 are things which it ought to have been able to do in terms of its stated objectives as expressed in the somewhat emotive language of people like Sir John McEwen when they talked in 1970 about buying back the farm. They are all within the stated objectives of the legislation. They were not within the powers which the legislation provided for the AIDC.
I have referred to delays in this chamber by Opposition senators particularly in relation to this legislation and of course generally in relation to all Government legislation. I am not suggesting that, in relation to the AIDC legislation or the National Investment Fund legislation the delays were totally unprofitable. They enabled the Government to consult with industry on a wide ranging basis, they enabled the Government to consult with representatives of the Opposition about their attitude to this legislation, and they led in another place to some consensus on the nature of the legislation which should be passed by that House. Not only did they do that, but they also enabled many of the anxieties of business interests in this community, the anxieties of the life offices and others to be somewhat relieved during that period. Whilst that relief went a very long way, it perhaps did not go quite far enough. It certainly did not extend to the Board of Directors of the Bank of New South Wales.
However there has been a change of course in the attitude of the Opposition to this legislation since it was first introduced. That change has been induced partly by the process of dialogue which has occurred with industry and with the Opposition and partly, of course, by the consistent pressure of the views of the Australian people in favour of this legislation, which views have now been expressed very firmly in 2 elections and in Press comment. That process of change even led the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in the other place to say quite recently: ‘This is socialist legislation which I am prepared to support’. If ever the wheel has come full cycle it is evident in that remark by the honourable member for Mackellar.
May I refer very briefly to the main constructive elements of the 2 pieces of legislation now before the House. The National Investment Fund Bill will enable the establishment of a national investment fund which will help to provide finance for the AIDC to carry out its new role in its expanded and developed form. The National Investment Fund Bill provides for the establishment of an independent supervisory council to protect the interests of subscribers to the Fund, to supervise the Fund, to advise the AIDC concerning investment and to determine the investment policy of the Fund itself. But the real importance and significance of the National Investment Fund to the Australian people is that it will enable not only foreign investors and Australian financial institutions but also Australian citizens- be they wealthy or relatively poor- who wish to invest in the expansion of the Australian economy to have a slice of the cake, as it were, and to invest through the National Investment Fund in great national enterprises. It has been put in other places that by enabling investors in Australia to invest through the National Investment Fund some unfair advantage is obtained by that Fund in detracting that investment from the normal activities of the share market. Of course the great advantage of the National Investment Fund is simply that people will be able to invest in it with some degree of security which they could not possibly have done by investing on the stock exchange at any time since about 1969.
If one reads a recent report tabled in the Senate it will be seen quite clearly that the people of Australia- the small investors- who wanted to invest in great national enterprises had little security in investing in many of those enterprises, particularly in the years 1971 and 1972 at the height of the share market boom. One thing that that report really does not explain in dealing with the iniquities and deficiencies of the stock market during that period of boom is how much money in fact was lost by small investors in Australia who will now have the opportunity to invest in the National Investment Fund with some degree of security.
I turn very briefly to the role of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. The AIDC in its new role will enable Australian investors to participate in a significant way in the growth of the economy. A very important development is the fact that the AIDC will be required to invest according to certain guidelines relating to Government policy in relation to trade practices legislation, environment, industrial relations and efficiency in industry. If nothing else, those guidelines provide a significant new factor in Australian business which has not been present before and which hopefully might set an example to great Australian private industries which have not concerned themselves with guidelines such as environmental protection, the efficiency of industry generally and industrial relations policies. These industries have not concerned themselves with those guidelines in the past because no example has been set for them.
I think it is significant and important that the AIDC for the first time will be acting according to guidelines of that kind. There are many examples of the sort of role which the AIDC can play.
Significantly, it can play a great role in the prevention of investment in key sectors of Australian companies by foreign investors. It is a competitor with those investors which can compete in a significant way according to the sorts of guidelines to which I have referred. It can help in various ways to assist Australian companies which need assistance in the form of injection of capital but which are reluctant for one reason or another to obtain that assistance from overseas or on the normal market in Australia. It can take a direct interest in supporting companies which have a national and importantly significant role in investment policy generally. It also can assist in other areas which are not areas in which private investors frequently play an important role. For example, it can be of great help m the rural sector of the economy by helping to promote the growth of producer and farmer co-operatives and assisting marketing programs for rural industry by the growth of those types of cooperatives. Above all, as a national corporation subject to government support and government direction in relation to the nature of its investment policies, it can play a significant role in the economic development of this country.
The opposition which has been raised to this legislation at this stage is nothing more than a collection of quibbles which quite seriously ignore the significant and fundamental role which is envisaged for the AIDC. If anything more than quibbles were involved in that opposition, I believe that the Opposition’s appropriate course would have been to move those matters as amendments. But instead the Opposition suggests that the Bill be referred to a committee for further consideration. At the beginning of my remarks I made the comment that to delay at apparently any price is sometimes seen as the role of Opposition senators. I speak on the basis of this debate really having continued for some 18 months since the legislation was first discussed. If Opposition senators had anything significant to contribute by way of amendment to the Government’s proposals, there is no reason why it could not be done now. Instead, we are asked to refer the Bill to a committee. I suggest that that is nothing but a delaying tactic and that it departs from a proper consideration of the essential features of both items of legislation which are now before the Senate. I accordingly commend the Bills and oppose the amendment.
– I oppose the amendment on the basis that it seems to me, as the previous speaker Senator Button said, that the legislation has been in the Houses of Parliament long enough for members of the Parliament to have made up their minds. I imagine that if the matters which are disputed were seriously disputed they would be attended to by amendment in this place. I can see nothing wrong with members of the Opposition who dispute any aspect of the Bills moving amendments to put right things which in their opinion are wrong. That would be a proper use of any Committee stage in Parliament. I cannot agree that it is proper yet again to try to delay the legislation.
Whilst each case with which the Opposition deals by delaying tactics or serious amendment appears to be reasonable on the surface, I have begun to do a little tallying up in my short time in this place. I find that the Opposition’s publicly stated, bland attitude to various pieces of legislation is quite different from its intentions in this chamber. I remember the Financial Corporations Bill which was dealt with only a short tune ago and which the Opposition said it supported. Yet it tried to amend the last few sections. If the amendment had been carried the Bill would have been made quite inoperable. We have seen in the lower House an Opposition which says that it believes in trade practices but which has tried to amend the Trade Practices Bill to make it inoperable. We see here an Opposition which believes in the extension of the work of the AIDC but which tries to delay this legislation until October. Are we to see every piece of legislation being the subject of some reasonably pronounced amendment which will destroy or delay it? Yet this Party, which makes these moves out of sight really of public scrutiny, goes to the public and says that it supports such legislation.
The Opposition no doubt will make its own way and its own reputation, but so far all I can see in its attitude is a lot of humbug. If the Opposition wants to argue about this particular Bill, that is a good thing; that is the way democracy ought to work. But after all these years I can see nothing being accomplished by trying once more to delay the passage of this legislation. One can use the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) to all sorts of good ends to argue both sides of the case. He said:
A broad cross-section of interested views was obtained on this subject in the hearings of the Senate Committee which was established last year to review the legislation that was then before the Parliament. The Opposition recognises that the considerable amendments that have now been brought forward by the Government are largely in response to suggestions made at that inquiry . . .
He went on to say:
The Opposition accepts that the Government has made important amendments to the legislation since its introduction to the House of Representatives last year.
He said that it was the Opposition’s viewpoint that it should not be passed by the House of Representatives until the Senate reported. But that is a bit of something each way, is it not, because the principal spokesman for the Opposition has said, in Opposition-type language, that the Opposition had just about all it wanted from the Government by way of amendment. That is what one reads between the lines if one looks at Opposition criticism, because it is extremely mild criticism. So there is no justification for delaying further the passage of a Bill which should be very useful to the development of Australia.
If I may say so very briefly, I have always been a proponent of this particular Corporation. Of course, I would like to see it empowered to take further risks in the business community. I think it was Sir John McEwen when introducing the first Bill on this subject- or it was one of his supporting speakers if it was not him- who said that the Corporation was not set up to take risks. In South Australia the Playford Government, without this type of organisation, took a great deal of risk on a local State scale in supporting ventures which did not always look very viable at the beginning. I would like to see this organisation extended in the future, after it has achieved successes which I believe will come, so that it can take a little more risk in its approach to Australian ventures as well as provide an accumulation of savings to bolster Australian enterprises.
I do not intend to waste the dme of the Senate because I think the Bills ought to be passed. I simply wanted to say that I support the concept of the organisation. It would appear to me that the Opposition in the House of Representatives has done the same thing. The legislation has been studied over a lengthy period in both Houses of the Parliament, and there is no case for delay.
– I point out to the Senate that the Bills we are now debating were introduced into the House of Representatives on 16 July and we are dealing with the same Bills in the Senate on 13 August, which is less than a month later. Yet, because we have suggested that the Bills should be referred back to an established Senate committee, which has already been engaged in an extensive inquiry into the whole of the matter of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund, we are being accused of obstruction, even though the effect of our amendment would be to enable that Committee to report to the Senate by 1 October, which is only about 6 weeks away, most of which time we will be in recess. That is the point.
These Bills that we are discussing have been before the Parliament for less than a month. The Bills that were introduced by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) on 16 July contain very substantial changes as compared with the Bills first introduced into this Parliament in August of last year. The history of the Bills has been fully canvassed in this debate. But, as I said, I believe that we should be emphasising the fact that the Bills we are now discussing have been in the Parliament and subject to the consideration of the Opposition only since 16 July.
Senator Button said that this debate so far had been a profitable one. He meant by that that there had been spirit of compromise on both side of the chamber. That is quite true. In the House of Representatives Dr Cairns said that the debate there had been constructive. Senator Button and his colleagues on the Government side should consider just why this debate has been constructive and profitable. The reason is quite clearly that the approach by the Government to the very big changes in the structure of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund have been made in accordance with the way the Senate moved when we previously dealt with this legislation.
By referring these Bills to the Senate Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control we gave to a large number of interested parties the opportunity to make submissions and to be examined in public. As a result of the dialogue established between the Government, the Opposition and all interested parties a great deal of progress has been made towards the presentation of these Bills in their final form and the future structure of the AIDC and the National Investment Fund. That is why progress has been made. The debate has been constructive and profitable because of the establishment of that dialogue. All that we of the Opposition are saying today is that the dialogue should be completed.
– It would go on for ever.
– In your view is until 1 October for ever? We are simply saying: Let the dialogue be completed. The fact of the matter is that the Senate Committee which considered the earlier Bills in February of this year had made considerable progress. Senator McAuliffe, Senator Cotton, or any senator who took part in the deliberations is witness to the progress which was made by the Committee. The extent of that progress is known only to those senators who took part in the deliberations, and presumably to the Government. It is said that a number of substantial changes now incorporated in the Bill have resulted from the submissions made to the Committee and the discussions which took place at Committee hearings or arising out of them. Only 8 senators are members of the Committee but there are sixty of us here. The other 52 senators who are debating these Bills are unaware of the full details of the submissions made to the Committee and the deliberations held in respect of them. They have not been favoured with the opportunity of considering these submissions, deliberations, reports and conclusions reached by the Senate Committee. These will be available to the Senate only if the Committee is able to report.
All we are asking is that there be a reference back to the Committee which is to report back to the Senate at the latest in 6 weeks. We are not saying that it cannot report by 1 October. It could probably report at an earlier date. In view of the Government’s program I doubt very much that it will be in a position to bring on consideration of the report and finalisation of these Bills before 1 October. I again emphasise that the Bills we are now considering were introduced by the Government on 16 July last, less than 1 month ago. They contain very substantial changes from the Bills introduced last year. Those Bills were opposed by the Opposition on matters of principle and political philosophy. I believe that the Government saw the problems it was creating by the nature of the Bills it then presented and in a constructive way it has made very substantial changes to them. We want the opportunity fully to consider the submissions made to the Senate Committee and also to consider its deliberations. We have made that position perfectly clear throughout the whole debate on these Bills.
There have been suggestions that the attitude that is being taken here in the Senate is different from the attitude that was taken in the House of Representatives and that somehow or other the Opposition here has suddenly become obstructive whereas in the House of Representatives the Opposition was trying to be constructive. That, of course, is just a litany that is mouthed by the Government senators and, I am afraid, also by Senator Hall who seems to oppose anything the Opposition puts up and largely to support the Government. It is becoming just a litany to mouth the word ‘obstruction’ whether it has any meaning or not. I just want to set out the attitude which was taken firmly by the Opposition to these Bills from the word go. When the debate on them was resumed in the House of Representatives on 24 July, Mr Anthony, speaking for the
Opposition in the House of Representatives, made these statements:
These amendments do not alter substantially -
That is the amendments which have been made to the Bills already - the awesome potential of the Corporation, nor do they in themselves provide a safeguard against Government attempts to use the Corporation in a discriminatory or inappropriate manner.
We suggested in the House of Representatives a number of amendments which we felt might go some way towards alleviating what Mr Anthony there described as ‘the awesome potential of the Corporation’. But, as I have said, we do not believe that we have had the fullest advantage of considering the matter and assuring ourselves that we have been able to alleviate this awesome potential. Mr Anthony went on to say:
The Opposition believes that it would have been proper for the Government to delay reintroduction of this legislation, if necessary until the Senate committee was reconstituted and able to present the formal outcome of its previous deliberations and the Senate itself had made a decision. However, given the Government’s intention to press the issue at this stage, the Opposition has carefully reviewed the legislation in the light of the amendments presented.
Because of the attitude of the Government in the House of Representatives- indeed, it is taking the same attitude here- of rushing on with this legislation and refusing full consideration of it by the Senate Committee, the Opposition decided to present some further amendments of its own to try to make a better job of the Bills than now appears. Mr Anthony went on to say:
I want to state that we are opposed to the passage of this Bill until such time as we have the advantage of examining the Senate Committee’s report, and until we nave the benefit of the considered views which the Committee no doubt will want to have on the National Investment Fund.
Nothing could be clearer than those words. Apparently they are not clear enough for Senator Hall, who still seems to think that we are taking a different attitude here. But if one takes the trouble to read what was said by Mr Anthony in the House of Representatives, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, one will see that the attitude taken there was exactly the same as the attitude we are taking here today. The object of our amendment, as I have said, is simply to enable this report to be made to the Senate so that all 60 members of the Senate will be fully informed about all the submissions that have been made and all the deliberations that have taken place in regard to these Bills and will have the benefit of the Senate’s own considered report on them before taking a final decision. We are suggesting that the matter should be postponed only until 1 October at the latest- at the most, 6 weeks hence.
As I have said, one would have to be simply committed to the obsessions of the Government and the Prime Minister and all his cohorts to keep on mouthing ‘obstruction’ every time the Senate wants to make some perfectly rational move. That is all we are doing here in suggesting that this matter be deferred until 1 October. I reiterate to the Senate- Senator Cotton has made it perfectly clear here today and Mr Anthony has made it perfectly clear before- that, if the Government and Senator Hall are not prepared to be reasonable in this matter and are not prepared to accept this perfectly reasonable amendment, we will vote against both Bills. In that event, the Government will lose them the Government will be entirely responsible for the loss of them.
– in reply- I thought it rather strange that Senator Durack, in his closing comments, should use the word ‘obsession’. The Government does not have an obsession with this legislation. It is certainly concerned to have legislation on the statute book that will ensure that Australian ownership of our industries is maintained and expanded. That was the very purpose of this legislation. To suggest that we are being unreasonable in our approach, of course, is an unreasonable statement m itself. Contrary to the impression given by Senator Durack that this legislation has been hurried through the Houses of Parliament only since July of this year- last month- the fact is, of course, that these Bills were before the Senate and the House of Representatives for debate in October of last year.
– They were different Bills.
-They were different Bills. The difference came about through the fact that the matter was referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. That Committee has been reconstituted and six of its eight members are people who had not heard the evidence that was placed before the Committee previously. When I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange we had the same problem: Were we going to have new people on the Committee? Of course, we were not. We wanted the same people to be reappointed to the Committee to make a proper assessment of the matter before it. But the act is that in the meantime the Government has accepted the majority of the recommendations and the important points which were contained in evidence that was presented to the Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control.
Nothing could have been more reasonable, I would suggest, than the attitude which has been taken by the Government in respect not only of the evidence that was put before that Committee but also of the discussions that were held with outside interests during the intervening period. One cannot help but come to the conclusion that in the Opposition ranks, in the Liberal and Country Parties, there remains an underlying opposition to the concept of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and its expansion. That really is the truth of the matter. The amendment moved by the Opposition is no more than a stalling tactic, again, to have this legislation put off to some time in the far distant future, by which time I suppose more Australian equity will be lost in the various industries of this country.
The germ of the idea for the legislation came to light in 1970 but there were many strictures in that legislation which prevented the AIDC from performing a proper function as it was intended to do. The spirit of it was seen by those few enlightened individuals in the Government of that day who saw a need for it. This legislation, of course, is designed to strengthen the activities of the Corporation. The Government has been at pains to ensure, by all sorts of measures, that private industry in this country is not disadvantaged by this legislation. It is not a back door means of nationalising anything. As we all know, the Government cannot nationalise anything except by legislation passed by the Parliament and then by an alteration to the Constitution. So, it is quite nonsensical to suggest that we are in some way trying to get at private industry by these Bills.
The summing up of this debate I thought was done very well by both Senator Button and Senator Hall. They collated the arguments. We are not concerned with stalling any longer. We want a decision made on this Bill. We know that once this legislation is passed the AIDC will be strengthened and will be better able to help the development of Australian industry. That is the whole purpose of the legislation. I think there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Australians want this sort of thing. They want Aus.tralian interests protected and this legislation will give that protection. I would suggest, in view of our heavy work load and the time factor, that this Bill now go to the vote.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cotton’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 30 July (vide page 548), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– One meritorious feature of the Trade Practices Bill which we are about to debate is that it is not as bad as the predecessor Bill which was introduced into the Parliament late last year. Of course, such commendation accords little merit to the present Bill. Nor does this Bill deserve much merit to be attached to it. It is a Bill which in the first place discounts as valueless and as of no guide or instruction the experience of legislation which has operated in this country since 1965. It is a Bill which fails to appreciate that its method of regulating or controlling trade practices is so heavy handed that it will frustrate those competitive dynamics which trade practice laws should be designed to promote. It is a Bill which attempts to achieve too much too quickly. It is a Bill which proceeds on the untested assumption that, except for price fixing arrangements, there are business practices that in themselves and without qualification must be against the public interest. Therefore, says the Government, they must require complete prohibition.
It is a Bill which reverses the whole trend and development of trade practices law in this country and adopts an approach peculiar to the United States of America which has existed in that country since 1891. But the Bill does not introduce the refinements and the qualifications which experience of that law in the United States have shown to be necessary. It is a Bill which prefers the broad sweeping language of prohibition without regard to the uncertainty and doubt which any imprecisely expressed bans on conduct must produce. It is a Bill, which reflects an ideological determination on the part of the Government- possibly of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in particular- to do things in a certain way. It is an impatient Bill. It reflects a desire to achieve results as soon as the draftsman can put them on to paper. Indeed, this impatience reflects the whole attitude of the Government to so many of the problems of this country. If only the Government would recognise that you can only achieve desirable objectives if you go about them slowly but surely, this country would not be in the mess that it is in at the present time.
-You went slowly but not surely, senator.
– All I am saying is that this Bill will set back the cause of proper trade practices regulations by years simply because the Government ignores all the accumlated wisdom of the last 8 years and is endeavouring to bring in a completely new Bill, with completely new concepts and completely new prohibitions and without any experience in the enforcement or the administration of those provisions. On that basis it is setting back the cause of effective regulation of anti-social or antipublic interest procedures.
This Bill is not as much in the public interest as a law which examines by investigatory procedures whether agreements and practices do operate against the public interest or whether those agreements and practices, not withstanding the suspicion attached to them, are nevertheless consistent with the public interest. This Bill asserts that certain practices are against the public interest. It may be that in some cases they are against the public interest and if they are then they should be regulated, controlled and, where appropriate, completely outlawed. It may be that on all occasions some of these practices are against the public interest. We have formed the view in the Opposition parties- which we expressed in Government and which were indicated by the legislation which we introduced- that price fixing arrangements are virtually always against the public interest. We formed that view because we could examine the reports of the Commissioner of Trade Practices; we could understand and appreciate the opinions which he gave and we could recognise that there was an almost unanswerable case for the view that price fixing agreements are against the public interest on all occasions. But this is a totally different approach to an approach which says that under no circumstances can there ever be monopolisation couched in the very broad terms in which monopolisation is defined in the legislation. It is a different approach entirely from that which says that under no circumstances can you have price discrimination. It is a completely different approach from that which says you shall not have the mergers of the type which are prohibited under this legislation.
The Government has brought forward this Bill and it makes these assertions that certain types of conduct are against the public interest and therefore requiring a complete prohibition without any proof or inquiry to establish the assertion which is being made. Many of the bodies which have protested and have asked the Government for more time to consider these proposals have said there ought to be an inquiry if the Government is to move into these far reaching fields but the Government has denied them an inquiry. If one examines the reports of the Commissioner of Trade Practices- over the years he has produced 7 annual reports- the most that one can find is a clear opinion by the Commissioner that price fixing agreements are almost always against the public interest. There is nothing in the reports that I have been able to discover which suggests there should be this wide, sweeping prohibition on monopolisation. There is nothing in the reports of the Commissioner which requires the broad, sweeping prohibition against this illdefined concept called ‘exclusive dealing’. There is nothing which I can find in reports of the Commissioner which states that this concept of price discrimination should be outlawed in the completely prohibited way in which it is under this legislation.
There is nothing that I have found in the reports of the Commissioner of Trade Practices which indicates that mergers should be prohibited in the way in which the Bill proposes to prohibit them, though I can see that the Commissioner does point to the fact that once you outlaw a price agreement then you may find that the parties to the agreement will find that they can achieve their objectives by some form of merger. All I would draw from that conclusion of the Commissioner is that it is a particular area which requires scrutiny and examination to ensure that that type of merger does not operate against the public interest. But the broad sweep I make is that there is no justification for the type of provisions contained m this Bill in the reports of the Commissioner over the 8 years in which he has been operating. There is no basic materialexcept the Government’s ideological fixationwhich warrants the broad, sweeping prohibitions which this Bill in fact expresses.
It is obvious that the Opposition Parties are unhappy about this Bill. It contains many features which we regard as against those interests which we believe we have in common with the Government- that we should ensure that restraints on competition and practices which prevent the consumer from receiving what the consumer is entitled to receive from those who seU him goods and services ought to be regulated and controlled in the public interest. But we differ entirely with the Government on the manner in which those restraints ought to be investigated and declared to be against the public interest. We believe that the best approach is to examine the alleged types of conduct which are said to be against the public interest and, after examination, to declare them to be against the public interest; to have the old system, the tried system, the best system under which we examine, find out what is wrong and then declare that what is wrong shall not be allowed to continue in the future.
After we have been adopting a system like that for a number of years we can reach certain points of principle. We can reach the stage, as was reached under the existing legislation, where we can say- as the Opposition says now- that price fixing agreements ought to be outlawed. We can reach that situation. The experience of Great Britain, where it took 10 years to examine all the agreements which were put on the register in order to find out whether or not those agreements were consistent with the public interest, and the experience of the United States of America, where it took 20 years before they first found that there had to be some test of reasonableness in the otherwise broad restraints of trade which were laid down by the Sherman Act, are indications to Australia that we cannot expect to have effective legislation in this area unless we allow a suitable time to elapse in which the principles are formulated by the timehonoured method of trial and error. That is what we have been doing. We believe we have reached a stage where we can make significant advances in trade practices legislation in this country if we maintain the existing approach.
But the Government has decided to adopt an entirely different approach. The Government believes that certain practices are wrong. Why? We are not told. On what evidence? It is not produced. But the Government says that certain types of conduct ought to be outlawed and, accordingly, that is the approach which is adopted. The Opposition disagrees with that approach. The Opposition was faced with a situation in which it had to make a decision. When in government in 1971 and 1972 we had embarked upon a comprehensive examination of existing trade practices legislation. As a result of that examination we indicated by a statement of intent what we proposed to do. That statement of intent was published in this Parliament in May of 1972. Legislation to give effect to those proposals was introduced later that year. The election intervened, and the new Government is not prepared to take any action whatever to give effect to those proposals. The statement and the Bills which were presented represented the way in which the Liberal and Country Parties in government believed that the existing legislation should be improved. We recognised- we stated then and we state it now- that the existing legislation needs strengthening and a considerable degree of improvement.
The present Government accepts- because I am sure that it has the evidence which was presented to it when it was in Opposition and because it has a policy to this effect- that it should also enact laws strengthening trade practices legislation. The Opposition takes the view that the present law is not a law strengthening trade practices legislation. It is a completely new approach, but undoubtedly the Government has, by its election victories, the right to govern and the right to put forward this type of legislation. The Opposition believes that to oppose this legislation outright and not to be able to carry into effect the legislation we would like to see enacted is to leave the nation in the position that all parties in the Parliament are acknowledging that the legislation needs improvement and is unsatisfactory, but are unable to do anything about it. Reluctant as we are to accept an approach which we think is retrogressive and will not achieve the desirable results which the community ought to expect from this type of legislation, we shall not oppose the motion for the second reading of the Bill. But in the Committee stage we shall endeavour to do what we can to improve the legislation. We recognise that whether amendments are or are not carried is significantly a matter of how one or two people react to arguments in the Committee stage, and we trust that the arguments presented in the Committee stage will lead to an improvement of this Bill. That is the way in which the Opposition is approaching this matter.
– The final result depends on the Committee stage.
– I accept what Senator Wright says. We believe that whether this Bill will achieve anything at all for the community depends upon what happens in the Committee stage. We certainly have no expectation that the Bill in its present form will be at all helpful in achieving the objectives which the Attorney-General claims for it.
Mr President, let me say a few things about the course which this Bill has taken in the Parliament. It has been one of those vehicles upon which have been mounted the allegations of obstructionism which have come so freely from a bankrupt Government over the past few months. We should recognise that this Bill, embodying a completely new approach, was introduced into the Senate last September. The Opposition, when asked to debate it within a week, declined to do so. We declined to debate it until there had been adequate and proper time for examination of its provisions by the Government, the Opposition and interested parties. That was a view we expressed. The Government, not accepting any validity in that course, determined that it would pass the Bill as quickly as it could. So it was reintroduced into the House of Representatives, passed by a quillotine motion in that place and sent to the Senate again. Late last year we deferred the measure until early 1974 so that there could be this time for proper consideration. When the Bill was introduced again by the Government at the beginning of 1974, it accompanied the reintroduction with 109 amendments. The 109 amendments by the Government represented the study which it was able to give to the proposal as a result of the representations made both by the Opposition and by interested parties.
– Responsible opposition.
– I agree. We looked at the matter responsibly. We advised those people who came to us to approach the AttorneyGeneral with their amendments. The result has been these 109 amendments, which surely indicates the Government’s assessment that the Bill was improved by that mass of amendments. How incredible it is, therefore, that the Government should have expected this Bill to have been passed in the form in which it was originally introduced when, subsequently, it feels that the Bill must have 109 amendments. I make the comment that the Bill, as originally introduced, was so broad and so sweeping in its ramifications and so uncertain in what it said, both for business organisations and for consmers, that one can only have the suspicions, as I do, that the Government drafted it in that way believing that it was inevitable that the Opposition parties would seek to defer it, as we did, and that the Government, on the basis that the Opposition parties would insist upon deferment, could raise the objection that we were obstructionist. I have that suspicion because I have seen the way the present Government used to operate when it was in Opposition. It is all right for Senator Murphy to have a bland smile on his face. The ways of opposition are well known to him and he exploited them to the full. I am quite sure he was capable of using a device such as I have suspected when he went into Government.
The fact that 109 amendments were made is ample testimony to the point that the Bill required study. The Government has improved its Bill. I therefore state, as I originally instanced, that this Bill which is now before us is not as bad as the predecessor Bill which was introduced last year. The Bill would not have been improved as it has been improved but for the fact that the Opposition imposed upon the Government necessarily further time in which it could give consideration to the issues which were raised by those who desired to improve the Bill. Another allegation to which I refer is the allegation that the previous legislation, which had been introduced in 1965 and which is still the operative legislation, was ineffectual. I wonder at the objectivity of the Attorney-General when he makes that statement. Far from being ineffectual it is the earlier trade practices legislation which has brought into this community a real appreciation and consciousness of the need to have laws and to ensure that competition operated for the benefit of the consumer.
I refer to the 6th report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices which was presented to this Parliament in 1973. The Commissioner, Mr Bannerman, in the opening words of his report says:
The current legislation, which is clearly coming towards the end of its time, has nevertheless served a valuable role. Among other things, it provided an entry into a held substantially untouched for many years, it brought the problems to public and business attention, and it became a means of moving towards principle and demonstrating the need for further legislation. It was also an important vehicle for the development of constitutional law in this field and beyond it.
When one considers other provisions of the Bill one notices, for example, that with regard to price competition the Commissioner expressed a view, which he derives from decisions of the Tribunal, that where there is price competition market shares tend to be readjusted in favour of the more efficient firms so that a greater share of the market is supplied at the more efficient level. On the other hand where price competition is absent the more efficient firm is able to use its ability to produce at lower cost to attract a larger market share, so that the less efficient firms retain a greater market share than they otherwise would. One acknowledges and welcomes the Commissioner’s commitment to the field that price agreement is not as effective as price competition.
The Commissioner also said in the same report:
If the Parliament should decide to make unlawful other trade practices, e.g., price agreements between competitors, the impact of the new law would depend, like the impact of the law against resale price maintenance, on the respect businessmen have for the law because it is the law, on their capacity to adjust to it notwithstanding dire predictions, and on the investigation and enforcement activities that would be essential.
I wonder what attention the Government has given to that stricture of the Commissioner of Trade Practices in the approach which is embodied in the Bill we are now considering. When one considers the present report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices one finds similar acknowledgement of the achievements which have been made under the legislation. In his first paragraph the Commissioner said:
Although only the Frozen Vegetables case, the Books case, and the Fibreboard Containers case were ultimately fought oat to decisions on the merits, it would be difficult to exaggerate their central importance in point of principle.
By the time the year opened on I July 1973 the current legislator* had secured obvious and broad constitutional validity.
Of course, it had taken some 3 or 4 years to overcome the constitutional problems which had inhibited the introduction of this legislation until the early 1960s. I shall not read in detail other matters to which the Commissioner refers. He states that from the position of constitutional strength which the legislation obtained it was possible to take quicker and firmer action against price agreements and continue actions against retail price maintenance. One has only to look at the body of the reports in recent years to find the host of areas in which the Commissioner was able to achieve an abandonment of price agreements which, simply by discussion with the parties to those agreements, he was able to demonstrate to those parties were against the public interest. He was able to do this in the area of wholesale agreements with regard to liquor, furniture, optical products and services, motor body repairs, electric cables, pre-mixed concrete, electrical accessories, as well as in the area of life insurance, tobacco products, vinyl tiles, stainless steel sinks, pressed steel baths, wholesale beer prices in southern Queensland, insulation materials, classified advertising, electric fans, photocopying paper, and so on. It is an impressive record under legislation which this AttorneyGeneral describes as ineffectual. In so doing I think he belittles the work done by the Trade Practices Commissioner. It has been most effective legislation and the Commissioner, I think, has to his credit a most impressive record under this legislation.
– Not dramatic enough for Murphy.
– Well, I am afraid that when this new legislation comes into operation it will be months before we have regulations; it will be years before we have any investigation and enforcement machinery. I wonder whether we will ever have a prosecution under the legislation. This is the most hopeless type of legislation to try to deal with this situation, when we have existing legislation which has operated and which, with some amendments, can continue to operate even more effectively. The Government ignores the opportunities which that existing legislation offers.
But the Australian Labor Party, this Government, has a completely inconsistent approach to the public interest. Its approach to the corporations of capital is entirely different from its approach to the corporations of labour. What we ought to be doing is looking at these power hungry, powerful groups in the community with a view to ensuring that their activities are consistent with the public interest. That is what we are here in Parliament to achieve. That is the area in which our attention should be directed. The effect of the proposals to give the corporations of labour immunity from tort, immunity from legal consequences for the wrong which their antisocial actions may cause, is to place them above the law. Why exonerate the corporations of labour, the great trade unions, but impose severe penalties on the corporations of capital? In the eyes of this Government there is one standard for the unions and another standard for the companies. If one looks at the trade practices of companies, of boycott, of exclusive dealing, of monopolisation, of restraint of trade, and sees how the Government makes them all punishable per se, one can only contrast that with the attitude it takes to unions’ trade practices. The unions’ trade practices of boycott, black bans, compulsory unionism and the exercise of power by monopoly of labour, with a consequent restraint on trade, are not only not punishable but are also sought to be justified and removed from examination.
The real objective of the Australian Labor Party measure is the control of the entrepreneurial and management side of business and commerce. It is anxious to leave the union side of business and commerce to wreak havoc and inconvenience, losses, irregular supplies, higher prices to the consumer, unchallenged and uncontrolled. The Labor Government will oppose and seek to remove the imposition of penalties for conduct by unions and union officers in breach of awards. It would rouse itself to a fever pitch if it were suggested that a penalty of $0.25m were an appropriate penalty for unions which have annual incomes in excess of $3m. One can imagine the consternation from the Labor side if there were ever a suggestion that a union might be fined $0.25m for going on strike because it was contrary to the public interest. Yet this Government has not the slightest question of the propriety of a penalty of an amount of $0.25m being imposed on a corporation which contravenes, not an award made after a hearing in which the parties can put their point of view but a general prohibition laid down by the Parliament. For a trade union the ability to hold the community to ransom, to withhold vital supplies of power and transport and to impose hardship and inconvenience on tens of thousands of fellow citizens is a hallowed right acknowledged and defended by the Labor Government. The public interest that it should uphold is subordinated to the sectional interest of the trade union movement which determines its membership, influences its policies and exercises a virtual veto over action not in accord with the public interest.
I have stated our broad approach to the Bill. As I have indicated, at the Committee stage the Opposition will be examining closely all the various proposals which are contained in the legislation. Having regard to the time I conclude by saying that the Opposition is committed to the promotion of competition in this community amongst businesses because it is the lifeblood of the enterprise system which we favour. We believe that private enterprise gives to those who engage in it the reward which is part of the satisfactory fulfilment of every individual contributing and giving of his best. This is the type of resulting benefit and reward which ensures that as individuals promote and benefit themselves so the community benefits. The competitive dynamics have made our society the great society it has been and have enabled people to share in ever-rising standards of living. This is part of what competition can do in an enterprise economy. We of the Opposition Parties have always been committed to the regulation of practices which would deter competition or would prevent the benefits of competition, initiative, innovation, enterprise and regular supplies in terms of production and the prospect of fair and reasonable prices to the consumer from being part of the enterprise society of which we are members. We will not oppose the second reading of the Bill but at the commitee stage, as I have indicated, we shall seek to make it a much better Bill.
– Before calling on Senator Mervyn Everett to address the Senate I would like to remind honourable senators that this will be Senator Everett’s maiden speech in the Senate. Of course, it is not his first speech in a Parliament as he was Deputy Premier and Minister of State for the State of Tasmania for some considerable time. I would appreciate the traditional courtesies being accorded to Senator Everett to allow him to make his maiden speech in the Senate in silence.
-Mr President, I thank you for your remarks but having regard to the speech of Senator Greenwood, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who has just preceded me in this debate, I feel constrained to make certain submissions to the Senate, In those circumstances I do not think it would be proper for me to take advantage of an offer of immunity from objections. However, it is proper that with the indulgence of the Senate I should record my strong feeling of appreciation at my election as a member of this House of the national Parliament. The transition from the Parliament of a small State serves only to underscore the ever-widening gulf between Australian Government activity on the one hand and the legitimate areas of State government involvement on the other hand.
The Bill before the House contains a national approach to a national problem which affects everyone in Australia. In recent years I have often said publicly in various forums that there are many areas in which national legislation and administration are essential in the public interest. I have instanced company law, the law of defamation, shipping and navigation, legislative controls with respect to pornography, criminal law and family law. There are many others. This measure is another instance. I expect that the debate on this Bill will be a classic illustration of the conclusion which the Constitutional Review Committee reached in 1959 with regard to the role of the Senate. I do not overlook the dissenting report of Senator Wright on that occasion. I refer in particular to paragraphs 77 and 98, without quoting them because of the time factor.
In the 1 5 years since the report was made public the position expressed in the first extract to which I have referred has crystallised. It is just not true to say that the role of the Senate is on either of the bases on which it was originally put by the framers of the Constitution. The Senate is dominated by party political considerations and the description ‘independent’ in relation to some members of the Senate in the past and one member of the Senate today is completely spurious. Earlier this afternoon we witnessed a shameful example of that. By the time the vital votes on this Bill are taken it will be apparent, in view of the expressed attitude of the Liberal-Country Party Opposition to the Bill, whether party political ideology purportedly masked under the guise of self-professed independence will prevail or whether the interests of all Australians as consumers will be safeguarded by a joinder of certain forces with the Government to destroy the reactionary and conservative opposition to the Bill.
This is the third occasion in less that 12 months on which legislation of the type embodied in the Bill has been before one or other of the Houses of this national Parliament. The present measure is significantly different from the original Bill, but I observe at this stage that in my view it is to the credit of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) that in a field in which there are such far-reaching personal consequences for individuals he has been willing to accept amendments designed to improve the legislation. A government which does so, in my view, deserves credit, not criticism, for such a constructive approach. It is therefore to be hoped that in this area of supreme importance to the individual, especially the less affluent, the majority of the Senate will proclaim itself in favour of the beneficial provisions of this Bill despite the declared love-hate attitude of the Liberal-Country Party coalition. If it were not to do so, the Australian people could well regard themselves as having been sold out by a majority of the Senate on the altar of vested business and commercial interests.
It is of interest and of value, when determining the need for legislation of this type, to consider its history. We are all aware that the first germ of the idea that some national legislation was necessary in relation at least to monopolies is to be found in the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906. We are all aware that very quickly that Act became virtually a dead letter and that it lay moribund for decades. So it is that it falls to a Labor government to bring before the Australian Parliament, I assert for the first time in nearly three-quarters of a century, really effective legislation designed to achieve 2 basic objectives: Firstly, to outlaw objectionable restrictive trade practices; and, secondly, to give protection against the unfair practices which have made unsuspecting consumers the victims of misleading and deceptive conduct to the extent that without doubt it has blotted the Australian business and commercial scene for so long.
I say that it is the first really effective legislation of its ty pe in nearly three-quarters of a century because it is demonstrable that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government paid no more than hp service to the basic purpose of its legislation and thereby itself was misleading and deceptive. Its first weak attempt was the Trade Practices Act of 1965 which finally emerged after it had been officially proposed by the then
Government some 6 years before. Surely that must be one of the longest periods of legislative gestation on record. This afternoon we have been told by the Opposition that it wants another inquiry. Of course, we all know the problems within the Liberal and Country Parties which that weak and inept legislation of 1965 produced. It must have been obvious to the then Government, as the years went by, that its legislation was nothing more than an idle sop to the clamour for real protection of the public against the practices which have disgraced many trading and commercial transactions to the detriment of the consumer.
It is now 1974. Ten years ago the Tasmanian Government commissioned Professor Grant of the University of Tasmania to conduct a royal commission into, amongst other things, restrictive trade practices. It did so in a realisation that Tasmania, because of its size, obviously was not the most appropriate State in which such an investigation should be carried out. But one of the prime reasons which actuated the Tasmanian Government 10 years ago to commission the report was to try to flush out of the then LiberalCountry Party Government the legislation that had been promised as long ago as 1959. Within the naturally restricted sphere in which he was inquiring Professor Grant, at page 131 of his report, said:
Examination of the activities of about seventy Tasmanian trade associations, the majority of which covered firms engaged in wholesale and retail trade, reveals that approximately two-thirds of the associations were involved in restrictive trade practices. The restrictive trade practices which were identified included horizontal agreements between supposedly competing firms, involving the fixing of prices and/or detailed conditions of sale, the snaring of markets (particularly on a State basis) and the restriction of entry to the trade. There were also many arrangements and agreements between trade associations whose member firms were engaged in successive stages of the production and distribution process. These vertical arrangements also restricted competition by establishing either resale price maintenance, exclusive dealing, collective boycotts, exclusionary dealing or price discrimination. Evidence was also presented relating to mergers, which may reduce competition.
Professor Grant went on to make certain recommendations with respect to what could and should be done in Tasmania. He expressed his faith in the professed intention of the then Liberal-Country Party coalition Government to introduce effective legislation, and somewhat piously, as history has shown, suggested that that might be sufficient.
The speech that we have just heard from Senator Greenwood, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is extreme in its reactionary, conservative approach. He suggested that there really is no problem. We do not want, however, to wake up one day and find that we have gone even a fraction of the way along the path that has beset America for so long, even though so far as Western democracies are concerned it could be said, through the Sherman Act and other statutes, to have pioneered- I put the words very much in inverted commas- anti-trust’ legislation. The well known watchdog of consumers Ralph Nader, quite recently organised a study group to report on anti-trust enforcement in America. The group found that, if monopoly industries were broken up in America, prices would fall by 25 per cent or more- and that was according to Government figures- that monopoly and oligopoly cost the American economy between 48 billion dollars a year and 60 billion dollars a year in lost output of goods and services; that, in the 80 years that America had had anti-trust laws, businessmen have gone to gaol for criminal price fixing on only 3 occasions; that already only 200 companies control two-thirds of all American manufacturing assets; and that the situation is rapidly worsening.
I underscore these words:
That timidity, political influence-peddling, apathy, and Congressional miserliness have so debilitated antitrust enforcers as to make a mockery of the ‘ free enterprise system ‘.
No one would suggest for a moment that the Australian situation is, or in the foreseeable future is likely to be, anything nearly as bad as that in America, but equally, we would be fools and would be burying our heads in the sand if we did not recognise that we are in the incipient stages of an analogous problem and that unless positive, strong action is taken on the admitted defects within the consumer system Australia will head along the road that America has trodden for a long time and eventually will find itself in that same shameful position that Ralph Nader’s study group exposed in America. Yet despite the fact that in another place the Liberal Party-Country Party Opposition said it supported the trade practices legislation in principle, and despite the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) has said in the Senate this afternoon that the Opposition will vote for the second reading of this Bill, the attitude of the Opposition parties clearly is one of love-hate. They hate this legislation but they have not got the courage to vote against it on the second reading. Their rejoinder may be ‘We have still got the third reading stage’. We will wait to see whether there are to be 2 shameful legislative performances in this so-called independent House of review on the same afternoon.
The Opposition attitude continues to ignore the legitimate interests of consumers who under its government when in power and under its current attitude comprise a forgotten race. The Opposition attitude, in my view, illustrates President Roosevelt’s definition of the common man whom he once described as ‘the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.’ And, albeit unwittingly, the Opposition attitude as expressed this afternoon also supports the pragmatic comment of the Russian leader whom they would despise- Nikita Krushchev- when he said: ‘When you are skinning your customers you should leave some skin on to grow again so that you can skin them again’. That seems to me to sum up the Opposition attitude.
The title of the Bill is deceptive by its mere simplicity, but its breadth and scope, on detailed examination, are seen to be sufficiently comprehensive to give the Australian consumer confidence that his chances of being robbed- and that is not too harsh a term- by some persons who engage in trade and commerce will be dramatically minimised, while the heavy penalties prescribed by clauses 76 and 79 will be a deterrent to the less scrupulous traders. The Bill has 2 essential streams. The first consists of the powers contained in sections 45 to 50 dealing with contracts, arrangements and understandings in restraint of trade or commerce, monopolisation, exclusive dealing, resale price maintenance and mergers. When the Opposition attitude in this matter really is examined, what has it against the provisions on all those 6 grounds other than the bleat that we hear so constantly in public from their supporters and in this chamber and in another place, namely ‘We want an inquiry. Our society is not yet geared to the changes which this dreadful Government is proposing ‘.
The second stream contained within the Bill relates to consumer protection, a part of the Bill that has been described as a Bill of Rights for Australian consumers. In that Bill of Rights are enshrined 4 basic principles. The first is the right to be protected from harmful or dangerous products. It is a novel approach in this nation that clause 62 of this Bill should provide for product safety standards in the form of regulations with respect to many matters affecting consumers.
The second basic right is the right to know the truth and to be protected against false and misleading packaging and advertising. That is achieved by clause 63 which deals with product information standards. Again, this is a novel approach by the Government. The third basic right of the consumer is the right in competitive markets to get value for money. The fourth right is the right to speak and be heard in relation to his own interest. The provisions of the Bill in relation to those 4 basic rights are being, and have been, supplemented by Government administrative action designed to protect consumers in an area, or in areas, in which for so many decades they have lacked effective protection despite the passage of the 1965 legislation.
One would wish to deal with a number of criticisms which have been levelled against this Bill in another place, in this Senate and outside. But at least until the Committee stage 1 have time to deal only with one of them, that is, the suggestion which was made in another place that the Bill will lead to constitutional legal wrangles on a large scale. The fact is that this measure has been carefully framed to ensure that it falls within the limits of the constitutional power of the Australian Parliament. Regrettably the restrictive trade practices provisions have had to be confined to corporations pursuant to the Australian Parliament’s corporations power. But 1 want to emphasise that there is no reason whatsoever, if the State governments are sincere in their professed desire to protect consumers, why there should not be a referral of power so that firms and individuals can be embraced within that part of the legislation and also to set at rest any constitutional doubts there may be in respect of its validity.
There is a precedent for this. In 1966, following the passage of the 1965 legislation, the Tasmanian Government passed a Bill referring power in this area to the Australian Parliament, and pursuant to that reference the 1965 Act was amended in 1967 to give extended operation, so far as Tasmania was concerned, to the provisions of the 1965 legislation. I would hope that the States would be invited to refer power in this area. If they did so they would at least be seen to be sincere and it would be apparent that there were at least some areas in which they were prepared to take a national approach and the criticism based on any alleged constitutional invalidity would completely disappear.
I think that I can deal very briefly with one other criticism that has been made, that is, that the Bill is unnecessary because of the existence of various State laws. But a brief examination only of existing State laws in this area- at least the laws which are relied on for this argumentshows that the efforts of the States have not produced effective legislation. The State laws are weak. Their range is restricted. They lack uniformity. Anyone who believes that in areas such as this uniformity and strong legislation at State level are likely to be achieved is deluding himself. The history of recent matters involving the Australian Government and State governments illustrates that. There was a fiasco in Perth in July 1972 at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General when the efforts of the then Australian Attorney-General to persuade the States to adopt a uniform approach in relation to company law failed. I saw and heard the then Australian Attorney-General on that occasion insulted, provoked and vilified.
– That was Senator Greenwood, was it?
-No, it was not Senator Greenwood. Senator Greenwood was not at that time entitled to a seat at the table, if I remember correctly. That vilification and provocation took place at a time when the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange had been taking evidence for some 3 years and it was perfectly apparent to any person, whether or not he was a member of that Committee, that the die was cast for a national approach to company law.
The second occasion was in relation to pornography. The Australian Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) will remember the 2 efforts that were made last year to adopt a national approach in regard to pornography. At the second conference, 5 States agreed with the Australian Government that they would adopt a national approach tailored to the express policy of the Australian Labor Party in this area. It does not take much imagination to guess which was the sixth State which would not do anything about it. Of course it was the politically benighted State of Queensland, the government of which has seen fit in this area to proscribe a publication which it apparently regards as the quintessence of pornographic evil, namely, the magazine ‘Playboy’. In the climate of State politics today bold and decisive action at State level in an area of such public importance as is dealt with by this Bill is a vain hope and it is just not on.
One of the most beneficial clauses in this Bill is the specific provision for legal aid which is contained in clause 169. 1 believe that this Government has a proud record in relation to legal aid. Its record demonstrates the depth of sincerity in the Labor Party’s platform in respect of the equality of individuals. It throws up starkly the lack of concern of previous Liberal-Country Party administrations for the pursuit of justice regardless of the limited or non-existent means of the individual concerned. It is by policies such as this that history will judge the worth of the present Labor administration.
I conclude my remarks by summarising the main reasons for my enthusiastic support of this Bill. Firstly, it has strength and teeth and it spells an end to pussyfooting in this area. Secondly, it recognises for the first time that all consumers have legitimate interests and that they are entitled to have those interests protected. Thirdly, it outlaws certain trade practices which even the Opposition, despite its love-hate attitude, has conceded should be outlawed. Fourthly, it contains a clear message to State governments that in the area of restrictive trade practices and consumer protection there should be a referral of power in the national interest. Fifthly, it must lead to a reduction in prices and in course of time be anti-inflationary. Finally, it illustrates Labor’s policy of concern that there should be more evenhanded treatment of all citizens. For those reasons I support the Bill, and I thank the Senate for its indulgence.
- Mr President, pursuant to standing order 364, 1 move:
That Senator Everett table the document from which he quoted.
This was a report of Professor Grant relating to restrictive trade practices and price control in Tasmania. In so moving, I expressly wish to make it clear that I do so not by way of suggesting that there has been a misquoting but rather because the document is in short supply and I think there are some people who may gain something from an opportunity to peruse it.
- Senator Everett, it is a requirement of the Standing Orders that, upon request, a document from which an honourable senator reads may be tabled.
-I do not mind its being tabled. If anyone wants to borrow the report, he may do so. It is a public document. It has all been paid for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The Senate is dealing with the Trade Practices Bill 1974. This Bill came before the Parliament in an earlier form late last year. At that stage, the Government restricted debate on the Bill and it was finally forced through the House of Representatives. The Opposition had argued that the Bill was vague and uncertain and that it needed amending. When the Bill came before the Senate in December 1973 the Opposition insisted that debate be deferred until all interested parties had time to consider the very complex legislation and to make full representations to the Government. If my understanding is correct, it is to the credit of Senator Murphy that he did take advice from many areas within the consuming public, from industry and from business. It appeared to me at that stage that in doing so the Attorney-General had opened up a new lead. Other legislation, particularly the divorce legislation and the human rights legislation, has been indicative of the type of important proposed law which has been brought into this House. The Senate has been advised that it should pass such Bills within a week. I believe that a decision was taken at a meeting of the Labor Party Caucus that each member of the Labor Party who spoke on earlier legislation and on this legislation now before the House should make a point of saying that the Senate is obviously attempting to hold up or to frustrate the passage of Government legislation or to ensure that Government business is delayed. Not one senator on the Government side has risen to speak without making such a statement. It appears to me that the Government has set out to spread as far as it can, whether it be false or true, the information that the Opposition is attempting to frustrate Government legislation.
This Bill is an interesting indication of just where the Government stands. One could say that as this Bill was introduced nearly 12 months ago surely by now it should have taken its place on the statute book. However, the Opposition now finds that although it managed to hold up the legislation with a view to its being further examined, the Attorney-General produced a Bill, not dissimilar to the one that we have before us, which had over 100 amendments to the original Bill that he brought forward. How sickening it would have been for the public had this Opposition not been a strong Opposition or had it not been in position where it could cool legislation in accordance with what has been traditionally said to be the role of the Senate. Undoubtedly the Attorney-General decided on reflection that his original Bill was so void of sense that at least 100 amendments were required to make it a good piece of legislation. I believe that at the present time there is sound reason why the Government should have a further look at the important clauses of this Trade Practices Bill.
I have another view on this matter. Many of the clauses of this BDI would be abhorrent to me because I see it as a piece of legislation which has been introduced by a government opposed to private industry. This Government is formed by a political party which is proud to have as a plank of its platform the socialisation of industry, production and exchange. If this piece of legislation is passed I believe this Government will go a long way along the road to inhibiting the progress of private industry in this country and the Bill will result in government domination in many fields of industry.
I believe that the provisions of the Bill at this time are still unsatisfactory in a number of important respects. I believe that the Bill should be the subject of some independent inquiry because the risk to the business community is particularly great. I do not think that the Government or the Minister fully understand the effects of the control of industry, of the penalties that are suppposedly to be imposed should any of these trade practices laws be broken, of the inhibition on the normal business executive in his wanting to have discussions with his partners or his competitors in business in Australia.
I see the legislation as being most restrictive. Whilst anyone has the right to say ‘I hold the view that there are trade practices in this country that appear to me not to be in the interests of the public and I wish to see them dispersed’, whenever I have asked Government supporters or indeed businessmen in the community to name those practices they always seem to shoot off at a tangent and say: ‘Well everyone knows these restrictive practices exist. This is what we are attempting to control.’ No specific statement is made as to what are the practices in Australia which this Government is seeking to eliminate. Indeed, it may say that all negotiations between companies which have the effect of making an application for and gaining increases in prices should be outlawed. Perhaps one should look at what the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) agreed to within the last couple of days with Ansett Airlines of Australia and TransAustralia Airlines. Undoubtedly those 2 companies found it necessary to get together. This large private industry in Australia, which is most competent in the aviation industry, has found that costs created in the community by increased benefits to employees- whether by way of wage demands, extra leave or other employment provisions in process at the present time- have made it necessary for the company to increase its fares. Undoubtedly it has had some discussion with the Government organisation- TAA. Amazingly, they have come up with the one figure for the necessary increase.
-Two of them exercising a monopoly together.
-Senator Wright takes the point that I am making. I believe that it is necessary in the climate of the Australian aviation industry. I support their action. Over the weekend, in the midst of the hate and argument directed against doctors and other poor professional people trying to obtain a rise, the Minister for Transport said to those two great organisations: ‘You can have up to a 30-odd per cent rise in your fares. I put my seal on that. ‘ Of course there was no argument. The 2 organisations got together, in concert made a recommendation to the Minister, and he approved. Basically that is what this Government is opposing totally in relation to private industry. We hear no comment from any honourable senator on the Government side that that is not so. Even Senator McAuliffe, who is usually interrupting, is particularly quiet on that point. What this legislation is aimed at is cutting out a proposition in relation to private industry but endorsing it in relation to a government run instrumentality. Does that not emphasise the point that I make, that the abhorrent strength of this Trade Practices Bill is aimed at inhibiting the growth of private industry in this country so that those fields will be open for Government instrumentalities to go in? They will be there and available for the Government to pursue the philosophy to which Senator Button subscribes- that is, a greater government participation, socialisationin every area of commerce in Australia.
– You used to speak about nationalisation. Now you speak about socialisation.
– The honourable senator interupts and says that it is nationalisation. Do I understand her to say that Labor Party philosophy is nationalisation and not socialisation?
– You were always worrying about nationalisation. Now you have changed it to socialisation. I am just querying whether you see that there is a difference.
– I see socialisation as something that is completely against my philosophy. I agree that Senator Coleman is quite entitled to have her view that it is a good thing. She may have that view. That is the written platform to which she subscribes of the Australian Labor Party. Socialisation is the eventual elimination of private industry so that government instrumentalities may take over. I see this Bill as aimed at that objective. I believe that the plight of the small businessman will be made more acute by this legislation. At the present time it is particularly difficult for the smaller company to withstand the credit squeeze that is with us. It is something which is induced by this Labor Government. It is very difficult for small businesses to contend with the very high rates of interest, which were brought in by this Government, and with what will be imposed should this Bill become law, as I imagine it will.
I suggest that the smaller businessman should read what is involved in this type of legislation. If his small corporation is part of an agreement which some fellow who is appointed to a tribunal construes as being against the public interest or as being an adverse trade practice, that organisation can be sued for up to $250,000. Does the public or the private executive who is appointed by the corporation to go along and negotiate understand this? He also can be sued for $50,000. Senator Button agrees with me that very few of us could pay that fine of $50,000. This will inhibit intercourse and discussion in private industry in relation to the refining and benefiting of our wonderful business community. I believe that this legislation will create concern in both large and small businesses. We have yet to see this. It is my view that Senator Murphy, who thought he would put on the statute book something which would stand as a monument to himself, does not fully understand what he is doing in this matter. This piece of legislation will have an enormous impact on the business community.
There has been a study by the industries involved in this matter. I instance the Australian Industries Development Association which is a body composed of very prominent businesses in Australia. Of course, this Bill is most appropriate for consideration by it. It has had discussions with Senator Murphy. Indeed, over the past 6 months the Attorney-General has agreed with some of the propositions which it has put forward. But that Association has expressed strong opposition to clause 47 which relates to exclusive dealing and to clause 49 which relates to price discrimination. The Association believes that those clauses in their present form should be deleted entirely. My understanding of what can flow from an enforcement of those 2 clauses certainly leads me to give support to what the Australian Industries Development Association has put forward.
An important matter in the Bill is the length of time following its receipt of the royal assent before businesses will come under its strictures. The former Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, when speaking on this matter said that he thought it may be months or years before the legislation in actual fact would come into practice. I take it that he is expecting that it will be some time before the various tribunals are set up and before some investigation is commenced.
The difference between this legislation and the existing legislation is that companies or businesses, whether they realise it or not, will find that they immediately are subject to the penalties of this Act for continuing to practise as they do at present. It would appear to me that every business, every manufacturer and every one who takes advice as to the effect of this legislation on his particular business would be wise to advertise in the first daily newspaper that all arrangements, all business contracts in relation to pricing agreements or to the sale of products, the delivery of products and the transport of products on to the commercial market will, in actual fact, be eliminated as from the date of royal assent to this Bill. I would think that that would be their only protection should the whole ambit of this Bill be put into operation.
Some things stated in the Bill are unclear and one can only hope that a better definition can be given of what some clauses mean. For instance, Part IV is probably one of the most important parts of this Bill. It relates to contracts, arrangements for understanding in restraint of trade or commerce. Of course the whole background of introduction of legislation such as this has, to a large extent, been put forward by individuals. The store acquired by the Australian Council of Trade Unions- through Mr Hawke as one of its directors- was one of the moving forces in gaining public support for what the former LiberalCountry Party Government brought in in relation to resale price maintenance.
– That is not true.
– I know that Senator Brown was part of that organisation at the time and he well understands that that was so. The action was prompted because the ACTU store could not get access to certain Dunlop goods. Senator Brown knows that as well as I do.
– That is not true.
-Senator Brown is interrupting but he knows that what I am stating is fact. But whether Senator Brown is right or not- he was part of the organisation at that time- the fact was that a store of that size, and indeed many of the smaller stores, were unable to offer the facilities that could be offered by larger organisations which had agreements with manufacturers for display, the carrying of a wide range of stock and the taking in of large volumes of stock and which could purchase at a better price than perhaps smaller organisations were able to do.
In my time I have been involved in both wholesaling and retailing. As I saw it, the legislation which the former Liberal-Country Party Government brought in concerning resale price maintenance was to the disadvantage of the public. The way that it has been pursued to the present dme is to the disadvantage of the public.
– Why are you knocking the Bill? If the one in existence is not in the interests of the public and we are putting up a better one, why are you knocking it?
-It is because the section in this particular Bill which reiterates much of the previous Bill is equally as bad because of its lack of understanding of commercial activity in Australia. This is the whole point. I remember telling previously of my involvement with a wholesaling enterprise which used to wholesale BHP goods. If one were part of a wholesaling organisation, one could take a great dislike to BHP, because it held down the margin of profit that one could gain. If one were selling steel fencing posts one could make a profit of 7lA per cent. But it was a horrible organisation for wholesalers who dealt with it. But when resale price maintenance was introduced BHP could not hold one down to, although it could suggest, a list price. That sort of thing has happened in so many areas. It has happened to the disadvantage of the public today in the building industry.
The Government’s stupid philosophy is this: If we can only get some sort of restriction on the great corporations that attempt to maintain prices we will be able to do something for the good of the public’. This is an entirely wrong philosophy and it has been proved to be wrong. I wish there was someone in the Government with the commercial competence to understand what it is doing. The Government might have some legal competence but it has no business competence, as has been indicated in this place previously. I believe that to be the truth. There is not one businessman to be found on the whole of the Government side of the chamber, and this Bill reflects that point. Let me refer to Part IV of the Bill which deals with restrictive trade practices, to illustrate my point. Part IV of the Bill contains something which a member of the public or a member of any corporation has now to interpret. Clause 45 (3) refers to one of the things that one must be very cautious not to do under this Act. It states:
A contract, arrangement or understanding is not in restraint of trade or commerce for the purposes of this Act if the restraint has such a slight effect on competition between the parties to the contract, arrangement or understanding and on competition between those parties, or any of them, and other persons as to be insignificant.
What is the meaning of the word ‘insignificant’? If the representatives of a commercial body were to look through this Bill they would still not know what the word ‘insignificant ‘means, because every undertaking into which any business enters is very significant, otherwise it would not spend its time entering into it.
What are we to understand? What are large and small corporations to understand by the meaning of the word ‘insignificant’? Apparently it means that they are clear of these proposals, clear of the restrictions of this Bill, if they do something which is insignificant, so Senator Murphy thinks. But who will be interpreting this provision? Indeed, once industry becomes aware of what is being brought in here it will have the effect of inhibiting the general progress of business in this community greatly to the disadvantage of the public. I only wish that the Labor Government could see what it is doing by introducing this provision.
– But Labor senators do not think so; it is only Country Party senators who think that.
– I acknowledge the point that the honourable senator makes, and I acknowledge the honourable senator’s point that there is more competence in the Country Party than there is in Labor senators. This Bill goes on to specify what monopolisation may mean. One could argue a great deal about the wording of clause 46. Clause 47 deals with exclusive dealing and it reads as follows:
Mr Deputy President, do you know the way in which some of the first manufacturers in this country got off the ground initially? They did so by obtaining an exclusive arrangement with a particular seller. A manufacturer could go to 100 organisations throughout the country now and not make such an arrangement with them. Such an arrangement can come about only perhaps by the manufacturer going to the great Myer organisation, or perhaps Hammer Hardware in Victoria, or perhaps some other organisation which has numerous stores, and that organisation saying: ‘Well, you sell through us and we will attempt to promote your product. You manufacture 100,000, which you will be able to do at a low cost, and we will distribute them throughout our stores, but we do not want to see some little store down the road selling them for half price.’ That is a reasonable proposition with which Australian manufacturers and inventors have been well satisfied.
What will be the effect of this legislation? Items of manufacture will not get off the ground and will then be imported. Supporters of the Labor Party say that they wish to see the labour force expanded in the community, that they want to see jobs created for Australians. With this measure the Labor Government will do the same as it did with the 25 per cent tariff cut which put the textile and boot manufacturing industries basically out of business. It could not care less what it does. This Trade Practices Bill 1974 will have the same effect. I regret that at the Committee stage of this debate I will not have an opportunity to make the points which I believe are so important. Honourable senators opposite seem quite pleased to hear that. If Government senators had the debating capacity so many areas of this Bill could be amended. There is no disputing the attraction of the ideal that trade practices against the interests of the public should be prohibited. There is legislation in existence at present which achieves just that result. In my opinion this Bill is an attempt by the Government to deprive private industry of the freedom which it has at present.
– I am rather surprised that I should have to debate a Bill of this nature in this House, considering the pre-election Press publicity gained by members of the Opposition. I will refer to a couple of examples of that publicity. In the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 1 May, 17 days prior to the election, the Federal Opposition spokesman on legal matters, Senator Greenwood, who unfortunately is not in the chamber at the moment, was reported as saying:
Consumers were the victims of the mass sell. There should be national consumer standards. Consumers were totally at the mercy of the big companies and the consumer needed ail the assistance he could get.
– Who said that?
- Senator Greenwood said all these things. It is rather tragic that he has suddenly changed his mind with regard to the need for consumer protection legislation in Australia. I am concerned that there is so much opposition to this measure, particularly in view of the remarks I have quoted. One of the most important statements made on this subject by Senator Greenwood is his reported remark that at present most State consumer bodies are only advisory and have limited effectiveness. Yet we have heard his argument today and on other days about States’ rights. We do not have uniform consumer protection legislation throughout the States. We have a hotch-potch of protection which is designed in some way to protect consumers. It does not achieve that end. Of course, it does not do all the things it set out to do. In a lot of cases it falls short because of the financial situation of the States. The success of such legislation depends entirely on whether a State government wants actively to enforce it. A State government may prefer to look after the big business interests which support it before an election.
There are a great number of points in favour of some of the things that Senator Webster said, particularly from the point of view of big business. He referred to the 25 per cent tariff cut. I ask Senator Webster Will he tell us, please, who took advantage of the 25 per cent tariff cut? It was not the consumers, I can assure him; it was the big business people whom he is endeavouring to defend at this time and who did not pass the 25 per cent tariff cuts on to the consumers.
If Senator Webster wants any evidence of this, I suggest that he get in touch with any of the consumer organisations operating throughout Australia. We have all the figures tabulated. We can tell him, for instance, about the people who import goods for $2 and sell them to the consumers for $24. We can tell him about the people who import shoes for $2.50 a pair and sell them to the consumers at the retail level for $25.99 a pair. We can tell him about the imported foodstuffs which were actually sitting on the shelves at the time the 25 per cent tariff cut came into operation and were marked up once big businessthe importers and the retailers- saw their way clear and it suddenly was obvious to them that they could make a higher profit.
- Senator, you asked me a question. I wonder whether I could ask you a question.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! Remarks will be addressed through the Chair.
– Let me just make this one point. This is a quotation from the House of Representatives Hansard of 24 July. Mr Ellicott said:
The Opposition is strongly in favour of provisions which will give adequate protection to the consumer. At the same time it is vital that those provisions which protect him should not leave him in a state of confusion.
I submit that consumers in Australia are already in a state of confusion. They are faced with a variety of Acts which offer them either little or no protection at all. I am sorry that Senator Webster has left the chamber. I had a little more in which I thought he might have been interested. If we look at the State legislation we see that South
Australia has perhaps the most ideal consumer protection legislation. I do not think that it is as ideal as it might be, but it is probably the best that we have at the moment. Big business at the moment has the power, the strength and the ability to pay legal costs; consumers do not. It is not just a case of one law for the rich and one for the poor; it is a case of one lawyer for the rich and none for the poor.
There is nothing new or very wonderful about this legislation. Academics throughout the world have been advocating it and recommending it for years. The legislation is not designed to take over State rights. But national legislation will strengthen existing State legislation and will afford consumers the same protection irrespective of where they live. This is perhaps one of the most vital things about the consumer protection legislation. One can go from one State to another- whether it is because of one’s employment or because one suddenly decides that one would like to live in Bullamakanka or Oodnadatta- and find that the State consumer protection legislation is different.
The consumers in Australia have been held to ransom for far too long. A comprehensive survey has never been made by any non-Labor Government of what the consumer bodies or groups want. I doubt very much whether Senator Webster or any of the honourable senators on the Opposition benches have ever got out and spoken to the consumers in the market place. They have never tried to establish whether in fact consumers are concerned about the restrictive trade practices legislation. They have never tried to find out whether consumers are concerned about the dramatic increases in prices that take effect because of collusive bargaining between large corporations. They have never tried to find out whether consumers are concerned about deceptive and misleading advertising. They have never tried to find out whether consumers are concerned about product safety. They have never tried to find out whether consumers are concerned about information being made available to them on the packages of goods that they buy. The consumers of Australia are concerned about these things. They are concerned about open date coding of foodstuffs, for instance. They are concerned about safety standards. But they are even more concerned about performance standards.
Mr Morrison, in his original speech; the one made back in 1973 in the House of Representatives said that it is possible to purchase an electric lawnmower which has a Standards Association of Australia stamp on it. That simply means that it is safe to use. It does not mean that it will cut grass. That applies to any number of consumer items and particularly to electrical appliances that we purchase for our homes. These are the things that consumers in Australia want to know about and these are the things that they have a right to know about. We have aU had instances in our home, I am sure, of pop-up toasters that neither pop-up nor toast. We have had food mixers that do not mix food. We have had washing machines that do not wash clothes. In part this legislation is designed to afford the consumers of Australia protection in those areas.
For the very first time there are representatives of consumer groups on sub-committees of the Standards Association of Australia and this is in our favour. This is in favour of all of the consumers throughout Australia because it is the voice of the consumer speaking. The Federation of Australian Consumer Groups, which is being formed at this moment, will in actual fact represent one million consumers throughout Australia and their voice has a right to be heard. No one on the Opposition benches has the right to say: ‘We will not afford you protection’. Let us go back a little and see what the policies of the Liberal and Country Parties are on individual rights, justice and law reform, consumer affairs and other related matters. The Opposition parties issued a Press release, unfortunately with no date on it, but it would be pre-election because it says:
The Liberal and Country Parties will adopt a stricter approach to horizontal agreements between competitors, especially those relating to price.
Senator Webster argued a little while ago that price agreements were, on odd occasions, necessary. The Press release goes on to say:
However, the Parties will preserve the current procedure of case by case examination of agreements and practices but on a faster basis than previously. The legislation will follow the form of that introduced into Parliament in late 1 972.
I would say from the discussion that has taken place this afternoon that it is quite evident that the pre-election promises of the Opposition, or those on the Opposition benches, were never meant or never designed to give protective legislation to the consumers of Australia. In conclusion I would like to quote from ‘The Consumer and Corporate Accountability’ which is attributed to Art Buchwald, a syndicated newspaper columnist and well known satirist. He was speaking about mergers in the public interest. The article stated: . . It was 1978 and, according to Buchwald’s prescience, corporate power had become so concentrated in the United States that, after numerous mergers, only two corporations remained: Samson Securities west of the Mississippi and the Delilah Company east of the Mississippi. Still, in the public interest’ these two giants desired to merge leaving but a single corporation in the entire country. After lengthy discussions the Antitrust Division in the Department of Justice approved the merger. Buchwald’s piece ends with this announcement from the Attorney-General: While we find drawbacks to only one company being left in the United States, we feel the advantages to the public far outweigh the disadvantages.
Therefore, we’re making an exception in this case and allowing Samson and Delilah to merge.
I would like to announce that the Samson and Delilah Company is now negotiating at the White House with the President to buy the United States.
If we are not very careful here in Australia we could find that we are agreeing to mergers by corporations to actually buy out Australia. I think it is time honourable senators on the Opposition benches sat up and had a good look at what they are opposing here today and decide whether they are going to stand by their preelection propaganda- and they very often accuse us of putting out propaganda- or whether they are going to pay their respects to big business and continue to debate this Bill indefinitely. Government supporters would like to see the end of this sitting some time in the near future, we would like to know whether the Opposition is going to continue on in the same way as it has, thinking that being in Opposition means that it can afford to be destructive and not constructive.
Sitting suspended from 5.5S to 8 p.m.
Suspension of Standing Orders: Russian Musician
– In accordance with standing order 448, 1 move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Durack forthwith moving that:
The Senate demands that the Government ensure that Georgi Ermolenko be able to consider free from duress and improper pressures whether he wishes to remain in Australia and specifically
that he be not permitted to leave Australia until such time as he has had the opportunity, for 24 hours at least, to discuss with the friends and advisers whom he originally told he wished to remain in Australiaspecifically Mr Badger and the Reverend Johnsonthe question of whether he will remain in Australia or return to the U.S.S.R., and
that the Government prevent pressures being brought upon Ermolenko by officials of the Russian Embassy.
Mr President, I know that I must confine my remarks to whether or not the Standing Orders ought to be suspended. I take it that I am in order, under standing order 448, any time I receive the call to move that Standing Orders be suspended. For the motion to be successful, should there be a division 31 senators would have to vote for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– At the moment the Senate has before it the Trade Practices Bill. To put the matter in its proper perspective, according to Standing Orders, the adjournment of the debate on the Trade Practices Bill should be moved before we can proceed with the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– On behalf of the Government, I oppose the adjournment of the debate on the Trade Practices BUI.
– Have I the right to move the adjournment of the debate or not?
-You moved it.
– The sitting of the Senate was suspended just before 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The debate on the Trade Practices Bill was in continuation. Senator Coleman had concluded her speech. The next speaker, we expected, was Senator Guilfoyle. If Senator Guilfoyle were called and were then to ask that the debate be adjourned we would have the situation under control.
– I raise a point of order. The point of order is to endeavour to avoid having a serious matter bogged down by technicalities involved in procedures. I have not been a senator for a great length of time- it is a number of years- but I have seen a pattern used repeatedly by which the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is moved. Senator Withers has moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Durack forthwith moving a motion. His motion contemplates that if there is anything in the Standing Orders which would prevent Senator Durack from moving his motion those Standing Orders should be suspended. Standing order 448 expressly permits that to be done. It states:
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded, without notice, provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Sena tors.
Motions for the suspension of Standing Orders have been moved in the middle of a speech. A motion that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a person tabling a document or making a personal explanation have been moved in the middle of a speech.
These matters are moved without’ a motion for the adjournment of the debate being moved. I ask honourable senators to recall from their own experience that that is the way it has been done. Mr President, I submit that Senator Withers can rise and move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent him doing something which ordinarily the Standing Orders would prevent him from doing. That is what he has done on this occasion. I submit that your ruling that there should be a motion to adjourn the debate introduces something which has not been introduced in the past.
– The matter that Senator Withers has raised is unrelated and not relevant to the matter that is before the Chair since before the suspension of the sitting. All I am asking is that the next speaker should ask that the matter which is before the Chair be now adjourned. Then someone could move that the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day. Senator Withers could then proceed to move according to Standing Order 448, but such motion must be carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators.
– I could speak to it.
– Yes, but the honourable senator must have his motion carried by a majority of the whole number of senators, which means that 3 1 senators must vote for his motion I rule that unless the business before the Senate at the present time is adjourned we cannot have this interruption in the way it has been introduced. Senator Withers can take the adjournment. I call Senator Guilfoyle.
– I was to have followed Senator Coleman in the debate on the Trade Practices Bill. However, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has outlined a course of action which my Party requires to take in the Senate, I understand that it is appropriate that at this stage I should move: That the debate be now adjourned to a later hour this day. I seek leave to continue my remarks and I move:
– I oppose the adjournment of this debate.
Senator Greenwood- I rise to a point of order. A motion for the adjournment of the debate must be put without any debate. (Government senators interjecting).
– I ask leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I sought leave in order to bring into this chamber the reality of the situation. This afternoon we started debating the Trade Practices Bill.
– A very important Bill, too.
– It is a very important piece of legislation. The last speaker on the Government side of the chamber was Senator Coleman. The senator who is to speak next in the debate is Senator Guilfoyle. With great respect to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) and to all my political opponents opposite, I say that we have tried to conduct the proceedings in this chamber with common sense. At 5.55 this evening, Senator Coleman, speaking on behalf of the Government, finished her remarks. At that dme, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I decided- frankly, so that Senator Guilfoyle, the next speaker, would not be interrupted at 6 o’clock and have to continue her remarks at 8 o’clock- to lift the Senate so that she could commence to speak on the Trade Practices Bill at 8 o’clock. Now, suddenly, at 8 o’clock we are confronted with this proposition by the Opposition that the debate be adjourned and that it be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day. I would suggest to honourable senators opposite that this is just a political stunt on their part. While I know that there can be no discussion on a motion that the debate be adjourned, nonetheless I feel that I have a responsibility to point out these matters when indicating why the Government will oppose the adjournment of this particular debate.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition)- by leave- I understand why Senator Douglas McClelland said what he has said, but I think that the sooner we get to a vote on this matter the better. I do not think we will be able to consider the business of the Senate rationally and sensibly if we start taking political points against one another on this simple procedural motion. Therefore I suggest that we should take a vote as soon as possible on the motion that the debate be now adjourned.
- Mr President, I seek leave to ask a question of Senator Withers.
– Is leave granted to Senator Steele Hall to ask a question of Senator Withers? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– My question to Senator Withers is: How long does he want the Senate to devote to the subject which he has raised today? I suggest that he should give to the Senate a firm indication of the time he wants to devote to the subject.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition)- Mr President, I seek leave to answer the question.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I only wish that I could give a definitive time.
– Wait a minute.
– It is pure frustration; that is all it is.
– Let us all keep our cool. I realise that the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast tonight and that speakers in debates are limited to 30 minutes. I am a reasonable, sensible sort of person and I realise that if I were able to move a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders we could wrangle about it until 11 o’clock tonight, which would not advance what we on this side of the House are trying to do. We on this side of the House would like to move the motion to which I have referred and to have Senator Durack speak to it for us. If the Government wants to nominate only Senator Willesee to speak on its behalf and if he is prepared to speak for approximately the same length of time as Senator Durack, I do not see why we ought not be able to go to a vote on this matter after that has happened.
-After one hour?
– I am talking of a maximum of 30 minutes a side. It may well be that neither Senator Durack nor Senator Willesee would necessarily take his full 30 minutes. I cannot tell Senator Hall that.
– You cannot speak for us, either.
-That is right.
-You do not know whether other speakers may rise. Do you give that guarantee?
– I cannot give a guarantee as to who will rise on either side of the House and who will not be seen. But if the honourable senator feels that way, I am prepared to include in my motion that the only honourable senators to be allowed to participate in the debate shall be
Senator Durack, who will move the motion, and Senator Willesee, who will reply to it. I do not know whether that would be acceptable to the Senate.
– Are you denying to the Country Party the right to speak?
– I am trying to indicate to Senator Hall the problems involved in saying certain things. As far as the Opposition is concernedI am speaking for my Country Party colleagues as well as my Liberal Party ones- it would be content if only Senator Durack were to speak for the Opposition and only Senator Willesee were to speak for the Government. I trust that that answers Senator Hall’s question in full. I am prepared to include that proposition in my motion, but it may not be acceptable either to Senator Hall or Senator Townley, who may wish to speak to it, or to supporters of the Government. I am sorry that I cannot answer the questions any further.
– by leave- Mr President, there is before the Senate a Bill which, in substance, is the same as a Bill I introduced almost 12 months ago. It has been brought in again after a double dissolution. It is an important Bill. It is proposed now that the debate on this Bill be adjourned in order to entertain a motion couched m certain terms- I want to refer the Senate to the terms of what is proposed to be put before it- under the guise of protecting the liberty of persons. The proposal is that the Standing Orders be suspended in order to entertain a debate in this chamber on a motion which states:
That the Senate demands that the Government ensure that Georgi Ermolenko be able to consider free from duress and improper pressures -
Honourable senators heard what the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) said today about how he was dealing with this matter in the most reasonable and proper fashion. The motion continues: - be able to consider free from duress and improper pressures whether he wishes to remain in Australia and specifically (i) that he be not permitted to leave Australia . . .
The Senate is being asked to suspend the debate on an important matter to the people of Australia in order to entertain a motion which says that a citizen of another country is not even to be permitted, if he wishes -
– ‘until such time . . .’
– ‘until such time . . .’ The information placed before the Senate, and the latest information which the Minister for Foreign Affairs has put and which I have in my possession, is that the young man says that he wants to leave Australia. Honourable senators opposite dare to ask the Senate to interrupt its proceedings to entertain a motion which is one of the most disgraceful and anti-freedom motions ever put before a chamber. It says that the man be not permitted, even if he wishes, to leave Australia until certain things happen. It is a shame and a disgrace.
The motion goes on to ask that the Government prevent pressures being brought upon Mr Ermolenko by officials of the Russian Embassy. The Opposition dares to put a motion asking for the debate on the Trade Practices Bill to be adjourned in order to bring on a motion couched in terms that allege, without a shred of evidence, that the Russian Embassy has brought pressure upon the young man. I suppose that any excuse whatever can be used to delay the debate upon the Trade Practices Bill; that any excuse at all can be used to set up some hysteria and that some stunt can be operated. Opposition senators still think that we are in the days of Petrov. I would say -
– Do you say that this is a stunt?
– Yes, it is a stunt. This is nothing but a stunt by the Opposition. The matter obviously is being attended to in the way it ought to be attended to by the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is answerable to the Parliament. The motion now before us is just an impertinence and a stunt by the Opposition to create some hysteria and to arouse people in relation to the future of a young man whose future obviously is held in high regard by the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is attending to this matter and by the Government. It is absolutely disgraceful that this attempt should be made to interfere with the course of the debate on the Trade Practices Bill.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
Government senators- No.
– Leave is not granted.
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
- Mr President, in accordance with standing order 448 1 move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Durack forthwith moving that:
The Senate demands that the Government ensure that Georgi Ermolenko be able to consider free from duress and improper pressures whether he wishes to remain in Australia and specifically
that he be not permitted to leave Australia until such time as he has had the opportunity (for 24 hours at least) to discuss with the friends and advisers whom he originally told he wished to remain in Australiaspecifically Mr Badger and the Reverend Johnsontrie question of whether he will remain in Australia or return to the U.S.S.R., and
that the Government prevent pressures being brought upon Ermolenko by officials of the Russian Embassy.
The reason for asking for the suspension of Standing Orders is quite simple. We believe that this motion, which I gather I am not permitted to canvass or discuss in any way, ought to come before the Senate. It ought to be resolved this evening and it ought to be resolved without a great deal of delay.
– It matters nothing whether the motion is carried or defeated; it is an expression of Party policy.
– It is an expression of one House of the Parliament.
-What? The suspension of Standing Orders?
- Mr President, I rather formed the impression earlier that the Government wished to return to the debate on the Trade Practices Bill at the earliest possible moment. It would have a far greater opportunity of doing that if Government senators did not interrupt. It is a matter of judgment of honourable senators as to whether they believe this to be a matter of sufficient importance for the Standing Orders to be suspended. That is all we are talking about. We are not talking about the substance of the proposal motion. But we on this side of the Senate believe it is important enough to have the Standing Orders suspended. We believe that this is a motion which can be dealt with succinctly. As far as we are concerned, Senator Durack will put down the facts as he understands them -
– You are really delaying Government legislation.
-I ask Senator Douglas McClelland to recall what I said this morning. The Opposition has agreed to sit at 10.30 each morning and to sit on Friday. We have always agreed to sit for extended sitting hours. As I recall the position, we have not once during this session insisted on bringing forward a debate on general business on a Thursday evening. I think that during this 5 or 6 weeks period we have not brought forward any motion for the discussion of a matter of urgency.
– You could have moved to bring on this matter tomorrow as one of urgency.
-The Opposition could have done all sorts of things. But we have not because we realise that the Government wants to bring forward its legislation. What we are discussing is whether the Standing Orders ought to be suspended. Those honourable senators who are not prepared to suspend the Standing Orders must have some reason for not being prepared to debate the substance of the proposed motion. If the substance of the proposed motion is thought to be worthy of debate, the Standing Orders ought to be suspended. I trust that we can have a vote on this motion at an early time so that the Senate can deal with the matter which will be proposed by Senator Durack. Then we can return to the debate on the Trade Practices Bill.
– I think the Senate ought not to suspend its Standing Orders to debate this matter. Over a period of 18 months we have seen a process develop under which the Senate has come into public controversy. I think that at least half the population and many observers of the Senate would think that the actions of the Senate have not been in accordance with the best principles of parliamentary democracy. What isappening here is adding to the chapter of degradation. We are asked to suspend the Standing Orders in order to consider a motion of this character. I shall not go into the details of it but honourable senators today heard the explanation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) about what has happened. No one has suggested that that explanation is in error. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is doing all he can in this situation to help the young man. Honourable senators have heard that the Supreme Court of Western Australia has issued a proceeding, by way of habeas corpus, directed to people, including a Commonwealth police officer who has neither custody nor control of the young man, explaining why he should not be allowed to do what he wants to do.
The young man manifestly is being allowed to consult persons and to do what he wants, yet the proposal is that we suspend the Standing Orders in order to consider a motion that the young man be not permitted to leave Australia even if he wants to do so. Presumably if this matter proceeds we will hear from the mover of the motion under what law persons are supposed to prevent this young man from leaving Australia if he wants to do so. Is it proposed to send the Usher of the Black Rod to Western Australia? Is some authority of the Government going to be asked to prevent this young man from doing what he wants to do? If honourable senators want to look for a denial of civil liberties they will find it in the motion it is proposed to put before the Senate if the Standing Orders are suspended.
In the second part of the motion there is the assumption that the Government of another country with which we have friendly relations is acting wrongly with respect to one of its own citizens. This is an assumption that ought not to be made by one chamber of this Parliament. I think it is quite improper to suspend the ordinary proceedings of the Senate in this way. As far as I know it is unprecedented to break into a debate in this manner to entertain a motion of this kind. I suppose that if members of the Opposition had wanted to do so they could have taken some action today by raising a matter of urgency. Instead they are seeking, because of the time of night, to try to propose some propaganda motion. They ask for the time of the Senate in order to treat this young man and his future as a political football. That is all they are concerned about and they are prepared to injure relations between Australia and a country with which we have diplomatic relations, instead of doing the sensible thing and waiting until tomorrow to see what the events of the day bring forth. I remind honourable senators that there is a supreme court proceeding and that officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs are on hand. Common sense dictates that the proper and decent thing to do would be not to try to run this kind of stunt tonight but to wait and see what happens.
– I oppose the motion to suspend Standing Orders because it is obvious that the Opposition is using this tactic as a means of preventing debate in this chamber on the Trade Practices Bill. This is a Bill that has been before the Senate on 3 occasions. While honourable senators opposite give lip service to the second reading of the Bill they have a number of amendments to move at the Committee stage. It is quite clear to me that members of the Opposition are putting on an act which is related to the warning which Senator Withers gave this morning when he said that he had in his drawer a copy of a motion that was carried by this Senate in 1971 in relation to the adjournment of the Senate and the leaving of Bills on the notice paper. It is quite clear now that they want to leave as many Bills as they can on the notice paper when the sitting is adjourned at the end of this week. Notice has already been given that they are going to keep frustrating the Senate all the way along the line in relation to legislation that is important to the people of Australia. The legislation is not important as far as Opposition senators are concerned because the legislation seeks to introduce laws to control the multinational organisations in this country; it will control the oil companies and it will control all those things that every one of us have appealed to the previous Trade Practices Commission to have examined but which the Commission did not have the power to examine.
The situation now is that the Opposition seeks to leave as many Bills as possible on the notice paper when the motion is moved on Friday to adjourn the Senate. In the hope that it will have the numbers the Opposition is attempting to bring on this matter tonight as a subterfuge because it knows that it will be resolved in the morning in any case. Senator Murphy has already indicated that this matter has got to a stage where it should not be debated in this House because it cannot be debated by the 2 Houses of Parliament at this stage. It is obvious to everyone on this side of the House that this is another of the frustrating moves of the Opposition to ensure that legislation that is important to the people of Australia is not passed by this Senate.
Motion (by Senator Jessop) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin 0 ‘Byrne’
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr President, I point out that the Opposition endeavourd to have this debate brought on at 8 o’clock tonight. Despite protestations that the Opposition is trying to delay Government Business, the Government, by its attitude, has wasted 47 minutes of its so-called precious time for Government business. It has been entirely the Government’s fault I move:
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I understand that, under the Standing Orders, before a motion of this nature is moved copies of it ought to be distributed to the Senate.
– Nothing in the Standing Orders provides for the distribution of copies, but we will try to get copies distributed as soon as possible.
– We do not even know what Senator Durack is talking about.
– If the honourable senator would listen he would hear it being read for the second time. Unlike the Labor Government and its supporters apparently, I believe and the Opposition believes that this question is one of very deep concern for the Austraiian people and should be of concern to the Australian Parliament and the Senate in particular because it raises very clearly a matter of civil liberty and in particular the liberty of this young man of 18 or 19 years of age. I propose, iff am given a hearing by Labor supporters, to set out some facts which I think even they will concede to be of great concern for us all.
This morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, in answer to Opposition questions, which I believe were restrained and to the point, indicated some steps that he was taking or had taken to ensure that a proper investigation would be made of the real intentions and desires of this young man. I have here a telex copy of statutory declarations that have been filed in the Supreme Court by 2 people, Lance Johnson, an Anglican priest and sub-warden of St George’s College at the University of Western Australia, and Harold Badger, the Director of the Melba Conservatory and a resident of Melbourne who has been in Perth attending the conference of the International Society for Music Education.
It is perfectly clear and undisputed that towards the end of the conference, specifically last Sunday, this young violinist, a member of a Russian quintet, indicated very clearly his desire to remain in Australia and not to return to Russia with the Russian party who were due to leave Perth last Sunday evening. I do not think anybody has questioned the fact that Ermolenko made his views very clear to these 2 gentlemen and to many other people. Indeed, I believe he did so in the hearing of members of the Press. Of course, that is where the problem begins. Having made these views clear, he decided not to catch the plane on Sunday evening. He was then in the company of other members of the Russian quintet and they all returned to the city from the airport as a result of his decision not to catch the plane on Sunday evening out of Australia. From then on the real problems that we are facing and which the Government ought to be facing- and I hope is facing- arise. It was in the course of Sunday evening that one Professor Kabalevsky, who was not a member of the particular quintet but was a member of another Russian group that was attending this international conference -
-Well, Senator Button said OGPU- I did not. Do you want to reduce this debate to that level?
– I am asking you.
– If you want to reduce it to that level the Opposition will be right there in it. Make no mistake about that.
– You started it.
-I did not. I said Professor Kabalevsky was attending the international conference. He then spent Sunday evening endeavouring to get in touch with Ermolenko. In answer to a question this morning Senator Willesee indicated that Ermolenko had in fact sought an interview with Professor Kabalevsky and voluntarily expressed a desire to see this Russian ‘mentor’. However, it is clear from the statements that I have received- they have been confirmed by verbal advice that I have received during the day- that in fact Ermolenko himself did not seek to approach Professor Kabalevsky, but Professor Kabalevsky was anxious to see Ermolenko. Suggestions were then made, through the Reverend Johnson, Mr Badger and officers of the International Society for Music Education conference, at the request of Professor Kabalevsky, that arrangements should be made for Ermolenko to see Kabalevsky. In other words, it was at Kabalevsky ‘s request that the interview took place and not at the request of the young man.
– What is sinister about that?
– I am dealing only with facts. This morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs put the facts in the light that Ermolenko was seeking to see Kabalevsky. In fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction. Yesterday morning Ermolenko, in company with the Rev. Johnson and Mr Harold Badger, went to the Parmelia Hotel where Professor Kabalevsky was residing for the conference. They did this because they wished to co-operate with the request received that Professor Kabalevsky see young Ermolenko. When they got to the Parmelia Hotel to have this interview they found the official of the Russian Embassy, Mr Alexandroff, in company with Professor Kabalevsky. There and then Ermolenko made it very clear that he had come to discuss this matter with a musical colleague, Professor Kabalevsky, and certainly not with an official of the Russian Embassy. At first he declined to continue the interview with Mr Alexandroff present.
Finally it was agreed that if the interview were conducted purely and simply between Ermolenko and Kabalevsky, Messrs Johnson and Badger- as I say, they were his friends and advisers and he had stated his wish to them to stay in Australia- were prepared to withdraw from the discussion if Alexandroff also withdrew. They then retired to a room in the Parmelia Hotel. As far as Messrs Johnson and Badger are concerned they have not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with. Ermolenko since 11 o’clock yesterday morning when he disappeared into the Hotel Parmelia m company with Professor Kabalevsky. At aU times since then when Ermolenko has been seen by the Rev. Johnson, Mr Badger or anybody else he has been in the company of Professor Kabalevsky and Mr Alexandroff of the Russian Embassy.
We have had some further history of the matter. The Minister gave it this morning and the Press has given a good deal of it. How long Ermolenko has spent with Kabalevsky and whether he spent the time alone with Kabalevsky or in company with Alexandroff are matters on which I think there is doubt. Perhaps the official of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Perth can throw some light on this. But it appears that the official, Mr Henne, has not been in the company of Kabalevsky and Ermolenko from the dme they first went off together at 1 1 o’clock yesterday morning. It is true that later in the day Mr Henne was m the company of the party which, as I say, always included the Russian Embassy official Alexandroff.
Later yesterday apparently it was decided that Ermolenko and the rest of the Russian party would be departing on a plane from Perth. They were booked to leave Perth yesterday evening on a Qantas flight. The young man was then taken down to the University to obtain some of his possessions. His most precious possession, one from which he was never parted throughout the conference, a violin worth many thousands of dollars, has been in the home of the Reverend Mr. Johnson. Earlier today it was still in the possession of Mr Johnson at his home. Although Ermolenko had the constant intention of keeping his violin with him, apparently he has gone off and left it in the possession of Mr Johnson. That seems to be a very strange thing. If he is leaving Australia voluntarily, as it is claimed, it seems very strange that he is prepared to leave this very valuable violin, something which he regards as a very valuable possession.
– What did Mr Johnson do?
-Our complaint is that Mr Johnson and Mr Badger are not being given the opportunity of conducting any independent conversations with Ermolenko. That is the purpose of our motion. Only the moral persuasion of the Senate can persuade the Government-it is doubtful, but I hope we succeed- to take some action to enable proper discussions to take place again between Ermolenko and his friends and advisers to whom he had very clearly conveyed his wish to remain in Australia. I do not want to go into all the events that occurred last night at the airport and so on. In an endeavour to allay the fears and concern which we expressed at question time today the Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated that this morning he was setting up a small conference. I think he chided me because I criticised it as being a rather large conference. It was to be attended by certain union officials, a representative of the students who had taken an interest in Ermolenko ‘s case, a Russian official- presumably Alexandroff- the Department of Foreign Affairs representative, Mr Henne, and the Western Australian Minister for Immigration. The Minister for Foreign Affairs made it very clear that he did not want it to become a large gathering or a Press conference and that he was arranging for one member of the Press corps to represent Press interests.
I am informed that such a conference took place this morning in Perth. It occurred at about 12.30 p.m. Perth time and was attended by a very much larger number of persons than the Minister indicated. I am not criticising rum for that but I believe that this is an important development and it occurred since we were able to discuss this matter this morning. At the conference that assembled this morning were Mr Garland, a member of the House of Representatives, and a Mr Medcalf, who is a member of the Legislative Council and was representing Mr Grayden, the State Minister.
– Oh, they all got into the act?
– There were 4 members of unions or representatives of unions. Is not Senator Georges interested in this matter?
– Yes. I am interested in it.
-Well, let me finish. The unions represented were the Clerks Union, the
Musicians Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Airline Salaried Officers Union. Also present was Mr Keith Dowding- I do not know why he was there- the president of the Guild of Undergraduates, Messrs Johnson and Badger, and several others. Those are the only names I have been able to ascertain in the time available. Also in attendance was a host of Press men estimated by Mr Medcalf, who spoke to me, as being as many as fifteen. This was the small intimate gathering at which this young man would be able to indicate in a private atmosphere what his innermost feelings were, without the pressures of a public service gathering. This was the nature of the gathering which assembled. But absent from the conference were some very notable people indeed, namely Mr Ermolenko or any of the Russians.
– I take a point of order, Mr President. My point of order is that these people on the Opposition who express such a tender hearted regard for the interests of the young man in question should at least pronounce his name correctly.
– I take a point of order.
-I shall continue to pronounce the name as I have been doing.
– I object, in parliament terms, to being described by theonourable senator as ‘those people’ opposite. We are all honourable senators in this place and we should be described as we are.
– Absent from the conference was the young gentleman Russian violinist, whose name Senator James McClelland can pronounce so much better than I can, and the Russian embassy official Professor Alexandroff. The conference was informed by Mr Henne of the Department of Foreign Affairs that Ermolenko did not wish to appear. Mr Henne said that he had arranged that Ermolenko would attend a conference which would be attended by Mr Henne, 2 Russians, one of whom presumably was Alexandroff and we do not know who the other one was, and 2 union officials who would be selected by this large gathering assembled. Only 2 union officials from that whole gathering were to represent the group at this conference.
– How many would you want?
– Why would unions only be represented at this conference? In particular, what would be wrong with the attendance of the people who were Ermolenko ‘s friends who had been particularly concerned with his own wishes and intentions, namely the Reverend Mr Johnson and Mr Badger. Not unnaturally this conference that the Minister had been at pains to set up in Perth broke up in complete disarray. The members of the conference refused to accept any such arrangement as being in any way satisfactory to them or as indicating in any way that this young man would be able to express his true wishes and have those wishes conveyed with any degree of satisfaction to the various people and groups of people who expressed such great concern about the matter.
The reason we are particularly concerned and the reason we have moved this motion this evening to suspend the Standing Orders is that the matter is one of very great urgency indeed. We did not bring on an urgency motion this morning because we had asked questions and the Minister had indicated what was happening. In fact a very different state of affairs now exists. This matter has not been handled by the Minister in the way he told us it would be. Who is responsible for that? I do not know. We are not suggesting that the Minister or anybody in particular is responsible for it. The fact of the matter is that it is an attempt to satisfy a concern that is felt very greatly by many people, certainly in Western Australia and I believe throughout the whole nation. The circumstances of this case are being conveyed by the media to the whole nation, and I am sure that very grave concern will be expressed everywhere in Australia, as it certainly is being expressed in Perth. The people who are concerned with this matter in Perth, as I have said, are not only those people who have befriended this young man and whom he has taken as his friends- in particular, I mention again the Reverend Mr Johnson and Mr Badger, and also the Reverend Mr Borthwick -
- Mr Borthwick.
-Is he not the Reverend Mr Borthwick? I believe he is. He is a lecturer in philosophy at the university. A number of students also have become his friends. These people are concerned about the matter. The matter has been taken up by the Guild of Undergraduates. Its president, Mr Parker, has been very active in expressing his concern about the matter. A number of unions have expressed a great deal of concern. Indeed, four of them were represented at the conference. In addition, of course, the Press has shown very great interest in the matter. I am told that throughout a good part of last night and all day today the foyer of the
Parmelia Hotel has been as crowded as an airport is when a number of planes are about to depart or even as crowded as a railway station.
As I said, there is this very grave public concern, which we certainly share, as to the true attitude and wishes of this young man. He has made known his views as clearly as he possibly could to a number of completely independent people. The Reverend Mr Johnson and Mr Badger have sworn affidavits which have been filed in the Supreme Court, and it is copies of those affidavits which have been sent to me and to which I have been referring in the course of my remarks here this evening. These people have indicated on oath, as clearly as they could, their own deep conviction that this young man wished to remain in Australia until he disappeared into the bowels of the Parmelia Hotel with Professor Kabalevsky at 1 1 o’clock yesterday morning. As I said, since 11 o’clock yesterday morning he has not been seen; nor has he been spoken to, except in the company of the Russian Embassy official, Ale.xandroff. As the Minister said this morning, it is perfectly proper that an Embassy official should be enabled to see him and speak to him; we would wish to do the same if a similar situation arose in respect of an Australian citizen in Russia. No doubt it is a perfectly reasonable request. But is it reasonable that the man should be in the constant company of and be constantly attended by the Russian Embassy official, Alexandroff, since 1 1 o’clock yesterday morning? Is it reasonable that he should not be given any opportunity to confer again alone with the people with whom he had become friends, to whom he had bared his soul and to whom he had made it perfectly clear that he wished to remain in Australia These people, as I have said, have sworn affidavits. They are perfectly independent people.
– Will you table copies of those affidavits?
– I am prepared to table them. The affidavits have been lodged in the Supreme Court and copies of them have been forwarded to my colleague, Senator Chaney, in a telex message from the solicitors acting for the young man. I am perfectly prepared to table that telex message. The affidavits look perfectly authentic. What I have are said to be copies of the affidavits filed in the Supreme Court proceedings by the Reverend Lance Johnson and Mr Harold Badger, and there are also affidavits by the solicitors who were concerned with serving the process.
– You will table them?
-I am quite prepared to table them, but I must put on the caveat that they are only in the form of a telex message. I do not have -the actual affidavits. I have no reason to believe that these are not perfectly authentic. They can be checked.
Our concern is as to the way matters are developing. I believe that this afternoon a meeting has taken place- perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us something more about it- between two of the union secretaries and a Mr Michael Edgley. I am not sure whether Mr Ermolenko was present or whether he was represented by people appearing on his behalf. One of the 2 union officials is Mr Cowles, the West Australian Secretary of the Transport Workers Union. I am not sure that the citizens of Western Australia would be prepared at the moment to rely on anything that Mr Cowles said as he and his colleagues in the previous week held the State up to ransom. The other union official, Mr Bluck of the Musicians Union, attended with Mr Michael Edgley, a well known entrepreneur who brings out to Australia Russian troupes, circus performers and so on. One of his major business activities is to bring out Russian performers to Australia. These 3 people have now cleared Mr Ermolenko as expressing the desire to return to Russia; in other words, they support the views that the Minister relayed from his officer, Mr Henne.
We come back to the point to stress it again and again. The Government has not seen fit to ensure that this young man has an opportunity of a discussion free from the influence of the Russian Embassy official, an opportunity to talk with men of goodwill who have been his friends and to whom he has, as I have said, indicated his wish to remain in Australia. Any interview that has taken place with this young Russian since 1 1 o’clock yesterday morning has been in the company of the Russian Embassy official. This is a most urgent matter because Ermolenko could be whisked out of Australia this evening on a plane leaving Perth, I understand, at 8 o clock Perth time. Only urgent action by the Government, and in particular by the Minister for Foreign Affairs can, in these circumstances, prevent this event taking place before this young man has been able really to indicate free of any influence whatsoever what his real intentions are, whether he really wants to return to Russia or to remain in Australia. We believe that this is the very minimum to be expected of the Government. That is the reason for the motion- to ensure that those conditions are satisfied before Ermolenko is whisked out of Australia in company with Russian officials.
- Senator Durack, will you seek leave to table the documents to which you have referred?
– Yes, I seek leave.
-Is leave granted? There being no objections, leave is granted. A seconder for the motion is required.
– There are 29 of us.
– Which name is to appear on the record?
– Put the 29 of us down.
- Mr President, I can understand perfectly the attitude of people who are genuinely concerned about this very sad and emotive situation. I have lived with it more closely than anybody else from about 6 o’clock to midnight last night and throughout today. I can understand that each and every one of those genuine people believes that he could do very much better than I have done. That is natural. One can only do his very best in the circumstances. I do not know of anything more that could have been done. I hope not to follow Senator Durack into the supposedly sinister aspects of innocent actions that he has raised because this is an emotive issue. It is emotive by its very nature and because of the history of events in Australia several years ago. It is a doubly emotive issue because it is happening on the other side of the continent, in Perth which is fairly isolated geographically. I have sympathy for those genuine people. I can understand if they disagree with me and if they think that they could have done very much better than I have done.
I have very little regard- in fact I have profound contempt- for certain people in Australia who obviously have been trying to climb on to the bandwagon. They have let their emotions run away with them and have very deliberately struck at the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with which we have diplomatic relations. They have placed a sinister connotation on everything we have done. I do not want to dwell on this point. Senator Durack made great play of the fact that I said this morning that Mr Ermolenko had sought on Monday morning to see the Russian Professor Kabalevsky. The situation was that he was incommunicado on Sunday night. A lot of the Russian Embassy staff were trying to find him and they could not. Everybody now knows that he was at the university. Therefore, had he liked to stay there they could not have found him. But Senator Durack has explained tonight that it was suggested to him that he should go and that Kabalevsky was looking for him. Of course he was. But the point was that he made the approach under the advice of his friends to go and see Professor Kabalevsky. I do not think this is tremendously important except that I do not think there is anything sinister in anything I said this morning. The information I gave was according to the note I had before me. I was flying all day yesterday, and that was the note, as I explained this morning, that was put before me when I arrived at about S o ‘clock yesterday.
Senator Durack has explained what happened at the airport. I do not want to go through that; it is largely correct. Then he came to the question of the meeting this afternoon. I said in answer to a question of his, that 1 did want to keep the meeting small. The fact was that it got very big. Let me assure everybody that I did not tell the Senate that I wanted a small meeting and then run around and organise a big meeting from 2,500 miles away. I did not do that. I wanted it small. I knew that was the only possibility. The reason I selected the people I mentioned to attend is that they were the people who had shown up at the airport and were showing an interest in this case. I repeat what I said this morning: There has been only one thing in my mind right from the very start, that is, not only to obtain what this man’s free wish is, but also to show the Australian people as best we can what his wishes are.
I know that if we have him swearing on a stack of bibles a lot of people will not accept that he will not be whisked out of the country, in the words that Senator Durack used, that he is not under duress and all this sort of thing. I know it does not matter what we do, a large number of people have already made their minds up that that is what will happen. The meeting did get too big this afternoon. It was not my fault. I do not know why it happened. A lot of people butted in. Mr Garland was not invited but he turned up and so did a lot of other people. Members of the Press, who had already rung my office and complained of the fact that I said they could not go, evidently, as I find out from Senator Durack, did turn up. There is nothing we can do about that. In any event, Mr Ermolenko refused to go to the meeting and Mr Henne suggested as a compromise that the 2 union officials who had been at the airport and who had been the cause of putting the black bans on the aeroplanes, should be the people to talk to him and if they were convinced they would convince others because they were the crucial people who had the black ban on the aircraft. It is strange that Senator Durack should speak derogatorily of Mr Cowles in this regard. Mr Cowles has been leading a very big strike in Perth. Anybody who leads a big strike naturally attracts the ire of many people and he has been under all sorts of cross fire. But if it were not for Mr Cowles, this man would have been out of the country last Monday night.
– What about the clerks union?
-The clerks union? But Mr Cowles is the man of the Transport Workers Union. He was doing what you people want to do. He was on your side and yet you turn around and speak derogatorily of him tonight when he achieves something.
– What about your side?
-I do not quite get the point of that interjection. But the Opposition people wanted to hold up the departure and Mr Cowles was one of the prime movers in holding it up.
– I thought you said the departure was held up because the visas were not right.
– That was the information I had. But if the visas had been OK it is obvious that the union would not have let the plane go that night. Do not try to waffle over this situation. I was informed that British Airways would not carry these people because their visas were out of order. But additional to that, even if the airline would have carried them, it was quite obvious that the unions were going to pull a strike on that night. Now that is a matter of fact. It is so obvious, why should we argue about it? I see nothing sinister in the fact that the meeting failed this afternoon. I tried because it was the only way I could think of last night to bring this matter to a head and to give this man a chance to make a statement. The meeting failed because a lot of people butted in. Even if those people had not butted in perhaps it would have failed anyway. The unions were asked to come to the meeting but those who were attending the meeting said that that was not on.
Later in the day, as Senator Durack has said, Mr Bluck of the Professional Musicians Union of Australia took an interest in the matter. He had not been in the picture so far as I know until then, but naturally he had an interest as he was the Secretary of the musicians union. Mr Michael
Edgley, a very well known businessman throughout Australia, as were his father and uncle before him, came into the picture. He was probably one of the first people to bring Russian entertainers to Australia. He did so, I think, before the last World War. I am not sure when he started to do so but certainly he has been bringing Russian entertainers to Australia for many years. Mr Michael Edgley is a very capable and likeable young man and he has taken an interest in this matter. Mr Cowles, an officer of my Department, and Mr Karl Henne went to the meeting as it was about to start. The Opposition has been insisting that no member of the Russian Embassy be present at such a meeting, and that was what happened. The interview with Mr Ermolenko was carried out not in the presence of any Russians. The only people -
– Where were his friends?
-I do not know where his so-called friends were, the people to whom the honourable senator is referring. The Opposition is taking 2 people out of the community and saying: ‘This is what we want’. The fact is that these people set up a meeting to talk to Mr Ermolenko. They were there for at least an hour. The report I was given indicates that they crossexamined him, questioned him and kept him for an hour. Mr Cowles, one of the people who has been a prime mover in keeping Mr Ermolenko here, and Mr Bluck, a man I know particularly well- a capable and a very well-balanced manand Mr Michael Edgley who is certainly known to me and I think is probably known to most of us, were completely satisfied that Mr Ermolenko wanted to leave Australia. Because of that the unions lifted the black ban. A statement was made to the public in Western Australia by the people who attended that meeting indicating that they were completely satisfied. The meeting held earlier today was held without an official from the Russian Embassy being present. The only other person present was an interpreter of their own. They are the facts. I know that no matter what happens a lot of people will say that he should not be whisked out of the country. Senator Murphy referred to this matter earlier today. What is the Opposition seeking to do by introducing its motion? It is a most offensive motion. What the Opposition is assuming and hinting at all through its motion is that there will be duress and improper pressures placed on Mr Ermolenko. The Opposition has said that the Government should prevent pressures being brought down on Mr Ermolenko by officials of the Russian Embassy. Why do not Opposition senators say that the Government should prevent duress and pressure being brought on Mr Ermolenko by anybody? What the Opposition is saying is that if in some way we can get Mr Ermolenko away from his own countrymen and away from his own Embassy for 24 hours he might come to some sort of a decision. I ask honourable senators opposite one question: What would be their attitude if I agreed to that being done with an Australian in Moscow? They would have my head down on the carpet. Members of the Opposition would say. ‘What sort of concern is that- that the Government would let an Australian be treated in that way in Russia or in any other country?’ And their concern would be quite justified. What happened today was that Mr Ermolenko withdrew himself and the matter was discussed for more than an hour. The Opposition is saying that the Russian Embassy is going to put undue pressures, duress and improper pressures on him- and all the rest of it- but nobody else in Australia would even think of doing anything like that. What sort of position does the Opposition think it is putting the Russian Embassy in here?
Reverse the procedures. If an Australian was in Moscow in similar circumstances and I, as Foreign Minister, agreed to his remaining there in similar circumstances, what would the Opposition’s attitude be? We would hear howls from the four corners of Australia. This has been a difficult exercise. It has been harrowing. I can understand people becoming very emotive about it. Unfortunately Senator Durack, in what otherwise was a reasonable speech, talked about the sinister aspect of a lot of people attending the meeting and all those things which were probably on all the time. It was an honest attempt on my part to bring about what the Opposition and all Australians desire. I return to this point: I, on behalf of the Government, had only one thing in mind, and that was that this young man of 18 years of age should state what he wanted and that his decision should be carried out. I have not been interested in getting headlines. I have not been interested in making this into a political battle. I have not been interested- unfortunately some people have- in using it as an attempt to strike at a country which has very different standards from ours.
In all such matters of foreign affairs we have difficulty in dealing with countries which look at things in a different way from the way in which we look at them. Australia ‘s strength is that it can do those things. Because of our geographical situation we must learn to do so with people of different cultures and different ways from our own. In the past few days officers of my Department have had talks with officials from the Russian Embassy. We have been able to keep these talks on an even keel, in spite of the very broad differences and the emotions which have been welling up between us. People have been trying to put a sinister motive into these talks and exacerbate the situation between the 2 nations. I do not charge all members of the Opposition with trying to do that. I do not charge any particular group. Some people have tried to do so. If the cap fits, wear it. We have tried to do only one thing.
The motion states that we should prevent this man from leaving the country. He has every right to return to his homeland. What right has the Australian Government to take the troops out or use strong arm tactics and to say that for no reason at all he should stay, that because we do not like something about the matter we will stop him from going? That would put us in an impossible situation. There is no legal reason why these people cannot leave the country. There is no industrial reason, because the unions have been convinced that this man, of his own free will, wants to return to his homeland. The black ban has been lifted. I assume that he will be going whenever accommodation can be arranged for him.
- Mr President -
- Mr President -
– I thought the arrangement was for one speaker from each side, and that was the finish.
– There was no arrangement.
-Then, Mr President, I have the call.
- Mr President, I rise to a point of order.
- Senator Sim, do you wish to speak to the motion?
- Mr President, if Senator Sim wishes to speak, the Government does not intend to stand in his way. As far as the Government is concerned, there was no arrangement. A certain proposition was put by Senator Withers in a conversation with Senator Hall. A matter having been raised- we believe that it is a serious matter because of the manner in which it has been raised- the Government believes that it is entitled to deal with the matter which has been moved by Senator Durack and the Government intends to deal with the matter.
– I thought that the Government wanted to deal with its legislation.
-Apparently the Opposition does not want to debate the matter. I thought that it was a matter of great urgency which had to be debated. Apparently Senator Webster does not want to hear about it now. I thought he was so consumed with his newly found passion for civil liberties which we had never detected previously that like St Paul on the road to Tarsus -
– It was the road to Damascus.
– I beg your pardon, the road to Damascus. I have been confused by the references to the Reverend somebody, not the Reverend Mr somebody, which we have been hearing this evening. With the enthusiasm which St Paul apparently found on the road to Damascus, I would have thought that Senator Webster would have been anxious to hear some explanation of what the Government has done about this matter, which the Government has taken very seriously indeed. I may say, Mr President, that I spent a large part of last night with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) and officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs trying to work out what would be the best way to handling a very difficult problem with which we had been presented. I must say that if the Opposition had really been concerned about the fate of this man and had not been concerned only with making cheap political capital at his expense it would have come to the Government and offered suggestions as to how it believed this matter should have been handled instead of waiting to go off at the last moment in order to try to discredit the Government and to place this man in a bad situation as far as his own country is concerned. But did we hear one suggestion from the members of the Opposition? We did not hear one suggestion from any member of the Opposition. The reason that I became involved in this matter -
– You are being terribly defensive.
- Senator Withers now finds it funny. We know how seriously he takes this matter. He finds it funny now because Opposition senators have found it funny all the way along. They thought this was an opportunity to discredit the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Government. They could not care less about the fate of Mr Ermolenko or about the relations between this country and the Soviet Union.
– That is what you are worrying about.
– Yes, we are concerned about our relations with the Soviet Union and we are concerned about the fate of Mr Ermolenko. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) finds this matter so hilarious. If only this debate were being televised so that the people could hear some of the righteous indignation which has been offered by the Opposition tonight and see the big grin on the Leader of the Opposition’s face and hear the chuckles coming from the Leader of the Opposition, who said he was so concerned about this matter, they might really appreciate the real role of the Opposition on this question. However, how did this matter arise and how was I brought into it? I was brought into it because I was approached by members of the Australian Labor Party who not only were among those who played the first role in trying to prevent Mr Ermolenko being forcibly removed from this country, if that were the case, -
– If that were the case- and I believe it may well be the case.
– Oh! Is that what was happening?
-That was a brilliant interjection. The people who initially took the action on this matter are members of the Australian Labor Party. Mr Cowles of the Transport Workers Union, to whom Senator Durack has referred churlishly this evening, was one of the people who organised the major demonstration at the Perth airport last night. It was Mr Cowles and the Transport Workers Union who decided to declare black any plane leaving Australia which might have been carrying Mr Ermolenko. But I gather that, despite that, Senator Durack would still think this was some part of some subtle Russian plot to which Mr Cowles and the Transport Workers Union were parties. Senator Willesee is correct in what he says for, as it turned out, British Airways took the position that the visas for Singapore which were in the possession of Mr Ermolenko were invalid. But had that not been the case it would have been Mr Cowles and the Transport Workers Union who would have prevented Mr Ermolenko from leaving this country, not the grinning Senator Withers or Senator Durack or any of those others who have been speaking tonight.
The issue which was raised was of great importance to members of the Australian Labor Party. There were other people involved as well, but the people who played the leading role in this were members of the Transport Workers’ Union and the secretary of the union, Mr Cowles, who is a member of the Australian Labor Party. One of the leaders- I do not know what his title is- of the Guild of Undergraduates of the University of Western Australia, who is a member of the State Executive of the Labor Party, was one of those who issued instructions that proceedings be taken to prevent Mr Ermolenko being taken out of Australia. The solicitor who acted for Amnesty International is a member of the Australian Labor Party. The Secretary of the World Council of Churches, whose presence apparently puzzled Senator Durack, is also a member of the Australian Labor Party.
– I will bet he is.
– He is. I am glad that Senator Webster has bet that he is. For once he would win a bet. They are the people who raised this matter. They were concerned about the fact that there could be a deprivation of this man’s civil liberties. My record on civil liberties is a perfectly clear one. I have objected to American intervention in Vietnam and Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. I believe that civil liberties are indivisable. I have always taken that position. I am not going to apologise to anybody. Nobody has heard me defending any Soviet denial of civil liberties to anyone and I am not going to do it tonight. I am not going to allow Senator Durack or anybody else to say that I ever have because I have never supported in any way, nor has my Party, the deprivation of civil liberties in any country. We have not been selective about it.
– Haw, haw!
- Senator Webster says ‘haw, haw’. I would like to hear what contribution the grinning Senator Webster has to make to the debate. He finds the fate of Mr Ermolenko a matter for such hilarity and humour. The fate of Mr Ermolenko is just another joke to him. He could not care less about his fate. This matter was raised by members of the Australian Labor Party because they believed that there had been very clear instances in the past of deprivation of civil liberties by the Soviet Union and because they believed, in the light of the statements which reportedly had been made by and apparently correctly recorded of Mr Ermolenko to various people in Perth- the Sub- Warden of St George’s College and a prominent figure in the musical life of Victoria who happened to be in Perth and whose name I think is Mr Badger-that he had expressed some reluctance to go back to the Soviet Union. A statement was made subsequently in which apparently he said that he did want to go back there. We are not psychic.
I was with Senator Willesee last night when this matter was being discussed. I must confess that neither of us had heard of Mr Ermolenko before that moment. We were presented with the position where somebody had said that he wanted to leave and somebody else said that he did not want to leave. So what did Senator Willesee try to do? He tried to set up a situation whereby everybody, so far as was humanly possible, could be satisfied that the man was making a decision of his own free will and so that we were not a party to the shanghai-ing of somebody to this country. It was arranged that people should be present at a meeting with him and that they should be representatives of the 2 unions which had been most actively involved in the issue- the Transport Workers Union and the Clerks Union- the 2 lawyers who had been instructed to act in the matter, one representing Amnesty International and one representing the Guild of Undergraduates, and that a Liberal Party Minister in the State Government, Mr Grayden, should be present also. It was decided that the Chief Medical Officer in Western Australia also should be present because some allegations had been made by somebody that Mr Ermolenko had been subjected to drugging or sedation, or whatever it was, and Senator Willesee wanted to take the added precaution of having the most responsible medical officer in Western Australia present so that if some drugging or something like that had taken place he would be able to report on it. What on earth else could we do?
– What about Mr Badger and Mr Johnson?
– It may well be that Senator Greenwood is correct and that possibly Mr Badger and Mr Johnson should have been present. I am prepared to accept responsibility, along with Senator Willesee, for their not being there because we discussed the matter at the time and I must confess that it did not occur to me that they should be there. It is not that the matter was raised with Mr Badger and Mr Johnson. It was not that Senator Durack, Senator Greenwood or Senator Withers came along to us and said, ‘I have a useful suggestion. How about having Mr Badger or Mr Johnson there’, and we rejected it. Frankly it did not occur to us. It may well be that it would have been a good idea if they had been there. But is it suggested that the man is in such a psychotic condition that after having been tested to determine whether he had been drugged and it was found that he has not been drugged, and after having present a Liberal Party member of Parliament, a right wing union official, a left wing union official and a representative of the Australian Journalists Association he is still unable to answer the question? I fail to see- maybe I am completely missing the thread- what Mr Badger and Mr Johnson would have been able to add that was not already provided by those who were present.
– They were his friends.
-Senator Greenwood, who is an authority on the subject, said that they were his friends. I dare say that they were his friends. But is Senator Greenwood suggesting that Mr Grayden was hostile, that the 2 unions which had caused the stoppage at the airport were hostile or that the Commonwealth Medical Officer was hostile? Maybe Mr Badger and Mr Johnson should have been there. If there is to be condemnation, I will accept it. Yes, Mr Badger and Mr Johnson would have added to the lustre of the occasion.
The fact is that we did omit to invite Mr Badger and Mr Johnson, but we did invite everyone else of whom we conceivably could think. I can assure the Senate that the arrangements were made in completely good faith. We tried to think of everybody who conceivably could attend the meeting, who could have some interest in the matter or who had people who were associated with the question, without at the same time making the meeting too large. But, as it happened, the meeting did become too large, for whatever reason.
- Mr Garland was there.
- Mr Garland went and apparently 15 journalists also turned up. I do not think that Senator Durack is really interested in seriously finding out what we tried to do. But this is what we did. Apparently, for whatever reason, Mr Ermolenko said that he would not attend the meeting. I do not know why Mr Ermolenko did not attend the meeting with these people. Apparently it is suggested that in some way or other he is being unduly influenced, improperly influenced or stood over by Professor Kabalevsky and Mr Alexandroff.
I know of Professor Kabalevsky only through his music. He certainly is one of the leading Russian composers. I suppose he is one of the leading composers in the world. He was a very distinguished guest in this country. I think that one of the incidental tragedies of this whole matter has been the unfortunate conclusion to the congress of the International Society of Music Education which took place in Perth. It was a very great achievement ibr Australia for the congress to have been held in Perth and it is something of which the people of Perth can be very proud. The holding of the congress in Perth was a very considerable advance in the music and cultural life of this country, It certainly is very unfortunate that this is the note on which it has ended. But the fact of the matter is that Professor Kabalevsky is an extremely distinguished guest in this country. I have heard all sorts of innuendos, allegations and implied allegations about Professor Kabalevsky. But I have not heard or seen one shred of evidence to support them. Senator Greenwood probably has an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation file on Professor Kabalevsky written by some musical snooper. But the fact is that there is not one shred of evidence that in any way Professor Kabalevsky has been behaving improperly.
What are we to say if we carry out the terms of the motion before us? Is it being said that we are forcibly to separate Mr Ermolenko from Professor Kabalevsky and Mr Alexandroff, the cultural attache at the Soviet Embassy who happens to be in Perth at present? Is it said that we should forcibly separate them?
– If necessary.
- Senator Sim says: ‘If necessary’. I appreciate Senator Sim’s sincerity and I do not believe that he is trying to make cheap capital out of this matter. But how are we to carry out the terms of the motion? Can Senator Sim envisage the possibilities of what we are doing? Mr Ermolenko, Professor Kabalevsky, Mr Alexandroff from the Soviet Embassy and various others including Mr Henne, the Foreign Affairs officer in Perth are in a room in the Hotel Parmelia in Perth. They are told that a meeting is going on downstairs which Mr Ermolenko is invited to attend so that people who are concerned on his behalf- admittedly Mr Johnson and Mr Badger were not there- and who have shown quite positively that they are very concerned can be told what he wants to do. Mr Ermolenko says that he does not want to go down and talk to them; that apparently he wants to stay with either or both Professor Kabalevsky and Mr Alexandroff.
Are we supposed to send police in there and drag him down? Are we supposed to send police in there and evict Professor Kabalevsky and Mr Alexandroff from the room? What can we do about it? Surely all we can do is to go to the man and say: ‘There are people down here who are interested in your case, who have understood that you cannot leave the country and who want to discuss the matter with you’. That is all we can do, is it not? Can anyone explain to me what else we can do? We cannot arrest Professor Kabalevsky.
– You can try to stop him from being sent to the Gulag Archipelago.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack says: ‘Try to stop him from being sent to the Gulag Archipelago’. I would not want to see somebody sent to the Gulag Archipelago, but would I suggest how we stop him from being sent to the Gulag Archipeligo if that is where he voluntarily wants to go? What are we supposed to do if we go into the room the three of them are there and Mr Ermolenko says that he does not want to leave the other two and go down to the meeting? I am open to correction, and someone might explain to me what we are supposed to do about it, but I am completely at a loss to know what to do. All I can say about this matter is that for many hours last night Senator Willesee and I and various others tried to think of the best possible means that we could provide so that not only Mr Ermolenko would have an opportunity of making a free and open decision as to whether he wanted to stay or whether he wanted to leave but also all those concerned would be aware of it Does anybody think that Senator Willesee and I are trying to curry favour with the Democratic Labor Party secretary of the Federated Clerks Union whom we wanted to be present; that we have some debts of gratitude that we have to pay to Mr Grayden, a Liberal Minister in Western Australia? It was our suggestion that they ought to be there. What more could we do? We believe we have done as much as we can. At the moment the information apparently is that the actions which are before the Supreme Court have not been withdrawn and that apparently the Federated Clerks Union has continued to impose a ban on the flight which is leaving Australia, so it appears that it will not be until at the earliest tomorrow that the party will be leaving Australia.
– The Clerks Union took the effective action.
-Senator Durack says that the Clerks Union took the effective action. He is still churlishly saying that Cowles and the
Transport Workers Union had nothing to do with it. Is that the point he is trying to make? If that is the point he is trying to make, that Cowles and the Transport Workers Union had nothing to do with it, I suggest that that is just not true. I challenge Senator Durack to say that it is true. That seems to be a clear implication. He is so used to wallowing in the mire and he is so used to the stereotypes of the little old ladies in white tennis shoes that he thinks Cowles must be a Russian spy because he leads an industrial action and he refuses to believe that Cowles has taken, at cost to his own members, who have already been subject to all sorts of scurrilous abuse, action to prevent a man, who as it would appear, is perhaps being involuntarily taken back to a country to which he did not want to go. The position at the moment is that the man is still in Australia.
We believe, and we believe it quite unashamedly, that there are two important factors involved in this matter. The first, and for my own case I believe it is the more important, is to decide whether or not Mr Ermolenko does wish to leave this country or not. Certainly the Soviet Union is a country which is singularly short on civil liberties. It is not a country to which I as a member of any government would want to be a party in forcibly sending someone, although at the same time I believe it would be totally improper to prevent somebody from going there if he wanted to return there. But the other issue is the question of our relations with the Soviet Union. They are important. I believe in this case that is a subordinate matter to the matter of this individual’s freedom, but it is not an unimportant matter; it is not a joke; it is not a laughing matter. Certainly we believe that by offering the facilities to Mr Ermolenko which we did offer we did everything that we can conceivably do to see that he is given the opportunity of making up his own mind. But at the same time, if we were to do the sorts of things which are clearly implied if not expressly stated in the tabled documents, that somehow we should forcibly separate this man from Professor Kabalevsky -
– Why not try a request that they disembarrass the young man from withdrawing?
-That may well have been tried. Senator Wright asks why we do not try a request that they disembarrass the man by withdrawing. I do not know whether it was put to them in that form. I was not there. I agree with Senator Wright that this is a sensible suggestion. But certainly I think it is implicit in what happened that Mr Ermolenko was invited to go down and meet the interested persons concerned. To the best of my knowledge Professor Kabalevsky and Mr Alexandroff were not invited to go down and meet Mr Ermolenko. The Minister for Foreign Affairs assures me of this. Although I think it is a sensible proposition that Senator Wright has put forward, it seems to me that surely one is doing almost that in asking Mr Ermolenko to go down separately from the other 2 persons, because they were not invited down. If he had volunteered to come down, obviously they would have been out of his presence.
The position is that the man will still be here for some more hours. The Government is continuing to try to find out what it is that he actually wants to do. The motion which is before the Senate -
– It is a disgraceful motion.
-Senator Poyser says that it is a disgraceful motion. It is not one which is helpful to the man in question. It is quite callous about his feelings. If members of the Opposition believe the things which they say, and which I certainly believe in part, about the nature of the political system in the Soviet Union, they should realize that what they are doing is placing this man in a position which, if he does now go back into the Soviet Union after this sort of thing, the position will be very serious for him.
– That shows the price of freedom.
– There is a lack of freedom in the Soviet Union. I am not denying that. I am not here to defend the Soviet Union. I thought that if the honourable senator were aware of that he might have been rather cautious of jeopardising the position of somebody who lived within that society. That is what we have tried to do. It would be monstrous if a motion like this were carried. It does not help the situation in any way. The Government is prepared to listen to any propositions which are put forward on this question in a manner which is intended to be helpful. But we do not believe that either the maintenance of Australia’s diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, which are important, or even more importantly the preservation of this person’s life and liberty are served in any way by this disgraceful motion which has been moved this evening.
– There seems to be a very great lack of information at the base of the question, namely, why does this gentleman want asylum in Australia and on what basis does he claim it, if he claims it?
-He has not.
– I do not contend against the remark of Senator Button. I am taking the view as put by the Opposition that he might want to -
– Read the affidavits.
– The senator has given no reason to the Senate except that he might like to stay here.
– Read the affidavits.
-I have not had a chance to read the affidavits. I am speaking on the information that the Opposition has or has not given to the Senate. I take it that this is how 90 per cent of honourable senators view this debate. I do not know the reasons for which this person wants to stay in Australia, if he does want to do so.
– The reasons are not in the affidavits.
-They are not before the Senate in any verbal form. That raises many conjectures. I understand that there are Austalian citizens outside Australia whom Australian forces would like to get back into Australia. There are other occasions upon which Australian citizens have journeyed overseas in the service of their country and would not have been allowed to leave the service of their country. As a State member of Parliament I personally have been involved with 3 cases of Greek citizens who jumped Greek ships. In each case, the police forces of Australia were hounding them to arrest them and deport them. I may say that through the good offices of certain people, two of these people were allowed to stay but the third one was deported. There are all sorts of reasons why people might be given sanctuary in Australia and all sorts of reasons why they might not be given it. I do not know whether this gentleman entered into any contract. Perhaps they do not have such contracts in the Soviet Union. Therefore, the whole factor is that there is no information except that a man might want to stay here in Australia. I believe that the Government has answered fairly lucidly the charges very weakly put against it in this debate. So I state that no case has been put for the motion moved in the Senate which quite rightly is in authoritarian terms. It states that he be not permitted to leave Australia until such time as he has had an opportunity for 24 hours at least to discuss the matter with friends and advisers. If the situation is resolved in the next hour or twowho knows; perhaps it is already resolved- or if it is about to be resolved and if this motion were carried and implemented, we would perhaps open the way for the position to be divided again and for it to become another point of contention. So there is just no information upon which to pass this motion, except the information as given by Senator Durack.
– Is that not sufficient?
– No, it is not sufficient. I should like to know what distinguishes this man from other people who would like to stay in Australia but are not allowed to do so. A further reason for my rising tonight is not to add to the general wisdom, which is at a very low level from this side of the chamber, in this debate but simply to say to Senator Wright and all his fierce compatriots who obviously are trying to revive another Petrov affair from a baseless situation- certainly baseless at this time -
– You sound like a schoolmaster.
– The junior senator who interjects is the reason why I am on my feet, because his colleagues and members of his Party in South Australia would be the first to say, as I voted against this motion tonight, that Senator Hall is a communist. Already in South Australia a list is circulating- it comes from the junior senator’s Party in South Australia- naming -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. What has this to do with the motion before the chamber? I consider that calling Senator Hall a communist or anything of that nature has nothing to do with it.
– Order! I ask Senator Hall to connect his remarks to the subject matter before the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr President. I had indicated that the Opposition had presented no real facts to support its claim for the passage of this motion. I had continued to say, on a rather personal note, that another reason for my speaking was to obviate obvious claims which would come from Senator Jessop ‘s Party in South Australia that I was allied with communists for voting against this motion. I was about to elucidate for honourable senators the fact that there is already a list being prominently featured in South Australia- a list prepared by members of his Party- showing how often Senator Hall has voted with the Labor Party and how often with this side of the chamber. That is the level of politics on this side. It has been reduced to one of the lowest levels I have seen in any
House of Parliament. If members from this side press on with this motion -
– Order! I ask Senator Hall to be not provocative but to restrict his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
-Mr President, I am so easily provoked by the junior senator. The situation is as I have stated. I state clearly on behalf of the people who have elected me why I will vote against the Opposition’s motion if it is taken to a vote. I believe the Opposition should not take it to the vote. If it is taken to a vote I will vote against it because the Opposition has not supported it with facts. The Government has explained its position in this matter and there is not the slightest reason to use these tactics further in a delicate matter of international relations. Australia has for some considerable time recognised the Soviet Union and it should be enabled to continue its relationship with the Soviet Union in the best possible manner. It is not correct for the Opposition to manufacture a position which does not currently exist. If such a situation exists tomorrow or at some future date the Opposition could fairly claim to extend the width of its argument but on what is known tonight it cannot fairly claim to ask for support for this motion.
– I am absolutely amazed that Senator Hall should say that we should sacrifice the liberty and maybe the life of an individual to maintain good relations with the Soviet Union. If that is the depth of his view, then we should treat him with complete contempt. Senator Durack raised this matter in a very restrained manner. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) replied, I believe, in a restrained manner. We could have done without the flamboyant speech from my friend Senator Wheeldon who at least recognised, in reply to one of my interjections, that I was sincere in this matter. The Minister for Foreign Affairs referred to the fact that many genuine people are concerned for the fate of this young man. I believe that the Minister will recognise I am one of the genuine people who are concerned. I had discussions with Senator Willesee last night and I will acknowledge that he is one of the genuine people concerned.
– I do not accept that.
– I accept that he is. I think we should start on this basis: It is a non-political issue. This is proved by the fact that Mr Cowles from the Australian Transport Workers Union is involved in this matter. No one would say that he is a Liberal supporter. The Rev. Dowding is involved- and he is not a Liberal supporter.
Other unions are involved. Some university undergraduates are involved and I do not think their president is a Liberal. There are many people right across the political spectrum who are concerned about the rights of this young man, and this is the only matter in which we should be interested. Flamboyant speeches do not help this young man or his future.
We have to be very careful that our emotions do not run away with us. This is a difficult problem and all such problems are difficult. I do not accept the view that the motion moved by Senator Durack is offensive or in any way sinister. It merely asks, I believe, for what the Minister wants and what we want- that this young man should not be subject to improper and undue pressures. We aU know the pressures that can be applied by communist countries. I myself have been involved in 2 cases involving people who tried to obtain political asylum. One person was successful and one was not. There is always a doubt as to the motive. One case involved a Polish seaman some time ago who was put into a psychiatric hospital because the captain of his ship declared him to be insane. Finally he was cleared by the efforts of some of us when it was shown that he was quite sane.
– Do you say this is a similar case?
– I am just referring to the type of pressures that can be applied to these people. This raises aU the problems that we face in this particular case. I ignore the interjections from some honourable senators opposite and I talk to the Minister whom I believe is genuine in this matter. I do not talk to those people who want to protect the Russians. I talk to the Minister and only to the Minister or to those people, many of whom are on the Government side, who support him. I say that one of the great problems that we face is to know where the truth lies. Once this person comes into the hands of certain people, whether it be the Russian consul or other people who are involved, and he is isolated from those to whom he originally went and sought residence in Australia- he told them he wished to stay in Australia and he gave the reasons why he wished to stay in Australia and they were not political reasons- he will then come under the pressure of the consul and because his own family is in Russia he will be threatened. The family will be dealt with. We know the pressures he will come under.
– Come on.
– It is of no use Senator Georges yapping about civil liberties. We know all too well the threats that have been made against this young man. All we ask is a simple thing: That this young man be isolated at some stage from the pressures of the Russians, that he be allowed to talk to those to whom he originally went, the Rev. Mr Johnson and Mr Badger, and that he be able freely to make up his mind as to whether he wishes to return to the Soviet Union or remain in Australia. We ask that he be allowed to make up his mind free from intimidation and threats. That is all we ask. Surely those who profess to believe in civil liberties will not deny him that.
– You tried to deny us the right to debate it.
– Do not talk about civil liberties, my friend. All we ask is that this young man be given the opportunity, free from intimidation and threats, to talk to those whom he originally trusted in order to make up his mind as to whether he wishes to remain in Australia or return to the Soviet Union. If he declares that he wishes to return to the Soviet Union, there can be no argument- he has made a free decision. But if he returns to the Soviet Union, without this opportunity being given to him, in company with Professor Kabalevsky, this other character from the Russian Embassy and the others who go with him, no one will know whether he is going back to the Soviet Union of his own free will or whether he is going back under duress.
– Seven witnesses spoke to him.
– You can talk as much as you like, my friend, but never talk about civil liberties again unless you are prepared to admit that this young man is entitled to make up his own mind free of duress. This is all that we ask.
– You do not realise the enormity of what was being proposed to that young 18-year-old. You have not given a thought to that.
Sentor SIM-Who proposed it to him?
– You are only giving a thought to the political advantage that you can get out of this.
-You just stop talking and tell me who proposed this to this 18-year-old. Who did it. Are you charging the Rev. Mr Johnson -
– What are you trying to do? Tell this young lad -
– If you will keep quiet for a minute I will ask you a simple question. Mr President, may I ask him a simple question? Is the honourable senator making the allegation against Mr Badger and the Reverend Mr Johnson that they tried to intimidate this young man?
I am waiting for an answer. I have not heard it. Obviously Senator Georges is not making that allegation. So we can only suppose that this young man made the original decision of his own free will. If that is so, he should make his final decision after hearing the views of his compatriots; he should make his final decision of his own free will. That is all we ask; we ask for nothing else. Senator Wheeldon asked: ‘Well, how do we do it? Do we charge into the suites which no doubt they are occupying in the Parmelia Hotel?’ The simple answer is that before this young man leaves Australia- whether it is at the airport or when he leaves the hotel or wherever it issomebody, either from the Department of Foreign Affairs or from the Commonwealth Police, should take him aside and say: ‘Do you wish to speak to these people whom you originally went to before you leave Australia to declare whether you wish to stay here or whether you do not?’ He must be given that simple opportunity. I would be absolutely amazed if any Government senator denied him the right to express his opinion free from intimidation, coercion and duress. I see Senator Georges putting his hand across his brow in horror. I can only say that I am horrified that Senator Georges, who has risen in this place so often and made frantic appeals about civil liberties, is prepared to deny this young man the right to make a decision free from coercion. If I may appeal to the Minister -
– This is the first time I have heard you talk on a civil liberties issue.
– I have spoken all my life on civil liberties, if the honourable senator only knew it. I appeal to the Minister to provide thus opportunity. That is all the Opposition asks for. We ask for nothing else. There is nothing sinister or offensive in this appeal. It is an appeal that, before this young man leaves Australia, he be able to express his free choice, free from these people. There is no need to tell anybody what could happen with the KGB and all these people and the pressures they bring to bear.
- Senator Georges denies it. Of course he denies it. He talks about the Greek colonels. The Greek colonels have learnt all they know from the Russian KGB. That is where they learnt all their arts of torture and pressure. This is all the Opposition asks for. It is not an unreasonable request. This motion means what it says and nothing else. If this young man leaves this country with the suspicion that he is leaving under duress and that he has not had the opportunity to express his choice freely, it will be shame on this country and greater shame on the Government of this country.
– We have had a lengthy discussion on this subject tonight If the Opposition did nothing else it gave the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) the opportunity to lay down the guidelines which he applies to political refugees. I say that with some feeling because I know from a very apt interjection by my colleague Senator Poyser that double standards are employed. When one mentions anybody from Eastern Europe people’s blood pressure goes up; whereas if one mentions Spaniards, Portuguese or Greeks the Opposition treats them as second class contenders for political refuge. That is the whole attitude that the Opposition adopts. I say that very definitely because, if nothing else emerged from what Senator Willesee said, he pointed out that he had to evaluate the future rights of Australian nationals in a foreign country. Some honourable senators may ask: What does that matter?’ Let me illustrate the plain fact of the matter by giving a typical example of how the Opposition operated when it was in government.
Some 6 years ago there was a boy named John Shorteus living in the electorate of Lowe- the electorate of the former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon. He entered Mexico illegally. He had a lovers’ quarrel and he lay in a gaol m Mexico City for 8 weeks. It was only later- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack would know about it- that I met Dudley McCarthy, our senior ambassador who served in Mexico City, and he admitted to me that he had never had any instructions from the then Foreign Minister about liaison with the civil authorities in Mexico. That is just one case about which the previous Government did not care 2 hoots. In this situation Senator Willesee is looking at the conduct of our ambassadors in every country.
I throw another challenge to the Opposition. Honourable senators opposite should look at the statistics of people to whom they gave political refuge. They need not quote me. They can go back into the files of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and quote a very eminent journalist, Helen Frizell. They will see that the pattern is all one way. Senator Hall rightly made a significant remark about Greek seamen. I speak with an even-handed attitude because I have been equally vocal in relation to Polish seamen and I have even led a Yugoslav delegation to the Soviet Union, as Senator Wheeldon has done, complaining about its excesses. But I will not blind my eye to governments that are so-called anti-communist.
My mind goes back some 4 years to the time when Senator Bishop and I protested about South Korea and its authoritarianism. All we received for out pains was to be called ‘com stooges’. The people who were advocating it were the Methodists and the Catholic Church in Australia and America. This shows the Opposition’s distorted evaluation of these situations. I do not think this matter can be unduly canvassed. Even Senator Sim from Western Australia admitted how difficult it is for Senator Willesee or the officers to evaluate a genuine case. My colleague Senator Georges has been engaged with me in giving some assistance to Cypriots. I have even had a battle with my own Government over the fate of one Cypriot national. After he had been in Australia for a month he became homesick and said ‘Never mind what is happening over there. I feel I should go home’. A like situation could easily arise with regard to this Russian lad.
As a matter of fact I am amazed, in view of the heat generated tonight, at the attitude taken to my knowledge by the British Home Office in similar situations. On one occasion I talked for 3 hours with the then Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan. The British Government at that time advocated an even handed attitude to such cases. The night I met him the British Government was facing the problems of a Spanish student who was rightly afraid to go home to Franco’s Spain, and an East German student who had similar inhibitions about his country. The British Home Office dealt with these problems in a simple manner. Strange as it may seem the British newspapers the next morning carried only 10 short lines about those cases. What irritates the Government is the double standards adopted by the Opposition. Its members claim that thenpassions are inflamed by such cases.
I wind up my speech on this note. Senator Willesee has laid down the guidelines. It might help the Opposition if it knew this fact. I had a conversation with the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) last week. We were looking at possible migrant intake figures and the Minister s words to me were: ‘Well, we must always budget for 2,000 political refugees’. As the Opposition senators will probably ask: Who will they be*? I will remind them that none has conceded tonight to Senator Willesee the fact that, as he told me a fortnight ago, within a week of receiving a request, he permitted entry to Australia of the 2 Hungarian LieutenantColonels who were part of the United Nations
Control Commission in South Korea. Frankly, I felt we were too kind to those people; we have not shown the same consideration to Greeks and Spaniards. But Senator Willesee, out of his sense of fair play , took that action. I will not labour the point. I think that what he has pointed out tonight states the position most definitely. I think he has converted tonight at least one senator from the other side. Rather than waste the time of the Senate, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Durack’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin 0’Byrne’
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 836).
-In addressing my remarks to the Trade Practices Bill I congratulate Senator Everett on his maiden speech in this chamber, although he disclaimed the privileges of someone making a first speech in the parliamentary sense. We welcome his contribution to the Senate and look forward to many more thoughtful speeches from him in this place.
I shall speak mainly to the consumer part of the trade practices legislation. I address my remarks almost exclusively to Part V of the Bill. The fact that the Opposition has indicated a course of action in the other place with regard to this Part is something which I feel needs some explanation in the Australian Senate. We are conscious of the fact that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) found it necessary to contact many organisations in the Australian community, in particular women’s organisations, to seek their support for the consumer protection part of the Bill. He asked them to consult their senators and the media in their States to enable an attitude to develop which would give support to this part of the trade practices legislation.
However, the Opposition has an attitude with regard to consumer laws and consumer protection. Perhaps this is reflected in something which was said by Senator Everett when he referred to party ideology. The Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party have as a fundamental part of our ideology that there are State governments and parliaments with legislative powers which allow them to make laws which relate to matters very close to the people. It is fair to say that in all Australian States a great deal of consumer protection legislation has been passed. No longer do we have in Australia an attitude of caveat emptor- let .the buyer beware. Many attempts have been made and much has been achieved in State legislation in regard to the protection of the consumer.
Referring specifically to the Bill, we have to understand that a vast Commonwealth department would be set up if it were passed and that department would deal exclusively with consumer protection legislation. The fact that this protection already is being provided in the 6 States of Australia, with some success and with the diversity which the various States need, is something which should not be overlooked. Our attitudes, particularly to much of this Bill, need to be referred to in some detail. To suggest that we are not in favour of consumer legislation would be quite erroneous. We are strongly in favour of the provisions in this Bill which relate to consumer protection. We also are in favour of much of the legislation in the various States. But if this Bill were passed we would be adding another set of restrictions and we would add confusion to the laws of the various States. We would add conflict to legislation and this would not necessarily result in any greater protection for the individual Austraiian consumer.
The Opposition does not take exception to the provisions of this Bill; we say that the Commonwealth has a part to play in consumer protection. However it is not the part of the Commonwealth to set up a legislative force which will conflict with the existing State legislation, add confusion to consumers and introduce new litigation in Australia. For instance, we believe that the Commonwealth should have legislation to establish quality standards for consumer products. The Commonwealth has great opportunity in the Territories to introduce legislation that would encourage the States to develop their own consumer protection laws.
– But some of those State consumer protection laws are not comprehensive enough for the protection of consumers.
– But you cannot argue that those that have been introduced into Federal law would in themselves, in isolation, be any greater protection to the individual consumer. This is the point that we are making. It is not that we are against legislation which gives protection to the consumer but we want to see experimentation in consumer protection laws. We want to see diversity where there are differing commercial practices in the States. We want legislation which will give protection to the consumers and not simply impose another set of laws which would add confusion. We suggest that this proposed Commonwealth law will not give any greater protection and for that reason we have many reservations about it. I am not suggesting that we are attempting to obtain uniformity in the States and the Territories; rather we are seeking to close all the gaps that there are in consumer legislation and then, by experimental work and the development of consumer protection, we will have throughout Australia a greater degree of protection than exists at present.
If we are to look more specifically at some of the clauses in this Bill it is only fair also to run through some of the State laws which exist. For instance, we find that there are many State laws that could be related to what is contained in clause 52. If we are talking about clause 53, we find that in New South Wales there is a Consumer Protection Act of 1969 with various provisions with regard to false trade descriptions, false representations, false and misleading advertising and so on.
In Victoria there is the Consumer Protection Act of 1970. When we look at the limitations in the Bill which we are now considering and at the Consumer Protection Act in my State of Victoria, with the whole variety of individual provisions which are needed because of the trade practices in my own State, we realise that the overriding Federal legislation will in no way replace that particular Act and that it will not cover much of the commerical practice which needs to be covered in the area of consumer protection. In Queensland there is the Consumer Affairs Act. In South Australia there is a Misrepresentation Act. In Western Australia there is the Trade Descriptions and False Advertising Act.
– Brought down in 1938, with subsequent amendments.
– That is right The fact that the Act has been in existence there since 1938 shows mat there has been related State legislation dealing with this matter. The fact that it is not complete does not mean that the Federal law which is now introduced will be better for all the States of Australia. In Tasmania there is the Goods (Trade Descriptions) Act Various sections of the Federal legislation are not covered by the Tasmanian legislation. But is this any reason to dismantle the whole of the States’ legislation which applies to consumer protection and simply to substitute what has been designed in Division 5 of this Bill?
If we look at clause 56 we find that other Acts also relate to this provision. For instance there is the South Australian Prices Act of 1948-72. If we look at clause 57 we find that there is legislation to be enacted in New South Wales. In South Australia there is already legislation. I have a summary of related State Acts which would cover, to a very large degree, much of what is included in the Federal legislation.
– Much, but not aU.
– Yes, but parts of the Federal legislation are already covered in the State Acts which cover also matters not covered by the Federal legislation.
– It is only strengthening the States Acts.
– I think perhaps I had better speak in my own way. If Senator Coleman has any comments to make she might be able to make them in the Committee stage. For me to continue an across-the-chamber discussion with the honourable senator would not be the best way in which I could make the points that I feel have to be made about this Bill. I would say that the variety of State Acts which have been introduced at different times and which are in operation cover so many of the practices which are not covered by Division 5 of the Bill that I feel that we are over-simplifying the matter to say that this overriding Division of the Bill would give greater protection to the Australian consumer.
If I were to refer to individual sections I would have to say that clauses 59 and 60 do not have equivalents in State consumer protection legislation and perhaps it could be established that a need exists for these provisions. This does not mean that there are not other forms of legislation under which particular practices could be referred. In considering this part of the Bill I think we should give some attention to it. The fact that misleading statements can be made and coercion can be used at places of residence is important to Australian consumers. In Victoria those particular practices are covered very clearly and closely.
It is important to think that if we are to take care of the individual consumers it must be in a form that is easily within reach of those people. For instance, the provisions of Division 5 are such that any litigation at present would have to go to an industrial court. The fact that the legisation states that a new court which is not yet in operation is the court to which litigation would be referred again raises some question about the provision. The fact that this litigation would need to be referred to the Industrial Court gives rise to another complexity in the legislation.
The interesting aspect that this Bill does introduce into litigation, of course, is that if the trader is a corporation the matter can be dealt with under this Bill, but if the trader happens to be an individual it is possible for the consumer to sue only under State law because this Bill deals only with corporations. I wonder whether honourable senators opposite realise that difficulty which has been introduced. If the trader is a corporation and can be dealt with there will be a choice between suing under State law and suing under Commonwealth law. If the consumer sues under State law the trader will have a constitutional defence- the very defence about which I am talking. He will be able to say that his defence is that the State law is inconsistent with the Federal law. Then one gets into the complexities of legislation which will be the outcome of that sort of controversy.
– It will be a lawyer’s paradise.
– I think that it has to be acknowledged that only corporations are able to be dealt with under this new Trade Practices Bill. Traders who are not corporations will get into the area of State litigation, and so there will be confusion upon confusion. Also, the consumer who is suing will have to bear the cost and will have less access to decision making than is the case under the present variety of State Acts. For instance, at the moment in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria there are provisions for consumer claim tribunals or such provisions are in the course of preparation. I presume that other States also are taking action in this area because we have had a degree of consultation amongst the States in relation to consumer legislation. We have found that, where there has been experimentation in one State, other States are very likely to follow the lead and introduce legislation which gives the same form of protection as has been tried in another State of Australia.
The consumer claims tribunals which have been introduced are a significant development in the field of consumer affairs because these tribunals enable a person who is officially appointed by the Government to have brought before him claims made by members of the public who claim to have been offended or affected by consumer protection decisions and a consumer may go to such a tribunal without legal aid. This is an important development in relation to access to a decision from these consumer claim tribunals, and this again has been developed in the light of a need which has been experienced. The fact that these disputes are able to be settled to the satisfaction of the public without expense is an important aspect of consumer protection. In fact, in some States there is a nominal fee of something like $2 to take a dispute to one of these tribunals.
Again there is a variety of State legislation, such as in respect of small claims tribunals which can deal with many matters that are covered by existing State legislation but to which there would be no access if that State legislation were removed. Under the Constitution of Australia this just would not be possible if the proposed Federal Act as it is presented to us were enacted. Such matters would have to be committed to a Federal court, and that court would have to consist of a person or persons appointed for life, as in the case of all of the Federal courts of Australia. This is a somewhat ridiculous situation when we are talking about a consumer claims court. We ought to be talking about a tribunal consisting of officers who have been appointed to deal with the type of legislation which is needed. This Bill, if it is enacted, will deprive the consumers of that opportunity to have claims referred, because under section 109, the Commonwealth Constitutional position is such that this would no longer be possible.
Although the reasons I have advanced are not complex, they are an explanation of the Opposition’s attitude to that Part of the Trade Practices Bill which deals with consumer protection. We would prefer to think that the Commonwealth would be working closely with the States to improve the legislation where improvement is needed and to show how co-operative legislation amongst the States in the Commonwealth would provide the greatest degree of consumer protection. We think that the sorts of practices that have been developed in the States have shown that all States recognise the needs of the Australian consumer.
It is no longer new to talk of consumer protection or consumer interests. My own interest in this matter has been quite close to me for a number of years. During the 1960s I was a member of a consumer committee of the Victorian Government As long ago as that and far longer ago than that there have been in existence in Victoria the sorts of consumer body of which I was a member. It dealt with all the products that are marketed under State marketing authorities. It was not presented by the Victorian Government as a partisan committee. It had representatives directly from all the major political parties in Victoria. It met, consulted with and advised the Minister on ways in which consumer protection in respect of the products marketed under State Acts could best be handled. Interest in such matters has been developing with me for a very long time. There is no reason to suggest that because I do not see Part V of the Bill as presenting better legislation to cover consumer protection I have any reluctance to see introduced legislation which does just that.
Turning to clauses 62 and 63 in Part V, I wonder whether the Government has taken full note of the retail traders who have brought these matters to the attention of the Attorney-General. I acknowledge that in the new Bill presented to us there have been amendments to clauses 62 and 63, but if we deal with Part V at the Committee stage I will question whether there is some difficulty with regard to the safety and information standards of the products which are covered by these provisions. I am mentioning it now only in case we do not deal with those provisions in detail at the Committee stage. They appear to throw an unfair and impractical responsibility upon retailers. The view was submitted to the Attorney-General, as I understood it, that provision should be made to enable a supplier to issue to a purchaser for resale- that is a retailer- a form of guarantee that the goods supplied conform to specified technical standards or information standards pursuant to clauses 62 and 63. Such a guarantee would then constitute a defence by a retailer in any action for noncompliance with these provisions. It would be understood that a retailer would not be able to verify specified ingredients as to content or proportion in food or drugs, nor would he be able to check the stated net weight of packaged goods, and so on.
It has been acknowledged, for instance in the New South Wales Pure Foods Act, that this type of guarantee is the protection that is required for a retailer to deal with the provisions as set out in clauses 62 and 63. 1 have referred to that aspect simply to acknowledge that there are these difficulties. If a particular course of action is taken when we reach that part of the Bill at the Committee stage I think it is desirable that I place on record my feelings with regard to this aspect. The Victorian Government has said that the Commonwealth legislation would overlap Victoria’s consumer laws in many ways. The consumer laws in Victoria include the banning of pyramid selling and the prohibiting of false or misleading advertising of real property, personal property or services and so on. The variety of State legislation simply would be placed into confusion by the enactment of Part V.
For all of the reasons I have outlined the Opposition will be taking a course of action in regard to Part V which already has been foreshadowed. I want to make it clear that it is not because we oppose consumer protection or the introduction of legislation to ensure that the consumer is protected but simply that we wish to safeguard the rights of State governments, which have in mind the diversity of trade practices in their own States when they are able to place before the people whom they serve with legisation the required consumer protection which is already developing so closely throughout Australia. I make these comments with regard to Part V and indicate that any trade practices legislation which is enacted by the Commonwealth could still be very useful legislation if it allowed the consumer section of trade practices to be left to the Australian States and their State legislative processes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Before I call Senator Missen I remind the Senate that he will be making his maiden speech to the Senate. I hope all senators will extend to him the normal courtesies and that his speech will be free of interjections.
-I thank the House for the opportunity to speak at this stage. I have found one thing in the course of the short period I have been here: One of the most difficult things to do is to make a so-called maiden speech and I think I should take the opportunity when it arises. I should like to join in speaking on the Trade Practices Bill because I believe it is an important Bill and one which will have very significant consequences for the people of Australia. I desire firstly to speak on the subject of the Trade Practices Bill generally and then to add some remarks in respect of the consumer protection provisions of it. It was said today by one speaker that this legislation has had a long gestation period. Though that may have been said in some critical way I do not think it is necessarily a criticism. I believe that legislation of this nature has significant consequences for the people and the industries of the country and consequently should be considered very carefully.
So far as the Bill itself is concerned, I would suggest that this is the end of a process which has developed over the years and which has been the result of some quite excellent legislation in the
East. The present legislation which is before us as already been amended in quite substantial degree in the course of its development. I think that shows wisdom on the part of both sides of the House and I think it will require some further amendment in the course of the Committee stages. We go back to legislation which has now been in existence nearly 10 years. I should like to remind the Senate of the words spoken by Sir Garfield Barwick when he introduced his original proposals. He regarded the objectives as: the maintenance of free enterprise under which citizens are at liberty to participate in the production and distribution of the nation’s wealth plus ensuring competitive conditions which tend to initiate resourcefulness, productive efficiency, high output and fair and reasonable prices to the consumer.
I still believe that these aims are important and significant for legislation at this stage. Earlier today Senator Greenwood referred to the 1973 report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices and various conclusions which he then drew. I think I should read a short passage from the report. The Commissioner said:
The current legislation, which is clearly coming to the end of its time, has nevertheless served a valuable role. Among other things, it has provided an entry into a field substantially untouched for many years. It brought the problems to public and business attention and it becomes a means of moving towards principle and demonstrating the need for further legislation. It is also an important vehicle for the development of constitutional law in this field and beyond it.
Clearly it has developed and the powers which people thought were doubtful when it was originally introduced have now been shown to be greater and consequently stronger legislation can be introduced at this time. In this Bill we are really adopting something more like the American system of controlling restrictive trade practices. I must say that I have always felt that there was probably more merit, generally speaking, in the American system than there was m the rather slower process of dealing agreement by agreement, which has been the process in Australia to this date. I think it may have been wise that we adopted the other measure so that the community became used to the system and used to the fact that it had to register agreements. I think now that it is in fact better that there should be further prohibitions against action so that we may have a quicker means of dealing with restrictive trade practices.
The amendments which have already been foreshadowed by the Opposition will I think improve the legislation. There is validity in the criticism that has been made, that there is a certain lack of evidence in respect of certain practices which are to be outlawed. But no doubt in the course of the working of the legislation cause will be found for further amendment to it. I believe it is probably important to take a fairly strong stand at this time. I should like to quote from one significant reference to the present Trade Practices Bill. It is to be found in the ‘Australian Business Law Review’ which was issued in April of this year. It is an article by Professor Robert Baxt and Professor Maureen Brunt and they make 2 preliminary statements which I think are important. They draw attention to the characteristics of this legislation and they state:
First, its starting point is found in American legislation and practice; but, second, running parallel with this American component of court-enforced competitioncomplementing it, in uneasy tension with it- is an administrative procedure for authorising anti-competitive conduct when found to be ‘in the public interest’. In these two basic characteristics are found both the strengths and the problems of the legislation. They also, incidentally, account for much of its complexity.
Later on page 8 of the report they state:
In the Murphy Bill there is an attempt to demarcate an area of concern for the court of law as an institution and a complementary area for the administrative tribunal that is good. Unfortunately, we believe, the execution of this aim is somewhat faulty.
In that fault there are 4 problem areas which I think are worth recording and which will probably partly be covered by amendments but will partly be problems for the future. The report refers to these 4 areas and lists them as:
American law and Australian judicial/administrative processes than from government policies directed to characteristic problems or the Australian economy.
I think that those criticisms will probably require further consideration but I believe that basically the legislation proposed is sound and, with some amendment, will add to the trade practices legislation and wil provide some teeth for it for the future.
I now turn to the second aspect of the legislation and add some remarks to what Senator Guilfoyle has said about the consumer protection clauses, and the proposals which the Opposition makes to delete them from this Bill. I consider the deletion of these clauses to be constructive in the present circumstances because the Opposition has made its position clear from the start. The Opposition spokesman on consumer affairs for the joint Parties, the honourable member for Wentworth ( Mr Ellicott), on 29 July said:
The Opposition is strongly in favour of consumer protection provisions and of substantial -
Subsidy on Petrol- Travel Allowance: Parliamentarians- Tin Miners: Tasmania
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)-Order!
In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I mention 3 matters on which I request the
Government to give me an answer before it expects me to agree to the rising of this chamber for the session. Firstly, in the week before last I asked Senator Murphy, as Attorney-General, to give me an explanation of the process by which the country petrol price equalisation subsidy was terminated by an instrument not tabled in this chamber and so not subject to disallowance. I expect a detailed reply, if the Attorney-General would notice my request. Secondly, months ago I wrote to the Auditor-General protesting that the action purported to be made by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) to allow members of Parliament a travel allowance quite apart from the electorate allowance allowed by statute was illegal. After due delay the AuditorGeneral said that he had referred the matter to the Attorney-General. I have not had the Attorney-General’s opinion. It is long overdue, and I request it.
Thirdly, for the tenth or twelfth time, I should think, I remind Senator Wriedt that I have requested him to announce a decision in respect of a small group of tin miners in north-eastern Tasmania to whom the local member, Mr Barnard, virtually promised compensation for losses resulting from devaluation. The promise was made many months ago, soon after the decision to revalue was made. It has been dishonoured by delay. I brought it to Senator Wriedt ‘s attention as recently as a fortnight ago. I bring this matter to attention again, and I ask that, in keeping with the standard of competence and adherence to duty on the part of Ministers, these 3 matters be the subject of decisive statements in response to my request as representative of people whom I am elected to represent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Home Care Allowance
Treasury: Economic Advisers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security hasprovided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
-The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
-On 11 July 1974, Senator Cotton asked me a question, without notice, concerning the willingness of the State Premiers to co-operate with the Australian Government and refer powers to it for the purpose of controlling inflation.
The Premiers did not, at their meeting of 10 July 1974, undertake to refer powers to the Australian Government. The Press statement issued by Sir Charles Cutler as Acting Premier of New South Wales and Chairman of the meeting of Premiers on that date stated:
It was recognised that consideration might need to be given to a reference of powers in some areas or to complementary legislation but there were no decisions reached at this stage either in regard to prices and incomes or other matters. Any question of legislative action could only be decided in the light of our talks with the Prime Minister.
As to the question of leadership, it is pointed out that the approach now adopted by the Premiers follows the initiatives taken by the Australian Government and announced by the Prime Minister at the Premiers Conference on 7 June 1 974.
Interest Rates on Housing Loans
-On 11 July 1974, Senator Webster asked me a question, without notice, concerning interest rates on housing loans. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The recent increases in interest rates on housing loans were a necessary concomitant of the increases in interest rates which had occurred in other areas of the economy. If interest rates paid to depositors in building societies and savings bank investment accounts had not moved in line with interest rate movements elsewhere in the economy, the flow of funds into these institutions- and therefore the flow of housing finance- would have been markedly reduced.
The major institutional lenders for housing follow the practice that where they have to pay higher interest rates on deposits with them, they have to charge higher interest rates on existing as well as new loans. If their lending rates were to be fixed for the often very long life of a loan, these institutions would have to charge higher interest rates initially to cover the contingency of a rise m the cost of borrowing during the life of the loan.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer name the areas of inflation that have been’ imported’.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
Inflation can be- and has been- imported into Australia in a number of ways. First, rising import prices contribute directly to increases in the domestic price level, with increases in the price of imported oil a notable recent example. Second, when the domestic market for an exporter or exportable product is sensitive to world market conditions, an increase in world demand for the product relative to its supply may not only increase its price in international markets but may also generate competitive pressures which result in a higher domestic price for the product as well. The increases in meat prices during 1973 provide the most striking recent example of this process. At the same time the additional income generated by higher export prices has added to domestic demand pressures. Finally, prior to the Government’s measures on the external account, private capital inflow into Australia occurred at an unduly rapid rate, with expansionary effects on domestic liquidity.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What assistance does the Australian Government contemplate providing for the detection of cancer in women at the workshop level, bearing in mind the continuing increase in the number of women in the work force.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is not contemplating any provision specifically for detecting cancer in women at the workshop level.
However, a report proposing an occupational medicine service to provide emergency, counselling, screening, preventive and rehabilitative services for all Australian government employees has been prepared for me with Cabinet approval and its implementation is under consideration. This will be a landmark in occupational medicine and an example to other employers of community service and enlightened self-interest.
Australian High Commission in Suva: Voting Facilities (Question No. 4)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Death of Steam-roller Driver (Question No. 50)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand the steam-roller carried New South Wales registration. The matter is the subject of a coronial inquiry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Taxation Deduction for Rates
-On 16 July 1974 Senator Jessop asked me a question without notice, concerning taxation deductions for rates. The
Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Any suggestions for changes to the concessional deductions provisions of the income tax law would be a matter for consideration in the Budget context.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 August 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740813_senate_29_s61/>.