29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, it is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death on 26 September of this year of the Right Honourable Sir Eric Harrison. I ask for leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
Sir Eric Harrison served this country with great distinction as a soldier, politician and diplomat. He achieved great success in each of these fields of activity. His record in this Parliament cannot be matched by many others. Sir Eric held the seat of Wentworth in New South Wales from 1931 until 1956 when he retired to be appointed Australian High Commissioner in London. His ministerial experience was quite outstanding. During the time that he was in Parliament he held the posts of Minister for the Interior, Minister without Portfolio, Postmaster-General, Minister for Repatriation, Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Australian Resident Minister in London. He also acted as Prime Minister. He was noted for his integrity by members on all sides of the Parliament, and he won high praise for his work as the Leader of the House.
He was appointed as High Commissioner in London by Sir Robert Menzies and represented Australia there for the next 9 years. He served with the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, and during the Second World War he was appointed liaison officer with the United States force. He will be remembered as a man who never shied away from a political fight and a man of great loyalty to his colleagues and to his principles. On behalf of the Government I extend our sympathy to his wife and family, and I commend the motion to the Senate.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr President, I request that you call Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson to speak on behalf of the Liberal senators.
– I call Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.
- Mr President, on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition and indeed of the Liberal members of the Opposition Parties, I wish to give our support to the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The passing of the Right Honourable Sir Eric Harrison marks a very significant part of the history of the national Parliament. Yesterday you, Sir, in your capacity as the President of the Senate and I, representing the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, and on my own behalf, were pallbearers at the State funeral which was accorded to Sir Eric. The expressions of sympathy that were conveyed at that State ceremony yesterday to Lady Harrison and her family, and the widely representative groups that attended to convey their respects to the memory of the man who had passed away, made it a very moving occasion for us all.
The Leader of the Government has very properly given the history of this former parliamentarian. It is not necessary for me to traverse that again in detail. That he represented an electoral division for 25 years and then went on to hold the office of Australian High Commissioner in London for a period of 8 years is a significant record in its own right. But the life of Eric Harrison as a citizen, as a parliamentarian, as an ex-serviceman and as a diplomat could, I believe, be used as a model and pattern by any person in Australia who aspires to serve his country. Eric Harrison was a man who did not come to public life blessed with the educational background which many people have in modern times. His formal education was a modest one but he had a tremendous urge to serve his country. This urge found expression in service in this place for a period of 25 years. During that period he served in almost every office other than Presiding Officer and Prime Minister. He did in fact act as Prime Minister on one occasion. He served in many portfolios.
You, Mr President, and I, who have been here longer than most knew Eric Harrison’s qualities because we saw them applied in practice. As the
Leader of the Government has said, he had political integrity. He had integrity not only in his home life and family life but also in his parliamentary life. He loved a political fight, but at all times he adhered to a code in that fight. Although he did not come to this place blessed with the advantages of modern youth, he did his homework and he was tremendously efficient in whatever he did in the duties of any portfolio which he held, as Leader of the House and also on the hustings. As a very ambitious young man in parliamentary life I joined him on the hustings. He was magnificent and he could hammer home his point. He loved every moment of it, but he adhered throughout to the code of a fair go and playing according to the rules.
He had the blessing of being able to enjoy people. He had a sense of humour. He loved simple things, too. He loved his family life. He had a great joy of things which people sometimes lose sight of when they engage in politics and become engrossed in the affairs of State. These things did not pass Eric Harrison by. He had a great honour. He was a Privy Councillor. He was a K.C.M.G. and a K.C.V.O. But he was a simple man in many ways. He loved nature. He loved to be able to enjoy a lovely morning. He could enjoy the singing of the birds in the spring. He loved the sea. Those qualities in truth helped to make him a better man to serve Australia. In his seniority, in his efficiency, in his capability as a parliamentarian he had the qualities of integrity and loyalty. He had a love of nature and an eagerness, right until his final illness, to serve Australia as he did as a citizen, as a family man, as a parliamentarian, as an ex-serviceman and as a diplomat. I am sure that all honourable senators of the Liberal Party join in supporting the motion moved by the Leader of the Government to express our sincere sympathy to Lady Harrison and her family and our profound admiration of one who served Australia so faithfully and well throughout his adult lifetime and made a tremendous contribution in this time to our history and to the progress and development of Australia.
– I wish to associate the senators of the Australian Country Party with this motion of condolence and to support the tributes made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson who spoke on behalf of the Opposition. Sir Eric Harrison had retired from the Parliament before I came to the Senate, but I did not have to work with him to know him and to admire his many qualities. From a working community background and with very little education he graduated from the ranks to become one of Australia’s most important men and certainly one of the most respected. He possessed unquestionable integrity and loyalty. He was a tenacious worker. Throughout his many years of unsparing service to this country he combined those attributes with great charm and friendliness and an unflagging sense of humour. My colleagues and I extend deep sympathy to his widow and family.
-Mr President, may I as one who had the privilege to know Sir Eric Harrison from the end of World War II say a few brief words, primarily directed towards sympathy to his widow, Lin, and her daughters. I knew Eric from the time that he was the deputy leader of a newly formed Liberal Party working to build that party from grassroots to parliamentary office. At all levels he was an inspiration; at all levels he made warm friends. He was a man blessed, until the last few years, with a magnificently strong physique, as all who knew him would know, a resonant voice and infinite good humour. He fought as a redoubtable fighter. He made opponents but I doubt whether he made enemies. He fought on principles. He played the ball and not the person. As such, a great stress was placed upon his loyalty, and loyalty he had as a magnificent second lieutenant to Sir Robert Menzies.
But I believe it should be said that in his own right he was a front runner as a politician, as a political fighter, and, indeed as a statesman representing Australia both here and abroad. The sad fact is that in the last two or more years he faced the enormously growing burden of an ailing body. It is a tribute to the man that he carried that burden and that illness with unfailing good humour and with the resolve not to place a burden on others. But because of that burden, I want to pay my own tribute to his widow, to his daughters and to his sons-in-law for the great stress, the great anxieties and the great worries they have had in that period and for the great love that they bore him. I would like, therefore, to register a personal sympathy and tribute to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
– I present the following petition from 320 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: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to selfdetermination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in d Utyduty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 45 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: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to selfdetermination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I inform the Senate that the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, will be absent from Australia until 1 5 October on a visit to the United States of America, Canada and Fiji. During his absence the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, will act as Prime Minister until he departs for overseas on 4 October. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, will then be Acting Prime Minister during the remainder of Mr Whitlam ‘s absence.
I also inform the Senate that the Treasurer, Mr Crean, will be absent from Australia until 14 October to attend meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. During his absence the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, is acting as Treasurer. I also inform the Senate that the Minister for Science, Mr Morrison, will be absent from Australia until 7 October to attend a meeting of the South Pacific Conference in Rarotonga. During his absence the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, Dr Cass, is acting as Minister for Science.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the unquestionable confirmation now available that the Government shall finance the activities of terrorist organisations in Africa, I ask: By what standard does the Government support some terrorist organisations and activities and not others? How is some terrorism respectable and other terrorism abhorrent? Is not terrorism for all purposes in all circumstances to be forthrightly condemned and not financially aided? Who is the Government attempting to delude by saying that the aid which this Government will provide will be directed to humanitarian purposes when money for such purposes allows more of the other funds of the terrorist organisations to be devoted to killings, bombings and terror?
– I gave a very full answer to that kind of question last week explaining that what we were doing was on a humanitarian basis. As I recall it some $150,000 was involved. This move is exactly in line with what was being done with a number of other important countries. I would remind the honourable senator of exactly what I said last week and of the other nations that were concerned. I am surprised that he has not accepted the answer. What he seems to be doing now is saying: ‘Well, true, on a humanitarian basis you are giving medical aid and so forth, but it can be suggested that giving things for humanitarian purposes enables people to divert moneys from those purposes to some warlike or terrorist purposes’. It seems to be very dangerous and illogical if the honourable senator’s contention is as I understand it, that every time somebody steps in to assist on a humanitarian basis it can be said that this enables some other people to use for a warlike purpose moneys or energy which otherwise they might devote to a humanitarian purpose. I think that is a pretty poor outlook for the whole world and all humanitarian bodies. We might as well say the same thing to the Red Cross, or some such institutionthat indirectly it is really assisting war. That kind of argument just will not go over. The information I put before the Senate last week as supplied to me is, I understand, correct. The honourable senator is not disputing the correctness of it. He just goes on to put a completly illogical and farcical argument which would not be accepted by anybody.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Catholic bishops of Chile and their Cardinal, Raul Silva Henriquez, have criticised the harsh arbitrary rule of terror which has operated in Chile since the coup in 1973? Has the Minister noted the kidnapping, brutal torture and illegal detention of an Australian citizen, Miss Alexandra Lamas, by the junta? Will the Minister inquire into the circumstances of the visit of Miss Lamas to Chile, and particularly the role played by Mr Wilson, the regional manager of the Chilean airline, Lan Chile, and his immediate colleagues to have Miss Lamas visit that country? In view of the whole sordid circumstances of this kidnapping, will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Transport the possibility of suspending the operations of Lan Chile for a period in order to indicate the Australian Government’s complete displeasure at the junta’s latest repudiation of decent human attitudes?
– I have some information on this matter. It may not answer all the honourable senator’s questions. It may answer some of them. The information is this: Advice was received from our Embassy in Chile early this morning, 1 October, that Miss Lamas has been released from detention into the custody of our Embassy for deportation from Chile within 48 hours. Our Embassy in Santiago reported on 20 September that a person who had been released from prison in Chile informed the Embassy that Miss Lamas was being held in custody. The Embassy in Santiago was immediately instructed to seek access to Miss Lamas and to express interest in her wellbeing. The Embassy has approached the Foreign Ministry, the secretary-general of the junta, the Ministry of Defence and the armed services intelligence organisation. Access was not granted on the ground that the charges against Miss Lamas had not been finalised. Yesterday the Chilean Ambassador was called to the Department of Foreign Affairs and representations were made to him for access and information.
Miss Lamas was born in Argentina and is a naturalised Australian citizen. Her mother lives in Australia. It is reported that her father is an American citizen resident in the United States. She has been working for the Chilean airline, Lan Chile, in Sydney. So far as is known no charges were laid but it was reported that Miss Lamas was allegedly found to be in possession of written material for a militant left wing organisation, propaganda material and a quantity of Chilean money. The Chilean authorities assured our Embassy that Miss Lamas was in good physical health. There was no indication or any evidence of torture. The Australian Embassy in Santiago is currently making arrangements for Miss Lamas to fly out of Chile on the earliest convenient flight. That is the information which I have had supplied to me. I think it answers some but not others of the questions asked by the honourable senator. I shall see whether some information can be supplied in answer to his other requests.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister inform the Senate why the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade now appeals for greater productivity and forecasts a reduction in the short term interest rate when these matters were ignored in the Budget? Does the Acting Prime Minister contend that increased productivity and lower interest rates are necessary if inflation is to be checked and full employment restored? If so, is this an admission that the Budget largely ignored inflation and unemployment or does he foreshadow one or more miniBudgets in the next 12 months?
– It has been a continuing concern of this Government that there be increased productivity. I think it is fair to say that Prime Ministers of earlier governments expressed the same view. I recall that when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister he complained about the great lack of education for management in Australia. Our Government in the previous Budget made provision in a number of respects for encouraging activities which would increase productivity. Indeed, a great deal of money has been spent on research and a great deal has been done, I know from my own experience, in the areas administered by the Minister for Customs and Excise and the Attorney-General. A great deal of attention has been paid to the problem of increasing productivity and in some cases very significant results have followed.
Of course the Acting Prime Minister was right in calling for increased productivity and I hope that the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate will respond to that call. At all times there needs to be improvement in efficiency. I believe that the call of the Acting Prime Minister and his indication that there would be lower interest rates would be welcomed by everybody. I was reminded the other night that during the last election campaign Mr Snedden said that interest rates would have to go up, before they would come down, even if his Party were elected to office.
-He did not say that they would have to go up.
-Senator Rae will remember that he said that they would have to go up before they came down.
It has been the intention and it is the philosophy of the Labor Government to have interest rates which are compatible with the proper desire of people to be able to obtain homes and to engage in other activities. The Government is bending every endeavour to obtain that result and it is pleasing that the Acting Prime Minister is able to give a firm indication that if the Jeremiahs opposite cease to whinge and begin to help us we will get this country running so that everybody will be able to take advantage of the prosperity which the Labor Government is introducing.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is he in a position to advise the Senate of any visible indications of greater political freedom in Greece under the new Government?
– There are such indications. I have some specific information on this subject supplied to me by the Department of Foreign Affairs which I can give the honourable senator.
– You just happen to have it.
– As the honourable senator will see, I happen to have notes on a considerable number of matters and this is one of them. On 23 July 1974 a civilian Government led by Mr Karamanlis replaced the military Government in Greece. One of his first actions was to announce the release of all political prisoners and amnesty for all political offences. The Australian Government welcomed those developments. On 25 July the Minister for Foreign Affairs said in Parliament that he hoped elections would be held in Greece in due course. On 23 September the Greek Government issued a decree which restored freedom of action to all political parties in Greece. The Greek Government is also reported to have announced its intention to restore freedom of assembly throughout the country. It has also decided to hold early elections. A date has not yet been announced but Mr Averof the
Greek Acting Foreign Minister, has mentioned the middle of November as a likely time. The Australian Government welcomes this further evidence of progress towards the restoration of full parliamentary democracy in Greece.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to the purchase of a doubtful piece of art for the colossal sum of $650,000. Has the Leader of the Government noticed in the Press a report that the broker handling the sale in the United States said that if Australia had bargained more toughly on this purchase it could have been bought for a sum considerably less than the $650,000. Does the Leader not consider that the action of Mr Mollison and his committee in not fighting for a better bargain for Australia has shown a carelessness and a recklessness with the money of the people of this country? Does not the Leader also consider that this weak handling of purchases on behalf of the people of Australia and this Government has shown that we can be looked upon as suckers in future purchases in the art world?
-I do not think that it would be at all wise for me to enter into any discussion of the artistic merits of a painting which is recognised by many as an important work of one of the world ‘s greatest artists. What is important, as the honourable senator suggested, is whether that art object has been acquired or is being acquired at the best price. I understand from other reports that the purchase has not been finalised. I read the article in the paper. I must say that if it is correct it is disturbing indeed. If the broker is able to say that the purchase has been made not at the price which could have been obtained by some reasonable endeavour, no doubt this matter will be taken up by the Prime Minister when he returns. That matter ought to be separated from the discussion about the artistic merit of the work. I think that on an earlier occasion there was a tendency to confuse 2 issues- one, the artistic value of a work and, the other, whether the proper procedures had been followed. I take into account what the honourable senator has said. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and those advising him in these matters will take it into account. It is a large amount of money. We know from the past that care has not always been taken in acquiring our purchases overseas at the best possible price. Perhaps the best example was the notorious acquisition of the Fills by the Government of which the honourable senator was a supporter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Is a member of Parliament considered to be fully employed as a member of Parliament? If so, is the Minister able to give an assurance that any income received by members, other than the parliamentary salary, will attract the 10 per cent surtax on income from property?
– I would understand that the answer to the question would be yes. Nevertheless, I shall refer the question to the Acting Treasurer and let him give an answer to it.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction confirm the report today that the Australian housing industry is facing a crisis which is said to be the gravest in 7 years, with worse yet to come? One reads also that steps are being taken to arrest this dangerous trend. Could the Senate be informed in due course of the details of the proposed remedial measures for this great industry?
– Having had many years experience in the housing industry I think it has always been facing a crisis. As the honourable senator knows, last year the housing industry was facing a crisis because of its inability to obtain skilled labour and building materials. This necessitated the Government taking some remedial action. The action taken was in the form of some credit squeeze on housing finance and that policy has been successful. The position now is that the production of homes has greatly decreased over the last quarter and building materials are becoming available, although I am led to believe that there is no acute unemployment amongst skilled building workers. The Minister for Housing and Construction has taken all the factors into consideration, as well as the need to increase housing agencies which are capable of building houses. As honourable senators know from the Budget, the Department of Housing and Construction is to become a housing construction authority in its own right. The matter is causing the Government some concern. It is occupying the attention of the appropriate Minister. Just as it was necessary to take remedial action last year to rectify complaints in the housing field, some action will be taken if the position becomes acute and there is danger in regard to the housing of Australian citizens.
-Has the Postmaster-General seen the article in the ‘Sunday Mail ‘ at the weekend which stated that the telephone directory for Adelaide would be available 2 months later than usual because of a paper shortage? If this information is correct can the Minister give an assurance that the delay will be only approximately 2 months?
-Usually the Adelaide directory is distributed at the end of September. It will not be distributed until about 1 8 October because of a problem in getting suitable yellow paper. The printers’ requirements are usually received by late May or early June. However, while white paper was received it was not possible for the printers to get from international sources sufficient pulp for the yellow paper. Unfortunately, because of the limitations in the availability of suitable pulp, the total order of approximately 500 tonnes of yellow paper could not be delivered in a single shipment at the required time. It could be supplied only in 3 lots. The first was received on 30 August, the second on 1 3 September and the third is expected on 5 October.
– I refer the Minister for the Media to the recent announcement of the expansion of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s network in Melbourne and Sydney. By what means and on what date did the ABC apply for the additional stations in Melbourne and Sydney? Why was this fact not made public so that commercial interests and public broadcasting organisations could have an equal opportunity of applying for the proposed licences? On what precise frequencies will the ABC stand-by transmitters operate in Melbourne and Sydney for the new amplitude modulation stations?
– If the honourable senator reads the reports of the Australian Broadcasting Commission I think she will see that for some time the Commission has been requesting that at least one other outlet for its radio programs be provided because of the tremendous amount of time taken up in broadcasting the proceedings of this Parliament. In the time that I have been Minister for the Media I have been conducting discussions with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the latter organisation being the body responsible for the planning of these operations, to see what additional outlet could be given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for these purposes.
The honourable senator also will recall that during the recent Federal election the Prime Minister announced that a Labor Government, upon being returned to office, would do all it could to provide a third network for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That having been declared to be the Government’s policy, implementation of it is now being endeavoured. I cannot say when the ABC first made the proposal but I know it was some time ago. It was at this time or a little earlier than this time last year that I had discussions with the ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department about this matter. In relation to the use of the 2 stand-by transmitters, all that we have done as a Government is to invite the ABC to make use of the stand-by transmitters. I understand that the ABC has said that it will investigate the matter. If I recall correctly, I saw a statement by the Chairman of the ABC, Professor Downing, last week that the ABC would probably make use of the second stand-by transmitter in Melbourne by conducting community broadcasting operations.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Has the Israeli Government placed any pressure on or made any request to the Australian Government to move the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Can the Minister give the Senate an assurance that in view of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem of 1967, 1968 and 1971 the Australian Embassy will not be moved to this city?
-The Australian Embassy, of course, is in Tel Aviv. At present there are no plans to shift it from there. In recent years the Australian Government has not been the recipient of any formal request or any pressure from the Israeli Government to move the Australian Embassy from its existing location at Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The honourable senator will be aware that the status of Jerusalem in any final settlement of the Middle East dispute is difficult to predict.
-I think the broad answers to the honourable senator’s questions would be yes. I will not precisely spell out the situation but Mr Watson has been a consultant in connection with the drawing up of the Family Law Bill and the various amendments. In relation to the question of whether Mr Watson has received any money, I am not sure whether he has received it. He certainly would be due to receive fees if he has not received them yet. I should explain that Mr Watson, or any other person similarly placed, is entitled to speak his own mind on a matter such as this. Mr Watson certainly has not been engaged by the Government as an advocate for any particular proposal. If Mr Watson appears on television or writes letters to the newspapers, as he has done, and points out things about this matter, he is entitled to do so. He is not engaged by the Government to do that.
– But he does receive a fee.
– Not for appearing on television or writing letters to the newspapers. In modern times we have seen a development whereby not merely consultants but also persons who have been engaged by the Government on a permanent basis, have expressed viewpoints and often have explained legislation. For example, the Commissioner for Trade Practices, with my permission and perhaps with the permission of previous Attorneys-General, has talked to businessmen and explained what the trade practices legislation was all about. It may be a little different when one is dealing with proposed legislation, but even then I have had officers of my Department- I think with the approbation of everyone- go and tell businessmen all about the trade practices legislation as it was before the Senate and have had them get a viewpoint from those businessmen, and so forth. In doing that they were engaged in the course of their work and I think that everyone would approve of that.
– They were members of the Department.
-That is right, and everyone approved of those officers doing that. I think that such assistance has been requested by the Parliament and by the community at large, or by those interests that might be affected. When one comes to the question of actual advocacy of legislative proposals as distinct from an explanation of them, whether that be by a departmental officer or by some consultant, that person is doing that off his own bat.
– My question is. directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Bearing in mind the problems of the Tasmanian apple industry and the importance of obtaining new markets for that industry, I ask: What progress has been made in negotiating with Japan for the entry of Tasmanian apples into the market in Japan since April of this year when the Minister expressed some optimism?
-I indicated at that time that Japanese officials would be coming to Australia in August. Discussions were held between the Japanese and Australian Government officials. The Japanese still maintain a very strict position in respect of the importation of any fresh apples from Australia. It is really a matter of our maintaining our research efforts in order to ensure that fruit which may be exported to Japan is acceptable to the health authorities in that country. We are not yet in a position to export fresh apples to Japan but I believe that the progress that is being made in the area of research still gives up hope that one day fresh fruit can find a market in that country.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has a directive been given to the Northern Territory police to refrain from arresting Aborigines on charges of drunkenness and disorderly behaviour arising from that condition? If so, is the Minister aware of the deep concern of responsible people in the Northern Territory, both European and Aboriginal, at the great disservice being done to the general Aboriginal cause by the directive, which can be seen only as an act of encouragement to lawlessness and one inimical to aspirations for achieving the rightful place of respect and acceptance to which Aboriginal people are entitled?
-Whether or not an instruction has been given to the Northern Territory police is a matter for the Attorney-General, I believe, although some claim has been made that the police are still under the control of Northern Territory officials. But as honourable senators know, I have reported previously that there has been some discussion between the Attorney-General and me following my address at the opening of the law conference at the Monash University. In that address I said that in today’s society what I termed victimless crimes should not be regarded as criminal offences. I recall the Attorney-General announcing that he agreed with this point of view and that there should be no prosecution for drunkenness, as such. But if lawlessness is associated with drunkenness, as the honourable senator says, there is no immunity from arrest or conviction for any act other than the act of being drunk in the Northern Territory. This has not increased lawlessness in the Territory and is not doing a disservice to the community. It has altered the practice of arresting all drunken Aboriginals in the Alice Springs hotel bars for no other offence than consuming too much liquor at a time when the publican was still prepared to serve them liquor. It stops the imposition of a penalty. It stops the depriving of a family of the income of the breadwinner who is in gaol when he has done no more to society than enjoy himself and have too much to drink. I do not see how the honourable senator can justify the continuation of locking people up and penalising them for committing no other crime than having too much to drink. There is no victim involved. In most cases it is simply a matter of people finding pleasure while offending against an archaic law in Australia at the present time.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that the Federal Government has accepted the recommendation of the Australian Post Office Commission that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the telecommunications facilities of the Australian Post Office be merged into a single telecommunications corporation. If so, can the Minister say when the actual merger is likely to take place?
– The position is that when the report was first handed to the Government and received by the Special Minister of State, it was submitted to Cabinet and Cabinet accepted the recommendation. Since that time representations from the Overseas Telecommunications
Commission were conveyed to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet through me, asking that for some time the OTC be not involved in a merger. This matter has again been considered by the Government and the Government is of the same opinion as it held previously. That information has been conveyed to the OTC in discussions held last Friday by the interim chairman of the Telecommunications Commission, Mr Bill Gibbs, and also later in the afternoon by me in discussions with the Board and Sir Arthur Petfield. The target date set by the Prime Minister is 1 July. I think it would be rather a matter for me as soon as possible to bring down more positive recommendations in relation to the later position.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As Australian pensioners are granted various travel concessions, such as the pensioners in Tasmania being able to travel to Victoria on the Australian National Line ship Empress of Australia’ by paying 50 per cent of the normal fare, will the Minister ask his colleague, the Minister for Transport, to consider some form of financial subsidy to enable pensioners on King Island and Flinders Island in Bass Strait, where the cost of living is high, to travel at least once a year to either Melbourne or a Tasmanian airport?
-Yes, I shall convey that suggestion to the Minister for Transport and ask him whether he will consider making some financial subsidy available.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, concerns the reported purchase or proposal to purchase a painting by the Dutch artist de Kooning for a reported sum of $650,000? Is the approval of the Prime Minister necessary for the purchase of a painting at a cost of such magnitude? Has such approval been given by the Prime Minister or his representative? If the approval has not yet been given, will the Minister give an assurance that it will not be given? Alternatively, will the Government arrange for the painting to be sent on tour throughout the underprivileged countries to show Australia’s sense of values in a world in which starvation and disease are claiming thousands of lives daily and in which the responsibility of the affluent nations is being stressed? Finally, is it a measure of the
Government’s sense of values that it pays $650,000 for a painting and has allocated a total of $250,000 for the starving people of Ethiopia for the whole of last year?
– I have some notes on this matter. They indicate that on 12 August 1 974 the Prime Minister approved of the Australian National Gallery purchasing the painting Woman V by Willem de Kooning for the sum of US$850,000 from Richard Gray, art dealer of Chicago, acting for Mrs Arthur C. Rosenberg, also of Chicago. The Prime Minister’s approval was based on the expert advice and recommendation of the then Acquisitions Committee of the Australian National Gallery comprising Mr James Gleeson, Chairman, who is a painter and critic of Sydney, Mr Len French, a painter of Melbourne, Mr Clifford Last, sculptor of Melbourne, Mr Fred Williams, painter and graphic artist of Melbourne and Mr James Mollison, Director of the Gallery of Canberra. The painting was inspected by the Director of the Australian National Gallery, Mr James Mollison, during a recent visit to the United States of America. The Director inspected a number of paintings by de Kooning and obtained a wide range of expert opinion, including that of the artist himself, before he reported to the Acquisitions Committee and the Committee made its recommendation to the Prime Minister. The sum involved in the purchase is regarded as a fair market price for a work of such importance and the agreement to purchase was concluded only at the end of hard and extensive negotiation. It is also believed that the painting was also being sought by at least 2 other international museums. De Kooning is one of the truly outstanding artists to emerge since World War II. This painting represents him in his finest period at the very summit of his powers. The painting is a modern masterpiece and will occupy an important place in the Gallery’s world wide contemporary collection alongside works by Pollock, Gorky, Louis, Noland, Calder and Frankenthaler
May I say that the honourable senator’s suggestion about the work is not a suggestion to be accepted. If that were the case, it would be an argument for not acquiring any works of art, for not having the Opera House and for not engaging in any such activity at all. If one were to accept that kind of argument it would mean the abandonment of all endeavours. There would be no cultural development or progress in Australia. The honourable senator suggests that we should do things elsewhere. This may be the honourable senator’s approach to life, but I do not think it is a realistic approach and I do not think it is a proper one. There are such works of art and there are people who believe that we should endeavour to advance art and culture throughout the world, notwithstanding that many people are suffering. Very often those who are producing the works of art are the ones who are doing more to overcome the suffering and to uplift the oppressed than those in whom the honourable senator finds his solace and comfort.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. Did the Minister see the report from the Chief Housing Officer of the Master Builders’ Association in Victoria stating that the Association believed that the industry was healthy, that only four out of 1,060 Association members had gone into liquidation in the past 12 months, that most of the 30 resignations in that period had occurred because of moves interstate and that the Master Builders’ Association believed that the injection of $100m into the housing industry would do much to bring stability to the industry, as opposed to the boom and bust pattern that brought about the recessions of 1960, 1965 and 1970? Does the Minister agree with those statements?
– I have seen the statements. The question asked is quite a contradiction of a previous question I was asked. It seems that one considers the viability of the housing industry in terms of the number of homes built while another considers it in terms of the financial position of those who are engaged in housing construction. As the chief housing officer has stated, there are no liquidations among cottage builders at present. Possibly they are in a stronger position because there are fewer builders today than there have been previously.
As has been said previously, the Government is doing everything possible to remedy the decline in approvals in housing construction over the last quarter. The Commonwealth is endeavouring to assist the home building industry at a time when it needs some assistance as it did with its action last year when it had to restrict general building activities somewhat for the purpose of bringing back value into home construction by making available manpower and materials. I think that the Government’s policy on housing has much to commend it over the previous policy of, as the honourable senator has said, boom and bust where there would be a shortage of material on one occasion and unemployment on another.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and I hope he has some notes on this question in the file he has been looking at so assiduously. I refer to a question I asked him last Wednesday concerning allegations made by his colleague, Mr Clyde Cameron, against the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court. I remind him that those allegations were made a week ago in another place. Has the Government yet determined what its attitude is to the allegations made by Mr Clyde Cameron against the Premier, Sir Charles Court, who has said that they are making relations between the governments intolerable What action, if any, does the Government propose to take? In particular, will the Government accede to Sir Charles Court’s request that a senior officer be sent to Western Australia to investigate the allegations?
– I regret that I have to ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice.
– I ask the Minister for the Media whether he has recently received a request from a coalition of groups based in Melbourne named the Community Radio Federation for an early decision on its application for a metropolitan AM broadcasting licence? Can the Minister say whether this Federation can expect to gain a licence and, if so, when?
– I have seen the telegram to which the honourable senator refers and receipt of it has been acknowledged. At this stage I have not been able to provide a firm answer to the organisation mentioned by the honourable senator. He will be aware that in the statement which I made to the Senate last week I explained that at this stage the Government has decided to proceed with the development of experimental radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, in both the AM and FM broadcasting bands. I pointed out last week and again this morning that the Government had invited the Australian Broadcasting Commission to try out new forms of programming on its stand-by transmitters in Sydney and Melbourne. This morning I pointed out to Senator Guilfoyle that I had read a statement by the Chairman of the ABC, Professor Downing, who had indicated that the ABC would initiate new programs in response to the Government’s invitation. He indicated that the Commission would be interested in using the stand-by transmitter, particularly in Melbourne, to provide opportunities for community participation in broadcasting. That being so, I stongly suggest that groups such as the Community Radio Federation could perhaps gain valuable experience in broadcasting if they were to approach the ABC and inquire about the types of programs which the ABC intends to put forward on the stand-by transmitter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to the announcement that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry has requested a special committee to report on the possibility of” finding work for employees at defence factories. I ask the Minister: What is the general level of production and employment in Australia’s 8 munitions factories? Has there been retrenchment of workers in any of these factories?
-Whilst I have some allied responsibility for this as Minister representing the Minister for Defence, in fact the responsibility in this area lies mainly with the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Mr Enderby, who is represented in this chamber by the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt. I do not answer for him, but I think that in order to present the picture as it is today, although Senator Wriedt might want to say something different, probably the best thing would be to make sure that we get a statement from the Minister as to the general position.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Agriculture. I refer to the visit to Tasmania by Dr J. F. Cairns last Friday and to his comment that the Government’s decision to withdraw the bounty on superphosphate may well have been wrong. I ask, therefore, whether this indicates that the Government will give further consideration to this matter and that we may well see a reversal of the decision in this regard.
-I think that question should be referred to the Minister concerned for an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that pensioners accommodated in Queensland private nursing homes have not received the latest increase in income to help cover their costs although pensioners similarly accommodated in other States have been granted such increases? If so, what is the reason for this discrimination against pensioners in Queensland private nursing homes? Will the Minister desist from misleading the public by referring to such payments to pensioners as subsidies for private nursing homes?
– I am afraid that my knowledge of this matter is rather slender. I hope Senator Sheil was not referring to me when he said that the Minister was misleading the public. All I can do is refer the question to the Minister for Social Security who is in charge of this matter and see that an answer is provided for Senator Sheil.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware of complaints by the Australian Mail Contractors Association that they are forced to continue their contractual services at a rate which, over the last 12 months, has been so eroded as to be financially inequitable? Further, is the Minister aware of complaints that the Department’s system of tendering is outmoded and unfair? Do the members of this Association provide a useful service, particularly in rural areas? Will urgent steps be taken to meet their complaints?
– The general position was referred to in the paper which was circulated with the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. The honourable senator will find the matter to which he has referred explained on page 5. But generally, in answer to the honourable senator, I point out that the Post Office provides a national mail delivery service at charges which mostly are uniform anywhere within Australia, irrespective of distance and the cost of providing a service in a particular area. Whilst competition can be healthy it is not reasonable for the Post Office to offer low concession postage for specified publications and then have the users make a convenience of the concession for high cost areas and deny to the Post Office whatever benefits there may be in also handling the business for the less costly and therefore more profitable areas. I refer the honourable senator particularly to the comments on page 5 of the documents to which I have just referred. Upon reflection, after reading the honourable senator’s question in Hansard I will see whether there is any other information I should give to him.
– I present the first report of the Australian Council for the Arts, January to December 1973.
– I present a report prepared by the Industries Assistance Commission entitled ‘Glass Fibre Rovings and Chopped Strand Mat’ dated 31 July 1974.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the States Grants (Technical Training) Act 1971-1973 I present for the information of honourable senators a statement of payments authorised under the Act during the financial year 1972-73.
– Pursuant to section 52 of the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1 972- 1 973 I present for the information of honourable senators the Commonwealth Teaching Service annual report 1973.
– By command of His Excellency the Governor-General, I lay upon the table the following paper:
Advance to the Treasurer-
Statement for the year 1973-71 of heads of expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36A of the Audit Act1901-1973.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That consideration of the statement in Committee of the Whole be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Asian Development Fund Bill 1974.
Broadcasting and Television Bill 1 974.
Election Candidates (Public Service and Defence Force) Bill 1974.
Papua New Guinea Bill 1974.
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974.
Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill 1974.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to make a statement relating to permissions to import prohibited publications.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– Honourable senators know that regulation 4A of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations prohibits the importation of literature and articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene’ or ‘unduly emphasise matters of sex, horror, violence or crime or are likely to encourage depravity’. Senators also know the regulation provides that even though a book is prohibited under regulation 4A the Minister may approve any application to import such works provided a report has been received from the Chairman of the National Literature Board of Review or the DirectorGeneral of Health. The purpose of this provision is to permit the importation of copies of prohibited publications for special purposes such as recognised scientific, social or cultural work by qualified persons; original research or advanced study; or for use as reference material in the practice of professions such as medicine or law.
When regulation 4A was introduced in 1963 the then Minister undertook to report annually to the Senate in respect of books released in accordance with the above provisions. This report, the eleventh to be presented, covers the period 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1974. During this period a total of 4 publications were received. All of these were approved. Details of the applications approved are as follows:
Medical, Psychiatric and Sociological Works 1 to a State library 1 to a psychologist 1 to a medical practitioner
Fictional Works 1 to a university researcher.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, the Bill now before the Senate seeks to extend the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act 1966-1973 for a period of 12 months to 31 December 1975 pending inquiry and report on the subsidy by the Industries Assistance Commission. This intention was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 10 June 1974.
The Commission is required to report on the reference by September 1975 after which the Government will decide on assistance beyond 3 1 December 1975.
The Government recognises the regional importance of nitrogenous fertilisers to sugar producers, horticulture and other rural industries. Because many materials used in the manufacture of these fertilisers are imported and subject to price increases outside the control of local manufacturers, it is desirable to cushion the effects on Australian users until the Commission has reviewed the situation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the contents of my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This Bill provides grants for universities for a number of purposes- for universities to undertake programs high in the Government’s social and educational purposes. Special grants are to be available to specified universities to increase teaching and research in special education of the handicapped, to establish courses or chairs of community practice associated with community health centres, and to increase the number of social workers in training. We believe these programs will produce sound professional staff and add to the community’s capacity to meet needs in these fields.
Secondly, funds are to be provided to the University of Newcastle to allow for planning a new medical school in accordance with recommendations of the Committee on Medical Schools of the Universities Commission. Thirdly, the Bill provides for an Australian Government contribution towards the costs of acquiring the site for a new university at Campbelltown, New South Wales. Further assistance towards the development of this university will be provided when the Government considers the recommendations of the Universities Commission for the triennium 1976-78.
The Bill provides for administrative matters which have arisen since legislation on grants to universities was passed by the Parliament during the Autumn sittings of 1 973. Monash University proposed to speed the introduction of a social work course and special assistance was provided for this purpose. Unfortunately, the University found that it was unable to achieve its objective, and the additional earmarked grant is to be repealed. In the legislation enacted during the 1973 Budget sittings provision was also made in Part IV of the First Schedule to the Act to establish a School of Management Education at the University of New South Wales. Necessary amendments in Parts II and III of the First Schedule to accord with this provision were overlooked. This Bill makes the necessary machinery amendment although this does not represent any increase in the commitment of funds beyond that already intended in the previous legislation.
When the Australian Government assumed full financial responsibility for tertiary education from January 1974 amendment was necessary for proportions of payments to be made by State Governments. In section 8 of the principal Act related to student residential accommodation the word ‘one-twelfth’ was included as the States’ share but this related to total cost and not to the amounts shown in the relevant Schedule attached to the Act which represent the Australian Government contribution. It is necessary to amend the proportion from ‘one-twelfth’ to one-eighth’. The State Governments are aware of the need for this particular amendment to the legislation.
As I have already mentioned, the Australian Government assumed full responsibility for the financing of tertiary education from 1 January 1974 and since that time it has become evident that one of the exceptions contained in the existing definition of ‘fees’ in the principal Act relating to fees payable to student organisations requires clarification. Provision has been made in the Bill to provide for this clarification. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the existing States Grants (Universities) Act 1972-1973 to make the. financial provisions and the necessary machinery and administrative amendments I have mentioned. The measures included in the Bill require a financial commitment of $840,000 for capital expenditure and $345,000 in 1974 and $563,000 in 1975 for recurrent purposes. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 24 September (vide page 1358), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I take it that the Senate is to have a cognate debate on this Bill and the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Collection Bill.
-Is it the wish of the Senate to have a cognate debate on the 2 Bills?
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
-The Senate is dealing with the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Bill 1974 and the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Collection Bill 1974. One is a tax Bill and the other is a tax collection Bill. The first Bill imposes a tax of 2c per litre of liquefied gas used for propelling road vehicles and was foreshadowed in the Budget speech. The Bill does not extend the tax to liquefied gas used for other purposes. It has been suggested that the proposed method of tax collection is clumsy and another method might have been pursued had the Bill been introduced by a Liberal-Country Party government. The means of the collection of the tax is a Government responsibility. If the Government wants to do it in this way it is their responsibility. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. However, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has just approached me saying that he would like to move 2 amendments in the Committee stages. Whilst I have had no time to study those proposed amendments I understand that they were moved in another place. When we are in the Committee stage of the debate I hope that the Leader of the Government in the Senate will explain the reason why he will be moving those 2 amendments. The Opposition Parties do not oppose these Bills. We will await with interest the explanation of the Leader of the Government in the Senate in the Committee stage.
– The 2 amendments to which Senator Drake-Brockman referred are very simple. They do not touch the substance of the Bill. I will explain the reason for the 2 proposed amendments in the Committee stage of the debate. They will take out of the Bill the provisions that an authorised officer can not only require people to answer questions and produce documents but that he be able to administer oaths, affirmations and so forth. It is the Government’s feeling that too much of this type of provision has been creeping into the legislation. We have decided to start upon the path of taking out some of these provisions. There is nothing special about this Bill. It will be remembered that discussion took place earlier about powers of entry when we were discussing some rural legislation. It seems quite unnecessary to keep these provisions in the Bill. It has become the practice to slip these provisions into the various Bills. The Government has decided that it is time we started to slip some of them out. Instructions have been given not to introduce this kind of clause into a Bill unless there is some very good reason. The matter is as simple as that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24 September (vide page 1358), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like an explanation of the amendment to clause 13 (b).
– I will explain it all, if you like.
– I would appreciate that. The Minister has foreshadowed some amendments, and I should like an explanation of them.
– I have amendments to clauses 12, 13 and 14. Those clauses read: 12. (I) An authorized officer may administer an oath to a person required to attend before him in pursuance of section 1 1 and may examine that person on oath.
An affirmation so made is of the same force and effect, and entails the same penalties, as an oath.
I move the following amendments:
The purpose of the amendments is simple. Clause 11(1) provides:
An authorised officer may, by notice in writing, require a person whom the authorised officer believes to be capable of giving information with respect to the acquisition, storage, use or disposal of liquefied gas . . . to produce to him such accounts, books . . .
Such a person also is required to answer questions which are asked by an authorised officer. There is a power to do these things. Then there is the provision which states that a person is not excused from answering questions, and so forth. Clause 12 provides:
An authorised officer may administer an oath to a person . . .
Clause 13 (b), in respect of which there is a consequential amendment, provides that a person shall not refuse to take an oath. Clause 14 extends the provisions. It refers to the making of a statement. If we delete the provisions in clauses 12 and 13 the amendment to clause 14 is a consequential amendment. The matter really is as simple as this: Under this type of Bill we do not want an authorised officer to be erected into the position of a royal commissioner or a judge. There is just too much of that in legislation, and we are starting to look at it. Speaking frankly, this Bill was drafted in the ordinary way, and that is how the provision got into the Bill. I looked at the provision and asked: ‘What the devil is that in there for? Why does he have to have the power to do this? He can ask questions and that surely ought to be enough. ‘
We did not want to delay the passage of the Bill; the other place wanted to get the legislation through. But I think that we ought to delete this provision. If this is done it should be an intimation that it is not to be introduced in any of these enactments unless there is some good reason for doing so. I think that this is what the Committee would want to do. We are extending this principle into the area of civil liberties and saying: Nobody is to be able to have these powers unless there is some really good reason’. Frankly, the provision got into the Bill as a matter of form and we want to delete it because we cannot see any really good reason why any authorised officer should be vested with such an important power. It used to be regarded as an extremely important power, reserved only to the courts and to some other important functionaries. As honourable senators know, there has been a tendency to extend the powers. Authorised officers have been able to go into any type of premises and seize documents and so forth. The provision in this Bill is another aspect of the same sort of thing. We do not see the need for such a provision. Therefore, we do not ask the Committee to give such a power to an authorised officer. It is as simple as that. There is still the power to question and to get information, and there is still the obligation to tell the truth and so forth. That is the purpose of the amendments.
– I can see the reason behind the Minister’s amendments. He is saying that he wants to get rid of some of the powers, but he wants to insert some words in clause 14 so that the clause will read:
A person shall not . . . make … a statement (whether in answer to a question or otherwise), that is false or misleading in a material particular.
I do not see how the Minister is getting rid of any power there. He is inserting after the word ‘statement’ the words ‘(whether in answer to a question or otherwise)’. I believe that the Minister is extending the power in that clause. Perhaps he has a reason for moving this amendment and will explain it to the Committee.
– Clause 14 reads
A person shall not present to an officer doing duty in relation to this Act or the regulations an account, book, document or other record, or make to such an officer a statement, that is false or misleading in a material particular.
All we are saying is that whether a person makes a statement in answer to a question or otherwise, in effect he is not to tell a lie.
– Whether it is in answer to a question or anything else?
– Yes. As the clause reads, it covers anything else, anyway. It covers the position where a false statement is made to an officer, even if it is not in answer to a question. The amendment seeks to clarify the position by including statements made in answer to a question. There is nothing objectionable at all in that. It seems perfectly straight forward. I suggest, with respect, that the Bill will be improved if the Committee agrees to the amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, reported; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25 September (vide page 1 39 1 ), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is debating the Sewerage
Agreements Bill 1974. The Bill in itself is a simple one which the Opposition supports. Taken in isolation, its aim is supplementary to that of the Sewerage Agreements Bill 1973, and it provides a supplement of $7.95m to 3 States for their sewerage programs. This is in addition to $30m provided to the 6 States in 1973. The amounts of the supplement are $3.95m for Victoria, Sim for Queensland and $3m for Western Australia. This makes a total of $37.95m for the program last year and this year
The Federal Opposition, as I said, supports the measure in itself taken in isolation. However, I should add that it draws serious attention to the fact that the Bill is in breach of the 1972 policy speech of Mr Whitlam and the Federal Labor Party. That speech, supplemented by many speeches made on platforms, made it clear that amounts to be granted for sewerage works to the States and to semi-governmental authorities would be wholly non-repayable grants and not loans. The 1972 policy speech itself is quite clear on this matter, and I read the relevant section:
A Labor Government will immediately ask the principal water and sewerage authorities what Commonwealth grants in the present financial year would enable them to embark promptly and economically on an uninterrupted program to provide services to all the premises in their areas by 1 978.
The simple fact is that this amount, as was the previous amount, is made available in the form of a loan. As a loan it confers no more benefit upon the constructing authority than if the borrowing ceilings for semi-governmentals or for the States in the Loan Council programs had been raised. I should add that there is a slight benefit of differential of interest rates. But, nevertheless, that in itself is minor.
– What about the availability of finance?
– I come to that. It is in relation to this point that I wish to speak in wider terms about this Bill and the program foreshadowed in the Federal Budget of some $105m allocated for sewerage purposes. I do so against the background that the borrowing programs of the semi-governmentals and the local authorities may not be realised in the months ahead and may fall seriously short. I say this not as any prediction of my own but as a repetition of statements from the authorities themselves. These statements, of course, can be tested. The fact is that the semi-governmentals and the local authorities go on the market for debentures. I notice that the Sydney Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board is offering those debentures at 10.2 per cent short term and 9.75 per cent long term and can be scarcely regarded as attractive in a period of extremely high and even rising interest rates. So that on the level of the attraction of interest rates alone, the borrowing program must be in some jeopardy.
However, the action of the Federal Government at other levels has more seriously threatened that program. The semigovernmental loans normally are heavily taken up by the trading banks and the savings banks. The trading banks are now in a liquidity crisis and quite clearly do not have the money to provide for subscriptions to these kinds of loans. Indeed, I call on the Government to look towards increasing the liquidity of the trading banks, not only for the purpose of general commerce and industry but also for this purpose of financing huge works that are necessary. This action will not only facilitate the carrying out of the construction works but also provide continuity of employment in this country and take up the slack of growing unemployment.
Apart from the trading banks having their borrowing capacity reduced, the recent action of the Federal Government in amending the Banking (Savings Banks) Regulations will seriously restrict the lending capacity to the semigovernmentals from the savings banks.
The savings banks start from the base that for the first time in some 25 years their deposists are falling in quantum. Therefore quite clearly their capacity to lend is reduced. But, as honourable senators will know, the effect of the amendment to the Banking (Savings Banks) Regulations to reduce from 60 per cent to 50 per cent the proportion of the depositors’ balances required to be held by savings banks subject to the Banking Act in prescribed liquid assets and public sector securities, and to reduce from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent the proportion of depositors’ balances the savings banks are required to hold in deposists with the Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury notes, is to direct funds more freely available to the savings banks into home loans and housing loans.
Of course, I commend this action in the face of the crisis in home construction at this moment. I think this morning a spokesman for the Master Builders predicted that this crisis would result in something like a 60 per cent to 70 per cent decline in the construction rate. Clearly more money, and more money at reasonable interest rates, should be put into housing. However, the effect of that would be to make substantially less money available for local and semigovernmental borrowings. So the local and semigovernmental constructing authorities are facing a serious position in terms of their ability to raise loans.
The Minister will know that unlike the State governments these bodies are not underwritten by the Commonwealth Government, or not required to be underwritten, under the Financial Agreement of 1927 which established the Loan Council. So these bodies can fall short, and fall seriously short, of their borrowing requirements. One wishes their loan programs every success. But the facts are that they look to be seriously in threat.
Indeed, the Minister may know that representatives of those authorities have visited Canberra in recent weeks and brought this position to the attention of the Government. It seems to me that the first thing that should be done is to ensure that the borrowing programs succeed, whether by providing more liquidity or by in fact underwriting their ordinary loan programs to the extent of making grants or, if necessary, loans. The point I make is that the borrowing programs which last year alone were in the order of something like $555m could result in a short fall quite easily of up to $100m. This in itself would negative the effect of the nominal value of the Government’s sewerage program as outlined in the Budget. I say this not to be critical but in a desire to be helpful towards the financing of these programs. I commend the desire of the Government to carry out vital sewerage developments throughout Australia. I acknowledge it and commend it. I merely say that on that level there is a likelihood of failure.
But there is, of course, another aspect. Construction costs in water and sewerage projects over the past 15 months have increased to the order of 40 per cent. These figures were provided to me by the authorities themselves. When considered with total borrowings, plus the relatively small amount given by the Commonwealth Government, the increase in those construction costs means that inflation- a government contrived device- has meant no gain to those authorities but merely a transfer of funds. I repeat that for the Government to give a loan to a local government authority is merely to alter the agent who does the borrowing. Instead of making the semi-governmental authority the agent for borrowing the Commonwealth Government becomes the agent. It does nothing to provide extra funds for the local government constructing body and does little or nothing to reduce their costs and their indebtedness. Therefore the relatively small amount of $ 105 m which has been foreshadowed could result in little or no increase in the amount of construction carried out in the year ahead. It is true that in another place the Government has recited a number of undertakings that have actually been achieved. But these undertakings are merely those which the local authorities have allocated for pricing. We have to look at the quantum, what the local authorities did and what the Government did.
I stress the point that the Government in its policy speech made it clear that these moneys would be made available by way of grant and not by way of loan. That was unequivocal. Indeed, it went on to state that future grants for this purpose would come from the Grants Commission and that they would be grants as such. Unless I misunderstand the statement of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in another place, the essential nature of the $100m is to provide $70m of loans- not grants- and $30m of grants. The $30m in grants is basically useful. But the $70m in loans will merely transfer the borrowing agent from the semi-governmental field to the Commonwealth Government. These loans will add to the whole debt structure of those authorities. Faced with a 40 per cent increase in construction costs, the depressed nature of the whole loan market, and the actions of the Commonwealth Government in drying up liquidity in the trading banks and altering the 60-40 ratio that applied in regard to savings banks, the local and semi-governmental authorities of Australia face a serious position in the immediate months ahead. No statement has been made by the Government as to how, if at all, it will assist in this regard. I call upon it to disclose what steps it will take and what plans it has to provide the necessary finance.
Let me now outline what in my view ought to be the bases for a common sense program of sewerage construction. I say by way of preface before I do so that I anticipate that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) will resort- naturally enough- to the technique used in another place of decrying those governments of the past that did not complete their sewerage construction programs. May I speak for my own State of New South Wales? In 24 years of government by a State Labor Government up to 1965, that government was wholly responsible for the water and sewerage works of my State. During that time, year after year, that Labor government refused to take up all the loan funds that were available to it from the Australian Loan Council. It argued that it would not build up book debts as such and it deliberately underborrowed. In fact, every piece of capital work in New South Wales was put into jeopardy because of the under-borrowing program of 24 years of
Labor government. I say this against the criticism made in another place that there has been a backlog of works. If there is to be a mote in the eye, then I say to the Labor Party, through its State instruments: ‘Physician cure thyself, because the borrowing programs were available and there was the failing to make use of them. The newspapers of 1 966, 1 967 and onwards are full of the fights of the New South Wales State Liberal Government to obtain some kind of redress at Loan Council meetings or to obtain some kind of upgrading in the position so that a proper percentage of the funds could be provided to that Government. But during the previous 24 years we had the failure at all levels of construction- in regard to schools, hospitals and every other kind of construction including water and sewerage- because of the deliberate and stated policy of Premiers such as Mr Cahill and others to under-borrow and to knock back funds offered within the area of the Loan Council. So let it not be said that this was some legacy of some non-Labor administration of the past. The legacy lies heavily with that former State Labor Government.
Let me say, regardless of whether the mote lies in the Minister’s eyes or our eyes, that there is a serious backlog of water and sewerage development and reticulation and that we must do something about it. The ingredients that I put forward are a serious criticism of the Labor Government’s projected program and, I hope, offer constructive suggestions for the future.
The first situation is this: It is hopeless to dribble forward year by year amounts of money without giving some indication quite clearly of what will happen next year, the year after and the year after that. The very planning of such huge projects that involve hundreds of millions of dollars depends upon the ability of these authorities to go to the drawing board, to their engineers, to their suppliers of spun pipes, drains and treatment plants and say to them: ‘We will want this quantity and particularity of material at this particular time’. They cannot say this at all at this moment. It is of utmost importance that in a time when the unemployment rate is moving past 2.2 per cent on its way to 3 per cent, something which the Government stated in the Budget is tolerable- I intervene to state that it said that an unemployment rate of 4, 5 or 6 per cent is intolerable- there should be a plan within this Labor regarded tolerability of an unemployment rate of 3 per cent. But where is the move to plan ahead and to say to these authorities that they can go to their drawing boards and plan ahead in consultation with their engineers and suppliers so that more people can be employed in the steel works, in the pipe manufacturing industry and by the pumping and electrical authorities because they will be guaranteed extra employment not only in 1974 and 1975 but also in the years ahead.
The fundamental basis of a proper water and sewerage program is that it should be at least a 3-year program and prospectively a 5-year program. Let me draw the parallel of the huge water conservation program that the Holt Government laid down and which, after it terminated after 5 years of operation, the Labor Government abandoned. Here was a program that planned ahead. Here was a program that industry understood and that the Government departments understood. Here was a program that guaranteed full employment. So I state emphatically that the first point is that a sewerage program must be a 3-year or 5-year program.
Secondly, any such program must be undertaken in terms of non-repayable grants and not by way of loans. All that happens when loans are made is that the borrowing authority is altered and the debt burdens of the authorities are increased. In fact, except in times when the local market will not supply the funds, the Government confers no great benefit upon the local authorities by itself making the loans available to them except that there is a marginal difference between the Commonwealth’s interest rate and the debenture interest rate. But if the Government were to embark upon a program of making available non-repayable grants, it would reduce the whole burden on the local authorities. So the second point is that we should have nonrepayable grants and not loans.
Thirdly, any such scheme should look towards reducing the interest burden and the debt burden of the semi-governmental authorities. One of the great social and economic reforms that have been performed by any government since the 1927 financial agreement was undertaken by the Gorton Government when it intervened to look at the State debts and to work out a program for reducing the debts themselves and the interest burdens. Honourable senators will recall that during the post-war years we saw the phenomenon of State debts accelerating to an enormous degree and Commonwealth debts declining. The Commonwealth was financing its activities out of revenue and therefore was incurring no long term interest burden. The States were being financed out of loans that were repayable. The Gorton Government interposed equity in this regard and stated that it would devise a plan to meet this situation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The debt and interest structure of the semi-governmental authorities, particularly those charged with the responsibility for water and sewerage, is of mammoth proportions. It is necessary to understand this in order to get some appreciation of the relative impact of the money that is being allocated by the Government. For example, for the year 1972-73 the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works had a capital debt, speaking from memory, of the order of $648m. The Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board in Sydney, from memory, has a capital indebtedness in excess of $800m. That authority raises in rates, both water and sewerage, of the order of $ 140m a year and will have to raise much more than that to meet current inflation. The Sydney Water Board would, I think, be seeking a capital loan of the order of perhaps $100m or $1 10m, and the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works some $80m. In Brisbane the capital works program runs to some $60m.
So to talk of what are relatively modest sums, that is a sum of $37.9m over the last year and a projected sum of $105m, is in perspective not contemplating a very substantial number of new works. I have made the point that due to a 40 per cent increase in costs the new works may not emerge at all and, unless the Government does something to underwrite the loan programs, there might well be a downturn in construction.
To understand the problem of these authorities, out of every dollar collected in Sydney by the Water Board 52c goes to debt servicing. In Newcastle 53c goes to debt servicing and in Melbourne some 58c. We have therefore the ludicrous situation where the great bulk of money raised by way of rates goes to service old debts. This brings me to the point that I wish to stress. If it is proper, as the Gorton Government did, to relieve the debt and interest burden on State governments then surely it must be equally important to do so in respect of local governments. I put this forward as my own view and as one of the main ingredients of any forward program.
Any such program should relate to the economic and social climate. We are discussing this Bill, and prospectively the Budget, against a condition of severe recession within the community, against a condition where some 1 ,000 persons a day are losing jobs and against a Budget which forecasts and has built into it an unemployment rate of the order of 3 per cent. One would therefore look to the works programs of the Government to see some intelligent long range supplements for taking up the slack in employment.
I say this not in any sense of advocating leafscraping. The thought that water and sewerage works are merely ditching and trenching is entirely wrong. There is in them the opportunity for the absorption of a great deal of skilled and semi-skilled work right throughout the planning, development and construction stages. If the Government is serious in its thought about retraining, I understand that the construction authorities are interested to hear suggestions whereby they can act as retraining agents for people who have been deliberately displaced from employment by the creation of structural unemployment by this Government. I look to this Government to state what is the retraining program in terms of these great public utilities specifically. What has the Government done towards having such discussions, if anything? What are its plans for taking up the slack in employment, not for the purposes of leaf scraping but with a view to long term gainful and skilled employment?
In recent days the chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, Mr Croxford, foreshadowed that there would be a necessity to raise the rates of the Board of Works by approximately 30 per cent. There is no doubt at all that other authorities, including the Sydney Water Board, will have to follow suit. I make the point that while this Government deliberately embarks on policies of sustained high inflation of the order of 20 per cent all local and semigovernmental authorities will be forced to inflict punitive taxation by way of higher rates upon the community. The tragedy is that these increases in rates will produce no increase in actual works. Right throughout local government at this moment local authorities, like State governments, are taking the rap for policies created by the Federal Government. The results of the local government elections in my State a week or two ago reflected the anger of the people in my State at the inflation and unemployment policies of the Government.
There is one other important point to make in any program of sewerage works. Desirably the money should be given by the Federal authority to the States without strings. In my view it is highly improper for a Commonwealth Government to insist upon the specific nature of the works to be done. One could say that these works are being used for political purposes, that the Government is seeking quite improperly to use taxpayers’ funds for specific and discriminatory works for political purposes. Therefore it is important that the Federal Government should allocate its money without strings and without directions.
The task of constructing new head works and new main trunks is an enormous one. For example, the areas around Melbourne, such as the Dandenongs and the areas to the south and east of Melbourne where great developments have occurred have been tragically short of development funds. They need those funds. Here is the chance for a break-through.
I support the Bill itself and the concept of providing an extra sum of $7. 9m but I query why no satisfactory explanation has been given of the cutback of the Queensland request from $2m to Sim. I query that in the face of the need in the City of Brisbane to do something rapidly to overcome the pollution of the Brisbane River and the general outlets.
In terms of the Bill I raise the matter of the impact of the whole of sewerage finances upon local government and semi-governmental bodies. I seek from the Minister some statement of long term policies. I urge the Government to look to a 3-year or 5-year planning, to a system of debt and interest redemption and, above all, to a system of grants not loans. However, nothing will be meaningful in any of these matters while inflation runs at 20 per cent and while it is moving higher to 25 per cent. The whole of the nominal status of the public works as outlined in the Budget must remain meaningless when inflation runs in the Sukarno style. We can only convert money into new and increased works when we have a stable community. It is against that background that I speak to this Bill.
– We are discussing the Sewerage Agreements Bill which is a Bill for an Act to provide financial loans to some of the States for sewerage works. We support the Bill but with the reservations which Senator Carrick has already outlined. It is worth looking at the promises specifically relating to sewerage works and the provisions of these works by a Labor government which were made before this Government came to office. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his 1 972 policy speech stated:
A Labor Government will immediately ask the principal water and sewerage authorities what Commonwealth grants -
I draw attention to the word ‘grants ‘- in the present financial year would enable them to embark promptly and economically -
I emphasise the word ‘economically’- on an uninterrupted program to provide services to all the premises in their areas by 1978. For subsequent financial years, the Commonwealth Grants Commission will investigate and recommend the size of Commonwealth grants -
Once again let us emphasise what Mr Whitlam was promising in the policy speech on which he was elected- required to see the program through.
This was a very specific promise of money. It was a promise of financial grants. In no way did Mr Whitlam suggest that the States would be given a series of loans which were to be repayable. The actions of the Government since it was elected do not support the promise made in that policy speech. If we look at the Budget papers which were presented in the Senate recently we find that the Budget will provide $105m during this financial year for sewerage services. This Bill refers to part of that allocation. Of course in this Bill there are 2 issues. The first is the issue of the sewerage program itself. This is a matter on which we do not disagree with anything the Government is doing in relation to the provision of sewerage programs and works which are required and the extra facilities. We support this. We are as concerned as the Government to see the new works proceed and the new facilities made available.
But the second issue central to this Bill is the method of financing. It is here that we think the States are receiving and have received a raw deal. Though this Bill refers to 3 States only, it is fair to say that the total program will take in all States. It is in the context of a program which will involve the whole country that I am speaking to this Bill and about my concern at the prospects for my State of New South Wales. In the end the central question is the debt structure of the various government bodies in Australia. What is the debt structure and how has it been altered? Senator Carrick has referred already to some of the features of the debt structure. I refer to 2 tables which I have had prepared. I seek leave to have these tables incorporated in Hansard.
– What are they?
– They are tables relating to the debt structure. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has a copy.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The tables read as follows)-
Bochm. E. A. and Wade. P. B. ‘The Anatomy of Australia’s Public Debt’. Economic Record. Vol 47 No. 1 1 9. September 1971.
– These tables show the debt structure of the Commonwealth, the States, semi-government bodies and local government bodies both in dollars and in terms of percentage share of government debt. The important fact which emerges from the tables is that between the years 1940 and 1970 the Commonwealth debt rose from $870m to $3,884m. At the same time its share of total indebtedness dropped from 27 per cent in 1940 to 18.6 per cent in 1970. If we move across to the column which concerns us today- semi-government bodies- we find that their indebtedness has gone up during the same period from $35 lm to $6,024m. During this period we find that semi-government bodies have been asked to bear an increasing proportion of the debt burden of our country. In percentage terms the debt increased from 10.8 per cent to 28.9 per cent and during the same period the Commonwealth debt has been reduced further. Against this background it becomes intolerable to consider the kind of financing offering which is against the promise to give grants. The kind of finance provided will be in the form of loans which will add markedly to the burden which people have to bear because, in the end, people have to pay back this money.
The States had considerable doubts about the Government’s program when it was first put up. They were aware of the fact that one of the few things the Australian Government had increased was the bond rate. Because the bond rate has been increased the money which the States are being asked to borrow is even more expensive than it has ever been before and the interest rate which the States are being asked to pay now represents a very considerable repayment. In the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 23 November 1973 there was a statement by the New South Wales Minister for Public Works, Mr Punch, when he was discussing the proposals which the Whitlam Government had put up at that stage with regard to loans of money for sewerage works. Mr Punch stated:
I thought the Prime Minister really meant grants. It is disappointing, to say the least, that he is now offering the States repayable loans at the long term bond rate. This is a record 8V4 per cent . . . The simple fact is that we cannot provide sewerage facilities economically under the terms the Federal Government proposes. ‘
Mr Punch says that the Government cannot provide the facilities economically. I remind honourable senators of the Prime Minister’s promise that money would be made available to allow the States to provide these services economically. Mr Punch talked about the repayment provision. He said that under the proposed scheme if New South Wales borrowed $1 1.2m it would have to pay back in interest and principal $llm in the first 10 years. At the end of that time there would still be $7m owing on which the New South Wales Government would continue to pay %Vi per cent. In the event the Prime Minister and the Government late last year elected to lengthen the loan period. But even that does not alter the fact that the Government has gone back on its promise. It is now lending money at its own kind of interest rates, rates which people cannot really tolerate.
Other comments have been made on this Bill. One which is worth reporting was made in the Queensland Parliament by Mr Lickiss, a member of the Legislative Assembly. He stated that the offer made by the Commonwealth would result in a doubling of the sewerage rate payable by householders in his region. That is what the loan means. It has to be paid back sometime or other. In fact, it is no service to the people of Queensland, New South Wales or of any other State to have their debt burden increased in this way when, at the same time, the Commonwealth is reducing its share of the debt burden. This is inequitable sharing. The debt burden is being thrown back on the people in what, in fact, is a fairly regressive manner. It is another example of the Federal Government’s advantaging itself at the expense of the States and the semi-government bodies, and in the long run, at the expense of the people.
We heard this morning of the purchase of a painting for $650,000. If even that small amount of money were put into the loan situation it would save the State repayments of about $50,000 a year in interest. At present that has to be repaid by the average citizen. It is a question of priorities, of where you look to place your resources and how you decide these things should be done. Sydney has a very comprehensive plan for the provision of water and sewerage services, particularly sewerage services. It was drawn up 4 years ago by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board and envisages the complete sewering of Sydney by 1982. The setting up of this enormous undertaking required a lot of forward planning involving consultants and the lining up of contractors as well as appropriate decisions about inflationary rates.
In the implementation of this plan in the first 2 years of the Federal Labor Government it was found that materials and labour could not be obtained. Now that materials are available they cannot get the financial backing necessary. They certainly cannot afford to borrow large amounts of money at a bond rate of 8.5 per cent. Plans have been prepared for primary, secondary and tertiary treatment works that are so badly needed in Sydney, together with surface treatment works, submarine outfalls for the coastal areas and complete treatment works for inland areas. Some inland parts of Sydney already have treatment works in operation. At St Mary’s the treatment works is providing effluent of a higher quality than the water into which it is flowing, determined by the biological oxygen demand as the measure of the worth of the water. New South Wales has a very good program for the next 8 years if only we can get money on reasonable and just terms.
I am informed, as Senator Carrick said in his speech, that our Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board as at 30 June last had an indebtedness total for loans and advances of $855,741,166. All that amount has to be serviced every year by the householders of Sydney. If the Government is going to help with sewerage works let it provide some real money. Let it make some grants. Let it give that kind of money that will enable capital works to proceed without adding to our load. We are already in enough trouble. Senator Carrick has made a number of positive suggestions and I want to second them. We should have a program which we know will extend over 3, 5 or 10 years so that our appropriate boards can plan ahead, so that they can work out in advance what their needs will be and set up a coherent program.
We want non-repayable grants and a program similar to the one undertaken by Mr Gorton to reduce the debt burden at present falling on semi-government bodies. Let us not forget that they bear 28 per cent of the debt burden at present. It is a disproportionate amount and is unfair to them. In particular I want to address myself to the relief of interest payments and progressive debt redemption. I appeal to the Minister. Anything his Government will do to aid semi-government bodies will be appreciated because it is the ordinary person who pays rates who will benefit in the long term. For every taxpayer’s dollar more capital works will be possible when the money is not directed to interest servicing.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made a speech in north Queensland 4 days after the Budget was introduced. Speaking to the Australian Labor Party Regional Council he had the effrontery to say: ‘Is it centralist to provide the States with record grants for . . . sewerage?’ It may or may not be centralist, but the fact is that the Government did not provide grants for sewerage. It is like a money lender putting himself up as the people’s friend. It is like a salesman urging someone to buy on hire purchase. If the Government wants to spread election propaganda about grants, let it deliver when the time comes. I would like to conclude by reminding the Senate that on 23 January of this year we received from the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) an endorsement of what we are saying. In a Press statement released on that date he said:
The Australian Government is concerned about the debt burden accrued by sewerage authorities over the past 20 years. The Government is examining ways progressively to eliminate it.
If Mr Uren and his Government have that concern, if they care about the ability of semigovernment bodies to survive in terms of the function they have to serve, let them do something about it. Let them make a gesture to the States and the semi-government groups. Let them offer grants and take some positive action to reduce the accrued interest load and the indebtedness. We will support any such measures and their program would be a lot more credible if they would take such action.
-I support the remarks of Senator Carrick and Senator Baume about the Sewerage Agreements Bill. As they have said, a much more direct and overall approach is required by the Government to the basic question of sewerage provision which is so necessary in the major residential areas of
Australia. This Bill is to allow a small addition to the moneys provided in 1973-74. It adds something less than $8m to the moneys available. It could be called just a drop in the bucket when one considers the whole scope and necessity for money and sewerage works in the major cities.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who represents the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) in this chamber, made in his second reading speech 2 statements with which I think we would all agree. He said:
We have no cause for pride in the quality of services when millions of gallons of raw sewage is pumped each week into the seas off our coast, bays and inlets, metropolitan rivers and creeks.
The pollution of our seas and inland waters is a major issue which is closely tied up with the provision of sufficient money to sewer our city areas. We recognise that in the main urban areas about one-sixth of the houses are not sewered. The Minister went on to make a statement which is of great significance to the whole problem. He said:
They re-enforce the point that these great problems will not be solved without heavy capital spending. Spending on sewerage works soaks up an enormous amount of capital, both for the expansion of services to meet growing populations and to chop out the backlog in services which now exists. It means that the States and local government cannot tackle the backlog and at the same time keep up with new services without strong support from the Australian Government.
We suggest that those statements by the Minister in his second reading speech are true. Major support has to be given and I agree with other senators who have spoken in this debate that that major support should be in the form substantially of grants and not loans which add to the long term indebtedness of the authorities that have to deal with this problem.
I speak particularly of the position in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Over the years the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works has shown a great deal of imagination in endeavouring to make plans and cover the various possibilities in providing for the needs of a growing population. Since 1897 the Board has endeavoured to meet these needs within its financial capacity. In 1958 it made a start on the construction of the Brooklyn pumping station to replace the overloaded original Spotswood pumping station. The Board has since sewered well over 150,000 houses in the metropolitan area, including nearly 100,000 since the Brooklyn pumping station was commissioned in 1964. As a result of the necessity to look ahead the Board of Works has at all stages realised that the Werribee farm, which had treated the bulk of the city’s waste since 1897, could not continue to handle the ever-growing amount which was required to be treated. Therefore, in 1965 work began on the multi-million dollar south-eastern sewerage system which is designed to serve the rapidly growing areas east and south-east of Melbourne. This system, which is an expensive one and is still in the course of construction, will ultimately discharge purified waste water into Bass Strait near Cape Schanck. Even the introduction of this system, with all that it will do for the southern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, will not overcome the problem.
Consequently, the Board ‘s major projects now involve, firstly, the expansion of a $57m program on the Dandenong Valley trunk sewer and contributory mains and, subsequently, the new developments in the western part of Melbourne -the north-west intercepting sewer costing $66m and a $200m sewage treatment plant at the Werribee Farm, which will be known as the Western Purification Plant. It has been pointed out by Mr Alan Croxford, Chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, that these recent developments are by far greater and more expensive than any developments which have been carried out by the Board in the whole of the period since 1897. All these things are not luxuries but necessities, and they are necessary to treat the sewage which the further development of Melbourne will bring about. Therefore, all these proposals must be given close attention, and finance for them must be found. As has been pointed out, even with the developments in the south-east of Melbourne, the build-up of the sewage flow to the Werribee Farm will soon be too much to be treated entirely. Consequently, all these developments require urgent attention and should be speeded up. As at April 1974 155,000 dwellings in Melbourne were still unsewered. This fact is constantly in the Board ‘s mind.
In the last week or so I have had correspondence with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works on another question, lt seemed to me that much could be gained, in this time of growing unemployment, if there were some taking up of the slack by the expediting of MMBW programs. This could be achieved by making further moneys available to the Board so that it could hasten its development of headworks and other things which are necessary for the long term development of Melbourne. I asked 2 questions of the Board. Firstly, I asked:
How much is required to extend the existing sewerage facilities to the outer areas of Melbourne?
In effect, I asked: How much would be required to cover the whole area in future? The answer was:
It is estimated that $126m (in June 1974 values) will be required to be spent on sewerage works in the years 1 974-75 to 1 982-83 to overcome the sewerage backlog.
That money is not for additional matters; it is to overcome the backlog in sewerage. Obviously there is a great need for moneys to be made available. I asked a second question. It was:
Assuming that additional funds are made available for sewer extensions, could employment be offered to persons now out of work due to the current economic crisis?
The answer was:
Yes. It is thought that up to 200 persons could be offered employment with the Board, but not before January 1975. The interim period will be required by the Board to prepare the necessary designs for such sewer extensions as may be possible in the light of additional funds.
I point out that, even if the Government decides to make available additional funds to create further work for persons out of employment, there must be a time lag. Obviously these things must be done at an early stage so that the earliest effect on unemployment can be achieved. I think that this area of sewage treatment is an area which is fairly labour intensive and an area in which one could expect, if the Government were prepared to make further grants available to the States and to the semi-governmental institutions, further employment will result. The Budget allocates $104m to be spent through the States on sewerage proposals, but we cannot ignore the enormity of the task which is before the country. Budget Paper No. 8 ‘Urban and Regional Development’, dealing with this problem, states:
An important component of the program is the upgrading of trunk mains, headworks and treatment works to ensure that effluent is adequately treated to protect areas where outfalls occur from environmental degradation.
It also states:
Present estimates suggest that it will take about 10 years to overcome the sewerage backlog to the extent that all existing dwellings are served and all new dwellings being built can be connected immediately to a complete and environmentally acceptable sewerage system. The present best estimate of the total cost of the works program needed to attain this objective is about $3, 800m (in June 1974 prices). The contribution required from the Australian Government is likely to be about 40 percent, or $ 1,500m.
I believe it would be wise for us to bear in mind that, even in the terms of the Government’s statement there, that amount to be provided by the Federal Government obviously is not half the amount which it is contemplated must be provided from all sources. Senator Carrick said that the rates of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works may rise by 30 per cent shortly. When one sees the statement which Mr
Croxford, the Chairman, made on this matter, one appreciates that the Federal Government is not yet doing what is needed in this area. He said:
If the public demand more water, pollution controls and more sewerage then the public has to pay for it.
The only other way to finance these is for the governments to provide direct cash grants. They are not doing that and so the public must pay instead.
He also said that the works programs scheduled for this year would get about $72m from public loans, $28m from Federal Government loans, $22m in State Treasury advances, $5m in revenue from Board owned properties currently leased and about $3m from acreage levies charged to sub-dividers. Consequently we see that the Federal contribution is but a small part of the amount which the Board of Works must raise. The Board has an indebtedness of about $700m and has to pay 58c out of every dollar to service those loan repayments. The State Parliament of Victoria recently passed legislation which will allow the debt to rise to $ 1 ,000m, but that means only that the inflationary effect of greater rates, the payments which must be met by the citizens of Melbourne and the amounts which must be paid all the time in interest payments are the items which are rising and which will continue to rise if the loan is increased to $ 1 ,000m. I join my colleagues in saying that there are 2 changes, among others, that are needed. There is a need for greater grants, not loans, and there is a need to increase not the present indebtedness of the semi-governmental authorities but rather the contribution which the Commonwealth will make to service what is an essential aspect of our quality of life.
There also is a great necessity for long range programs of three or five years duration. We can arrange a 3-year program when it comes to roads so why can we not do it in relation to sewerage. Surely this is an area in which we are even more able to estimate because we can judge the number of people and dwellings to be serviced and we know the existing backlog. Surely this is an area where long range plans should be available and further government moneys should be available. I join in supporting the Bill because it represents some small assistance in meeting the need but I also join my colleagues in saying that the plans which the Government has at the moment are not adequate for the great necessities which this problem raises in all our urban communities in Australia. I hope that the Government will think again on this matter and carry out the promise it made to the people.
– in reply- This Bill is to provide an extra $7.9m in support of the 1973 Sewerage Agreements Act which appropriated money for 3 States. I suppose that I, as the Minister responsible for the passage of this Bill, should thank the Opposition for not opposing it. The action of the Opposition ensures that it will be passed although it has not received the speedy passage we would have liked. One cannot help deprecating that cheap attempt of Opposition senators to make political propaganda out of the benefits that will go to the States even while they were supporting the Bill. One cannot help but deplore the very immature arguments advanced in relation to this question while not looking at the problem that we are facing.
I think most of the issues raised in this debate were dealt with effectively in the reply of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to the debate in the other place which is reported in the Hansard of that place dated 24 September. This Bill will advantage the States in what is possibly the area of their greatest needsewerage. Yet we find that some honourable senators have indulged in cheap political propaganda in relation to an agreement made in an attempt to catch up with the backlog of sewerage problems within the States. This agreement has been subjected to the cheap political propaganda that we have seen today. An attempt was made to apportion blame. Whether the present problem has come about as a result of 24 years of Labor government in New South Wales or some other cause is irrelevant. It appears that Senator Baume, who has just entered the Senate, has become the authority on what the States are doing. For the purpose of political propaganda he likens sewerage to a painting that has been bought. I fail to see the similarity. He quoted the backbenchers in State Houses as the authorities on the question of what the Commonwealth should do to the States.
Senator Missen showed the magnitude of the problem we are facing. It is a problem of which the Australian Labor Party has known since before it came into office and it justified the reference to it made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech of 1972. He said then that he would ask the States to supply information on what was necessary to catch up with the backlog of sewerage works in the States by 1978. He said that he would ask them what was necessary and that he would ask the Grants Commission to review what was necessary for the development of the States. One of the first things he did as Prime Minister was to call a conference in accordance with his promise to the States. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development referred to this in his reply to the debate in the other place and said that the lack of sewerage in Australia necessitated the expenditure of some $3,800m in order to catch up with the backlog. He pointed out that in a city like Perth 50 per cent of the properties are unsewered. This is happening in Australia in 1974. In Sydney and Melbourne we find that one in five or one in six homes are unsewered. That is the magnitude of the problem. Whether it is the fault of Labor or Liberal governments, the States have neglected their people over the generations. State governments are concerned about attracting industry to their areas and do not care about the people. Whether they have been Labor or Liberal governments they have neglected their people and that is why it is necessary for the Commonwealth to step in. We say that we have the interests of the people at heart. We are the Government which is concerned about the people and money will be made available to benefit the people in the particular States concerned.
We heard Senator Carrick say that the Government should make money available without strings and without restrictions. The Commonwealth has given money without strings and without restrictions over the generations but we still find that in a city like Perth 50 per cent of the homes are unsewered. We had to honour the promise to get over thus backlog by 1978. The State Ministers said that because of lack of manpower and material it could not be done. I believe that they drew up a plan to try to get over the problem by 1982. We then sought ways to finance this program and an agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth and the States providing the most beneficial arrangements ever made between the Commonwealth and the States- a loan over a 40-year period at the long term bond rate of interest, the lowest rate of interest possible. With the Commonwealth making a 30 per cent grant it is hoped that this rate of interest can be met by payment for sewerage services and not result in an increase in the debt of the States. This is the whole purpose of the scheme worked out between the Ministers of the States as a possibility in order to overcome the backlog hurriedly. Yet these Rip Van Winkles opposite who have just come into this Parliament said today that this scheme is no good and that it will increase the burden of the States.
This Government is accepting the responsibility of this whole scheme. Let me say at once that this is not the main sewerage proposal that will come before this House this year. The 1973 Act related to an agreement to spend what could be spent in order to overcome this sewerage backlog in the States. Honourable senators will see if they read the reply of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development that this Government received a proposal from Victoria relating to environmental matters connected with Port Phillip Bay. The Premier of Victoria sought another $3. 95m in addition to last year’s grant. Another $3m is being made available to Western Australia where, due to unemployment, it can be used. The original request from Queensland was for $2m and honourable senators opposite have asked why Queensland is not to get what it has sought. When it was found that the full amount could not be used because of the utilisation of manpower in cleaning up after the floods, the original sum was reduced to $ lm.
Those States which requested an increase are granted that increase under this Bill. The figure of $ 105m has been referred to and it will be the sum provided for 1974-75 as proposed in the Budget. It will be the subject of another Bill yet to come before this House. That Bill will deal, in the main, with the terms and conditions of employment. This is the first time a scheme has been worked out with the States to overcome the serious problem of sewerage backlog within the States. It is a scheme which is acceptable to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. It is a scheme which is to be spread over a period of time during which it is hoped that the return of service charges will pay for the scheme. Let us get on with the scheme and not harp about who is to blame for the backlog. The criticism has been raised that a Labor Government was in power in New South Wales for 24 years. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has gone into this whole question. The Labor Government was not in power in Perth for 24 years where the position is worse than it is in Sydney. Senator Carrick criticised the Labor Government in New South Wales for not borrowing the funds that it could have borrowed. In New South Wales for every $1 collected 52c must be paid to service the debt charge yet in Western Australia, where there is no Labor Government, 58c must be paid to service the debt charge.
If honourable senators opposite are looking for somewhere to place the blame, they cannot place it on one government. In the past the States have neglected their people. For 23 years the liberal-Country Party Government in the Federal Parliament was glad to ignore the position and say that it was a State responsibility. In 1972 the Labor Government came to office with a promise that it would look after the people of the States despite what brand of government the States might have in power. The present Government intends to do this. We thank the Opposition for its support of this Bill to let Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland proceed with greater sewerage programs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 26 September (vide page 1454), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Is there any objection to that procedure?
– The Government would be agreeable to that course of action.
– There being no objection, that course will be adopted.
– The Senate is debating a Bill to provide $2. 56m by way of a non-repayable grant for the second stage of a dam on the Ross River, some 30 kilometres from Townsville. The first stage of this dam was agreed upon by the former LiberalCountry Party Government. Indeed, the intention was for stage 2 to proceed immediately following the completion of stage 1. The aim of stage 2 is to raise the height of the spillway by some 6.5 metres and of the embankment by some 4 metres. There will be a need to relocate some 16 kilometres of the Flinders Highway and some part of the great northern railway. When completed this dam will provide a total storage of 417,000 megalitres or 338,000 acre feet.
Townsville, a strong and growing area in our north, has a population today of 80,000. It has been estimated that the population will increase to 100,000 by 1980, with a growth rate of 8 per cent. It has an enormous domestic industrial capacity and the need for adequate water supply is, of course, very real. Stage 2 of the Ross River Dam will provide for flood mitigation to a point that, when completed, very valuable land which is now flooded plains can be recovered from the floods and, no doubt, used for housing or other development. The area, which is so close to Townsville, will of course provide an enormously attractive recreational reserve. It is hoped that a flora and fauna reserve will be associated with the Ross River Dam.
When the 1972 general election campaign was being fought- nowhere was it fought more bitterly than Townsville- the Labor candidate and the then Labor Leader, Mr Whitlam, made it clear that if Labor were elected to office it would immediately provide funds for the construction of stage 2 of the Ross River dam. Indeed, in the 1972 policy speech of the Labor Party it was stated:
The Ross River and Burdekin projects arc as vital to Townsville as to Townsville ‘s hinterland. They will be prime responsibilities of the Conservation and Construction Authority, which will be financed from the $47m which Victoria and New South Wales will pay each year for the next 50 years for the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
It is sad that so much time has passed since that election before the commencement of stage 2. As a result, because of this delay, the dismantling of much of the construction work and the loss of plant and operators has taken place. It will be necessary to reassemble workers, machinery and plant to get stage 2 going. Townsville, of course, has great prospects as a growth centre. Knowing the tendency of the Labor Government to ambiguity of speech, I was drawn- attracted as by a magnet- to that part of the Minister’s second reading speech in which he said of Townsville:
Its growth over recent years owes much to Australian decisions, such as the location of defence installations, the establishment and growth of the James Cook University and work now in progress on the Institute of Marine Science at Cape Cleveland.
The Minister was claiming great credit for the Australian Government which, at present, is his Government. I know it is churlish to mention it but, of course, the Australian Government in all those circumstances was a Liberal-Country Party Government. Even now, it is nice to get acknowledgement from the Government of what we did. The speech, of course, reads as though there is vitrue in what the Labor Government has done. Let me be churlish and say that if there is any claim that the Labor Government might make towards Townsville, it is that it has very successfully reduced the defence installations of Townsville by withdrawing battalions of troops. It has taken key defence personnel from Townsville. I pause and interpolate: Does Senator McAuliffe, who is trying to interject, deny this? Does Senator Milliner, who is trying to interject, deny this? It is interesting to hear how noisy they can be when they are sitting either in or out of their correct places in the chamber. The simple fact of the matter is that if the Minister had been truthful in his second reading speech he would have had to admit that the only work that has been done in Townsville since the advent of this Labor Government has been the downgrading of Townsville, not its upgrading. The fact is that this delay has occurred and it has been a setback. The Opposition supports the Bill. It supports the fact that the money is to be made available by way of a non-repayable grant- a principle agreed upon by the former Liberal Government and one which, we hope, will be contagious within the Labor Party. The Opposition urges the speedy construction of the dam.
I now refer to the Julius Dam. Of course, this dam is to be constructed on the Leichhardt River in the Selwyn Ranges, some 65 kilometres east of Mount Isa. It is to be constructed in one of Australia ‘s lowest rainfall areas and in an area of very high evaporation. It is a dam upon which the development of Mount Isa and its environs will very largely depend. There is no need to say to the Senate how important the growth of Mount Isa is and how important the potential of silver, lead and copper ores is in that area and to Australia. Of course, because of the declining sources of rock phosphate in the world and of the growing need for superphosphate by our farmers, one should urge upon the Government the speeding up of the development of the Lady Annie rock phosphate deposits. One also looks towards the development of copper mining at Kajabbi and elsewhere.
Against that background we have here a Bill which is designed to lend $2m over a period for the part-financing of this dam. It is a loan and not a grant. After much squabbling the terms relating to the length of repayment of the loan have been lengthened. Nevertheless, they are basically unsatisfactory. The dam itself is to be financed from 3 sources- by Mount Isa Mines Limited, by the Mount Isa City Council and by the Queensland Government. Of course, a fourth source is to be the Commonwealth Government which is to lend $2m. The total cost of the dam is estimated to be $10m with a further cost of $ 15.2m for pumps and pipelines. The Queensland Government’s share is about $7.3m.
When completed the dam will have a capacity of 123,500 megalitres.
I commend the Bill. I commend the construction of the dam. In giving this support I pay a tribute to the fact that the dam was named after Julius Kruttschnitt who was a well known and well loved identity in Mount Isa. He was the well known ‘JK’ of Mount Isa. I think that he died last week. I commend the whole development of this area because by the development of our mines, by the development of our dry land areas in terms of their minerals, the capacity of this Government and of this Parliament to share the wealth of Australia with its people by way of the provision of pensions, schools, and hospitals can continue and expand. Therefore, I commend the Bill.
– I should like to indentify the Australian Country Party with these 2 measures. As Senator Carrick has said, whilst we support both the Queensland Grant (Ross River Dam) Bill and the Julius Dam Agreement Bill we are dissatisfied with certain aspects of them. At the outset I indicate that these Bills indicate a noticeable change on the part of this Government towards water conservation in Australia, particularly in remote areas. After all, we live in the driest continent. A great number of individual people have been prepared to conserve water in order to conduct particularly primary industries in Australia. At the first opportunity this Government withdrew taxation concessions relating to water conservation and now very few water conservation projects are being undertaken.
As Senator Carrick has said, the Julius Dam is important to the development not only of Mount Isa but also of the whole area surrounding the dam. Immense mineral deposits are waiting to be developed. Whilst the dam itself, when completed, will more than adequately meet the needs of Mount Isa, there is no doubt that in the very near future, once we develop other mining deposits around that area, this dam and the supply of water from it will certainly be necessary. One of the unfortunate things about that area is that although it receives a very high rainfall most of it occurs in a few weeks of the year, and the catchment area for the whole of that mining complex is such that there is very little opportunity to conserve sufficient water for all the mining developments that are projected in the future. Perhaps water will have to be piped in from other areas. Therefore, wherever we can we must support the construction of dams in this area in the nation’s interest. After all, the mining ventures in these remote areas are of national importance. Because of the export income that they earn, these mining ventures are of importance to every person in Australia. It will not involve a great deal of expenditure on the part of each person in Australia in order to provide something that will be of great benefit to everyone.
I turn to the Ross River Dam. It is unfortunate that the money for the construction of this dam was not forthcoming earlier. I know that when the first stage of the dam was completed it was not expected that that part of the dam would fill or that water would be running over the spillway within a few years. But because of the heavy flooding that occurred in north Queensland during the last wet season, almost within a week of the completion of the first stage of the dam water was running over the spillway. Whilst the dam has been able to meet the water needs of the city of Townsville- Townsville has been very short of water for years; until now there have always been water restrictions- it has not been able fully to- solve the flood mitigation problem. Once the second stage of this dam is completed much of the water will bypass Townsville and flow into another area. At the present time most of the water has to flow over the spillway. We hope that the second stage of the dam can be completed before any more cyclones or heavy falls of rain occur in that area. When the second stage of the dam is completed the area surrounding it and the Townsville district can proceed with plans for the future.
I agree with Senate Carrick who said that there are all sorts of great plans for the city of Townsville. It was stated that Townsville would be one of the great growth centres of this nation if a Labor government came to power. Not only have the defence forces in Townsville been reduced, Townsville itself depends on the great wealth earned by the pastoral industry and the mining industry. We know what is happening to our great pastoral industry at the present time, and that doubts have been cast on the mining industry progressing to the stage where deposits will be developed. 1 refer, for example, to the Greenvale nickel project. No doubt it is only a matter of time before nickel will be treated there in vast quantities, and provision has been made to expand the nickel treatment plant fairly soon. But I am afraid that even that will take some years to achieve in the present economic climate. Because such contracts are written well before the project gets under way, inflation and currency matters have prevented this project from developing too quickly. At this stage only such nickel ore can be produced as can be handled by the treatment plant.
These sort of projects are more important to Townsville than the setting aside of great areas of land for development, as has been done in the Albury-Wodonga area where all sorts of loan funds have been provided for all sorts of other development. It is individuals who will develop these areas, and they will develop them to a much greater extent and in a much more efficient manner than will governments. As long as governments provide sufficient funds to carry out projects such as the construction of dams for the benefit of all the people, as is being done on this occasion, then all that the Government has to do is to create the climate for the development of those areas, and particularly the development of private industry in those areas. The Australian Country Party supports these 2 measures.
– I acknowledge the Government’s pleasure at the fact that the Opposition is not opposing the Queensland Grant (Ross River Dam) Bill and the Julius Dam Agreement Bill. It is quite true, as has been said by previous speakers, that the development of this resource in such areas in Queensland is vitally important to the development of that State. I think it is wrong, though, to suggest that the Government has not fulfilled the plans that it has had for Queensland. We know that it is a very big State and therefore the cost of its development is greater than is the cost of the development of some of the smaller States. But it should be borne in mind that in all the years that the Liberal and Country Parties were in government very little was done to develop the areas which Senator Maunsell referred to as the outback areas of Townsville. I assume that he was then referring to the hinterland areas of Townsville. The development of these areas is just as important as the development of Townsville itself.
In all the years that the Liberal and Country Parties were in government there was not the projected planning for the development of those areas that has taken place under the present Government following the formation of a special committee to look at the priorities of development in the area. So it is not a question of criticising the Government for the fact that all the things we would like to see done in the area have not yet been accomplished in the 2 short years that we have been in office. I am sure that in time they will be done, but it is a matter of looking beyond the immediate environs of the city of Townsville and into the vitally important areas that surround it. I am sure that the 2 Bills which I believe are about to be passed by the Senate will be of great benefit to the State of Queensland. I am sure, too, that this is only the forerunner of many more moves which will be made by this Government and, I have no doubt, by future governments to assist the development of that State.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 26 September (vide page 1455), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In moving that motion, I draw attention to the fact that my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) recently gave notice of motion which appears on page 2 of today’s notice paper under Government Business, notices of motion. The terms of Senator Willesee ‘s notice of motion are as follows:
That the Senate is of the opinion-
1 ) That, in any debate or proceeding of the Senate or its Committees or transactions or communications which a Senator may have with other Members or with Ministers or servants of the Crown, he should disclose any relevant pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature, whether direct or indirect, that he may have had, may have or may be expecting to have.
That every Senator should furnish to the Clerk of the Senate such particulars of his pecuniary interests, supported by statutory declaration, as shall be required, and shall notify to the Clerk any alterations which may occur therein, and the Clerk shall cause these particulars to be entered in a register of Senators’ interests which shall be available for inspection by the public.
That a Joint Committee should be appointed to inquire into and report on what arrangements need to be made to give effect to the above principles.
Senator Willesee was to handle this matter on behalf of the Government. Of course, he is now in New York attending the meeting of the United Nations. As I understand the position, when the proposition in the terms that now appear on the notice paper was put in the House of Representatives it was amended to the form of the motion that is now the subject of consideration before the Senate; namely, that the Senate expresses its concurrence with the resolution that has been transmitted from the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee. I emphasise those words. The proposal is that there should be a Joint Committee established to inquire into and report on whether arrangements should be made relative to the declaration of interests of members of Parliament and the registration thereof. The position at this stage is not that there should be arrangements made immediately, as would appear to be the situation outlined in Senator Willesee ‘s proposition, that there be immediately a register kept by the Clerk of the Senate. The proposition is that there be a Joint Committee established to inquire into and report on the types of arrangements that should be made relative to the declaration of the interests of the members of Parliament and the registration thereof.
– Is there anything on record in the House of Representatives or in the Senate that speaks of the interests of senators?
– I have not perused the record of the House of Representatives.
– My understanding is that although it is dealt with in both Houses, at the moment it is confined to the interests of the members of the House of Representatives.
-The honourable senator may be able to express his point of view -
– I was anxious to know whether we are now dealing with the interests of honourable senators as well as members of the House of Representatives.
– It is ‘members of the Parliament’.
-We are dealing with the interests of members of Parliament. 1 assume that senators are members of Parliament.
– Is that right? It is members of the Parliament.
– It is directed to members of the Parliament. I do not know that there is much need for me to make further reference to the matter. I am given to understand that arrangements are made for members of the House of Commons in Westminster to declare any interests they might have in any matter that becomes the subject of debate in the Commons from time to time. We of the Government believe that this matter certainly should be closely looked at. It should be the subject of investigation by a Joint Committee of the Parliament consisting of representatives of both Houses of the Parliament who, meeting together, will determine whether arrangements should be made relative to the declaration of interests of members of Parliament. For Senator Webster’s benefit, I emphasise the words ‘members of the Parliament’. For those reasons, I have moved the motion in the terms that I have outlined to the Senate.
– The Opposition will not oppose the motion moved by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). As the Minister rightly points out, it is relative to the declaration of interests of members of the Parliament, the Parliament being, I take it, the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Originally, this matter rose to the surface, if I can put it that way, when Senator Willesee gave notice of his motion on 1 August.
– Notice was given in the House of Representatives at the same time.
-I think they were both put down on 1 August. Our objection at that time was, in effect, that the Parliament would have been asked to prejudge this proposition and then set up a parliamentary committee because of the judgment it had come to. As I recall what happened in the other place- I am speaking purely from recollection- there was an accommodation arrived at between the Government and the Opposition that the Government would not proceed with the motion of which it had given notice and which stands in the Senate in Senator Willesee ‘s name. In return for that, the Opposition agreed to go along with the setting up of a Joint Committee to investigate this matter. I think it was at that time that the words which appear in paragraph 12 of the message were written in. They read:
That the Committee report within the shortest reasonable period, not later than 90 days after the members of the committee are appointed,-
I hope that the Committee does not expect me to be here on New Year’s Day to receive its report.
This is an important matter. It is a matter which we on this side of the Senate have no objection to being investigated. In fact, it may be even more interesting to see disclosed some of the assets of our representatives of the workers rather than those of the so-called big, wicked capitalists on this side of the Senate chamber. I think that the way the message is worded it contains a lot of bugs. Nothing is said about spouses, about family trusts or about the methods whereby a person can set out deliberately as a member of the Parliament to hide his income but retain control as well as the ownership of his assets. These are the matters to which the members of the Committee will have to bend their minds. I wish the Committee well. I understand that in spite of the fact that the committee of the House of Commons receives a good deal of publicity, to some extent it has been a fiasco. It has not quite worked out as intended.
I have no objection to this proposal. But it strikes me as being strange that after 74 years of the existence of the national Parliament I cannot recall any incident in which any member of either House of Parliament has ever been accused of voting or taking part in a debate because of some direct pecuniary interest and has therefore perhaps acted corruptly. I think this has been one of the great virtues of the Australian Parliament. In that period of 74 years under I do not know how many Prime Ministers and how many governments, to my knowledge there has never been a serious substantiated allegation of corruption by a Prime Minister, a Minister or a member of Parliament. That is a record of which, I suppose, very few Parliaments could boast. Somebody may be able to jog my memory on this matter, but that is the best of my recollection. I am still old fashioned enough to believe that most people who come into the Parliament- I think just about everybody who comes into it- have personal integrity. That is the best discipline of all to make certain that those who are elected are people of the proper calibre and integrity. If that is the case, all these other things tend to be unnecessary.
In my experience, no matter how many audits are conducted within the public or the private sector or no matter how many checks and balances are carried out, if somebody sets out to defraud the revenue or to steal from his employer, he will do so. It may take some time for him to get caught because we hear only of the ones who are caught. We never hear of the ones who are never caught. Maybe the law enforcement officers catch only 5 per cent of those who commit such crimes. Therefore, I look upon the whole operation with some scepticism. But we wish the Committee well. I suppose that the Parliament will rise on Friday, 13 December. I trust that the Committee members will then work assiduously over the Christmas break to have their report ready to be delivered to the President, not in my presence, but within the 90-day period.
– I rise to express the attitude of my Party to this motion. The Australian Country Party does not oppose the request of the Government for the setting up of a Committee to inquire into the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament. The basis upon which that interest may be made known by the member or may be made known to the public is something which, I suppose, every individual who has been associated with council life, State Parliament or any other body which is making a decision on behalf of the community will take into account. Such an individual will have to take into account what may be his interest or what may be his conflict of interest. It does not surprise me but it distresses me that the Australian Labor Party should consider it necessary and important enough to set up an inquiry into this matter in this Federal Parliament. From what was suggested in the debate on the motion moved in the House of Representatives, I imagine that there would be some register of the pecuniary interests of a member of Parliament. How silly it was to propose that because undoubtedly the honourable members who did so know that that can be flouted immediately. Surely they must have moved that motion with the knowledge that that could be done.
It appears to me that basically there are 2 reasons why anyone would suggest that there should be some register of the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament. One reason would be so that the Parliament may be able to take action related to a particular investment and establish that a member of Parliament who happens to be involved in a debate has a conflict of interest. The second reason would appear to me to be an anxiety on the part of the Government which is promoting this move to suggest that according to the record a member has a single interest or a variety of interests which would give ammunition to someone to castigate that member politically or perhaps suggest to the public or the media that he should be excluded from debate on some matter. The Leader of the Opposition expressed the view that apparently no government had thought fit to bring this requirement forward in the 74 years since Federation. Having had such an excellent record set by those who have gone before us and those here today, one questions whether there is any necessity for this action to be taken.
Does anyone oppose the suggestion that a member’s pecuniary interests should be listed? I have had it said to me that probably more embarrassment would be caused to those who, having reached some stage in life where their efforts should show some result, could show only an overdraft. They would be more embarrassed by what they do not have to disclose than by what they have to disclose. That possibly is something which should be taken into account in evaluating a member. For instance, when a person is placed in the position of having to make decisions on economic matters in the community one may query whether that person has been able to show any competence in this field in his private life before hearing him speak on such a matter or allowing him to decide by his vote whether certain action in relation to Government business should be taken.
– What do you mean by that, senator?
– It would be quite evident to Senator McAuliffe what I mean by that.
– I did not get the point.
– It would appear to me to be relevant to know whether individuals who make decisions in public life have made decisions in relation to their own interests during their lives which have not demonstrated any great ability on their part in those matters. It may be said that their decision in the Parliament should be challenged. We see that situation today where individuals who are guiding the destiny of this nation, dealing in millions of dollars every day and making offhand decisions, have not been able to achieve anything in their lives and are proud of it. I do not criticise them. That is quite acceptable. But if we are to lay down a requirement that members disclose their pecuniary interests, perhaps that point should be taken notice of when assessing members’ contributions to debates.
Conflict of interests surely is the most important matter for us to consider, but to me it is overridden by the knowledge that when a member is elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives or obtains public support by vote and is elected to a local council or to a State parliament there is a demonstration of public confidence in his record and an acknowledgement that he is a man of some repute, a man of honour who will vote fairly on matters. It is not necessarily prima facie evidence of public confidence but it appears to me that where elections of individuals are held regularly, if there were some suggestion of some conflict of interest in the way in which we performed, not only would the political groups which are behind us react but also those individuals who normally work to support people in office, whether in municipal life, State government or Federal government life, would certainly not continue to do so. So again the necessity for an open display to be made of pecuniary interests appears unnecessary.
There is provision for the services of an individual to be discontinued in the public interest if it can be demonstrated that there is a conflict of interest between his public life and his personal affairs. There is also in the Federal Parliament, as there is in most parliaments, a full inquiry by members of the Opposition and of the Government parties into the affairs generally of individuals so far as that may be within the ordinary civil rights of an individual. I am quite sure that if a member voted in this chamber on a particular matter to bring about a benefit to some organisation or some company in a way which reflected against his personal credit that fact would be well instanced in the debate on the floor of this place without there being a necessity to record that he has an interest in that organisation, for example, some particular financial organisation, housing trust or company.
– You are not getting edgy about it, are you?
– I am very pleased that this matter has come up for discussion and I am pleased that Senator McAuliffe is taking note of the points I am making. I question in the back of my mind why a Labor government is bringing this suggestion forward and I hope that the Minister in his reply will be able to demonstrate why. I feel that it is unnecessary in our type of public life. If they did this sort of thing, people in public life would not get the support from those who support them normally; they would be out of office. If in relation to something on which I voted there was a suggestion of personal gain to me I am sure that Government senators would be upstanding. I am sure that Senator McLaren or Senator Poyser would be alert to the conflict of interests and would display it in this place. There would be plenty of inquiry to prevent the conflict of interest from occurring. I believe that there is evidence of conflict of interests in a person’s background. Before a person enters the Parliament, before there is any speech made in this place, I could say that he was associated with a particular line of business. It may be said of Senator McAuliffe. I would hate to think if there were a vote in this place on liquor laws for the Australian Capital Territory -
– Or rugby league.
– I would hate to think that if there were a vote on rugby league or on any matter relating to sport someone would be able to say that because of his record Senator McAuliffe should not vote.
– You are ridiculing the Bill.
– I am ridiculing that possibility because what I am saying is the fact. It is a ridiculous proposition. My Party does not oppose the inquiry but I want to point out the stupid thinking of those who put this proposition forward. I see that Senator McLaren endorses the comments I have made. Because of the background of experience which he has had in business and other worlds he knows that a conflict of interest may be demonstrated in a particular matter. So one would be well aware that attempts could be made by anybody to suggest that one could not be other than honourable in one ‘s voting pattern in this chamber. I imagine that the outcome of such matters in other parliaments which have sought to set up this type of operation will be a matter for debate and evidence before the proposed committee. It surprises me that the Government has not laid down a paper. Why waste the time of members and of a committee such as this when it is possible for the Government to send us a file and to say: ‘This is what happened in Britain and America. We have some new ideas. This is what we propose.’ The attitude of members would be known quickly.
But there are many faults in what is proposed. Initially, it is obvious that there is an invasion of the human rights of members of Parliament. There is an invasion of the privacy of members of Parliament. Let us say that a member of Parliament happens to have a substantial holding in some finance company, which may even be one of the companies which it is currently mentioned that the Government is considering assisting.
That member’s interest can readily be noted and he should be excluded from voting on such a matter. This is a surprising proposition because how far does the Government intend to take this matter? This is an invasion of private life. I did not enter Parliament with the idea that somebody would wish me to disclose all my past interests, my present interests or, in the wording of this proposition, my likely interests. These can be determined in a variety of ways.
Would it be an invasion of the privacy of the heads of any of our departments if a similar proposition were put forward about men who are advising the Government in relation to legislation and who are guiding our affairs under the Constitution? How far do we reckon to take this matter? If members of Parliament are to be included, surely the whole of the Public Service ought to be included. The stupidity of what has been advocated can be seen readily by this example. To me it appears entirely unnecessary that there should be this invasion of privacy. What is to be the level of a person’s interest which may be disclosed? John Gorton disclosed that he had, if I remember correctly, 120 shares in Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at one stage. At that stage the Opposition wished to point the bone at John Gorton so it said that he was favouring BHP because he had 120 shares in that enormous company. What will be the level of interest in any company at which it will be said that there is a conflict of interest? Honourable senators on the Government side smile. They just have not considered this matter. They do not understand it. If any person Jiving in this great land, and certainly any member of Parliament- and any Minister, more so- on his very high salary cannot demonstrate that over the years he has been able to achieve an interest in developing a commercial organisation for the benefit of providing employment or exploration in minerals, displayed an interest in developing sporting complexes or has not made any investment in those things, he ought to be castigated for his lack of public interest and public enterprise. What will the record display? Will it show that all that a member of Parliament who receives $18,000, $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, or even the Prime Minister with his $50,000-odd a year, does with that money is blow it up on some venture which never produces anything? What will we see from this record?
– Lots of things which, apparently, the honourable senator does not want to be involved in.
-Senator McLaren comes in. He would hate to be precluded from voting on a poultry industry Bill in this place, would he not?
– He certainly would.
-Here is a member of Parliament, Sir Magnus Cormack, who breaks in to ask whether the honourable senator is frightened of something. Senator McLaren is a man who I understand has had an interest in the poultry industry for much of his life. I have looked on him as a man who has some competence in that field. Now he wants to place on record his own interests so that I could challenge him, if we were debating a levy for the poultry industry, by saying: ‘Senator McLaren will not be allowed to vote on this matter’.
– I have told the honourable senator before that I do not have an interest in this industry. I have divorced myself from it.
-Senator McLaren falls headlong into the old trap. I say to Senator McLaren, as I would say to any honourable senator: ‘Will it be just a request in relation to a member’s personal pecuniary interest?’ I might have had the benefit- I only wish I had had the benefit- of marrying a very wealthy woman.
– The honourable senator married a very good-looking one, though.
-Yes, she is a very goodlooking girl. I appreciate that. She is a very fine woman. Senator McLaren cackles over there. I ask him whether he has any personal close friend or any relatives who are involved in any industry in this country.
– That does not come into this business.
-Again the honourable senator falls straight into the trap by saying that that does not come into it. What Labor is attempting to say is that if in fact a member of Parliament has a wealthy wife and if she has a controlling interest in BHP it does not want to hear about that. The Government is saying: ‘We know that a member is so honourable that it will not sway him in any way. ‘ How abjectly stupid are the Minister and members who have proposed this proposition. If I disclosed my assets they would be shown to be mainly through a proprietary limited company. If honourable senators saw the name of the proprietary limited company that would not disclose one thing to them. But the various areas of interest which that company may have can be enormous.
– The honourable senator has it well covered up, has he?
-Senator McLaren buries his mind under a whole heap of feathers. I know that does not press too heavily on him. As far as I am concerned I am quite interested in disclosing my assets because I am quite proud of what I have achieved. I have worked very hard in my life. I know that all some members have done is to sit on their behinds most of the time. This will be disclosed when we see these figures put down.
– I ask the honourable senator to name them. It is like that doctor’s letter he had. He could not produce it. I ask him to name them.
-Senator McLaren comes in again. This morning we had a meeting- - not the meeting he is thinking about but one at which we discussed the type of thing it is honourable for honourable senators to bring up in this place. Names were mentioned. I think it would be better if Senator McLaren kept quiet most of his time.
– What names? What is the honourable senator talking about?
– The honourable senator would not know what I am talking about. I do not doubt that. But I believe it would be very foolish and very naive if the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament were tabled for the purpose of giving some prima facie evidence of conflict of interest on particular matters. The net must be spread much wider. Undoubtedly it must be spread to a wife, or perhaps to a de facto wife, perhaps to relatives, perhaps to some very wealthy uncle or to someone who is likely to pass away and perhaps leave an honourable senator a great interest in some financial institution. Surely that is necessary. If members of the Australian Labor Party wish to proceed with this matter I do not doubt that those honourable senators who serve on the committee will come back and suggest that the net must be so much broader than is suggested here in relation to the individual interest of a member of Parliament. In actual fact, what is meant by ‘the pecuniary interest of a member of Parliament’? It cannot be of any benefit. I believe that the scrutiny given by the media and by the people and organisations that support our election to Parliament are sufficient to ensure that we act honourably and uprightly, as I believe all honourable members do in respect of their pecuniary interests. If a member wishes to hide any of his interests it is very simple. Let me demonstrate that. I have already said that a false name could be used for shareholding interests in a proprietary limited company.
Assets could be tied up in a trust and nothing would be given away by listing the assets. If a declaration of assets is to achieve anything it must be much broader in its approach. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) has pointed out that other governments have had no success along these lines and the proposition put forward by this Government is a very hollow one.
What is in the Labor Party’s mind? Since I have been here I have heard it said by Labor members- not by Liberal or Country Party… members- that so and so has a particular interest and it has swayed his view. I understand that currently the Labor Party is promoting the view that the income of political parties must be disclosed. I have been looking forward to a Bill directed to that end but it is a funny thing, it has not come in although it was mooted well over a year ago. It has been hedged for some time. Undoubtedly a Bill will be brought in relating to contributions to political parties but will it contain provisions in respect of” the way that political parties hide their donations? During the last election campaign Mr Daly and other Labor Ministers said that the multi-national corporations were contributing to the Liberal Party.
– And to the Country Party.
-And the Country Party. I wonder whether honourable senators know that the Leader of my Party in South Australia opened an envelope addressed to him and found inside a cheque for a very substantial sum from a multi-national corporation for the WhitlamBarnard trust account.
– Can you prove that?
– I do not know whether Senator Milliner would want it proved. If he keeps on as he is going he is likely to hear greater disclosures than that. I have given only one. The comment of the Leader of my Party in South Australia was: ‘I hope that our Party gets as much as they are giving to the Labor Party. ‘
– But in South Australia -
-Senator McLaren comes in again. His newspaper in South Australia has just made it known in headlines that Unilever, the big margarine company, gives so much to the Labor Party. Do honourable senators opposite deny that Labor’s policy on margarine has been influenced by financial contributions to the Labor Party? When the Bill dealing with contributions to political parties comes forward I will be interested to see whether the funds paid to trust accounts are to be declared. A subject I know more about concerns the accounts run up during the election campaign which were paid by other people. There is no direct donation to a party. Labor supporters get over it very easily by saying that they hate one particular party because it is getting funds that are not being disclosed but those people are not willing to say that every corner should be looked into. In truth, I hope that when Labor takes this matter up it will tell us about the money paid to its publicity people. I hope we will hear who paid for the printing and who paid for everything else. I wonder whether this will ever be revealed. This is a real fraud which has been perpetrated by Labor, just as is the subject of this debate. It refers to ‘the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament’. All Labor supporters are looking to do is to slather someone who they believe has a few more bob that Labor supporters have. That is the basis of it.
It would be very interesting if this inquiry were extended to discover what a member of Parliament does with his income during the year, the way that he distributes and disburses it. We are in receipt of a high income and it would be to the benefit of the average working man to learn how we disburse our incomes. It would be interesting to learn how men in public life spend their incomes, particularly when a conflict of interests arises. One member may be interested in seeing Australia grow. He may work towards the development of industry in this country. Another member may throw his income down the sink, a practice of which members on both sides of the House may be guilty. It would be interesting for the public to know of any conflict of interest that may arise when members vote for money to be appropriated.
One area that comes to mind today is that in which agents for art works operate in Australia. Some members may have an interest in art boards or councils. Ridiculous expenditure of millions of dollars is occurring for contemporary paintings. I think the point was well made at question time this morning by Senator Carrick. The question he asked and the answer that was given should be published throughout Australia.
– It would be an interesting exercise for the Prices Justification Tribunal.
-That is right. The point that my Party is anxious for me to make is that the most important aspect is that in the Senate is an Attorney-General who has declared himself to be a protector of the civil rights of individuals. He is bringing in a Human Rights Bill. He wishes the privacy of individuals to be maintained yet he is willing to be part of an operation that says: Come now. Disclose everything for public view, all the interests you have had, presently have or are likely to have.’ There are so many faults in this proposition but the main fault is that it is an invasion of privacy and that does not seem to affect Labor supporters. When the privacy of members of Parliament is invaded it must extend into other areas so that eventually the heads of departments will be affected and it will go down the line to take in people who are advocating policy and taking decisions.
-Tell us about the $2,000 that the Country Party -
-Now we hear from the brilliant Victorian senator, a man who gained all his knowledge from the backs of bus tickets and they are generally blank. He took up the interests of some crowd in slating one of the best insurance companies in Victoria. He said that it was going broke. He shoved it to the Press and disclosed what he said was a great fault. The company is not broke yet, is it? I suppose that at some stage he will tell us more. The honourable senator is not averse to taking to task a respectable body in the community by using the privilege of Parliament to blacken its character in this place. I believe in the privacy of individuals and in the civil rights of individuals. I believe that, if this committee is weighted with members of the Government so that it can recommend some proposal, it will be necessary for members of the Government to take note of what has been said and to consider if the term of reference ‘the pecuniary interests of members’ is to be expanded to include the interests of near relatives or near friends or members of the Public Service.
My Party does not oppose the motion. It is greatly concerned about the likely outcome of the matter if it is brought before this Parliament. Any logical and sound thinking man must be concerned. If there is a suggestion of voting in this place or a Government decision being made on the basis of a pecuniary interest, there must be a wider field than the term of reference contained in this motion. I hope to be a member of this committee, and I will attend with interest to see what takes place.
– I enter this debate only because of 2 things said by Senator Webster. I was in my office when I heard him mention my name. He implied that members on this side would be embarrassed if members have to disclose their pecuniary interests because we would not have any to disclose. In effect, he said that members on this side have not been successful either in their business lives or in any other activity in which they have engaged. He has implied that if there were to be disclosure of pecuniary interests and if we did not disclose any it would show to the public at large that we were not successful in our business lives. He also said that he was opposed to disclosing pecuniary interests and that he believes in privacy. He said that his Party shared those beliefs. I have a document which was sent out during the May 1974 election campaign by the Leader of his Party, and it lists quite a number of people who made large donations to his Party. So in effect his Party does not believe in privacy. Senator Webster’s name is on the list.
– How much did he give?
-He gave $2,000. He said that his Party believes in privacy. I wonder whether all the other people whose names appear on the list which was signed by Mr Anthony would be happy to know that this document has been a public document and has been circulated throughout the community. Everybody could be aware of the amounts that these people have contributed to the Party. I notice that a Dr Frank W. Stone gave a large amount. What crosses my mind is whether he is the doctor who supposedly wrote to Senator Webster a letter from which Senator Webster quoted during the health debate. When the honourable senator was asked to table the letter in the Senate, he refused to do so. This doctor donated $5,000 to the honourable senator’s Party. I would be interested to know the connection there. Senator Webster refused to table the letter. Is this the person who donated $5,000 to Senator Webster’s Party? They are the sorts of things which may come out when the joint committee is appointed to inquire into such matters. I am happy to know that Senator Webster wishes to be a member of it.
Today I heard the longest speech in support of a motion when everything that the honourable senator said was in opposition to it. He went on and on, almost interminably, this afternoon. I think he spoke for half an hour. When he rose he said that he supported the motion. Every other word he spoke was in opposition to it. I hope that after the committee examines the matters and comes back with the report, despite the evidence which Senator Webster might give to the committee, the Government will introduce into the Parliament a Bill which makes it mandatory for members of Parliament to disclose their pecuniary interests because it will be in the interests of the members themselves and of the people who elect us.
– I take a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- What is the point of order?
– I wish to make it clear that Senator McLaren did not speak the truth when he said that a document was circulated by Mr Anthony. It was never circulated by Mr Anthony.
– I rise on a point of order. I have the document here. It is signed by Mr Anthony.
– in reply- If I heard correctly, Senator Withers said in 2 minutes that he would not oppose this motion. If I heard correctly, Senator Webster said in 32 minutes that his Party, too, would not oppose this motion. Senator Webster said that the wording of the motion was a complete fraud. He suggested that it was an invasion of the rights and privacy of members of Parliament. He criticised my colleague, the Attorney-General and Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy), when he said that the main fault with the motion- which I remind him is only a motion to establish a committee- is that it is an invasion of his privacy. But in his concluding remarks he said that his Party did not oppose the motion. In those circumstances, I will not waste any further time replying to his speech.
Apparently all members of the Senate, from a Party political point of view, are in agreement with the Government’s proposition that a joint committee be appointed ‘to inquire into and report upon whether arrangements should be made relative to the declaration of the interests of the members of the Parliament and the registration thereof. The message from the House of Representatives refers particularly to:
I mention this point in particular because Senator Webster asked what might be the position in regard to trusts or what might be the position in regard to spouses. The message continues:
Certain machinery provisions are then set out. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) concurs with our motion. Apparently Senator Webster, speaking on behalf of the Australian Country Party, concurs with it. I suggest that it be put now for decision of the Senate. Senator Webster stated that he wishes to be a member of the committee. As it took him 32 minutes to say that his Party did not oppose the motion, I very much doubt, as Senator Withers doubted, that the committee- assuming that Senator Webster is appointed to it- will be able to bring in its report within 90 days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I thank the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) for his co-operation and courtesy in having what would normally be termed General Business brought on in Government time. I express that thanks of the Opposition to him for doing this. As all honourable senators know, one of the matters under debate at the moment is the motion moved by the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, on Budget night, if one can use that phrase, that the Senate take note of the Budget papers- or words to that effect. I assume that in due course we will conclude that debate. Prior to 2 or 3 years back it was the custom of the Senate to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the Budget papers in detail, basically, Appropriation Bills Nos. 1 and 2. 1 recall when I first came into this place being more than mystified by this odd rite that the Senate went on with in this Committee of the Whole. Frankly I thought it was one of the most futile exercises the Senate ever indulged in because it certainly was never an examination of the Estimates.
As I recall the situation, the Senate had a debate lasting 2 or 3 weeks on the general proposition that the Senate take note of the Budget papers, during which everybody made what might be termed a second reading speech. When it came to the Estimates- I point out that in many areas amendments cannot be moved but requests can be made- one found in those days that honourable senators did not really bend their minds to an examination of the departmental estimates. Again they went off on second reading speeches but mercifully, under the Standing Orders, they were limited to 15 minutes. But 15-minutes second reading speeches they were. Honourable senators who were here then will recall how the Minister in charge of each series of those Estimates would sit in the corner of the chamber with his advisers alongside him. The advisers would hastily scribble notes for the Minister which he could not read sometimes because of the quality of the handwriting. After a senator had resumed his seat the Minister would get up and make an explanation from the notes he had been given. The honourable senator concerned would then get up and say that that was really not what he meant, and we went through the whole odd precedure again. I always thought that it was a time wasting and time consuming operation.
I have believed always that one of the functions of the Parliament is to examine in detail the Government’s Estimates. Luckily for the Senate, in the time of the Liberal-Country Party Government when Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was Leader of the Government in this place, and without dissent, as I recall the event, it then agreed to set up, as a result of a Government motion, committees of the Senate to sit at what were then termed Estimates committees. Those Estimates committees did many valuable things for the Senate. One of the most valuable was that the various departments produced complete details of how their estimates were compiled, line by line. I think all honourable senators will recall that it was common to say each year that the departments were to be thanked for the detailed information they provided. I am quite certain that the detailed information they provided and the explanations they gave for increases or decreases over the normal run of events saved many questions being asked in the Estimates committees.
I had the pleasure as well as the honour of chairing Estimates Committee A for some years. I think we had our moments and our disasters. I think we ought to be quite frank about Estimates committees. I do not believe that they are the total answer but they certainly are a better answer than anything that either House of the Parliament had been able to come up with prior to their establishment. When we were in government it was well known that some Opposition senators worked hard on their particular areas of interest. I think Senator Douglas McClelland, who now sits opposite at the table here and is in charge of Government business, was one of the most assiduous senators in areas of health- I recall this assiduity arising out of his interest and knowledge gained through his work on one of our select committees- and in matters concerning the media, his own professional or trade union area. He asked very searching and pertinent questions concerning the administration and expenditure of money within the 2 departments concerned with those matters. I recall that another Government supporter, Senator Mulvihill, ranged in the immigration area, and particularly in the area covering the quarantine of animals and plants. He always came in well armed with information on matters such as those. This sort of thing happened on my own side as well. Some honourable senators went to an enormous amount of trouble. They read departmental reports and did not merely use them as decorations for shelves in their libraries. They really went through the Auditor-General’s report to see whether the areas in which they were interested came in for comment.
The other great advantage that the Estimates committees had was that the Ministers brought their departmental advisers with them. Whilst neither the Minister nor his departmental advisers were on oath they were open to questioning by honourable senators. I think honourable senators became better informed on how governments operate and what government departments were attempting to achieve in their financial affairs. I am quite certain that the officers of the various Public Service departments came to have a better and perhaps kinder understanding of at least one of the Houses of the Parliament and realised that we were attempting to ask sensible questions and obtain information. I know it can be said, whether we are in government or opposition, that these committees occasionally were manipulated and used so that some honourable senators could engage in witch hunts or personal vendettas, but I do not believe that there is any substance in those sorts of allegations. We all know that be it in debate in this chamber or when sitting around Estimates committee tables, people occasionally get somewhat more terse in their questioning than they would normally. After all, I recall that some of those Estimates Committees sat for long hours.
I think the Estimates Committees did very valuable work. I recall that an Estimates Committee chaired by Senator Rae presented a report in which it stood up one of the statutory corporations. The statutory corporation believed that once Parliament provided the money it was none of Parliament’s business how it was spent. I think that the statutory corporation went away with a flea in its ear, and rightly so.
– And it came back with the information.
-And it came back with the information. I think Parliament would have been quite within its rights in not appropriating more money to that department if that department thought it was none of Parliament’s business how that statutory corporation spent the taxpayers’ money. I think that was a very salutary lesson. While there is a lot of talk in the community these days about the problems of man in society trying to live with either the corporations of capital or the corporations of labour, there also is the enormous problems looming of how man in a modern democracy is to survive against the statutory corporation. Statutory corporations seem to have no body to be kicked or soul to be damned, by Parliament, the taxpayer or anybody else- and certainly not by trade union members or shareholders. I think that this was an area into which the Estimates Committees were moving and moving quite rightly to re-establish the authority of Parliament over the taxpayers’ money. It is for these reasons, amongst others, that the Opposition has proposed that this year the Estimates Committees ought to again be appointed. The proposition has been spelt out quite fully. I hope that the Government will not oppose the setting up of the Estimates Committees because if it does- I say this without acrimony- one could not help but wonder what the Government has to hide. Why does the Government not want its Ministers and departmental officers subjected to proper scrutiny when the Government is spending some $ 16,000m of other people’s money? It is not the Government’s money, it is other people’s money. It is not our money and it is not the Government’s money, it is the taxpayers’ money. I believe that we, in this place, have a relationship with our electors which is comparable to the relationship that trustees have with beneficiaries.
I know that an argument can be put forward that the examination of the Estimates ought not to be the function of an upper house of a parliament. I suppose that is a good old fashioned argument. It no doubt has a lot of substance when related to the House of Commons, an elected House, in its relationship to the House of Lords, a non-elected House. But the House of Commons has had committees of this type for many years. In fact, the House of Commons goes further than we do. The Opposition always has the chairmanship of such committees and the Opposition tends also, I understand to have a majority of members on the committees. It is accepted in Britain that there is a duty on the Opposition as well as on the Government members to examine estimates in detail.
I am prepared to admit that there may be a purist argument that if the House of Representatives is the place where money Bills originate, that is where the Estimates ought to be scrutinised. I say, with all the kindness which I possess towards my colleagues in the other place, that if they do not examine the Estimates properly a duty falls upon the Senate to take up the burden. I can well understand the argument that the House of Representatives ought to do more in this area. But we are all aware of the pressures placed upon the members in the other place. The House of Representatives sits approximately the same number of hours as the Senate. It has twice the number of members. With the pressures placed on the members of the other place it is not often possible for them to do everything that they would like to do. After all, the Senate is not a House of Lords. It is a chamber which is freely elected on the same franchise as the other place. The members of the Senate are perhaps more democratically elected because we come here by proportional representation vote. We are certainly given the powers under the Commonwealth Constitution to make requests. The founding fathers deliberately wrote into the Constitution that whilst there were certain Bills which the Senate could not amend it could certainly reject them. The founding fathers specifically wrote into the Constitution the power to make requests. This points up that the Senate not only has the right but also the duty to scrutinise the executive estimates.
It is for that reason I would hope that the Government will agree with my motion. I know that the Estimates Committees when first established got off to a bad start on the first day. I think you, Mr Acting Deputy President will recall that you were chairing one of the committees and there was a little bit of a kerfuffle. That was unfortunate but it occurred some years ago. I think we are more adult, more experienced and more familiar with the committee system now. I well recognise that the committee system is not perfect. I believe that last year some of the Estimates Committees started to act in a better fashion, if I can use that terminology. As I recall, some Estimates Committees sat on Fridays, Mondays and Monday nights when the Senate was not sitting. To the best of their ability the members of the Estimates Committees made a thorough examination of the estimates. 1 would hate to think that merely because occasionally within a Senate committee there has been either a personality clash or a clash for reasons beyond the control of the participantswhether because of pressure, overwork, or just sheer bad temper becase we all have our offdays that this would be sufficient reason for people to say that the Estimates committees have failed. I do not believe they have failed. I do not believe they have succeeded as well as we may have hoped in the early days. I do not think that is a reason for abandoning an experiment and exercise which I think has been enormously valuable. To abandon the Estimates Committees now and to go back to the oddity of the second reading debate in the Committee of the Whole will do the Senate no good in the long term. I do not believe it will do the Government’s reputation any good not to be willing to have its Estimates scrutinised and to have its officers answer questions asked by honourable senators. To the best of my ability I have set out the reasons why we, on this side of the chamber, believe the Estimates Committees ought to be set up. I commend the motion to the Senate.
-On behalf of the Australian Country Party I support the setting up of the Estimates Committees. My basic reason for supporting the setting up of the Estimates Committees is one which should find the support of every honourable senator. In 1974-75 the Federal Government will expend $ 16,000m of public funds. The only basic scrutiny of the expenditure of that money under a system other than our Estimates Committees will be made by the Statutory Joint Committee of Public Accounts. That Committee, of course, always does its work in a post facto situation. Indeed, the work done by that Committee deserves great credit. But during the latter years when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power, there was pressure put on that Government from members of the Labor Partyindeed also from members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party- that there should be an extension of the committee system. Various areas of investigation have been set up for standing committees, select committees and constitutional committees in which we take part. The Estimates Committees, in my view, are the most important committees that have been established. Members of the Senate no doubt have noticed a greater interest, these days, on the part of matriculation students not only in the electoral system and the activities of the Federal Parliament but also in the committee system. When such students come to me I am expected to discuss the committee system of the Senate. One of the proudest moments I have is when I am able to say that there is no House of Parliament in Australia, there is no House of Parliament within the British Empire and, I understand, there is no House of Parliament anywhere in the world which has changed its role as a legislative chamber more than the Australian Senate during the past 10 years. I believe this to be true. I base my belief mainly on the work carried out by the Estimates Committees.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) mentioned an important factor. When the Estimates Committees A, B, C, D, E and F have been set up in the past those senators who are not members of the Committees have had the opportunity to take the line by line estimates of a department and to ask for an explanation either in writing or verbally from the Minister responsible for that department. The Minister can call on officers of the Public Service who in all probability have played the major part in formulating and promoting the reasons why the estimates should be made. It has always struck me that the members of the Public Service who are involved in the preparing of the Estimates have some pride in being given the opportunity to appear before the Estimates Committees at which members of the House of Representatives, members of the Senate, the Press and members of the public are entitled to be present to hear comment which may justify the expenditure which is to take place. Not only that, but the operation of the Estimates Committees has given honourable senators who have been associated with those Committees some knowledge of the constitution of departments, of the way in which estimates have been arranged in past years and of the reasons for expenditure on increased staff or increased commitments for particular projects which are put forward by the government in the interests of the public in general. All these matters are discussed, they are all made public and they are subjected to scrutiny in a most unique manner.
The House of Representatives has no similar system of Estimates Committees. Indeed, if we did not have the Estimates Committees it would be a completely abortive affair to suggest that this chamber could adequately scrutinise the Estimates or the Government’s financial proposals set out in the Budget. I believe that the Estimates Committees provide a most important means for scrutinising the Government’s proposals. I also believe that the standing of the Senate has been greatly enhanced by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber previously agreeing to the setting up of the Estimates Committees.
It is most regrettable that the Additional Estimates, when they were presented prior to 30 June last, were not scrutinised by the Estimates Committees. In fact, we will not know what took place and what expenditude was incurred in the particular spheres covered by those Additional Estimates. If the motion to set up the Estimates Committees is supported- I sincerely hope that the Government will support it- we might have an opportunity to look at that additional expenditure of $50m which was incurred on both capital works and the ordinary works and services of the Government. I give credit to the Government if in actual fact it is saying in these times of stress and strain: ‘Let us look at the expenditures that are incurred in these Estimates Committees’. There is reason for the Government to look not only at the volume of printing associated with the activities of Estimates Committees, but also at the amount of time which many members of the Public Service spend in the confines of the Senate. I can only plead, as I have done as a former chairman of one of the Estimates Committees, that the public servants who come here should be dealt with in the most efficient and effective manner and have them discharged from their duties as quickly as possible. Expenditure is incurred by the Government in both of these areas.
I suggest that in this present financial year the need for scrutiny of Government expenditure could be the greatest. We are facing the highest expenditure that has ever been known in Australia. Expenditure this year is to increase by some 32.4 per cent over expenditure last year. There is a real need for somebody to try to establish whether this expenditure is necessary and whether the money is being expended effectively in the public interest. Incidentally, I myself propose that there should be some organisation of the Estimates Committees. I believe that the House of Representatives would do well not to take over our role but certainly to give the Estimates greater scrutiny than that to which they are subjected when they are debated in the other place. I suggest that, as an efficiency exercise, the Chairman of Committees in the Senate could well be placed in the position of looking at the various activities of the Estimates Committees, their staffs and others and ensuring that in the interests of the public the greatest efficiency is derived from the Estimates Committees. It seems to me that the secretariat which is set up to serve the Estimates Committees has no focal head for challenging whether the staffing of the Estimates Committees is correct or whether the members of the staff are used correctly or are used in the best interests of the public. I make that suggestion. I advocate very strongly that honourable senators should support the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
-I rise to speak briefly to this motion because, with all the sincerity that I can command, I believe that we are not merely debating whether certain committees should be set up; we are debating a motion which unfortunately on this occasion has been moved by the Opposition. We will make a decision which I believe will have an effect on the stature of the Senate, of the Parliament as a whole as a corporate body, of the present Government and of any future government which tries to evade scrutiny of its revenue and expenditure by not allowing the Parliament to set up machinery to undertake that scrutiny. Surely it is realised that the Parliament has 2 responsibilities. The first is to inform the people, and it cannot inform the people if it does not provide the machinery to do so and if members of Parliament are not themselves informed. We have a bicameral system of government to help that information to flow to the people. In order that legislation cannot be passed in the dead of the night and become law, there must be a delay before that legislation reaches the upper chamber or the House of review. Newspapers are published and there is radio and television. It is not a political secret, but it is known that during the period when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in power, when urgent, important or controversial matters came before the Cabinet the Prime Minister or whoever was in charge of a particular measure would say- I hope to see my friend and colleague Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson nod his head in agreement with meThis is all right, but what is the Senate going to do? What is the Senate’s attitude going to be in respect of this? Will we be able to make regulations under this legislation, or do we have to spell it out?’ So Bills were shaped so that they would meet what were thought to be the wishes of the Senate. This is a responsibility of Parliament and of the Cabinet, and it flows through to the committees of the Parliament and to the review of the estimates of expenditure for the current financial year.
I believe that if, by any mischance, this motion is defeated and the Estimates Committees do not operate during the life of this Government, we will be taking away a certain element of responsibility that is on Cabinet Ministers, their advisers and the public servants who also work and advise the Ministers, the Cabinet and the Government. They will be aware that there will not be this close examination of the Estimates. They will be aware that they will not have to prepare and provide to all members of the Parliament details and explanations as to how the money is to be expended. If we set up these Estimates Committees the Ministers and all those concerned with formulating and placing the Estimates before the Parliament will be aware that they will have to have the answers, the reasons and the explanations for Parliament and for the people and that that information will be made available either through Hansard or through representatives of the media who, as Senator Webster said, are allowed to attend hearings of the Estimates Committees.
As my Leader, Senator Withers, has said, the great fault with the old fashioned system of dealing with the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole will be made much worse if we do not set up these Estimates Committees. The fault was, as he said, with the Ministers, particularly those Ministers who represented as many as 4 Ministers from another place. They could not possibly have a grasp of the estimates for all of those departments, all of those items. I saw them sit there with their ears cocked, only one adviser, or two at the most, being able to contact them. An honourable senator would ask a question and the Minister would be handed a scribbled note or a reply would be whispered to him. One could not help feeling sorry and embarrassed- as a Government member I felt completely embarrassed many a time- at the lack of correct information, candid information, available to either government or opposition members on the estimates. That situation will be much worse now that we have 27 government departments and a far greater amount of money involved which comes under many more headings. We are a developing nation and we have to deal with a greater volume of estimates.
Another fault with the debates in the Committee of the Whole was that honourable senators I have to admit that I agree with this- be they Ministers or backbenchers, could not be expected to sit in this chamber hour after hour listening to the proceedings. There are other duties to be performed and other work to be done. When the departmental estimates are being considered by the Committee of the Whole no honourable senator knows at what time of day, or on what day of the Estimates debate, the particular item or items on which he wants to speak will come before the Chair. It may happen that half a dozen honourable senators from either side who want to deal with, say, the defence estimates are. not in the chamber at the time when the defence estimates are called on because the estimates of the department being considered beforehand went through very quickly. The defence estimates will then go through very quickly also and we will be laughed at by the people and by the media because we allowed to go through with a twinkling of an eye and without discussion the very important defence estimates which involve thousands of millions of dollars. So those honourable senators who want to deal with a particular subject may have to wait hour after hour because, as has been pointed out, each speaker is allowed 1 5 minutes in which to make- this often happens- a second class, second reading speech on the item before the Chair.
It is a farce to say- it would be a bigger farce today- that the Committee of the Whole, consiting of 60 people, can deal faithfully and responsibly with an examination of the estimates of a department. I am one of the few honourable senators who has been privileged to sit at both ends of the table. I have acted as chairman and I have appeared in the capacity of Assistant Minister on behalf of the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I have sat as a backbencher and examined witnesses and possibly argued with the chairman. I have found that a lot of useful information- that is, useful to the electorate- has been obtained in the Committees by the Ministers allowing their advisers to come forward and give truthfully their detailed knowledge of those matters in which they are so expert.
I know that I may have even be laughed at for saying that we should consider the public servants, but I believe that we should. The Estimates Committees suit the public servants much better. I know that many of them have to come from interstate when the Estimates are being considered, but if particular public servants know that they are involved with an examination of the estimates for a department which is to be dealt with by Estimates Committee A and if that Estimates Committee is rostered for 2 successive days, or whatever it may be, they know that they will be required at that time. But the Government may mismanage the hearings of the Estimates Committees as it did last time by changing the times and days of meeting.
But if the Estimates are considered by the Committee of the Whole it may be- it has been the case quite often in the past- that public servants will be herded almost like cattle and be required to wait without seating accommodation in the narrow confines of the corridors of Parliament House day after day until perhaps 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night and still not be called upon. I believe that such a practice is a farce and it is an insult. We must have too many public servants if they can rightfully be spared from their duties for so long. But I know that they cannot. After being subjected to this embarrassment and frustration they have had to go back to their offices and work hours of overtime in order to catch up on their work. I do not want to go into any more detail, but I ask the Government, if it has made a decision as a Party to oppose the setting up of Estimates Committees, to think seriously again, because by refusing to set up Estimates Committees it will be doing great harm to itself. God alone knows that it is doing enough harm to itself already. The Government should give itself a break. It will be doing great harm to the Parliament and it will bring no honour whatever to any of its members who vote against this motion.
– I have listened with great interest to what Senator Marriott has had to say. He says that if we do not set up these Estimates Committees again we will be doing great harm to ourselves. I want to remind Senator Marriott that some members of the Liberal Party in the Senate did great harm to the Estimates Committees by their behaviour last year when the hearings of Estimates Committees were dragged out hour after hour, night after night- I refer particularly to Estimates Committee A of which I was a memberwhen Senator Greenwood and Senator Wright conducted a witchhunt against Senator Murphy in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation affair. It had been said by Opposition senators that the purpose of these Estimates Committees is to examine the expenditure of the Government of the day. But the 2 senators to whom I have referred were not concerned about examining the expenditure of the Government. What were they concerned about? They were concerned about the action of the Government, which had nothing to do with its expenditure, and they were concerned in pursuing the Attorney-General hour after hour.
Officers from other departments were waiting to be called upon, not hour after hour but day after day. Some of those officers were brought from interstate to provide answers to questions asked of the various Ministers. Of course, the accommodation in Canberra of those officers had to be paid for, but Opposition senators gave no thought then to the expenditure being incurred in keeping those people here. I was so concerned about the situation that I said at the time that I felt that if the Estimates Committees were to be conducted in that fashion they were just a pure waste of time. I spoke in the second reading debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) on 29 November last year, and I took the trouble to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the hours which the various Estimates Committees sat. That table covered a period of years. I would urge some of the new honourable senators to obtain a copy of the Senate Hansard of 29 November 1973, turn to page 2295 and have a look at the table which I had incorporated in Hansard. The compilation was not mine; it was done by the Parliamentary Library. Honourable senators will see just how the Estimates Committees were abused last year for the sole purpose of conducting a witch hunt. For that reason I am opposed to the setting up of these Estimates Committees again. I feel that we will be faced with a similar situation again. If Opposition senators can give a guarantee that they will indulge simply in an examination of the Government’s expenditure, I might change my mind.
– You go back to when the Estimates Committees were first set up.
– I went right back to the days when the Estimates Committees were set up initially. The table in Hansard gives the number of hours that the Estimates Committees sat, and the number of hours sat last year overwhelmingly exceeded the number sat in previous years. An examination of the Hansard record of what took place at those hearings will reveal that much of the time was spent not in examining government expenditure but, as I said earlier, in conducting a witchhunt against the AttorneyGeneral. That is one of the reasons I have been turned off these Estimates Committees. I attended the hearings of the Estimates Committees religiously when they sat. I had to point out in this chamber that one night we waited for 7 minutes for Senator Wright to attend so that we would have a quorum. Yet he got up in this chamber and said that the Chairman of that particular Committee, Senator James McClelland, tried to terminate the sitting of the Committee. It is on record in Hansard that I pointed out that out of courtesy to Senator Wright- I did not know what he was engaged in to hold him up- we waited 7 minutes for him to attend in this chamber so that he could carry on with his examination of the Estimates. For that reason, I oppose the setting up of the Estimates Committees again.
– I recall very clearly the attempt to set up these Estimates Committees. On that occasion, there was a difference of opinion between the then Opposition, which is now the Government, and the then Government. As I remember the position clearly, the Government of the day, supported by the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, felt that it would like to introduce a certain number of Estimates Committees and, over a period of time, to extend the number of Committees to encompass the whole range of investigation of the Estimates. As I recall the position, the then Opposition wanted the total number of committees set up to cover the complete range of the Estimates immediately. I might say that I supported the motion moved by the then Opposition. The result was that the motion was carried because of my vote. So the Estimates Committees were set up.
It rather amazes me to know that the present Government, which was then the Opposition, says that it does not want these Estimates Committees. I look upon these Committees as giving the individual senator, if he so desires, the opportunity to pursue a proper investigation of the Estimates to whatever extent he or she wants. I well recall the debates on the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole. Because there were so few Ministers covering so many departments it was impossible for the Ministers of the day really to get a clear indication from the officers sitting across the passage from them as to what thenanswers should be. It was impossible to obtain the necessary answers in the way that honourable senators really required them. The establishment of these Estimates Committees gave honourable senators a first class opportunity, if they were desirous of it, of thoroughly investigating the various items of expenditure. It enabled them to have not only the Minister or the Minister representing a Minister in the Senate to answer questions but also the officers of the department were present to answer such questions. So honourable senators received a very comprehensive answer to whatever they wanted to know. I think that this gave honourable senators a terrific importance and power in the carrying out of their duties. It rather amazes me to know that the Government does not want that right which it established.
When the Senate Estimates committee system was established on 2 occasions that I can recall members of the other House rose and said that the Senate was the major House of Parliament, that it had this power, that is could do this and that because of the establishment of the Committee system. They were deriding their own chamber as not being of nearly as much importance because the Senate had then taken unto itself the establishment of these Committees. There is no question in anybody ‘s mind that with the establishment of these Committees the Senate became a much more important chamber. It amazes me why anybody should want to throw away this opportunity to investigate so thoroughly the spending of money in this country. I would have thought that the power that senators had achieved would be something they would never want to have taken away. It surprises me further to hear the members of the Government, who were then the Opposition and who fought so strongly for the establishment of these Committees, say that they now want to dispense with them. The fact that some member of a committee went beyond what the members of the committee felt -
– That is the fault of the Chairman.
– Yes. It does not indicate that there is anything wrong with the Committee system. It actually indicates that the chairman or somebody in control might have taken a stronger stand on certain issues. I feel that it would be a backward step for the Senate to throw away the advancement it made on that occasion in the setting up of the Estimates Committees. Some honourable senators might feel that they do not want to attend these meetings. But there are other honourable senators who perhaps have a stronger investigating type of mind. I think that it is a backward step for senators to give back a power and a right that they have achieved. It should be the right and privilege of every honourable senator to be able to ask why a certain amount of money is being spent, for what purpose it is being spent and to receive a proper answer. But for any honourable senator to suggest that the system used for the examination of the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole, when Ministers had to ask somebody on the side for a very quick answer, was comprehensive and satisfactory really leaves me gasping. As far as I am concerned, the Committee system that we set up gave an opportunity to those honourable senators desirous of investigating in a proper manner. No senator could possibly compare the type of answers that were given by departmental officers through Ministers in such a quick manner as had to be the case in the Committee of the Whole system with the direct information given by the departmental officers under the Estimates Committee system.
As far as I am concerned, it would indicate that the Government of the day was taking a backward step for the Senate if it were to revert to the old system of Estimates examination. I speak in this way because, as I said, it was my vote that really enabled these Committees to be brought about. I supported the Labor Party Opposition at the time to bring this about. It amazes me to know that the Labor Opposition thennow the Labor Government- wants to take this backward step. My view now is the same as it was then when I supported the decision for the establishment of these Committees.
– You are wrong; we opposed them.
– You are confusing this with the other committees.
– Honourable senators opposite were in favour of the committee system.
– We were not; we opposed them.
– You have your argument wrong.
– We supported the establishment of the standing committees but opposed the appointment of the Estimates Committees.
– At that time I voted accordingly. My views then are my views now. I believe that the establishment of these Committees was the best thing that ever happened in the Senate. I certainly think it is a backward step to talk about abolishing them now.
– I want to say a few words on this matter, as a result of what has just been said by Senator Wood, to put the record straight. The honourable senator from Queensland is suffering from a lapse of memory. He cannot take the kudos for bringing about something which he thinks is of advantage to the Parliament. Nor do I think he should be the subject of condemnation on the part of those who think that by his vote he brought about something that, in their opinion, is not beneficial to the
Parliament. The fact of the matter is that at that time the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate, of which I was a member, discussed the committee system at a number of meetings. It did not seem to be able to come to finality on the matter. It was the view of Senator Murphy at that time- he applied pressure accordingly- that the committee system should be introduced in the Senate. The Government relented somewhat and said that it was prepared to go along and appoint some Estimates Committees. The Opposition, under the direction of Senator Murphy, stated that it wanted standing committees to be appointed. While the Government of the day introduced a motion for the establishment of Estimates Committees to have expenditure inquired into by such a committee system, the then Opposition that is, the present Government, moved by way of amendment for the appointment of a certain number of standing committees. I think it was for the appointment of the 6 standing committees that we have today. The Australian Democratic Labor Party, which I believe then had 3 members, moved for the appointment of another group of committees which were to be different from those proposed by both the Opposition and the Government. Three separate questions were put on the motions. When it came to the vote on the second motion moved by the DLP, its members voted for the motion and the Government and the Opposition combined to vote against it. So that motion was lost. Senator Murphy’s amendment was then put that there should be standing committees. The members of the DLP, together with the Labor Party Opposition members, voted for the motion and had a majority in favour of the establishment of standing committees. Hansard will record that in relation to the division taken for the appointment of standing committees, Senator Wood did not vote in favour of the standing committees.
– I do not think that what you are saying is really correct. We were not opposed to the introduction of standing committees. It was the number to be appointed which was the question at that time.
– I think that the honourable senator will find that when the vote was taken for the establishment of the standing committees, the Opposition and the DLP voted together, which gave us a majority in the Senate. We then put the question on the establishment of Estimates Committees and the Government and the Democratic Labor Party voted for them. So we got the 2 committee systems- the Government committee system and the Opposition committee system. Senator Wood on that occasion voted for the Estimates Committees in unity with the whole of the Government forces.
On that occasion I was one who opposed the committee system. I am a strong supporter of select committees. I am not in support of either standing committees or estimates committees and I think they have yet to show their value. They have not the great value of select committees which are special committees appointed to do a specific job. Immediately select committees inquire into a matter it is an important issue and attracts the publicity of the Press of Australia and concentrates people’s thoughts on that question which is worrying the Senate sufficiently for it to establish a select committee. But just to have committees to which we refer everything we want to get away from is doing no good for the committee system and is not benefiting the Senate.
I come now to the Estimates Committees. I was prepared to go along with the arrangement though I never co-operated. But last year I was in the hot seat and I had to attend. We got through somehow and seemed to satisfy the committee. My Department got a good report only to find that the Committee did not know what it was talking about because the Auditor-General came out and condemned everything the Committee had endorsed. The Auditor-General found the weaknesses of the Department and reported them. So the committee system did no good on that occasion. While the Senate had a Committee of the Whole every question was asked and answered as best it could be answered. Press and radio publicity was given and everyone knew what was happening in the Senate. The Press has ceased to take an interest in the committee system unless there is a witch hunt, as happened in Estimates Committee A on the last occasion. Then there was Press publicity but the normal inquiring into expenditure is not of value to the Press and no one hears about it. We had men waiting around in corridors. Then for possibly two or three days there was an inquiry in the Senate. Everyone had a say. Senator Townley and Senator Steele Hall could only be on 3 committees and they would lose their right to have a thorough examination of the other 24 departments. They would be limited under this proposal whereas they are not limited in the Committee of the Whole.
– But they have a right to go along.
-They have a right to go along to all committees but it is impossible to attend committee hearings into 27 departments.
– Unless the committee orders otherwise.
– Apparently, unless the committee orders otherwise. I do not think the committee would refuse any honourable senator permission to go along. However, it is impossible for one man to attend committee hearings into 27 departments. While it is true that someone might have missed out on an inquiry in the Committee of the Whole that would be the fault of the honourable senator concerned. We do not set up a system to cover the faults of an individual. We cannot blame the system for the fact that he was not here when a particular matter came up because something went through more expeditiously than he thought it would.
What happens is that we have the officers of the departments waiting to give evidence and waiting around the corridors until such time as a committee intends to sit. We might come to item 8 and have Senator Webster or someone else getting up and speaking for an hour on that item. Meanwhile there are 40 highly paid officers waiting around the corridors for the committee to ask them questions. It is true that they cannot afford the time but it is one of the requirements.It is one of the essential things. Last year my officers stood here for many days until finally they were called. 1 had to make some arrangements for a late sitting of the committee the following week so that 2 officers could go back to Darwin.
In connection with Aboriginal affairs in the Northern Territory we have to bring officers down from Darwin. If the estimates are not considered in one week these officers have to come back the next week. That shows the value of the committee system. The committee system has not brought out one thing that the other system, that is, the Committee of the Whole, did not bring out. It is incorrect to say that the Government when in Opposition supported the establishment of Estimates Committees. It never supported it. Among a section of the Opposition there was continual resistance to them. I have yet to see some value in the committee system before I will agree to the system being continued.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (5.20)- There has been some talk about the creation of Estimates Committees. I have always understood that I had the great honour and distinction of moving the motion that Estimates Committees A, B, C, D and E -
– There were five of them.
-Five, or however many were created. I still believe that that was wise. That motion was carried. In other respects some of the history that Senator Cavanagh gave accords with my understanding of what actually took place in relation to other committees. But it is my clear understanding that I moved the motion for the establishment of Estimates Committees, that the motion was carried, and that the then Opposition voted against it. I do not want to dwell on this for very long because most honourable senators know which way they are going to vote.
It is a little unfortunate that some honourable senators did not have any experience of the previous method and 1 do not believe that the present Ministers have any idea of what they will be up against if this motion is defeated. In the Estimates Committees system a Minister can have his officers available to him and by leave of the chairman of the Estimates Committee he can call on an officer to give an explanation. He cannot do that when the inquiry is in plenary session of the Committee of the Whole. As Senator Withers said, there would be a couple of officers sitting in the box whispering an answer in the Minister’s ear while Senator Keeffe or some other honourable senator was directing a powerful question to him. When the honourable senator sat down the Minister would be called upon to give an answer. It is a very difficult situation. I hope that we have this Estimates Committee system in proper function again. It is not true to suggest that in any event an honourable senator could go to only two or three Estimates Committees or to one at any given time and that that was the end of his ability to inquire about a particular item, because even though there is an Estimates Committee and a document is produced and is in Hansard and becomes a document of the Parliament for all time, we still have to come back into Committee of the Whole. That does not abrogate or deny the right of any honourable senator to come back to Estimates Committee report or to some item in Document A or Document B and ask a futher question about it.
The straight answer to the point that Senator Cavanagh was making is that it is not true to say that an Estimates Committee denies an opportunity for any honourable senator to get information because he happens to be absent from an Estimates Committee. The Estimates Committees had their weaknesses but to the extent that the Senate was able to get information in relation to every department, to the extent that every Estimates Committee was able to get valued advice put into Hansard for all time in relation to departments, this being something that was never possible under the old system, and to the extent that Ministers could give advice which they were never able to give under the old system, Estimates Committees were a valuable contribution to the system of government in Australia. In my view it would be a sad thing if we were to revert to the old system. There are honourable senators on both sides who have never seen the agony of the old system and how it operated. I will be very sad if we revert to that system. I am sure that Ministers who sit around the table and Ministers of the Whitlam Government who are in this place when confronted with the situation if this motion is lost, will regret having voted against the motion and will regret the decision which is taken this day. I believe that a degree of cooperation on all sides can be a very valuable thing. It is true that certain things may have happened last year at Estimates committees. It is equally true that things can happen in the Senate. They can happen for as many days as things happened then. I hope that the Senate will vote for the retention of these Estimates committees. As far as my memory is concerned- we can check this in Hansard afterwards- I am certain that the motion for the creation of the Senate Estimates committees was moved by me. The Opposition moved against this motion and it was carried by the then Government with the aid of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.26)- I hope I will not delay the Senate for very long on these matters. I freely admit that Senator Cavanagh has opposed Estimates committees ever since they were introduced. As a member of the Opposition he expressed himself strongly and vehemently in the matter of Estimates committees. He attracted the attention of two or three of his colleagues. But the fact is that the Estimates committees were acknowledged by most members of the Opposition, at the time when the Committees were introduced, as a very valuable method of checking in its minutia the area into which Government expenditure was being directed. I think it is proper that Parliament should be able to perform this function. Money which is expended by the Government is not government money. The Constitution states that the revenues of the country should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and that no money can come out of that Fund except by a message from the Governor-General and by a motion introduced into the House of Representatives, which is the House of Government and which is the place from where the money is basically controlled.
At a subsequent stage the Senate has a supervisory or confirming role on the message which comes from the House of Representatives asking for confirmation that the money be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is the theory and, in actual fact, that is the practice. The system which we used to have of the Committee of the Whole examining the Estimates grew up about 60 years ago. I looked these figures up some time last year. In 1910 the total Estimates for this Parliament were something like film. Today the requirements of government in its engorgement of revenues, with its vast expenses, run into tens of thousands of millions of dollars. It is impossible for any Parliament organised on the old system- both this House and the other place- of a Committee of the Whole to given any sort of an examination to the vast number of items which are buried in the Estimates. For example, for something like $100m there is only one line in the Estimates. Surely Parliament has a right to probe where that money is going and for what specific purpose it is provided. But under the Committee of the Whole system we cannot do that.
So there grew up in the minds of some members of the Senate the idea that it was appropriate that we should try to break down this Committee of the Whole into various sectors which we called Estimates committees. To me Senator Cavanagh seems to have a roseate memory of what the Committee of the Whole was like in the Senate. A few minutes ago when Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson spoke he mentioned that a large number of honourable senators and Ministers do not know what the procedures were in the Committee of the Whole and what a farce they became. I remember when I first sat in this place in 195 1 . 1 can tell honourable senators how the Senate dealt with the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole on that day. I was sitting over there in the seat where, I think, Senator Coleman or Senate Everett sits. There were no boards over the windows in those days and honourable senators went through the gruesome experience of having to sit in their places from about 10 o’clock one morning and watching the sun starting to filter through those windows at about half past five the next morning. We were still sitting here trying to deal with the Estimates. Fnally the Government, as happens to all governments, got fed up. It then started to move around to get some support to put down the guillotine. Then we started trundling the stuff through at Sim a minute. Senator Cavanagh says that any honourable senator can find out in the Committee of the Whole what he wants to find out. I say that that is complete and utter nonsense. The second disturbing aspect which always occurred when the Senate used to sit as a Committee of the Whole in dealing with the Estimates was the temptation for many honourable senators to make second reading speeches. They would take 15 minutes or so to address themselves to one item in the Estimates.
– They would come back to the next section for another 1 5 minutes.
-That is right. Then there would be an appeal to the chairman of the Committee who sits at the Committee table. He would say: ‘The honourable senator is now straying away from the Estimates. He must relate his remarks to the subject matter of the Estimates’. The honourable senator would say: ‘Quite right, Mr Chairman, I was about to reach that point. I go on now to state’. But on the next line he would be up again. If anyone says that that is a form of analysis of the Estimates I suggest that he is talking out of the back of his head. Like Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson I appeal to honourable senators to take another look at these Estimates committees and try to make them work. It is the characteristic of all parliaments of all natures and hues, irrespective of who the government is, that they do not maintain an even pendulum swing. The pendulum tends to swing too far to one side and too far to the other side. Moderation is the essence of parliament. Perhaps there have been some immoderate instances in the Estimates committees. I remember one in particular because it occurred on Estimates Committee A. I was the Chairman. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Minister at the end of the table. I say no more at this stage. I merely indicate to Senator McLaren that immoderation is not always on this side and among my colleagues. It exists in other places.
It is the function of the Senate with its normally general good sense of behaviour and decorum and the capacity of the chairman to see that these Estimates committees do their work effectively. I say that at the present moment the Senate is doing the work which properly should be done in the House of Representatives. Of the Estimates, 95 per cent relate to the ordinary annual services of the Government which the Senate cannot amend. But since the House of
Representatives has chosen not to fulfil the function to which it has a constitutional responsibility, in the interests of the Australian taxpayer and of all members of Parliament, I think the pursuit of the compilation of the Estimates has to be maintained by the Senate. This can only be done effectively by Estimates committees. I conclude on this note: The last time I sat at the table of the chairman of committees I sat there without leaving the place for 8 1/2 hours while we put through the funnel about $6,000 or $7,000m. If anyone can describe that to me as an effective parliamentary system and as effective parliamentary supervision over the people’s money, when they are crazy. It was 6 o’clock the next morning when I got up to leave that table. I never want to go back to those days again. Any honourable senator who wishes to go back to those days will find out very quickly- before we get to Christmas- what will happen if we do not have these Estimates committees.
– I have listened with interest to the debate which has taken place. The decision being taken by the Senate is an important one having regard to the history to which we have been referring. I have here copies of Hansard for the June 1970 period. On 4 June 1 970 Senator Murphy, then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, moved a motion for the appointment of a certain number of standing committees. A week later, on 11 June 1970, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, then Leader of the Government in the Senate moved the appointment of a certain number of Senate standing committees and 5 Estimates Committees because at that time there were 5 Ministers of the Crown in the Senate.
Debate ensued and it was agreed by the Senate that the 2 questions should be put separately. Senator Murphy’s proposition that Senate standing committees be established was carried by 1 vote, Senator Wood voting with the Opposition. The Senate standing committees were then established. Following debate on Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s proposition for the establishment of Senate Estimates Committees the question was put and carried by a majority of one. The Estimates Committees were then established. If Senator Wood examines the record he will find that he and Senator Turnbull did not cast a vote on the motion to establish the Estimates Committees. The case that the Government now puts is exactly the same as the case that was put by Senator Murphy as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in the discussion on
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson ‘s motion. Senator Murphy put that the standing committees that had been established by the Senate should be responsible also for scrutiny of the Estimates that are presented to the Senate. Senator Murphy asked: Why, after having established a certain number of standing committees- I think it was seven- should the Senate go on to establish another 5 committees to carry out work that the Senate standing committees were in a position to perform? I suggest that the situation that applied then is the situation that applies today, perhaps to an even greater extent.
I say in reply, particularly to Senator Marriott, that the attitude adopted now by the Government is not what he referred to as an ‘evasion’ of the Government’s responsibility to subject itself to the scrutiny of the Estimates Committees. In adopting this attitude the Government feels that the system devised 4 years ago, and practised over a period of 4 years, is not the best method of public scrutiny of the Estimates. Five Estimates Committees were established in those days on the motion of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. Today it proposed that there should be 7 Estimates Committees, I suppose, that is proposed, not because of the added work of the Senate but because there are now 7 Ministers in this chamber, compared with 5 Ministers in those days.
The proposition in 1970 was that only 3 Estimates Committees would sit at the same time. The proposition today is that only 3 committees shall sit at the same time and there shall be 6 senators on each of the committees. Of the proposed 7 committees let us assume that three sat on a Thursday night. It would mean that 24 senators could not take part in the discussion of the Estimates with which they are immediately concerned. According to the terminology of the motion they can sit on a committee unless otherwise ordered. If they are members of a committee to which they wish to give expert attention and 3 other committees are sitting, 4 of the committees are precluded from sitting at the same time under the terms of the motion. All I am saying is that because of the number of committees proposed by Senator Withers it naturally would be very time-consuming and indeed timewasting because we have it laid down that there shall be only 3 committees sitting at the one time.
I am not going into the whys and wherefores of the committee system. In 1970 after the first trial run I was one of the senators who were laudatory of the experiment. Thereafter I was critical. I experienced difficulties in moving between the committees. It might happen that Estimates Committee A was dealing with the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. One might be serving on Estimates Committee C when the estimates for the Department of Immigration were being considered. Having an interest in both departments it was a physical impossibility to be in 2 places at the one time. One therefore felt in subsequent years that the experiment had failed. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred to the old days of the Committee of the Whole when a senator would speak for 15 minutes on a particular point, a Minister would reply and then a senator would get up and speak for another 15 minutes. But that still applies in the Committee of the whole when the Estimates Committees report back to the Senate. As we all know, certain senators did not or could not attend, or failed to attend meetings of the Estimates Committees. They adopted the old practice in the Committee of the Whole when the Estimates Committees reported back.
– Certain senators did it because they objected to the Estimates Committee.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDExactly. What I am saying is quite right. Those senators did not exercise their right to be members of an Estimates Committee but did exercise their rights as senators in the Committee of the Whole when the Estimates Committees reported back. We believe that the system as experimented with over a period of 4 years is not the best of systems that have been devised. Public servants were kept at length around this building. They were brought here on one day to assist in the consideration of certain estimates only to find that those estimates were not considered on that day and they had to return some other day. I suppose that that is one of the problems of parliamentary life. I think all honourable senators, come what may, will agree that the system that has been devised, whether they think it has succeeded in part or has failed, will agree that it has not succeeded completely- that the system that has been devised is certainly not the total answer. Therefore we in the Government believe that the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate should be rejected.
– The motion of Senator Withers proposes that 7 Estimates Committees be established, as the motion indicates, so that the particulars of proposed expenditure and the Additional Estimates as contained in the papers presented with the Budget can be considered by those committees. The succeeding paragraphs of his motion set out the purposes of the committees. They may ask for explanations from Ministers of State in the Senate, or officers, relating to the items of proposed expenditure. As the speakers in support of the motion have already said, this system is a decided advance upon the earlier system by which in the Committee of the Whole we sought to obtain information in 15 -minute speeches. I cannot understand how any senator who has observed both systems in operation can regard the Committee of the Whole system as preferable to the Estimates Committee system. Under the latter system information can be obtained. Under the previous system some information can be obtained, but the inhibitions and the restrictions are so great and the dissatisfaction which is felt is so evident that the latter system must be preferred. I cannot understand how Senator Douglas McClelland, who has observed both systems in operation and who has, as I recall, utilised the Estimates Committees to the full, could reasonably assert that a system based upon the Committee of the Whole is preferable to the system which we are suggesting. He may be right in saying that the current Estimates Committees system is not the perfect system. I can see areas in which decided improvements can be made, but I believe that we have made advances on the earlier system. The area of future activity should be towards streamlining and perfecting the performances of the Estimates Committees. I do not believe that it is an advance to return to the earlier system under which we operated.
I think that the choice before the Senate ought to be recognised. Either we accept the Estimates Committees proposal- that is, accept Senator Withers ‘ motion because the Government obviously is not proposing to put a motion to establish Estimates Committees- or we revert to the system under which the particulars of proposed expenditure are dealt with by the Committee of the Whole. If we accept the proposition that the particulars be dealt with by the Committee of the Whole we are bound to have long delays, as senators will make 15-minute speeches in an endeavour to make a point and in the hope that while they are speaking the Minister’s advisers will be able to scribble out something on a piece of paper so he can answer. This year we will have a more active Senate than we had previously because senators have experienced the operations of the Senate Estimates Committees. They would like to feel that they could get comparable information in the Committee of the
Whole. The time which will be taken to deal with particulars of proposed expenditure will be extended. The efforts to get information by probing questions will be more incessant. I would have thought that the questions would be more intensive. In those circumstances, the roles of Ministers and advisers would be even heavier. I think that generally speaking no one would be satisfied. I would have thought that the attempt by Ministers to evade probing questions would be more evident, which would lead to some dissatisfaction with the entire system.
I think that those matters are so obvious that the reasons which have been given by Government speakers for refusing to accept the motion cannot be accepted. We know that it was the decision of the Australian Labor Party in Caucus that there were to be no Estimates Committees, and that decision was made quite some time ago. Simply because no motion has been forthcoming from the Government to establish Estimates Committees, the Opposition took the initiative some time ago and gave notice of the motion which we are discussing today. What we have heard from Government senators is singularly uninformative. Senator McLaren was the first speaker for the Government. In what must be one of the shortest speeches which he has delivered in this chamber he expressed the first viewpoint from the Government in opposition to this motion. He said that he was opposed to the motion because last year he observed what he called a witch hunt against Senator Murphy which was time consuming. He attributed that wasting of time to myself. In self defence I say only that the record does not justify his statement. If he looks at the Hansards of last November’s Estimates Committees he will find that the particular Committee to which he was referring sat on 5 occasions. For reasons which I very much regret, I was unable to be present at three of those meetings. They were the last three. I suggest to Senator McLaren that the reasons which he gave in his case for not wanting to have Estimates Committees reconstituted can be shown to be demonstrably false. His reasons are one of those inaccuracies which are a nice throwaway line and which suggest a good reason why Estimates committees should not be established, but when one seeks to examine those reasons one finds that they lack basis altogether.
Senator Cavanagh suggested 2 reasonsfirstly, that the Estimates Committees have not brought out one thing and, secondly, that there is a great deal of cost and inconvenience involved in keeping- waiting officers who are attending the Estimates Committees. I deal with his second point which, I understand, was a consideration raised also by Senator Douglas McClelland. I believe that problem can be overcome by good management. A limited number of departments is attached to each Estimates Committee. I believe that we could so order the sittings of the Estimates Committees that each took one department at a time, which would mean that there was not a problem with officers attending for any unduly long periods. The other aspect of Senator Cavanagh ‘s speech is, I think, also demonstrably inaccurate. Senate Estimates Committee have exposed many matters which required exposing. I can remember when the previous Government was in power the incessant probing on the particular committees with which I was associated, firstly as a senator and then as a Minister. On the Committees in which I participated as one of the questioners, a tremendous amount of information was obtained from Ministers. I recall in particular the area of Parliamentary Counsel, the consolidation of the statutes and even the operation of and prosecutions under the National Service Act. I recall the many longs hours which I spent as a Minister being subjected to questions from, among others, Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator McAuliffe about the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and about other aspects of the Postmaster-General ‘s Department.
I challenge any senator who participated in the Estimates Committees of those days to deny that the information which was sought and obtained was relevant to a quite legitimate purpose which he had in mind and was invaluable in the pursuit of that purpose. I am quite sure that in that way Estimates Committees provide an invaluable service to all senators who wish to pursue the exercise which is open to them. I can think, for example, of the matters which were able to be extracted by a lot of questioning last year in some of the Committees. We assertained facts about the purchase of ‘Blue Poles’ which reluctant Ministers declined to give to questioners in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. We were able to ascertain that a gentleman by the name of Milte was employed by the Commonwealth, the purposes for which he was employed, the role which he played with regard to certain events connected with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and what he was doing in Parliament House. Senators were entitled to ascertain those matters in the public interest. In this chamber and in the House of Representatives this information was not made available to questioners who sought it.
We were able to find out last year the circumstances in which a payment was made to Sir Richard Kirby quite contrary to the standards by which persons holding judicial office ought to have their services terminated and contrary to the practices which had prevailed over a long period. That was a matter which was able to be aired subsequently in this chamber. Apart from the Estimates Committees inquiries that matter would not have been forthcoming.
There is a host of other matters which are also open to scrutiny and which ought to be open to scrutiny. At the present time we are seeing developments which can be checked or exposed only if we maintain our present system of probing the estimates of expenditure. I make the direct statement, Mr Deputy President, that the reason why this Government is not prepared to establish estimates committees is that it fears the consequences of what can be obtained by probing questions in the estimates committees. We have seen too many instances of this Government by-passing Parliament and using the money which is obtained in one line entries in the expenditure Bills to create new legislative or administrative programs. I cannot recall the precise sum of money which was available for the establishment of an Aboriginal congress- an incipient apartheid in this country- but not one of the steps involved in establishing that congress has parliamentary approval. It was done by the Minister concerned as an administrative act with moneys voted to his Department and without seeking the approval of the legislators of this country as to whether we wanted to establish an organisation of such tremendous import in this country. That is a matter which we ought to be able to expose. We ought to be able to find out where moneys voted to a department are likely to be used when we have a Government which is prepared to by-pass Parliament in this way. 1 know that in the legal area we have this year a sum of $ 12.5m voted for legal aid yet the purposes for which this legal aid is voted are not purposes which have received parliamentary approval. The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) has been travelling around Australia establishing the Australian Legal Aid Office but I ask any honourable senator: What is the charter of the Australian Legal Aid Office? Who are its employees? What are the terms and conditions under which it operates? What is the liability of that office if any person receives incorrect advice or loses certain rights because of its actions? I am quite sure that nobody can give me the answers. I have noticed from the newspapers that practitioners employed by this office are not able to appear in certain courts in this country. Why should there be an office established, to be financed in part by some $ 12.5m which this Parliament is being asked to vote, and this information be withheld from members of the Parliament? It is an area in which the Senate Estimates Committees provide an invaluable opportunity.
In the same area of legal aid, what are the conditions under which the Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Office has been established? Not one aspect of that service has been brought before the Parliament, and as far as I am aware no Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has deigned to supply information as to how it operates. What are the conditions under which moneys are paid directly to voluntary legal aid bodies throughout the country? We are not given any information about this. The way is wide open for abuse and patronage. That is the very reason why committees of this Senate ought to have an ability which they can possess in the form of a small committee which they do not possess in the Committee of the Whole to find out the facts. If the reason is legitimate and the purpose sound and in accordance with proper parliamentary usage we are all the better informed, but if something is being attempted which lacks statutory approval or is contrary to constitutional proprieties, likewise we are better informed.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– It is very important that the Parliament should have effective means of probing government expenditure, its purposes, its necessity and its proposed application, and the Estimates Committees of the Senate serve that function. As I have said, the Australia Legal Aid Office and the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service are institutions requiring the expenditure of very considerable amounts of public money which are not the subject of parliamentary legislation. One can add to that the Australian assistance program which is a vast concept being undertaken without one item receiving parliamentary approval for the purpose for which that money is being provided. The assistance granted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to the States likewise is money which is being provided without one parliamentary enactment justifying the expenditure of those moneys.
The way in which money for all these objectives is provided is simply the putting forward of Appropriation Bills and indicating that that money is being asked for by government and we are asked to approve of it. We should have the opportunity- this is an assertion which applies irrespective of what party happens to be in power from time to time- to probe the purposes for which government is claiming an appropriation of moneys.
– What possible answers can the Government have to those charges?
– I would doubt very much that the Government, if pressed, could give an adequate answer. If it attempted to give an answer, of course, it would be met with so many of the statements which it made when it was in Opposition, and I would hesitate to categorise them too forcefully. The Government’s present position is determined by the fact that it is in government. I certainly believe that this Government is apprehensive about what probing questions might elicit in areas where it would prefer to avoid the adverse publicity which the answers that it would have to give would produce. I think that this is being demonstrated by what happened last year and by the somewhat hysterical comments made earlier today by Senator McLaren. He does not like the Estimates Committees because, as he said, people started asking too many questions about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation affair. That is a matter upon which we all would like to have a lot more information than we have been given.
I believe that the Parliament should have the opportunity to expose the new programs which this Government is introducing under what we call one line appropriations in order to enable some public attention to be focused upon them. I have used the word ‘parliament’. Of course, Parliament consists of both Houses. But the Senate is the House in which these Committees have been operating in the past, and what the Senate has been able to extract has, on occasions, determined or influenced the action which has been taken by the whole Parliament. That, I believe, is a result which action by either House can achieve. I agree with what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said earlier, that the Estimates Committees should appropriately be the function of the House of government in which the appropriations must be initiated. But in the absence of action by the House of Representatives, which over the years appears to have abdicated this function, I think that it is incumbent on the Senate to do what it can to fill the vacuum, and over the past few years that vacuum has been filled. This Government wants to conceal its objection to establishing the Estimates Committees in which it was prepared to co-operate for so many years when it was in Opposition. This is designed to prevent the eliciting of facts which this Government does not want exposed.
I for my part welcome the continuation of the Estimates Committees because I see in them a marvellous opportunity for obtaining information about matters in respect of which this Government has been singularly reticent. I hope that on this side of the chamber there are other honourable senators who are similarly motivated to obtain information about matters where the Government is not forthcoming. One can also express the hope that there might be some Government back benchers,- as there were so many Government back benchers in the previous Government, who have the same object of exposing that which governments of whatever political colour would sometimes desire to conceal. If there are problems concerning the attendance of honourable senators at the Estimates Committee hearings because particular matters in which honourable senators are interested are dealt with by Committeees which are sitting at the same time, I am quite sure that an indication of interest beforehand could overcome those problems. Proper arrangements could be made. If Senator Douglas McClelland is genuine in his thought that it would be better for the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees to undertake the functions which the Estimates Committees now undertake, I would have thought that that is a matter which could have been put to the test in the Senate by a simple amendment. I am sure that we, for our part, would examine such a proposition in terms of seeking to reach a decision as to whether that might not be a convenient way of combining the functions of Standing Committees and Estimates Committees.
I conclude by saying that I regard the present Government’s attitude to the establishment of the Estimates Committees as motivated by a desire to avoid the results of questioning. But it is understandable when we recognise that we have a Government which is by-passing Parliament and the parliamentary processes; when we have a Government which is evading the obligations of the Westminster system and the need for legislative approval of executive acts which involve the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars. It is not sufficient to say that we can deal with this and the problems which the Appropriation Bills create by reverting to debate in the Committee of the Whole. After all, I think that this Government would be well satisfied if it could have a one line appropriation which simply asked for the expenditure of $ 16,000m and could avoid questions as to how that money was to be spent. But the basic problem is that if a Bill is to be brought into this chamber it will be brought in at a late stage when there is only a day or less before the Bill has to be passed in order that the nation’s public servants will be paid. This is the argument which would be presented to a probing Opposition: ‘But you cannot ask questions because we must get the Bill through by a later hour this day’. The ways of governments are many and the abilities of governments are resourceful. We believe that the present system, under which during the period when the Appropriation Bills are being debated in the House of Representatives we can, at the same time, examine the estimates of expenditure in the Estimates Committees, is a sensible system which elevates the Parliament and does not denigrate it. We therefore will support the motion moved by Senator Withers.
– I wish to contribute briefly to this debate. Firstly, I support the general views which have been expressed by various Opposition speakers and I wish just to cover a couple of points. It seems to me to be fundamental that the Senate should approach this question first from the point of view of what is the role of the Senate. Is it solely a mimic, a reproduction, of the House of Representatives or is it intended to be under the Constitution and by constitutional practice a different House? Is it intended to be a House with a separate role, a House with a primary role as a House of review, rather than a House associated with the executive government? In my view the Senate clearly is intended to be, ought to be and can operate successfully as a House of review, a House which is concerned not so much with policy issues but rather with the function of having a second look at the way in which government policy is being carried out and the way in which government itself is being carried on. It has the opportunity to fulfil what I would regard as the most important function of all- that is, the committee functioninstead of this rehashing of second reading debates, which tends to be the time consumer of the Senate, in relation to matters of policy which have already been fully debated in the House of Representatives. We do that instead of getting down to the Committee consideration of legislation, whether that consideration be in the Committee of the Whole or whether it be by particular committees of the Senate set up to examine the detail of a Bill, the detail of government estimates or the detail of government administration.
I would certainly wish to take up the points made by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack in relation to the importance of the opportunity which is available to members of this chamber to have direct contact with the Public Service by way of being able to ask questions and obtain information as to what is going on in the actual administration of government policy, as opposed to the formation of it. I believe that that opportunity is welcomed by responsible members of the Public Service. It is welcomed by responsible members of the Senate who regard the Senate as being other than a rubber stamp to the House of government or, alternatively, a place which simply regurgitates debates similar to those which take place in the House of government.
I believe that it is becoming increasingly important that this chamber should fulfill on behalf of the public of Australia a watchdog role in relation to government in order to ensure that the public, through its members of the Senate, has an opportunity to ask questions as to what is going on and to obtain answers to those questions in the light of the ever increasing extent to which the Government, the bureaucracy, the Public Service, or whatever term one wishes to use, is manifesting itself in Australian society. It has become all powerful and is increasing in its significance. The increase in the number of statutory corporations, the tremendous increase in the extent to which public funds are directed towards these institutions and the effect which they have on society are things which need some check and some auditing on behalf of the people of Australia. I believe that that is one of the primary roles which the Senate has to play. It is not a matter of its being an embarrassment or otherwise to the Government. The Government does not rest in this House. The Government rests in the other House. Each and every senator has a responsibility to fulfil a role on behalf of the people. Unless we set up the Estimates Committees the opportunity to fulfil that role will be very severely curtailed.
I suggest that there is no good reason why any honourable senator should not support Senator Withers’ motion. Various members of the present Government when in opposition had good reasons for being keen to set up Estimates Committees in the past. I fail to understand why they have had such a change of mind now that they are in government, unless it be simply that they wish to cover up in some way and prevent the Australian people from having an opportunity, through their representatives in the Senate, to ask questions of both Ministers in the Senate, to ask questions of both Ministers and members of the Public Service. Unless that is their reasoning, there is no logical reason for their not supporting the motion. I shall certainly be supporting the retention of the Senate Estimates Committees system. Notwithstanding the fact that my leader has just said that he would expect me to support the motion, I would do it anyway.
– I wish to speak for only one minute to add my comments to the debate and to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). I address my remarks to the financial matters contained in the Advance to the Treasurer. It will be understood by honourable senators that the Parliament does not have an opportunity to discuss these matters; they are dealt with by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on behalf of the Parliament. But it is during the hearings of the Estimates Committees that we do have an opportunity to examine the items of expenditure which are called in the Advance to the Treasurer. I believe that this is an important matter for the Senate to consider when we are dealing with the question of setting up Estimates Committees because it is during the hearings of the Estimates Committees that honourable senators have an opportunity to pursue their points of interest under those heads of expenditure. For that reason and all of the others that have been advanced by my colleagues I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition.
That the motion (Senator Wither’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 25 September (vide page 1425), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Expenditure- Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1975
Particulars of Proposed Provision for certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1 975
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending June 30 1 975
Civil Works Program 1974-75
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1974
Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1974-75
Urban and Regional Development 1974-75
Australia’s External Aid 1974-75
National Income and Expenditure 1973-74
National Accounting Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure of Australian Government Authorities
Income Tax Statistics
Taxation Review Committee, Preliminary Report I June 1974
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘that’ and insert ‘The Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis, in that:
Unemployment is permitted to grow and the prospect for school leavers is prejudiced;
Inflation is accelerated:
Existing poverty is ignored and new poverty is created:
Personal income tax is increased 45 percent;
Living standards will bc lowered:
Private enterprise is stilled;
Government power is further centralised:
Individual incentive and thrift is penalised; U) A double tax is levied on estates.
And because the Government:
Has made the Budget a socialist vehicle to intensify the attack on the States and break down the free enterprise system.
Believes the absurdity that the Government can spend without people paying or can build without people producing.
Has preached private restraint but has threatened its achievement by its own Government extravagance.
-I want to say a few words tonight on the Budget that was introduced 2 weeks ago. Firstly, I state that one of the most notable features of the Budget is that it could be called a leaky Budget. So many things leaked out before the Budget was presented that proved to be right. I think the Budget could be likened to the roof of this Parliament House which is very leaky when it rains. As I say, the Budget was introduced 2 weeks ago and to my way of thinking it is not a truly national Budget. It is not a properly balanced Budget between all sections of our community. It is a pro-urban Budget and it is too anti-rural.
– It is not nonsense. It is a fact. The Budget is designed to hasten the disintegration of our Federal system and to promote the domination of a centralist system from Canberra which will lead to the inevitable weakening of our State parliaments.
– Joh has given you that.
– No. There has been no real effort made to curb inflation. On the contrary. To my way of thinking, increasing the outflow of money by over 32 per cent in this Budget will have the very opposite effect to curbing inflation.
– How would you cut it down, senator?
– The honourable senator will have his chance to make his speech. Another matter I want to refer to is that of devaluation. That was announced as an afterthought to the presentation of the Budget. That was a very leaky decision too because apparently a lot of people knew about it before it was announced. A Brisbane daily newspaper published the story in its early morning edition. The news was officially released at 6 a.m. Many other newspapers knew about it the night before. The London Stock Exchange knew about it also. The devaluation could be described as giving too little, too late. Very much as an afterthought, the Government decided to tell the New Zealand Government 2 hours after it made the decision. There was a hurried conference in the New Zealand Government which devalued its currency by 8 per cent. Ours is not a true devaluation in the sense that our currency will be allowed to float. If the Australian dollar had been allowed to float and find its own level, I suggest that the devaluation would be much more than 1 2 per cent.
The position has arisen that overseas investors have lost confidence in the Australian dollar. Overseas investment in Australia has been severly discouraged through various actions of this Government. In fact, overseas investment in Australia has nearly ceased. This Government, through its policies early in its life to revalue the dollar and to reduce tariffs by 25 per cent, has caused a spate of imports including, I might mention, quite a lot of food items. It is causing our overseas balances to run down very quickly. Australian factories are either retrenching staff or closing down altogether. I believe that inflation can be curbed only by more production and a lowering of interest rates. There is too much differentiation between the urban dwellers and the rural sector in this nation. I believe that we are heading rapidly towards a position in which we will be a large importer of food. In the past, we have grown to greatness as a nation by being a large producer of food, of agricultural products, animal products and through mining. Our rural sector is being driven out of existence by the policies of this Government.
Whilst dealing with the primary industries, I have some criticisms to offer of our Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). I believe that he is misleading the city dwellers about the actual prosperity or otherwise of the rural sector of our community. He is and has been telling the city dwellers that the rural sector is all right, except for one or two industries. He has mentioned the cattle industry. But he has said that the rural sector will have quite a good income this year. But he has not mentioned the reducing income of most primary industries or their rising costs. The Government has done a lot to damage the rural sector. Many things have been publicised already. There is the removal of the freight subsidy on petrol in rural areas. There is the removal of the subsidy on superphosphate. There is the stopping of payments for wheat which were to be made in August and there are several other matters. We know that the Australian Wheat Board could not raise enough capital to pay the growers. Because of shipping troubles and other transport troubles, the Board could not sell the wheat. Many people were committed to the expected advance of 20c per bushel which was to be paid by the Board in July or August and which has not even been paid in full now. We are told now that the Reserve Bank of Australia will no longer finance the Wheat Board. It will have to borrow on the public market at the normal borrowing rates. We know what that will cost and we know who will pay ultimately. It will be the wheat growing section of the primary industries.
I do not think enough emphasis has been placed on the full implications of the removal of the petrol freight subsidy. It has been referred to as mainly affecting rural dwellers but it goes much further than that. It is going to affect the tourist industry and all those tied up with it. It is going to affect city people who want to travel around Australia. When they find that they have to pay nearly $1 a gallon for petrol in some places, as is the case now, it makes the trip pretty costly.
As a result of the Coombs report, many allowances to primary industry have been discontinued. One has only to read about the numerous protest meetings around the countryside to realise how far offside is the Government with the rural sector of the economy. That does not just apply to primary producers. It applies to workers, businessmen and other residents in country towns. As a result of noises from the rural sector we now have a Green Paper which is a Government sponsored review of Federal rural policy. It remains to be seen what use will be made of this Green Paper. Government support for a floor price for wool is a big help to that industry. But if our rural industries are to be restored to some measure of prosperity and confidence, much rethinking of policies will have to be undertaken or many individuals will go to the wall. I would like to quote a comment on the Green Paper, Rural Policy in Australia, by John W. Longworth, reader in agricultural economics at the University of Queensland as follows:
The Green Paper is not going to change the rules of the ball-game over-night. On the other hand, one could expect the refereeing to be of a higher standard in future.
I would just like to comment briefly on the Government’s much publicised national health scheme which was mentioned so much during the general election campaign and which was the subject of one of the double dissolution Bills. We do not seem to have progressed very far in this matter. In fact, the Government seems to be losing ground in relation to its proposed national health scheme. The cost of hospitalisation is now staggering. I saw a letter from the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham)- this does not refer only to private hospitals but also to public hospitals in many parts of Australia- which indicates that the cost per patient is approximately $1,000 a month. Very few people can afford hospitalisation on that level, despite the insurance company which has been advertising in the Press that it will pay $1,000 a month. One has to pay a fairly high premium for that cover. We have not heard much lately of the 1.35 percent of income tax being provided to finance this scheme. I do believe that a pilot scheme of socialised medicine is being instituted in the Australian Capital Territory. The implementation of this scheme in other parts of Australia will depend on how the Minister and his Department go in the Australian Capital Territory.
I would like to mention, also, the proposed abolition of the means test. As honourable senators are aware, men receive the age pension at 65 and women receive it at 60 years of age. In its first year in office this Government completely abolished the means test for all people over 75 years of age. As women become eligible for the age pension 5 years earlier than men, why could not the Government abolish the means test for women over 70 years of age? We are told in the Budget Speech that next April the Government will abolish the means test for men and women over 70 years of age. Why could the Government not abolish it for women over 65 years of age? Why should there be this difference when women are paid the pension 5 years earlier than men? I think that point is worthy of consideration.
I would like to refer to the Woodhouse report on national insurance. I believe that the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) is in charge of matters pertaining to insurance. Senator Wheeldon went to New Zealand and made a statement there that he was going to introduce a national insurance scheme which would cost about $400m to administer in the first year of operation in Australia. When Senator Wheeldon returned from New Zealand there was a strange silence for some time. He denied some of the comments he was supposed to have made New Zealand.
In the Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said that there would not be much expenditure this year on national insurance. Only a small amount would be spent on administration. He indicated that the scheme would be phased in gradually. In the Brisbane Press today the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation is reported as having said that the scheme is to cost $ 1,300m- that is for a full year, I presume- and is to be financed by a tax on petrol and wages. It is apparently to take over much of the compensation insurance that exists in Australia. I might mention that in Queensland a State Government office has a monopoly of workers’ compensation. I presume that that will have to go. In other States private insurance companies handle workers’ compensation insurance. We are told that legislation will be introduced during this session to deal with national insurance. We will no doubt get a lot more details when the Bill is introduced. I believe this is more of the grand plan of socialisation and the plan to drive private enterprise out of the insurance business. It will be interesting to note whether the plan will ultimately be extended to include all types of life insurance in Australia as a long range plan,
Another point I would like to mention is the oil position in Australia. This is one of the most serious matters with which we have had to deal in the last few months. The unions working in the oil industry- in the refineries and the transport of oil- have discovered that they can completely control the industrial life of Australia by their actions. We are told they have a master plan to keep down reserves of petrol and distillate and oils used for moving vehicles to about one week or 10 days’ supply. We have had the spectacle of our Navy, our Air Force and our Army, having to defer or cancel manoeuvres. Not long ago we were told that the Army was going to have manoeuvres in Broken Hill but they had to be cancelled because the New South Wales Railways did not have enough fuel to take the troops to that area. We had the spectacle also at one stage, I believe, of only one naval boat being able to put to sea. The rest were tied up at Sydney partly through lack of fuel and partly through industrial disputes. The Royal Australian Air Force had aeroplanes stranded in Darwin. We are told that nearly all our Fills are still grounded in Darwin. They literally have not a feather to fly with- or a gallon of fuel to fly with.
– No oil and no feathers.
– That is right-no oil and no feathers. It is bad enough having these conditions. We should take no pride in telling the world about it. The situation I have mentioned led to a cartoon in one of the large newspapers. The caption read: ‘Please, no invasion for the time being. We haven’t got any fuel.’ I am told that the Sydney-Melbourne passenger trains through lack of fuel have reduced their normal services to about half. I have certainly seen evidence of the shortage of fuel in Queensland. I read in the Press yesterday that there is no petrol in Tamworth in northern New South Wales. We had a spectacle of the harvesting of sugar being made possible only by the borrowing of naval fuel from Cairns. It probably has not been replaced yet. Part of this is due to the prospecting subsidy being discontinued by this Government. If it were not for the foresight of the previous Government which provided an oil prospecting subsidy resulting in the discovery of enough oil in and around Australia to make us 70 to 80 per cent self-sufficient in oil, we would have been on petrol rationing when the Arab nations embarrassed other countries by refusing to supply oil. The position now is that the present Government has decided to do the prospecting for oil itself. I do not know where it is prospecting because we are told that most of the deep well oil drilling rigs have left Australia and have gone to the North Sea and other places.
– Who told you that one?
– We had an arrangement when we were in government for a gas pipeline to be built by private enterprise from the gas fields of South Australia to the southern capitals. This Government said: ‘It looks like a good thing; we will do it ourselves’. The scheme has not got under way very far yet and we do not know what the gas will cost when it gets to the users in these places.
– ‘I am told ‘. Go on.
- Senator Poyser will have his opportunity to make his speech later on. We have this spectacle now of private enterprise versus Government construction and Government enterprise. The Government enterprise under the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has got nowhere. We have had a good bit of Federal Government interference in mining in various States.
– You must be embarrassed.
– I believe too that Australia should plan very early- I have advocated this for a good while- to make use of its own steel and coking coal to a greater extent by having 2 steel works, one in Western Australia near the iron ore deposists and the other in Queensland near the coking coal, and running a shuttle service of coal and iron ore from each to the other so that 2 steel works can be kepi going and we can make a larger quantity of our own steel. This would be quite feasible.
It is interesting to note that the Treasurer in his Budget Speech reverted to 2 rates of income tax, one of 10 per cent on property income and the other a lesser rate on income from personal exertionsomething which the previous Government abandoned about 20 years ago. These new provisions did not stay long- less than a fortnight or so- after the Budget Speech. Caucus has reversed that decision or amended it by saying that it will exempt from the surcharge incomes of up to $5,000 and after that income will be taxed at the full rate. That means that on income of up to $5,000 there will not be a 10 per cent surcharge.
The Government is relying on inflation to produce more tax and for that reason it has no real desire to curb inflation. I would like to refer briefly to the capital gains tax in respect of which I noticed that there was a mistake in the Treasurer’s Speech. He included the Netherlands as a country which has a capital gains tax. I am informed on very good authority that there is no capital gains tax in the Netherlands.
– Who told you that?
– There will be a lot of confusion about this capital gains tax and the full impact will not be felt for some time, probably not for several years. It is interesting to note that the matrimonial home valued at up to $35,000 will be released from death duties if it is left to the surviving spouse. However, apparently it will be subject to capital gains tax. We have not been told to the contrary; so the widow in many cases, instead of paying death duties, could be up for sizeable capital gains tax on the valuation of the home because the fact of death is counted as transmission or sale of the property. Any reduction in income tax in this Budget for those in the lower income bracket will be very much an illusion. I intended to refer in this speech to matters affecting the Postmaster-General’s Department but these matters had a pretty good airing last week and I will not cover them again.
– They needed it.
Senator LAWRIE They certainly needed it. I think that a lot of people today when they buy a 10c stamp to post a letter are thinking about the Government which introduced these charges.
– How much would you reduce them by?
– I would like to comment now on the savage increase in fees for radio transmission licences. This increase applies to’ ham radio operators, small ships and many others. The increase in fees, particularly for amateur radio operators, or hams as they are called, is very unfair. They are not operating in a very big way but they do come to the help of the nation in a national emergency such as a fire and flood. They do it willingly and are a great help.
– Your Government would not even licence them.
– Some consideration should be given to those people in regard to this increase in licence fees. There has been a tremendous increase in expenditure in the Budget on education right throughout Australia but I would like to refer to only one aspect of the education provisions and that is the reduction in the tax allowance from $400 to $150 a child. We are told that this is going to affect only the people whose children attend rich schools.
– Who told you?
– I do not think that the honourable senator, who has been so persistently interjecting, has been around the country much otherwise he would realise that there are children of people on wages who have to be sent away to schools. They live too far away for them to be sent to a high school or primary school every day and these children have either to board in town or go to a boarding school.
– We gave allowances to them which were never given by your Government.
– There is no allowance for children living away from home to go to school except this taxation allowance, and that is what I am talking about. Even to buy uniforms and books for the children of workers who live in town makes a hole in $ 1 50. A lot of parents know that and I think that it will react very much against the Government and its supporters.
There has been a big alteration in the road funds made available to the States through the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). He did not accept the recommendation of the national roads commission. There has been a big reclassification of roads. We have in Queensland 2 national highways that will be built with Commonwealth funds solely but some of the other more important highways have been reclassified as rural development roads. The mileage has been doubled and the money made available has been halved. Two roads in Queensland- one from the Townsville area to Mount Isa and the other from the Rockhampton area to Longreach- which are not all sealed yet, have been very much downgraded.
– After 23 years of your Government they are not all sealed?
– They were going to be.
– What a condemnation of your Government.
– She has been silent for so long that it is nice to hear her voice.
– If the interjectors have ceased I will complete what I was saying. The reclassification of these roads has been a big set back for the Queensland Government Mr Jones threatened this Senate that if it interfered with the road Bill- this was during the sitting in July- he would withdraw the money altogether. The Senate did interfere with it and he compromised on one little item. He wanted some say in the big city freeways. Beyond that he agreed to all the Senate amendments. What he wanted the Senate to agree to was an arrangement under which if any country shire wanted to buy even a wheelbarrow, a grader or something like that out of its own funds it would have to refer the matter to some designated authority in Canberra to get a ‘ yea ‘ or ‘ nay ‘.
– Go and get your marbles.
- Senator, that is what we were told. Today I saw on television that the Minister plans to take over as many highways in Australia as he can. He has said that he will make another offer to the State governments to take over the railways. It is obvious that the Government plans the complete socialisation of transport with administration centred in Canberra. This is the plan for the future, the grand scheme to socialise everything, as far as it can be done, from a central control in Canberra. An amendment has been moved to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers. I support the amendment and hope that the Senate will see fit to carry it.
– The Budget has raised a great deal of controversy in the community as to whether it will take up the slack of the rapidly growing number of unemployed or whether it will add to the depressing scene in industry and commerce and create further unemployment. In any case, one thing is quite certain and that is that the Australian people do not know what it will do. They do not believe that the Australian Government knows what it will do. Last week 700 South Australians turned up at a meeting at the Unley Town Hall on a very cold night to listen to just this subject dealt with by one of the professors in Adelaide who was a founder of the so-called Adelaide Plan. Certainly, the Australian Labor Party projects to the community a state of great confusion. This was evidenced by further interaction which was caused by the introduction of the Budget. In response the Liberal Party from the opposition side can offer no solution to the economic problems of Australia. However, 2 things are certain in this confused picture. One is that the Government is proceeding idealogically with its Budget and is adding to its general administrative program for the socialisation of Australia so that we will see more unbridled union power exerted on the industrial scene. I refer to the rapid socialisation which is evidenced by the key phrase in the Budget which has been dealt with by most speakers prior to this point.
Obviously the Budget is a document which is seen to transfer economic power from the private sector to the public sector. Since its introduction we have seen very alarming reports, almost day by day, of how the Commonwealth is intruding into State matters. Even this evening on the much publicised controversy of the freeway in Sydney- disregarding the rights or the wrongs of that freeway- on television the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) was threatening the New South Wales Government with a general cancellation of its road funds because he disagreed with the plan for the freeway development which is now the subject of argument in the State. We have seen attempts in this chamber to pass an all-embracing roads Bill- of course, very successful, despite the rather minimal amendments which were effected. In recent times we have seen that the Federal Government wants to get into the railway business in States where it has been absent in the past. In this morning’s newspaper we have seen that a hospital project is to be taken over by Canberra. The Federal Government will go it alone at Sunshine in Victoria. The inference we get quite directly from this is that the States are dead as far as hospitals, roads and railways are concerned.
– That is under this Government.
– Yes, under this Government. Of course it will take a brave government in the future to completely reverse the trends. It is not easy simply to put back or to improve on the present scheme by another ideological move from another government. So in 3 main areas within a few days and weeks this Government has moved to take the State role. I say that it is quite vindictive when its purposes and plans are crossed, as was evidenced by the remarks of the Federal Minister, Mr Uren, tonight. The speed of ideological progress by the Government is rather staggering. Whilst it may be divided upon itself as to a proper plan to lead Australia, it does not seem to be divided upon itself in the application of its principles of socialisation. It is proceeding apace in that way. As I have said, in industry we have seen the tremendous scene of a government going cap in hand to the unions of Australia and ostensibly at least framing a Budget to capture their approval for some social contract or for some other factor in the future. I will be interested in further evidence of what Labor members of Parliament think about these matters. I saw a report in today’s Australian’ of Senator Button who was speaking in Melbourne. The report stated:
Industrial unrest, power struggles and militancy now being experienced in Australia are healthy signs . . .
The collapse of companies like Mainline and Cambridge Credit were predictable . . .
Senator Button, who was elected in May, said people should not be frightened of the apparent disorder as it was all a pan of society’s growth.
I wonder what the unemployed, the rate of which is supposed to be running at 4,000 a week, think of this desirable disruption. The report ends rather interestingly. It states:
Senator Button criticised union participation in management. ‘The idea is to put a unionist on the board to make it look good. But nothing ever comes of it, there is no change, ‘ he said. ‘We should work toward the position of Yugoslavia where workers elect the management and run the company. ‘
At least Senator Button does not hide his ideological course. I suppose he thinks that the takeover of the various State facilities which I have mentioned so far is not going fast enough. I think that certainly would be his view. But all of this has meant that there has been a general feeling of attack upon industry. That feeling is widely held in industry. I have had the chance- as I am sure a lot of Government members have- to talk to commerce and industry which is always willing to talk about its future and its place and plans within the Australian scene. It is one continuous picture of belief that this Government is attacking its very existence and that the very enterprise ethic is under siege and will be destroyed if Mr Hawke and a few other gentlemen can have their way with their plans. This has had a very undesirable effect on the psychology of the Australian industrial community. This rapacious free enterprise which is so often referred to in derogatory terms by some Federal Ministers of course is not always the great capitalist that the Labor Party seems to make it out. It is in fact capitalist without profit in many cases. If honourable senators care to read the report of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd of 1974 I am sure they will find undisputable figures contained in that very reliable report. I suggest that they read under the heading ‘Tax Bill’ because it states:
We finished up earning after tax only lc for every dollar we have invested in the steel industry … in downtoearth terms, ‘no one ever got a bucket of water from a dry well’. We don’t intend that the steel industry in Australia should dry up, but we need the co-operation of all to ensure that it doesn’t.
What a margin it has as a steel industry! It has a 1 per cent profit after tax. That is supposed to encourage the rest of Australia to invest in Australia’s future. The report continues:
While most of our investment is in steel, for this year most of our profits come from petroleum, mining and from our many manufacturing industries.
As a side issue to this discussion on BHP, it might be a good thing if Mr Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, were to read how much steel is used in various categories of operation of Australian industrial production. He will find that 21.97 per cent of the steel production in Australia was used in the mining industry. This was the largest share of any segment of Australian operators. Certainly, the revitalising of the mining industry will be extremely important to the future of that company. I use that example to illustrate publicly what has been put to me privately many times in the last few weeks. Companies are facing the prospect of earning either completely, minimal profits, which is not the slightest encouragement to them to invest further funds in Australia, or they are making a loss. Let us not be fooled by the number of favourable results which come out from time to time. We ought to be happy and very pleased that there are some successful companies in Australia. If I were working for any company in Australia I certainly would like to be working for one with a high profit margin rather than one with a low profit margin. I am sure that most employees in Australia believe that at the present time. So the scene in Australia is one where the Federal Government is known to be pursuing its ideological cause.
Industry and commerce believe that they are under attack and in many instances they are looking to invest their funds outside Australia. The Government would be aware of that. The relevant Ministers would know from the letters on their desks- and I know those letters are there- that many export industries are ceasing their export programs that they have developed through many years of hard work, encouraged by the incentives offered by previous governments. There is a lack of confidence in the Government due to the contradictory statements of its Ministers such as those concerning the tax on unearned income which was altered even before the Budget has been passed by this Parliament. The spectacle of Caucus divided has emphasised the lack of leadership by the Government. It has highlighted and outlined the basic weakness inherent in the discipline Caucus has over its members of Parliament, a discipline which gives power to every member of its parliamentary team in the consideration of legislation. It is impossible to maintain a proper Cabinet system of government under a Labor Administration. This has been proved from time to time during previous attempts by Labor to govern this country. It is not possible for Cabinet to make a decision, to have that decision placed before
Caucus and torn about, then to accept something less and go to the Australian people and say: ‘We are confidently governing you’. The caucusing of Labor binds every Labor member of Parliament to Caucus decisions regardless of what happens in either House of Parliament.
– The Liberals have that system, too.
– I was greatly distressed when I heard that the Liberals were moving to a harder line in this way, especially in the election of their Cabinet. I have a personal view on this point because of my past experience. I was pleased to read reports that they had moved away from that hard line and disciplinarian attitude in the election of their Cabinet. They are moving back to the system of a more effective Cabinet government which contrasts so strongly with the disciplinary caucusing which is destroying Cabinet government in Australia at present.
I repeat that the Australian people certainly do not know where they are going in this scene. Certainly the Government is not giving them any confidence. Senators who care to read the economic journals in the Parliamentary Library and learn the economic facts stated by many economists in Australia will find that in one fashion or another all economists agree that the union system in Australia, which is the last great power system outside the control of the elector, has to be brought one way or another into the general planning of the economic progress of this country. Whichever way they express it, whichever way some economists like to hide that opinion perhaps because of their own politics or because of fear of offending a great section of the community, that is what they are saying. The relevant journals are easily obtainable from the Parliamentary Library by every senator who cares to read them. Until the union movement is brought under control in the sense that companies and individuals in the community are under control we will not see the period of stability which everyone is looking for.
A number of great inequities has been created by the Budget. Previous speakers in this debate have referred to them. The application of the capital gains tax in the form proposed will create very great inequities. Whilst it is another illustration of the failure of the Government to provide Cabinet leadership, at least the retreat from one aspect of the unearned income tax was some measure of relief from the very severe impact it would have had on numbers of the Australian community.
I was very sorry to learn that the 2 proposals put forward by my Party were not contained in the Budget. I believe that working parents who must pay for child minding services should be able to claim those service charges as an income tax deduction. I also believe that there is absolute merit in the view that individual employees paying transport charges to work should be able to claim those charges as a tax deduction just as a person running a company or a professional business can claim them. Those indisputable claims, in spite of their equity, have not been included in the Budget. The Government could well have considered such a miserly return to the public out of the immense wealth now accruing to it because of the inflationary effects on salaries and wages in the taxation scale.
I wish now to raise some specific matters which concern South Australia. I referred earlier to the defence vote which I believe is being kept down to a deplorable level in view of the inflationary effects and the need even to maintain the payment of salaries to members of the defence forces. It is obvious that some defence cuts will be made. South Australia has within its borders one of the most important defence facilities in this country. I believe that it is under severe threat of being dismantled by this Government because of economies being made in the defence vote. The Government is using the defence vote as one part of its program to take the brunt of economies while it is increasing rapidly its appropriations for other parts of its expenditure program. I refer, for instance, to the vote for research and development which is mainly to be expended in the maintenance and development work of the Weapons Research Establishment based at Salisbury, Woomera and adjacent areas.
It is a most important facility in the sense that it maintains a continuing expertise in all scientific aspects of weapon technology. It is very difficult indeed to assemble rapidly the type of team employed there in the event of an unforeseen emergency, or even at the time of an emergency which can be foreseen only a few years away. This vote has been increased from $59.8m to $67. 5m. By my subtraction that is an increase of $7.7m. I would like to inform the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) who is handling this debate for the Government that the increase is shown as $7.6m. I assume that someone has made a mistake in his calculations. There is an error of $100,000 in the table and I would like the Minister when he speaks in this debate to tell me why in the table the difference between $59.8m and $67. 5m is shown as $7. 6m. I am sure that it is not a deliberate mistake. It is too small to be deliberate but it needs correcting if the table is to be left on the file.
The facts of life are that in 1973-74 the vote for the research and development section of the defence appropriation was $59.8m, which was an increase of $3m or 5.3 per cent. That happened in a year when the inflation rate was running at about 9V4 per cent. This year the vote is increased by $7.7m from $59.8m to $67.5m, an increase of 12.8 per cent in a year in which we can assume that the inflation rate is about 22 per cent. It would appear that there is a very deliberate attempt to run down one of the most important defence technology groupings in the southern hemisphere. I do not know why we are in the business of dismantling such a grand assembly of technologists and scientists. They have to their credit quite a number of important defence mechanisms. One of the offshoots- it is only an offshoot but a very important one which is known all over the world- is the copying machines of which all honourable senators now make much use. The dry copying machines were developed on the processes of 2 major research people at the Weapons Research Establishment in Adelaide. Those patents are well used world wide.
I want to be a little specific about this matter. I can say to the Minister for Agriculture that the members of this valuable assembly of staff at the Weapons Research Establishment are extremely concerned that they are taking the brunt of the economies in the defence vote because they are not front line operators. It is one of the most shortsighted moves in any government’s administration that I can think of. I will read for the benefit of the Senate a starting paragraph in a draft submission on this issue. It read:
The Weapons Research Establishment group is very concerned about the viability of Australia’s Defence Scientific Service due to it being allowed to run down in an ad hoc manner by wastage. We consider that, from a national point of view, Australia ‘s defence organisation must remain viable to be ready to meet any likely demands upon it. We believe that there is a great risk of allowing the ADSS to run down in times of little apparent threat which will result in the ADSS not being able to respond when required.
The key point is ‘not being able to respond when required’. I read another quote. There is a heading in the Easter Saturday 1974 edition of the Australian’:
Five million dollar radio telescope antenna sold as scrap.
The article states:
One of Australia’s key radio-telescopes, valued at $Sm, has been sold for scrap and a top astronomy team has been disbanded, in a major scientific scandal.
The bungle has created a big gap in Australia’s top-line radio-astronomy research that scientists believe will never be repaired.
The 26-metre (8 fi) diameter radio-telescope ‘dish’, near Woomera, South Australia, was offered as a gin to the Federal Government.
But the Government last year declined to accept the offerand its owners, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration had to sell it for scrap.
That is a disgraceful state of affairs. One wonders whether there was some political bias on the part of this Government because the telescope was offered by the United States space agency. Did the Government feel that it was ideologically unable to accept the offer? If it had been made by China or the Shah of Iran, the Government might have accepted it, but the Government could not accept it from the States.
– The Government buys its art from the United States.
– It is good on the arts but it is not too good on radio telescopes. There is more. I do not want to quote the whole of this letter. I do not want to embroil individuals in this matter. I quote 2 points which I think are sufficient to amplify how serious this matter is. The letter was written to Mr Clyde Cameron, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, by a person deeply involved in the operation of this telescope. I shall read an extract. It is not taken out of sequence. It reads:
Unfortunately the NASA tracking stations are run by the Department of Supply. Our work has been completely unclassified. Since 1967 we have published about 25 papers in scientific journals and some of them have sparked editorial comment in journals like ‘Science’. We even got mentioned by Walter Sullivan in the ‘New York Times’ on one occasion. In Australia, we were virtually unknown because of the repressive policy of the Department in matters of local Press comment. Overseas we were well known because of our scientific publications in American and European journals, and science writers in overseas newspapers are, of course, much more on the ball than their Australian counterparts. So we suffered local anonymity and overseas fame. I have just been accepted as a candidate for D.Sc. degree at an English university and with a little luck I should get the degree soon. If I do, I will be the most highly qualified and least heeded scientist in the Public Service. I do not include CSIRO.
The Minister wrote back to this gentleman. I will not bore the Senate by reading more of that letter. Sufficient has been said to introduce, isolate and completely explain the subject. This is part of the Minister’s reply. I will not read all of it. The portion which I will read is indicative of the remainder of the letter. The Minister replied:
You have obviously enjoyed 7 years of near ideal conditions for your radioastronomy research, and I can understand your disappointment at the forthcoming changes.
This letter was written on 30 January 1974. It continues:
However, the facts are that my Department must operate on a smaller budget than formerly, and research in general and the Weapons Research Establishment in particular have to share in the economies.
The economies which are referred to in the Budget and which are so lightly passed over because they are impersonal are revealed in all their detail in that Minister’s letter. He is a senior Minister. He must make economies. He does not have the money. He cuts the basis of the future development of Australia’s defence. The cuts do not affect men in the field who can be trained in one or two years, depending upon the scientific needs in their training and their capacities. He is cutting major scientific study areas, some of which could not be replaced in 10 years. So this Government will continue to increase by 43 per cent the vote for the arts, and other provisions by even more. The Government will reduce the basis not of next year’s defence but of the defence for which it says it is planning- in 1 5 years. If the Government means anything when it talks of its program for 15 years, which, I think, is the lead time which the Government mentions before there is any possible danger of aggression to Australia, it would maintain this vital defence development area for this country.
– We were a good government in war time.
-A few things have been said about that matter, but without opening up old wounds which could be controversial let me say that the Australian Labor Party did not last long in office in peace because it tried to keep the war going in Australia. You know why the Chifley Government was run out of office. It was because it would not give the Australians the few things for which they fought. It might have done well in the war but it could not manage the peace any more than the present Government can manage the peace at the moment.
This leads to the fuel and energy position in Australia which is deplorable. It is as deplorable as the run down in South Australia of the scientific research section of our defence forces. It is because of the complete inability of this Government and its Minister for Minerals and Energy to produce any cohesive leadership in the Australian mining and minerals scene. What have we got? We now have 15 years supply of oil, at the most. I think it is about 15 years. Is it 10 or 12? We have a limited amount of oil for future supplies in Australia. Even now we are importing some parts of our petroleum needs. We are not encouraging any significant new oil searches in Australia because no one knows whether they will get any benefit from any finds which they make because profit is a dirty word. Even one per cent is not a desirable thing to some Federal Ministers.
– You have not heard of Mount Isa Mines Ltd and its huge profits.
-Your Government probably spent more on the visit of the Shah of Iran to Australia than it will spend this year on solar energy research in Australia. It should get its priorities right. For the benefit of Senator McAuliffe, South Australia has another valuable research group, based at Flinders University. It is doing some very good and basic research on the development of solar power for lower grade heating of homes which is its only foreseeable benefit.
– You have been out in the sun for too long.
-Talk to the scientists if you know more about it. All I can say is that they are being starved of funds. They are not getting the money they need. They are being starved of a few tens of thousands of dollars. This Government that can spread millions for its pet programs and antagonise the States in so doing will not disburse funds for the basic future development of this country. At the same time we have seen in the last week or so leaders on the United States scene warning of the very grave dangers facing us in respect of the fuel and energy resources of the world and telling us how they are concentrated in a few hands.
– You criticise the Minister for trying to conserve them.
– I will come to that point in a moment. The Australian Government should be reacting in an emergency sense to ensure that our fuel needs are secured for the future. One of the things one would do automatically would be to upgrade greatly the search for oil in this vast continent. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has not approached the producers in the latest and most glamorous fuel area, the uranium deposits of Australia, on any reasonable basis of negotiation. He has not told them that they can sell one-third of the deposits overseas and retain two-thirds in Australia; he has not told them that they can sell a quarter overseas and retain three-quarters in Australia. He has made no approach to them on the basis of any minimal development except on a tonnage of 3,000 tons in connection with a governmentpromoted processing plant. If that is to be the attitude of the Federal Minister Australia will go confidently into the next decade or so knowing that it will have no new discoveries of oil. It will have to invite the Shah to come here a few more times because it would appear that the Government is more interested in buying material from him than in discovering what we have at home.
– Australianism, senator. I object to that. It is racist.
-This is a tremendous failing. Did I hear the honourable senator say that I am a racist? I would like to know how the Government selects its priorities as to who it deals with around the world. It does not seem to like some dictatorships while it likes others. If honourable senators want me to go into that sphere I can bring out a file I have in my drawer and we can go through the very peculiar attitude of this Government in the way it selects its international friends. It certainly does not recognise the definition of democracy by the Westminster or British standard of government when selecting its friends around the world. I make one plea on this subject of energy. I plead with the Minister to produce policies. They do not have to be favourable but he must have policies of some sort. He has had 2 years in Government and years in Opposition to produce them but he has nothing to show but antagonism towards anyone who looks like making a profit. Unless the Minister can produce policies this country will go into a long term decline.
– How about our coal?
-The honourable senator who interrupts should talk to the people in the board rooms of Australia and learn where they are going to put the money they have left. Many of them are looking for overseas investment. They will not put their money in Australia because this country is being run down as a side issue to a deliberate socialisation of every avenue that this Government can get its hands on.
– Name one company that told you that.
-No, I will not name the company. I have learned before of victimisation by governments and I do not intend to put these companies in the same position.
I want to say something more about the South Australian scene. I refer to something of very great moment at this time- the subject of Redcliffs and the development of a petrochemical industry there. I will add one or two other points about the South Australian scene. It has taken a long while for South Australians to see through the fabrication which is the South Australian Government and realise that it is nothing less or more than a creation of propaganda and Press relations experts. This is clearly coming through at this stage as we consider a number of failures which are the legacy of the Dunstan Government in our State. Firstly, I want to refer to the situation of Redcliffs. As you would know, Mr Deputy President, there has been a great deal of controversy about this subject. It was introduced a few days before the 1973 State election in South Australia as a very great developmental project put together by the State Labor Government.
At that time the Premier of South Australia said that the environmental studies had been made and Spencer Gulf would be safe from any possible pollution by this proposed plant. In fact he was quoted in the particular when he spoke at Whyalla and said that the Department of Fisheries had been consulted during investigations into the industrial complex and had given the all clear. That was an intriguing statement. Certain information was given to me indicating that in fact the Premier was not telling the truth. When the South Australian House of Assembly met earlier this year I was able to ask the South Australian Premier to produce the report which he said he had before the election and which gave the all clear on the environment in Spencer Gulf. This was his reply:
In fact, as soon as the honourable member raised the question of what had happened to this report, I asked for it.
These are the words of the Hon. D. A. Dunstan. He continued:
I cannot find it. Very strangely, there is a docket, but it is missing. I am just wondering exactly what has happened, and I am a little interested to know. There is a docket listed in the index, but no-one can discover it.
– Someone knocked it off. You did not knock it off, did you?
-The serial will continue:
What is more, of course, I notice that the honourable member has been getting some information from somewhere.
What is not included in this report is something that everyone in that House of Assembly will remember. The Premier pointed at me and said: Your friends in the Premier’s Department stole it.’ Honourable senators can reserve their own opinion on that statement. The honourable Premier went on to say:
I got the following minute from the Director of my Department when I said, ‘ Find me the file ‘:
I am referring now to the report that the Premier’s Department then filed to him. I want honourable senators to remember the immensity of this question of a now $600m plant and the question of pollution which has driven other companies around the world engaged in similar manufacture into court cases involving many multi-million dollar sums. This was the report the Premier received in answer to his statement that he had a report:
I vaguely remember a minute, -
This is what was said by this public servantsome time during 1972, on the proposed petro-chemical industry and possible effects on the marine life in the gulf I think it would have been between April and September, but cannot be sure. I cannot clearly remember whether the communication referred to was a loose minute, notes of a conversation, or part of a docket.
My recollection is that the ‘piece of paper’ contained a discussion on a petro-chemical complex, whether at Adelaide or Redcliffs, and indicated that such could have an effect on the marine life if pollutants or heated water were allowed to enter the gulf. The premise of the paper appeared to indicate that, were the industry to take water from the gulf (or the Murray), it would be necessary for the industry to cool it (I think by cooling tanks) before returning it or putting it into the gulf. In other words, the paper said that with commonsense in using cooling tanks, etc., and proper controls during construction, there should be no problem.
I have, on several occasions (and so too has Mr Scriven told industry that in any construction they would need to consult at each stage with the Environment and Conservation Department. They have further been told this liaison would be necessary on their projected plans and proposals. In this respect where industry have said that large quantities of water would be used, it has been made clear that before water is returned or placed in the gulf, it would have to be cooled . . .
– That establishes that there was a document or something.
-For the benefit of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) the statement concludes:
Unfortunately the minute, docket, or note referred to in my first paragraph cannot be located, nor are we certain from whom it came. However, I am quite certain in my own mind that 1 have seen such a piece of paper.
– It establishes that there was -
-That there was such a piece of paper. So the fate of the great works on Spencer Gulf which caused the Dow Chemical company in Canada to be sued for multi-million dollar sums was to be settled as far as South Australia was concerned by a piece of paper that the Premier had lost and whose nature his chief officers could not remember. What a type of administration! Of course, this was only the beginning of this very sorry tale of Redcliffs. During this period the producers had not really been approached about a final price for the gas. I understand that certainly as of last week- probably as of now- the producers have not agreed to sell their gas. But worse than this, it has developed into an interdepartmental and interministerial discussion. We find that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) entered into this matter because the whole subject of Redcliffs was becoming a serious sort of a fantasy in South Australia. Someone has given to a number of newspaper reporters an extremely detailed report of the whole handling of this matter by the Federal Cabinet. The upshot of it is- one can read it in a journal which I have here and which I will lend to any honourable senator who wants to read it; it is too long to quote- that there is a conflict between the Department led by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Prime Minister’s department which is operating under advice given by an interdepartmental committee.
The Premier of South Australia, who first started off by saying that the South Australian Government would provide all of the infrastructure for this plant, is now asking the Commonwealth Government to make up a substantial part of $200m for the capital works of the infrastructure. As the ‘Australian Financial Review’ indicated yesterday, it will cost $90,000 of capital investment by the State Government or by the Commonwealth Government for every job that is created at Redcliffs, and the plant is calculated to last for 10 years. In 10 years it is expected that the plant will have used the gas resources and that it will become derelict. This is the sort of program that the Federal Labor Government has been led into by Mr Dunstan in South Australia in cahoots with Mr Connor. Apparently the Prime Minister has woken up rather late. It would appear that he has woken up rather late to a few plots around him. At last he has woken up and he has asked for an accounting of the finances which the Federal Government is expected to put into this project. It will be a very severe embarrassment to the South Australian Premier if this plant does not proceed.
The latest information in today’s South Australian ‘Advertiser’ indicates that the Federal Government will hold a public inquiry into the environmental implication of the Redcliffs program in South Australia. I remind honourable senators that the South Australian Premier had it all clear before the last State election, but now there is to be a full public inquiry by the Commonwealth Government. But the interesting thing is that the inquiry is to start in the middle of this month and it is to report early next month. As someone in South Australia has said, what is its job? Is it to say yes? You are not kidding anyone to think that that committee will be able to produce the required report on that enormous construction project within a fortnight.
– No, it has only to find the piece of paper that you referred to.
– I suppose that the Minister agrees with the slipshod ramblings of the South Australian Government. He will remember that during the last election campaign in South Australia the Premier came out with a very enthusiastic plan which had been worked out in co-operation with Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions under which the ACTU was to buy from the South Australian Government a large amount of land south of Adelaide and develop it for homes for the workers. The blocks of land were to sell for as low as $500. The ACTU was to obtain the money from other countries, including Israel. That plan formed pan of a dramatic election platform. After the election Mr Hawke- the Minister must know this- said that he liked Sydney better and that he was not going to do this in Adelaide. It was all right to say this during the election campaign in South Australia, but afterwards Mr Hawke got a bit tired of it and said that he would go to Sydney. I wonder what the people in Sydney are thinking at the present time and where the ACTU has bought a large area of land. Perhaps the Minister might care to refer to the much vaunted and much publicised Libyan contracts which were to bring multi-million dollar orders to the South Australian agricultural manufacturing industry. South Australian Government experts were sent to Libya and the contracts were signed. On 14 September last Horwood Bagshaw Ltd received a letter from the Libyan Government cancelling the contracts and giving no reasons for doing so. Our experts are returning to Australia. People are being sacked at the plant concerned.
– You have sabotaged everything that Dunstan has attempted.
– Well, perhaps we will come on to something else in the Budget. I note that we are going to have some water filtration in South Australia. Is not that marvellous? We have been going to have water filtration so many times. I remember formulating a policy for water filtration for the 1970 election campaign in South Australia. We had been operating a pilot plant which was filtering water in South Australia. We decided that whilst it would be an expensive program, if we were to develop a desirable quality of domestic water in Adelaide there was no alternative but to go into full scale filtration. Over some weeks and months departmental officers worked out a detailed plan for filtering Adelaide’s water, with various estimates as to when certain sections of the city would be fully filtered. From memory the program was to be completed in 1978. By 1972 certain early but significant areas of Adelaide were to receive filtered water. Of course, we were defeated at the election and were unable to put into action the water filtration plan for Adelaide. After a few months the new South Australian Labor Government decided that this would be a desirable thing for our State, and it announced a water filtration program for Adelaide. I guarantee that since then that program has been announced 5 times by the South Australian Government, which keeps on announcing works that it does not proceed with. The program was announced yet again in the Federal Budget in 1974. I do not think we can expect that the Federal Government will go ahead as the Dunstan Government has proceeded and simply keep on announcing the program because this is the Federal scene and it would work very heavily against this Government in South Australia if it continued to play the sort of trickery in this matter that the Dunstan Administration has continued to play in our State. I believe that at last water filtration will be introduced in South Australia, but it took the discipline of the Federal Labor Government to accomplish what has been promised by the State Government as long ago as 1970
– He does not give up easily.
-Mr Dunstan does not start. This afternoon we heard something about contributions to political Parties. I want to deal with another vital agricultural industry which has an unlikely connection with the subject of contributions to political parties. I join with other speakers in regretting the attack which this Government obviously has made on agricultural industries in Australia. I note that today the Australian Prime Minister is in the United Nations assuming some responsibility for feeding the starving and the hungry in the underdeveloped countries. But at home he is depressing vigorously certain important areas of agriculture. The removal of so many incentives to produce belie the brave words which the Prime Minister has uttered on that grander stage of the United Nations. I will deal with the wine industry in South Australia. Prior to the 1972 Federal election at which Labor came to office Mr Dunstan was the Chairman of the Australian Labor Party Federal Election Finance Committee. As Chairman of that Committee he worked rather assiduously to obtain funds for the election campaign.
– Who is this?
-Mr Dunstan in South Australia. He worked hard to obtain funds for the ‘ It ‘s Time ‘ machine. He wrote a letter to a number of people who it was considered might be able to contribute. He made particular reference to the wine industry. He said:
The future of the wine industry has become an issue at the forthcoming Federal Elections. The Australian Labor Party believes, and its Federal Executive has stated, that the only solution that will guarantee continued prosperity for the wine industry and the many thousands of growers who supply it is complete abolition of the excise and its nonreplacement by a sales tax or any other imposition.
– We did it in the first week.
-The Minister will be interested to know that the Premier of South Australia said:
I seek your financial support for the ALP campaign for the Federal elections. You have already spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars on the wine tax and on collecting the information required by the Customs and Excise Department. The election of a Federal Labor Government will save you these costs in the future. You may be sceptical about the intentions of an ALP Government regarding the excise. Accordingly, the attached form provides the opportunity for you to:
forward a donation forthwith or
pledge a donation to be paid only after the Federal leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Gough Whitlam, has given an unequivocal assurance during the campaign that a Government led by him will abolish the excise and not replace it with a sales tax or any other imposition.
Then followed the manner in which people could contribute. Of course, the Labor government has ratted on Mr Dunstan.
– We abolished it in our first week in office.
– Yes, the Government abolished the excise tax and it applied something far more severe to the vignerons of South Australia. Quite recently- I think it was last week- Mr Dunstan said in replying to my colleague, Mr Robin Millhouse, who leads the Liberal Movement in the House of Assembly:
Previously, 1 had publicly said, and I say it again, that 1 regard the impost of a brandy excise and the elimination of the differential in the excise on brandy as an additional impost, that is a breach of the undertaking I gave.
. I bitterly resent having been placed in that position, and I clearly told the Prime Minister that never again will 1 give an undertaking on his behalf in that way.
I said that never again will I be placed in the position where I give an undertaking that someone else is willing and in a position to dishonour …
So, in the words of the South Australian Labor Premier, Mr Dunstan, he has been dishonoured by Mr Whitlam and the Government that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs represents -
– Only through not knowing the difference between brandy and wine.
-That is just the point; the Minister does not know the difference between brandy and wine as far as the grape growers are concerned. That is exactly what he does not know. A number of statements have been made in recent times on this issue. On 18 September, only last month, a statement was issued in the name of Mr Ackland, Chairman of the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Council of Australia Incorporated, and some of the points he made in that statement were these:
The Labor Government whilst in opposition promised the industry every assistance but has in office appeared to go out of its way to try and bring a local industry, offering decentralised employment, to its knees whilst doing nothing to restrict cheap imports.
The Government’s action is likely to bring severe hardship and possible ruin to sections of a basic primary industry and I feel the situation I have outlined makes a mockery not only of their earlier promises but shows in their true light the sham and hypocrisy of prominent Ministers who protest loudly about atomic explosions whilst they continue to encourage and assist imports from countries concerned.
Their actions in both directions will be at the cost and peril of the future livelihood of very many grapegrower producers.
There are 2,300 producers in the Riverland region of South Australia alone. What the Minister does not understand, of course, is that there is great area of movement of grapes between the brandy and wine producing areas, and quite important quantities of grapes can be used in either type of production. If the price of brandy is raised by government excise to an impossible figure the grapes will not be used in brandy production; they will go direct to other forms of production, mainly wine production. It will be found that the industry will be completely overtaxed. Only a few years ago the grape vines in South Australia were being pulled up. Then, only a few years beyond that, co-operatives were being formed so that wine in South Australia could be stored and marketed. It would appear that the Minister is doing his best, by his attitude, to bring back those wretched days. It will do the Minister good to listen to these figures because he does not seem to know much about the situation.
The promise of the Labor Party and of the Premier of South Australia prior to the December 1972 election has therefore cost the industry, by the imposition of a Federal excise in their place, an extra $ 1 3,729,000. In other words, the additional imposts represent 3 times the savings resulting from the removal of the excise on wine. No wonder the Premier of South Australia, the federal chairman of the finance behind the It’s Time’ machine, says publicly to all of
Australia: ‘I have been dishonoured by the Prime Minister of Australia and I will never place myself in a position again where he may do that to me in future’. I think that perhaps that demonstrates more clearly the ethics of this Government and how it will proceed on its course regardless of what the public thinks and regardless of what the States think. I deplore the ideological moves which are evident in nearly every administrative decision which is made by this Government.
I return to the point that the Labor Party is quite openly a product of the union movement and it has the enormous responsibility of trying to juggle its disciplinarian type of government which reduces Cabinet to a rather meaningless interior operating organisation within Caucus. It has the job of somehow bringing under control in Australia an inflationary situation which is regarded by the most eminent economists in this country as one of the greatest dangers to our social system as we know it that we have ever faced. In the danger that is presented we have people in the industrial labour front who say that they would not mind if the capitalistic system were destroyed as long as it was replaced by a democratic socialist alternative. I can only say to this Government that it is involving itself by this Budget in one of the greatest conflicts, that it is distributing on a wider front and in greater measure the products which are generated by free enterprise in this country, and that it is using that generation to build its Budget. At the same time it is exhibiting to those who generate that wealth an attitude of disbelief in their general future existence. It is the greatest conflict that can ever confront a country. I can only hope that we will not see the dramatic changes that I fear in this country before the Government reaches its ultimate and inevitable demise.
-I am pleased to be able to take part in the Budget debate. In fact, it is the seventh opportunity that I have had to take part in a Budget debate in this Federal Parliament.
– I hope it will be better than the other six.
– I must say that this particular Budget is the worst that I have ever had to deal with in almost 7 years of experience in Federal politics. We are dealing with the second Budget that has been brought forward by this socialist government following 23 years of Liberal-Country Party administration. The people of Australia recognise just how significant has been the administration of this Labor Government.
I listened with interest to Senator Hall’s contribution. It is the first occasion on which he has been able to take part in a Budget debate in this place. I find myself in some agreement with his criticisms. One would have thought that Senator Hall must have been looking at some of my notes because he touched on areas of concern which I share with him. I was a little disappointed that he criticised the Liberal Party for not being able to offer any solution to our current problems. I think that was unfortunate, because if we read all the statements that have been made by our economic spokesmen and if we read the policies that we put forward during the May election campaign, we very quickly recognise that we have some alternative proposals. If the Government took notice of those proposals, the economic situation of Australia might be quite different today.
I am glad to see that at least one suggestion put forward- that in respect of the reduction in personal income tax- was eventually taken notice of by the Treasurer (Mr Crean). However, we believe that he did not take sufficient notice of this and allowed a reduction of only some $430m. Considering that the Government is reaping a reward in excess of $3,000m in personal taxation, one would have thought that even the Labor Government would have recognised that it could afford to grant in excess of the $600m reduction in personal income tax that Mr Snedden promised during the election campaign.
I would like to comment on one or two points that Senator Hall raised. He touched on areas of concern that I have in South Australia.
– He only touched on Mr Dunstan.
-Firstly, with Senator McAuliffe ‘s permission, I would like to refer to the Redcliffs petrochemical works that it is proposed to construct in South Australia. I think this is one of the greatest political scandals that South Australia has ever seen. During the last State election campaign Mr Dunstan made the great announcement that there would be a $300m petro-chemical works established in that area of South Australia. Today, we are still awaiting anxiously for this to happen. In fact, during that time, no doubt due to the pressures that have been placed on the economy and the costs that have been created by the Federal Labor Government, the estimated cost of this project has risen to no less than $600m. I was particularly concerned not only in relation to the establishment of this industry in South Australia but also in relation to the protection of the environment of the northern Spencer Gulf waters. We know that in South Australia the northern Spencer Gulf area is a spawning area for many varieties of fish. There is very prolific mangrove growth in that area. Nobody seems to know what damage will be done to the ecology of that part of South Australia if the petrochemical works are established. This has caused great concern for the fishing industry in that State.
I have had a little to do with environmental matters, particularly in recent years. As a member of the Joint Committee of Public Works, I can state that the Committee is concerned with environmental studies conducted in relation to any project that it is examining. I am glad to see that the Labor Party has recognised the importance of this matter. Therefore, I took some interest in the environmental studies associated with the petro-chemical works. I should correct that statement because no real effort has been made by the State Government to effect an environmental study in that area. I recall that when I was in the Philippines earlier this year on a tour to examine various matters in that country, I was fortunate enough to have talks with some experts in aquaculture. I raised this question of this petro-chemical industry with the chief aquaculturist at the university or academy that was dealing with this problem. He was conducting experiments in relation to the problem in the Philippines. He was horrified when he learnt that such an industry could be established in that area without proper environmental studies. He urged me to do all I could to influence the State Government in this regard. I thought that the appropriate thing to do would be to consult people that I had met in the United States of America when I visited that country as a member of a delegation in 1971. I was fortunate enough to be able to contact the director of the Southern California Water Project Authority. I think that is the name of the body concerned. By way of correspondence, he was able to put me on to an expert in this field in Puerto Rico. Recently I received some terms of reference that ought to be applied to a proper environmental study of this area of South Australia. I have handed this material to some environmental experts in South Australia who are currently assessing the terms of reference. 1 was glad to see that at last the Government in South Australia has recognised the importance of calling for a public inquiry into this aspect of the petro-chemical development in the northern part of South Australia. I share Senator Hall’s concern that the time interval allowed for public inquiry into this matter is insufficient. At least 3 months ought to be given for adequate community response to such an inquiry.
I return to the Budget itself. I was quite amused by the statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns)- he is the present Acting Prime Minister- on the television program ‘Federal File’ last Sunday. He said: We want the people to produce their way out of inflation’. He made statements such as: ‘We are not going to allow people to be unemployed. We are going to encourage the economy to grow and to expand rather than enable it to be contracted. We are going to have flexible policies to help productivity, investment and incentives.’ These statements were made in the wake of a Budget produced only a few days prior which will have the reverse effect to the statements that he made on the television program. The actual position is far from what the Deputy Prime Minister stated. The Government does not want the people in Australia to produce their way out of inflation. Rather it is discouraging this. It is applying disincentives wherever we look. I believe that perhaps this can be summed up fairly appropriately in the words of Mr Snedden when he replied to the Budget last week. He said:
In 2 years Government spending will have risen 59 per cent, total receipts will have risen 65 per cent and income taxes will have risen 95 per cent. Is it any wonder we are in a mess, with such structural strains imposed on the economy.
He went on to say:
The private sector has been squeezed and battered, unemployment has been created, the public sector will claim a rich slice of real resources, and the Labor Party hopes that it can take up unemployment by putting people on the public payroll. That is a dream that has already become a nightmare. But its victims are not the Government; its victims have been the people wanting to buy homes. Its victims have been people already thrown out of work and young Australians who will leave school in a few months time to face the biggest job shortage for more than a decade. Its victims are the small businesses which make up the major portion of industrial, manufacturing and commercial strength. Its victims include those people who make up the great rural and mining industries. For all of them, this is a Budget of illusion and delusion.
That just about sums up what I believe this Budget amounts to. It is a Budget of discouragement. It is a Budget of disaster so far as the people of Australia are concerned. After all, the only people who will profit by the inflationary spiral that has been created by this Labor Government will be big business which the Labor Party is helping, and the Government itself. The people who are suffering most are the workers, the small businessmen and those people in the private sector of the economy who have been deprived of the advantages of a free enterprise government. In fact, the Treasurer pointed out this very clearly in his Budget Speech as reported at page 1276 of Hansard, when he said:
The relatively subdued conditions in prospect on the private sector provide the first real opportunity we have had to transfer resources to the public sector.
If this is not a socialistic statement, I will go he for touchy. This Labor Government, as I have said before, is reaping the reward of inflation by collecting more and more surreptitious revenue in the form of taxation from the bread winners of Australia. Certainly the Treasurer took notice of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has said and has made some tentative approach to reducing personal taxation. This applies only to people who have an income of up to $10,000 a year.
I should like now to talk a little about the problems associated with industrial unrest. Here, I must support the incredulous remarks of Senator Hall when he mentioned the statements reported to have been made by Senator Button. Senator Button is able to correct me if he wishes. In the ‘Australian’ of today, Senator Button is reported as saying that industrial unrest is a healthy sign.
– I never said that.
-Then I beg the honourable senator’s pardon but he had better make a statement about the matter because he has created some uncertainty in my mind. I thought that butter, or polyunsaturated oil would not melt in Senator Button’s mouth because I thought he was a person who had some compassion for and interest in the people and the workers of Australia. I was rather disappointed when I read that particular report in the ‘Australian’ this morning which stated that Senator Button had said that he thought industrial unrest was a healthy sign. Senator Button was reported as advocating that the unions ought to elect the directors of companies and ought to behave as the people do in Yugoslavia.
I am concerned very much at the fact that the workers of Australia this year have had a record number of strikes under the Government which one would have thought would be able to control this sort of situation. As a result of strikes in the whole of last year workers lost $45.2m in wages. For the first 5 months of this year this sum has been exceeded quite substantially. Strikes this year have cost the workers no less than $75m in lost wages due to the particularly disgraceful state of affairs that is existing under the present Labor Government.
Here I return to what Dr Cairns blithely said on the television program ‘Federal File’. He said that this Government would not tolerate unemployment. But the figures in the last report of the Department of Labor and Immigration led us quite clearly to realise that the unemployment situation is increasing and has, in fact, increased by 13,555 in August to 107,140. It seems to me that while we have this Government in control of the affairs of this nation, that sort of situation will become worse. I am concerned that in South Australia, only last Friday, 150 people in top jobs at Chrysler Australia Limited were given an ultimatum- they were told they would have to work on the production line or leave the company.
The Chrysler people are very concerned at the procrastination of the Government in establishing some guidelines for this very important industry. I hope that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) will take note of this and recognise its grave significance for South Australia, in particular. This particular industry must receive clear guidelines from the Government as to what direction it will take in the future. I heard on the grapevine that the Chrysler company is considering reducing production by a very substantial amount. This causes me concern. I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who is from South Australia must share my concern. I hope that he will take some action to prevent what I believe will be a disastrous situation in the motor car industry which is so important to South Australia. The Government must take a lead in this particular area. Of course, other industries have suffered largely because of the irresponsible action of the Labor Government in reducing tariffs across the board by 25 per cent. I do not know much about economics- let us face it. I do know a little about other matters -
– The honourable senator knows more than the Prime Minister.
-Yes, I believe I do. Even my simple economic mind recognises that one cannot cut tariffs by 25 per cent across the board. Some areas might need to be reduced by more than that and others might need to be increased in order to help the industries get over their particular problems. I believe that is where the trouble in South Australia started. We find in South Australia Philips Industries, for example, which is an electronics industry. It employs a collection of expert people who are, I believe, desperately needed to remain in South Australia. Their jobs have been jeopardised because of the actions of this Government. If we are not careful we will find those experts drifting overseas. They can produce their products more cheaply in Singapore. They can go to South America or Mexico to establish businesses and still provide themselves with opportunities to invest their capital.
I believe that we have got to take a look at this matter. I think that the electronics industry in South Australia is about to crumble if we are not very careful. So, that is another challenge that I throw out to the Government: Do something about the electronics industry in this country. The textile industry, of course, is perhaps not quite so significant in South Australia but nevertheless South Australia is faced with retrenchments in the industry. I heard recently a spokesman for the textile industry say that very shortly 15,000 people will be out of work and before long- within a few months- it is quite likely that this number could rise to 40,000.
This Budget has raised several matters that are of particular interest to me. I should like to refer now to the expenditure that has been allocated for the establishment of a Pipeline Authority. An amount of $75m has been provided for advances to the Pipeline Authority for expenditure on the Moomba-Sydney natural gas pipeline and spur pipelines. This, of course, is an area where the Liberal Party and the Country Party do not believe it is in the public interest to spend public money. We believe that it is more proper to allow expenditure in this area to be undertaken by private industry. But that is just by the way. I want to ask the Government- here again I find myself in some agreement with Senator Hall- whether in the course of constructing these pipelines it is possible to see that the jointing is sufficiently secure for the future transportation of hydrogen. In my view in the long term solar energy will be the saviour of this country and could well be the saving grace of the whole world. I can envisage Australia becoming the solar energy centre of the world’s supply.
– Why do we not export solar energy? What are you talking about?
-Export it, yes. What an incredible statement we have had, and how accurate it is, from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He obviously does not recognise how important the statement is.
– I do not accept you as the expert on these matters.
– I know a little more about physics than perhaps Senator Cavanagh does. I have support for my belief because I have had a lot of discussions with one of the heads of the experimental establishment at Flinders University,
Professor John Bockris. He has told me that it is quite feasible- and it could eventuate- for Australia to transport solar energy overseas. This is done by liquefying hydrogen, transporting the liquefied hydrogen in cryogenic tankers overseas and, when it reaches the source of consumption, transforming it to normal electrical energy which will energise lights such as we have in this chamber. It is quite significant because it is clear that the price of fossil fuels will simply go on rising and there is no plateau in sight. These rises are more than the inflation rate and that is quite incredible.
In Australia the time at which the Bass Strait oil will run out will be in the region of 10 years and this will leave us with only the Middle East for supplies. We will be at the tender mercies of the Arabs and their prices. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has already spoken about this in the United Nations General Assembly only recently. I can see a time when the price of petrol, perhaps in 10 years, will be above $1 a gallon. Progress in atomic energy engineering is such that we will not be ready in 10 years to take over with atomic energy, but if we went solar, particularly in the house hold needs area, we would have some chance of taking up to 25 per cent of our fossil fuel requirements. Professor Bockris has told me that he feels downhearted because for more than 18 months he and his colleagues have been working towards this obviously Australian activity. Why spend $ 18m on atomic energy which we do not need and only $0.2m on solar energy?
America has recognised the importance of solar heat and recently in a Press statement issued in Detroit I read the following:
Solar energy could provide at least a fifth of the United States’ total fuel needs by the year 2020, the US Government Solar Energy Panel reported here today. With an investment of $77m over the next 10 years on development of inexpensive thermal collectors, storage devices, and air conditioners, one per cent of US buildings could have solar heat and cooling by 1985, 10 per cent by 2000, and 30 per cent by 2020.
The group, consisting of 40 scientists and engineers, submitted its recommendations on the world ‘s fuel needs for the next 30 years.
Solar heating and cooling systems could be put on a commercial basis within five to 10 years, the panel said.
A few American houses already have solar energy collection systems.
A flat plate traps the thermal energy beneath glass plates and the energy is usually stored in insulated tanks.
I am talking, of course, about solar energy and its importance to Australia. Australia is far more suitable for the use of solar energy than even the United States and I might tell even Senator Sim a little about that in a moment. I am hoping that there is some intelligence on the opposite side and that someone there might take up this challenge as well. On 19 September this year the following news item appeared:
The United States Senate today passed a Bill to double the US Government ‘s funds for solar energy research.
The measure was sent to the House of Representatives where a similar measure is due to be taken up tomorrow.
The Senate Bill authorises US$ 100m ($67m) for solar energy research in the year that starts next July 1- double the amount budgeted for the current year.
It also creates a US Solar Energy Research Institute. The Senate interior committee said in approving the Bill that it would cost up to US$ 1 billion over five years to make solar energy commercially viable.
This is where we have to be moving- in an area that is obviously scientifically possible. I have asked the Government to provide funds for the Flinders University- in fact for any university or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation- to ensure that the energy supplies for the future of Australia are assured. Professor Bockris has said: . . why is it that one hears always about the developments of atomic energy in the United States and Europe, rather than of solar power? One answer to the question is that these countries are much less richly endowed with the beneficence of the sun than is Australia.
I am going through this really for the benefit of Senator Sim but am hoping that Government senators will recognise the significance of this scientist’s assessment of Australia’s potential.
– Have you tried to put this up to Mr Connor?
- Mr Connor is a man who is dogmatically concerned with coal mining and this sort of thing, which of course is important, but I do not think that Mr Connor has the capacity to look further forward than about a year or so by which time he will be out of government and will have left us with the problem of dealing with the future energy supplies of Australia. Thank heavens that the Liberal and Country Parties have recognised the significance of solar energy and have written that into their energy platforms. It now enjoys a significant place in that platform. Professor Bockris went on to say:
There are no technologically advanced countries which can be compared with Australia in respect to the amount of solar energy she receives- and could collect and convert to electricity.
Professor Bockris is a physical scientist and one who knows a considerable amount about this subject. He continued:
It is therefore a much more attractive proposition for Australia to look at solar energy than for America or Europe to do so.
What about honourable senators on the other side getting involved in this matter and providing the universities and the CSIRO with a lot more money so that they can further their experiments? In 10 years solar energy could become a viable proposition for Australia and, as Senator Cavanagh has said, there is no reason why Australia in the future could not be the solar energy source for the world and transport its energy to other countries which will be desperately needing that within the next decade or so.
– The debate in the other place and in this chamber with respect to the 1974 Budget has been very disappointing so far as the Opposition is concerned. There have been endeavours to continue the policy of union bashing and Government bashing, a failure to put forward any contructive ideas on the depths of the problems which face this country in relation to inflationary pressures, an endeavour to ignore the positive features of the Budget and the making of suggestions on how best the Government should spend even additional public funds. One finds it difficult to understand the central theme of the Opposition Parties because they move so quickly from point to point. For example, in one moment we are accused of being dominated by the trade union movement. Subsequently we are told that the Government has not accepted a policy consideration of the Liberal Movement in South Australia to allow fares which are paid to and from work as concessions for taxation purposes. That happens to be one of the submissions made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Government. It was not accepted. We hear a great deal of parochialism coming from representatives from different States, indicating once again that the Opposition Parties are bereft of any understanding of the economic problems which face the Western world. They are interested only in raising parochial matters and seeking to capitalise on some of the inadequate understanding of the problem which we have to face in this country. For example, statements have been made by honourable senators which seem to indicate that the problem of inflation in this country is purely domestic, that it does not exist anywhere else in the world and, in point of fact, that no other country is suffering from this sort of problem. Of course all honourable senators know that this is not the situation. We are witnessing just another attempt which is being made by the principal Opposition Parties to move an amendment in relation to the Budget which is before this place. It is proposing amendments which are meaningless in terms of their constructive attitudes to the 1974 Budget.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in one of his rare public appearances made a number of emotive statements. I draw them to the attention of the Senate. He spoke of the Budget as being an attempt to rob the rich and the poor. He said that the Budget is a double-dealing dishonest document, that it is encouraging inflation for its own program and so on. These sorts of statements reveal very clearly the bankruptcy of the Opposition Parties and the amendment which they seek to move does not in any way give any indication of the understanding of the Senate Opposition Parties to the sort of problem with which we are concerned. The Government has said from the outset that it does not see the Budget as anything more than a neutral Budget, playing some role in the current economic climate. There is abundant evidence to show that the United States and other powerful international financial interests in the post-war years have deliberately set out to create a surplus money supply. Their purpose was to use the depreciated money to finance war expenditure. No government could expect to finance the military involvement which we have seen in the postwar years, particularly in Vietnam. The creation of this false money value has helped to finance those costly expenditures.
Of course inflation is a matter with which we are concerned in this country and which this Budget is supposed to have as its main purpose. This is despite the fact that the Government has denied that the Budget is part of its antiinflationary program. Inflation is a natural concomitant of capitalism. It seems to be a phenomenon connected with the highly industrialised countries, particularly in the Western world. There is some evidence to show that inflation is non-existent with the planned economies in the socialist world. In fact, there is very little evidence of them experiencing the sort of inflation that we are facing. I do not want honourable senators to draw the inference that this is just my summation of the problem. I refer to an article which reports a speech given to the Association of Economic Representatives in London recently by Professor H. G. Johnson who is Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the University of Chicago. I think it is interesting to read what he has to say in relation to this problem of inflation. He stated:
The problem has to be looked at as a world problem, or at least as a problem of the Western or capitalist world.
Speaking of the United Kingdom he stated:
It is a serious mistake, which British economists are only too prone to make, to view the recent inflation in the United Kingdom as a unique problem in this country, to be explained by unique domestic factors and required to be handled by unique domestic measures.
The fact is that however parochial politicians and their economic advisers and critics may be, we live in an integrated world economy.
The relatively high degree of freedom of international trade and capital movement that now exists means that economic developments in any major country radiate through the whole international system.
By the nature of the system everyone has to inflate together.
In the 1950s and the 1960s, basically the United States economy was characterised by approximate stability of prices; and this exercised a stabilising influence on world prices.
This characteristic changed with the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and especially with the failure of the Johnson administration to finance the escalation of the war by appropriate increase in domestic taxation. Instead the war was financed by inflation. And the inflation tax has fallen on the whole world economy, not merely the citizens of the United States.
The world inflation, then, can be attributed largely to a change towards the inflationary behaviour on the part of the United States. There is no doubt that inflation is part of an international problem and that we are having great difficulty in curbing the inflationary pressures in this country. But the Australian Government cannot be blamed for this problem which arises from the system and is a problem which no other country has been able to solve. The contributions made in this chamber and in the other place indicate the inability of the Opposition Parties to have any understanding of the depth of the problem. It is a fundamental problem which faces Western countries. If one examines lists of member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for which the annual rate of inflation is shown, one will see that it is established that in 1973 Australia was eleventh on the list. In a period to July 1974 Australia had slipped down to twelfth position and tied with Japan. Of course that was an improvement on the previous year. In any case, I submit that it is ludicrous to suggest that any country with a large trading stance can avoid overseas consequences.
It is abundantly clear that there was an increase in the money supply in Australia under the Menzies to McMahon Administrations. The vast amounts of capital inflow plus the increased payments made by overseas purchasers of our primary goods have all contributed to a lot of excess money circulating in this country. The contemporary excess of inflation in Australia began in 1971. During the 2 years which followed over $2,000m more was spent on exports, about $3,000m more capital came in from overseas and the Australian banks and fringe organisations created another $2,000m more. It was in that great upsurge of money that inflation began to grow. It was private money in the private sector. The origin and force of the inflation with which we struggle is now private and it is also international. The workers and their wages and salaries have little to do with the problem. The best the workers could do was to set out to keep up with the inflation. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Monarto Growth CentreUnemployment in Launceston
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Seriate do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to refer to an article which appeared in the ‘Sunday Mail’ last weekend and to statements attributed to Mr McLeay, the honourable member for Boothby, in relation to the growth centre at Monarto. In this article Mr McLeay referred to a paper which was tabled in the Parliament last week. It is Occasional Paper No. 1 of the Cities Commission and is titled ‘Urban and Regional Development -Overseas Experts’ Reports’. The report in the Sunday Mail’ last weekend attributed the following comments to Mr McLeay:
Mr John McLeay, MHR, the Federal Opposition spokesman on housing and reconstruction said yesterday that Monarto was ‘teetering on the verge of collapse’. Describing the project as a fundamental blunder Mr McLeay said: ‘It will never be a goer, lt will always be a couple of windswept hills.’
These statements are in keeping with many statements made by members of Mr McLeay ‘s Party to which I have referred on previous occasions in this Parliament. I have referred particularly to statements made by Mr McLeay ‘s colleague, Dr Eastick, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Legislative Assembly. During the election campaign in March Dr Eastick said at Murray Bridge that Monarto would be an economic sink. It is quite obvious that the Liberal Party is very much opposed to the establishment of Monarto because Mr Brown, a South Australian Liberal member, has also been very critical of the establishment of a growth centre at Monarto. Members of the Democratic Labor
Party in South Australia have been so critical of Monarto that I brought the matter to the attention of the Senate last week in my speech on the Budget. The South Australian Parliament had to establish a royal commission to investigate the allegations made by Dr Eastick and representatives of the DLP.
Mr McLeay based his Press article on a very small part of the report to which I have referred and I intend to quote it. The relevant portion, which appears at page 29 of the report, prepared by Mr Elkouby and Mr Labro who came from overseas to have a look at growth centres in Australia, states:
The case of Adelaide has appeared to us as particularly interesting as it highlights the many contradictions under which those responsible for urban policy have to operate as a result of a lack of clear national objectives.
Adelaide with a population of 800,000 (that is smaller than Lyons or Marseilles) covers an unusually large area for a city of that size: about 80 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide.
These dimensions are a direct consequence of the detached house type development and explain the growing difficulties the South Australian authorities have in providing such a large metropolis with the necessary urban infrastructure and services, particularly transport infrastructures, so essential to its survival. In spite of the wise land development policies and the amazing efficiency of the South Australian Housing Trust the cost of these infrastructures will ultimately affect the cost of housing and the budget of municipal authorities.
These considerations must undoubtedly be one of the main reasons for the Monarto new town project, which is situated about 80 kilometres from Adelaide and linked to it by a freeway still under construction. However, in our opinion these considerations are not sufficient to begin right now the construction of Monarto. It would appear that the decision was made by the State authorities without sufficient appraisal of other possible solutions such as increasing the concentration of certain Adelaide areas of low population density through urban renewal.
We were also given the impression in our discussions with the South Australian authorities -
They do not give the names of the authorities- that some country towns could well be suited to development as attractive regional centres. One such town could be Mount Gambier in close proximity to the Victorian border and the port of Portland. We think it would be advisable to initiate a study of the potential of Mount Gambier and other such centres for regional industrial development.
In the light of the studies now available and Adelaide’s present problems in attracting new industries, the Monarto project appears to us, to say the least, very premature.
That is all that those 2 people had to say on their visit to Adelaide. It was very short and might well be termed a flying visit. I want to contradict their report on which Mr McLeay has based his argument by quoting from a summary of initial investigations of urban centres prepared by the Cities Commission. This report was instigated by the National Urban and Regional Development
Authority which was set up by our predecessor, the Liberal-Country Party Government. When we came to office we changed the name to the Department of Urban and Regional Development. The report to which I have referred stated, under the heading ‘ Monarto, South Australia ‘:
In 1972, the South Australian government took significant steps in urban planning by agreeing that an upper limit of 1.3 million for the future population of Adelaide was desirable and by setting in motion the planning for a completely new city to serve as an alternative location to Adelaide for future population expansion.
The site for the proposed new city of Monarto was selected in 1 972 and is located near the town of Murray Bridge on the Murray River some 60 kilometres east of Adelaide.
Honourable senators will note the difference. The experts from overseas said that it is 80 kilometres from Adelaide. The Cities Commission, using data compiled at the request of the previous Government, states that it is 60 kilometres from Adelaide, a difference of 20 kilometres.
The Cities Commission accepted the planning philosophy of the South Australian government in its assessment of the proposal and studied Monarto primarily from the viewpoint of deciding what would be the likely rate and pattern of growth increase still available in metropolitan Adelaide.
It was concluded that the Monarto project formed a desirable component of forward planning for Adelaide, and that development should commence at the earliest opportunity. As the New Town’s potential is directly related to the growth of Adelaide the project is heavily dependent for its viability on the strong support of the South Australian government, particularly in its early stages. The analysis shows that in order to achieve a population in Monarto of 1 70,000 by the year 2000, approximately one-third of the estimated growth of Adelaide will need to be diverted to the New Town.
The development of a strong public sector employment base is important in the initial stages and the creation of an attractive environment for new residents is important.
I repeat that the report was prepared by the National Urban and Regional Development Authority which was set up by the previous Government. It agreed that the South Australian Government should explore the possibilities of Monarto. Dozens of brochures have been put out which completely refute the statement by the 2 overseas experts and by Mr McLeay that no research was done. Mr McLeay went on to say in his article that there were a number of criteria necessary for a new city project to succeed. He said that these included an existing employment industrial base, access by road, rail, air and sea if possible, an adequate supply of raw land, water and other services as well as suitable areas such as beaches and rivers for the population to relax. He is reported as saying:
Monarto enjoys none of these advantages, except adjacency to an overworked River Murray.
It is quite obvious that Mr McLeay, being a city based member, has never got any further than a couple of miles from the Adelaide General Post Office or he would realise that his statement is completely untrue. As to his reference to access by road and rail, the main road from Melbourne to Adelaide runs right through the heart of the project, as does the main railway line from Melbourne to Adelaide. Monarto is close to the main pipeline from Murray Bridge to Hahndorf and in close proximity to Lake Alexandrina, a great water resort. It is close to the beach resorts of Port Elliott, Goolwa and Victor Harbour. Those resorts are only a stone’s throw from the centre of the project. Mr McLeay said that these are the things required for the establishment of such a project. That is why I said that he has never been further than 2 miles from the Adelaide GPO. Senator Davidson is an ex-Strathalbyn resident and he would know that Mr McLeay is wrong in that statement. He must back me up in what I am saying. Mr McLeay went on to say in the Press report:
In the Opposition’s view the Monarto project is simply a costly public relations exercise designed to demonstrate the Government’s apparent commitment to decentralisation.
If that is true, is it not equally true of what the present Opposition was saying when it backed the South Australian Government in a feasibility study of Monarto back in 1972? Mr McLeay and his colleague Dr Eastick have hopped on the bandwagon and have tried to prevent the establishment of Monarto because it is their policy, and it has always been their policy. If we cast our minds back quite a number of years we find that every major capital works or development of decentralisation which has been projected by a Labor government has been knocked by the people sitting opposite. They should cast their minds back to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. This was one of the greatest engineering authorities, schemes and feats in the southern hemisphere. What happened when we initiated that scheme? Mr Menzies was invited to attend the opening. He boycotted the opening because he said that the scheme would not work. But at the completion of the project last year the Liberals were there in their hundreds, patting one another on the back and saying that it was a wonderful project. It was the baby of a Labor Government, the same as Monarto is.
It would appear that Mr McLeay and his colleagues want to see Adelaide develop along the lines on which Sydney and Melbourne have developed. They are over-crowded. The people cannot find decent homes in which to live. They are herded like sheep. The South Australian Labor Government had the foresight to look ahead. The Premier, in a statement which he made a couple of years ago, said:
Why the new town must be started now:
A start must be made now to divert some of the population growth which without counter action now will push the Adelaide urban areas of population from 809,500 at the census of 1971 to over 1.3 million by the early 1990s. To obtain a levelling off of the capital ‘s population at the desired maximum, action must be taken 2 decades in advance.
This is the policy of the Labor Government. We look to the future. We want to ensure that the things which happened in Sydney and Melbourne in years gone by do not happen in Adelaide. What is our reward for this foresight? We are being criticised each day by honourable senators opposite and their colleagues.
The major point to be made is that Elkouby and Labro base their opinion that Monarto is premature on the premise that redevelopment of existing Adelaide should take place with higher population densities being accommodated. In effect, they are saying that the people of Adelaide are enjoying too much park land and too much open space for living; crowd them up and put them into high rise, high density living; forget about Monarto; squeeze all the people into Adelaide. The South Australian Government took the view in 1972 that the existing Adelaide environment should be preserved; therefore, to do this, the new city of Monarto should be commenced. Mr McLeay and his colleagues are obviously of the opinion that Adelaide is not a beautiful city or a city worthy of preservation. The only alternative to Monarto is the destruction of the existing city of Adelaide and its redevelopment as a city of high rise concrete and steel.
– Who said that?
-Mr McLeay and Dr Eastick have advocated this. The decision to choose Monarto was made by the South Australian Government in 1972 and was accepted by the Liberal-Country Party Federal Government when it recommended Monarto as the area in South Australia to be investigated by the National Urban and Regional Development Authority when it was established. I referred to that a few moments ago. If one were to believe Mr McLeay ‘s views now, one would be excused from believing that the establishment of NURDA and the decision to support Monarto as South Australia’s new city was simply a public relations exercise by the present Opposition. Mr McLeay was trying to say that the South Australian Labor Government advocated Monarto only as a public relations exercise when, if these words are correct, that is what his Government was trying to do prior to the 1972 election. If a change of Government had not occurred in 1 972 on Mr McLeay ‘s arguments the Liberal-Country Party would have withdrawn its support for Monarto. The people of South Australia should be aware of the Opposition’s true intentions in the area of decentralisation. It does not wish to see decentralisation work but prefers to see the continued over-building of our existing cities, particularly the city of Adelaide. A considerable amount has already been spent on Monarto, which is well advanced in its planning and primary development stage. Monarto will be a success, as I have said on many occasions in this Parliament, and will ensure that the distinctive character of Adelaide, which draws so many people to call it one of Australia’s most attractive capitals, is not destroyed.
In the Budget this year, as in the Budget last year, there is an allocation for the establishment of Monarto. So much so that the Australian Government has now provided the South Australian Government with $5. 5m, which is the amount which the South Australian Government sought for the development of Monarto. Only one conclusion can be drawn when people such as Mr McLeay and his colleagues try to throw cold water on this project. The people of South Australia must be warned that if there is a change of government the money for Monarto will dry up, there will be no Monarto and the people of Adelaide will be faced with the possibility of living in a situation similar to the situation in which the people of Sydney and Melbourne are living- that is, over-crowding, high rise living and crowded streets. I am proud to say that the Government of which I am a member is supporting the Government of South Australia, which I have supported, in its efforts to decentralise, to keep Adelaide a free and open city with the parklands which it now has and to develop adjacent to Adelaide an area in which people can live with all the facilities that they require. When the freeway is completed in 1977 they will be able to go either to Adelaide or to the sporting areas which I have mentioned- that is, the beaches and the lakes in close proximity to Murray Bridge and Monarto. No doubt we will hear from time to time more criticism of the South Australian Government for its initiative in establishing this town, but I can assure honourable senators opposite that while we are in government, both in Canberra and in Adelaide, Monarto will proceed. It will not be many years before it will be a city of which all of us can be proud.
– I rise to say a few words in defence of Mr McLeay who cannot defend himself in this chamber. I would suggest that his statement was quite a proper criticism of the development of Monarto. He said that there must be some industrial reason to justify the establishment of any decentralised project. I was very critical of this project when it was first mooted. In a Press statement I suggested that any decentralisation in South Australia should be about 100 miles from Adelaide. I suggested that the northern Spencer Gulf area would be an appropriate area. It has an industrial reason why it ought to be developed. I suggested the area of the river land. It is a fruit growing area. There is an industrial reason why it should be encouraged to expand. I suggested areas further afield. The Port Lincoln area is another area which could be developed profitably in a decentralised way. I also suggested areas in the south-east- Mount Gambier, Millicent and Naracoorte. There is ample reason why those areas ought to be developed.
I share some of the concern which has been expressed by Mr McLeay. I suggest that his criticisms were quite justified. My view is that Monarto will be populated virtually by public servants in the first instance, many of whom would prefer to live in the metropolitan area of Adelaide where they have lived for a considerable number of years. The State Government and the Premier seem to me to be forcing these people out of Adelaide, against their will in most cases. I believe that unless the State Government is very careful there will be a lot of discontented inhabitants at Monarto. Apparently it is a fait accompli as far as the Premier of South Australia and the State Government are concerned. Why do we not experiment with the use of solar energy in that development? I believe that such a pilot study would provide some reason and justification for the establishment of Monarto.
– Tell us something about that.
-Would the honourable senator like me to give a little lecture on solar energy? Establishment of Monarto might be justified if the Government agreed to experiment with solar energy in that area.
- Senator McLaren obviously has become infected by his South Australian State colleagues. He has parrotted his praise for a city which is neither fish nor fowl as far as any organised entity is concerned. Monarto is a profitable farming area for those who farm it according to the dry land system of South Australian farming but it is not a pleasant place in which to put a city and would be reminiscent of Whyalla when one considers all the problems which would be created in trying to beautify it and make it habitable. I am sure that Senator McLaren bases his confidence for its future on the tactics which have been adopted by the South Australian Government and which have been referred to by Senator Jessop. I refer to the fact that South Australian public servants are to be conscripted from their lifetime work of establishing their homes in Adelaide. They are to be uprooted and sent to Monarto by government direction.
– How do you emphasise that point?
– I emphasise it by directing any honourable senator who wishes to inquire to the South Australian Hansard in which he will find that the South Australian Premier has said quite clearly that they cannot have their jobs and remain in Adelaide. They are to be sent to Monarto.
– Did you vote against the legislation?
– I have spoken quite clearly on the Monarto situation in South Australia. What Senator McLaren did not tell the House was that if you draw a 40 mile radius from Adelaide you will find that Monarto is the worst conceivable position you could find on any part of that rim, except for the more mountainous or obviously unsuitable areas geographically, on which to build a town. Of any area where a city can be put, Monarto is the worst on that radius. There is no dispute about that fact.
One of the people who worked on the report that went to the State Government told me that his view was that the Adelaide extension should have gone to the southern area in the Willunga district where there are some of the best living conditions that South Australia can produce. In that district there is a very large area of developmental land where there could be another successful satellite city. Monarto will develop into that most horrible of all types of cities- a dormitory area for which the Government will have to provide efficient transport across a mountain range so that people can work in Adelaide. The only alternative is to make Monarto attractive. We have heard already the proposition that it is to be laced with enormous ornamental lakes and that there is to be, from memory, a forest of 1 6 million trees. In other words the South Australian Government at this moment envisages doing at Monarto what has been done at Canberra without the more desirable climatic surroundings of Canberra and that is to create its own type of Lake Burley Griffin, its own $16m forest and its own attractions to get people to go to one of the most arid areas in the existing farming districts of South Australia.
– Who said anything about $ 1 6m? You cannot verify that statement.
– I would like to ask Senator McLaren what he thinks it will ultimately cost for every dwelling to be placed in that situation, together with its support facilities. Think about the cost to the Housing Trust in South Australia. The report prepared by the consultants, not by Senator McLaren’s Government, engaged to look at Monarto said that in effect it was the wrong place. Even the experts who have looked at the area have said that the situation is wrong.
– It is a compelling document.
-They also said in that compelling document that the South Australian Housing Trust was an amazingly efficient organisation. It has been long recognised as the most efficient housing organisation in Australia. The economics of South Australian community housing will be reversed by loading that organisation with possibly three times the cost of housing by the time the cost of immense support facilities, beautification and the like at Monarto are added. This will completely upset the economics of providing housing for the growth which it is now desired to take outside Adelaide. No one quarrels with the contention that there must be alternative growth centres for Australia’s capitals. But in choosing a new growth centre for South Australia’s population at this stage of Adelaide’s development the South Australian Government has selected the worst conceivable site available to it. No parrotting of the South Australian Government’s defence of a quite unsupportable situation by Senator McLaren can make it any better.
– I suppose that one of the things that recommends the area of Monarto is that at the moment there is nothing on it. I am familiar with the area. Senator McLaren give me credit in his discourse tonight for having some involvement with the area. I know something of what is there and what is not there. Having had an association with Strathalbyn and Murray Bridge all my life I know that probably the only thing favouring the Monarto area is that at the moment there is nothing there. It is not a desirable area. It is an open area. If the South Australian Government or any other government is to set up an alternative growth centre there, another regional centre of city, the whole thing will be completely artificial. It could not be anything else. It is true, as Senator McLaren said, that Monarto is on the main road to Melbourne and the main railway line to Melbourne but I beg to differ with him and say that he draws a long bow when he says it is adjacent to places like Victor Harbour and Lake Alexandria. It is not all that far from Lake Alexandria but it is a fair way from the resort centres of Victor Harbour.
In the development of any alternative development centre I think that people making these choices and designs need to take into account not only the development of the centre itself but also the effect that it will have on existing community centres. In a speech I made in Adelaide a few months ago I asked what effect the development of Monarto would have on places such as the one that Senator McLaren mentioned. The very attractive country township of Strathalbyn is only 15 to 20 miles away and it has good prospects of being turned into a dormitory town for the city of Monarto. Senator McLaren probably knows as well as I do that there is not a block of land within that township or adjacent to it that is available today. What effect will the development of Monarto have on other River Murray towns? What is to happen to the already very prosperous centre of Murray Bridge.
There is another important thing, as I see it, which Senator McLaren did refer to tonight. He laid down a lot of reasons, explanations and details about what various authorities had done but he did not take into account the water supplies. As I have said before to the Senate, what is the prospect for the water supplies of Monarto? Any new town anywhere in Australia today has to be supplied with a regular and complete water system, not only for domestic supplies but also, as all honourable senators are very well aware, for recreational and, I hope, industrial purposes. Too much dependence is being placed on the River Murray system for development of satellite areas and other towns and cities in that part of Australia. This is particularly so in the case of Monarto.
Monarto is adjacent to the banks of the lower reaches of the River Murray. Whatever is left of the water supply within the River Murray is the only supply available for Monarto. Already the metropolitan area is heavily serviced by the River Murray. A great area of South Australia draws it supplies from the River Murray, as we all know, and with increasing demands on the Murray system by Victoria and New South Wales what will be the situation as far as the development of Monarto is concerned? According to the remarks of Senator McLaren tonight, nothing has been proved so far as underground or other supplies are concerned for the new town of Monarto. I am concerned that sufficient attention has not been paid to the provision of water supplies to Monarto. A modern developing city and community draws upon water services and supplies to a greater extent than earlier communities drew upon them. A modern city requires much more water than earlier cities required. From the researches that have been undertaken, from the studies that have been carried out and from the reports that have been presented, I am not satisfied that sufficient attention has been paid to the provision of water supplies for the new city of Monarto.
When I talk about the provision of water supplies to the new city of Monarto I equate that with the demands to be placed upon the River Murray system, because in addition to the new city of Monarto there will spring up around it and adjacent to it new communities, large and small, which in turn will require water supplies not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality. We particularly welcome opportunities for the development of new communities in South Australia. The Willunga area, the Upper Murray area and the areas of the upper and the lower south-east, as well as the Gulf areas, have been mentioned. All of these could very well have been developed and they might not have laced demands upon the River Murray system.
Studies could have been undertaken to ascertain whether other water services could have been provided for those communities. In any study, in any discussion, in any argument concerning the development of Monarto we need to take account of that very vital ingredient in the development not only of social life but also of domestic and industrial life, that is, the provision of adequate water supply. I am sorry that in his speech on Monarto for the benefit of the Senate tonight Senator McLaren has not placed sufficient emphasis upon this matter.
– I rise briefly to deplore the attack which Senator McLaren has made on Mr McLeay this evening. He is obviously playing politics in this matter. Every criticism made by Mr McLeay in respect of the Monarto complex is justified, and on the basis on which Mr McLeay made his criticisms there is no reason at all for anybody to object to his expressing an attitude about how he assesses a given situation. Senator McLaren has sought to infer that in South Australia the first thoughts towards decentralisation emanated from a Labor government. How utterly ridiculous that is. If we trace decentralisation in South Australia over the years we find that there always has been a sound basis for decentralisation.
– That is utter nonsense.
– I am speaking of facts. South Australia has done a magnificent job in respect of decentralisation based on firm, sound industrial and business premises. Firstly, we in South Australia had no source of power. We were being held to ransom by the coal miners in New South Wales. We were rationing power in our State. Leigh Creek was developed and the Port Augusta power houses were built. That was decentralisation. We gave a local base for a system of reticulating power throughout South Australia. Power was reticulated to the smallest farms in most settled areas on the single wire earth return system, and Senator McLaren knows about this.
– If it had not been for the support of the Labor Party, Mr Playford would not have got that legislation through to socialise the electricity authority in South Australia, because a lot of your own Party opposed it.
– That was the policy of our Party and it prevailed. We had a base for power generation in South Australia. If we trace the history of decentralisation in South Australia under Liberal and Country League governments we will see emerging a picture which is very sound and good. It is not an artificial basis for progress. We had our power bases on Leigh Creek and Port Augusta. Power provided from those areas formed the basis for the development of Elizabeth and Salisbury and of the motor engineering industry in Adelaide. We decentralised out of immediate Adelaide into the Salisbury and Elizabeth areas. That was a satellite town and was a magnificent decentralisation of a congested metropolitan area. We look for resources which we can use. The south-east, with its forestry areas, is ideal for timber mills. There are pulp mills at Millicent. This is decentralisation based on natural resources which exist in the area. That is firm and viable decentralisation.
We look to Whyalla. The Iron Knob deposits and the Middleback Range give us our steel furnaces and our shipbuilding. Again this is decentralisation in a very firm and purposeful way.
– But your ex-Premier has just criticised the establishment of Whyalla. He said that Monarto would become another Whyalla.
– I am referring to decentralisation in a way which I admire and which I regard as having bases which are necessary if we are to have a really viable system of population spread over a State. So, we look at the Whyalla set-up; we look at Port Augusta; we look to the south-east; and we look to the Murray. Liberal governments encouraged the production of cardboard boxes, cans and so on to service another very important industry- the fruit canning industry. So, we had a base of natural resources to work from and in South Australia through the years we achieved decentralisation- not for a year or two and not with an unhappy sort of situation of conscription towards a given area, but due to a voluntary desire of people to go to the areas because things were being offered which would give a decent way of life and assure a sound economic background.
I speak tonight because of the implication contained in Senator McLaren’s attack. Again I say that I do not admire the introduction of personalities into an attack. The honourable senator should point out his criticism in broad terms. He should not attack a person. Decentralisation in South Australia has been far and wide. It is of a nature which will allow for further decentralisation of services and so on. I am proud of what has been achieved through the years in decentralisation in South Australia by Liberal governments, to the political detriment of the Party. Do honourable senators realise that? The Liberal Party in South Australia was big enough to give away pretty secure political areas.
– The Liberal Movement was.
– No, this was long before the Liberal Movement. We as a party in our State were big enough to decentralise irrespective of the political prospects for ourselves thereafter. We are proud of what has been achieved in our State.
– I have not spoken in this chamber this session. The utter rubbish that we have had to put up with in the last 10 minutes makes me rise to make comparisons -
– You are talking about Senator McLaren?
-No. I said ‘in the last 10 minutes I rise to make comparisons in regard to what has actually happened in the Commonwealth of Australia in relation to decentralisation. The 2 States that have decentralised most are Queensland and Tasmania which were governed by Labor governments for a quarter of a century or more. In South Australia Tricky Tom governed on the basis of the most gerrymandered electorates ever known in the history of the world- not just of Australia but of the world. There were electorates of 1,500 people in country areas, compared with electorates of 20,000 people in the metropolitan area. Honourable senators opposite from South Australia talk about decentralisation in their State. They know that South Australia was the worst State in the whole of the Commonwealth, as far as being decentralised is concerned, until -
– The Liberals did a lot.
– Which Liberals? The Liberals were there for 34 years. The Liberals were so proud of Tom Playford- he used to be called Uncle Tom- who had done so much. This socialist Liberal kept everybody in Adelaide. Honourable senators opposite should have a look at the record of South Australia where a Labor Government was never able to be elected unless it received 56 per cent of the vote. If it received only 54 per cent it was defeated because Tom decided that it would be defeated. Because of the Liberals’ gerrymanders there is a person in the Senate today who walked out of the Liberal Party in South Australia. He said: ‘I will not put up with it any longer. You are a lot of crooks. You drew the boundaries to keep yourselves in power forever. ‘
– Look at the boundaries in South Australia now in relation to your Party.
– Those boundaries are to be redrawn. Legislation will come before this House and I sincerely hope that the honourable senator will vote for it. I hope that the honourable senator accepts the boundaries which are set out by the independent persons who have been appointed to draw those boundaries. But no doubt he will not do so because he still wants this kind of Liberal- whether he is a small’ 1 ‘ or a big L’ liberal; I call him a conservative- to dominate everybody and so that the Labor Party has to receive 56 per cent or 58 per cent of the vote before it can come to government. Honourable senators opposite talk about this great area in South Australia that is being decentralised. I will accept an interjection from Senator Laucke at this point so that he can indicate to me in what areas the Liberal Government decentralised.
– I indicated to you the points at which decentralisation has occured- south, east and west. I gave you the whole lot.
– Let us have a look at the population figures in these areas. Senator Jessop believes in decentralisation. He was so successful as a member of the House of Representatives that he lost his seat after one term. Now the reverend gentleman, the Moderator, is trying to interject. I challenge any honourable senator from South Australia to rise now and dispute the fact that South Australia is the worst decentralised State in the whole of the Commonwealth. But we will plan a system so that there will be true decentralisation in that State. The nonsense that I have heard tonight from honourable senators opposite is incredible. They have not stated the facts.
– We will give you the Oscar.
– For rubbish.
– I can tip it over any time the honourable senator likes. He would have to carry it on his shoulders forever. Opposition senators have been talking a lot of nonsense and rubbish because Playford was the worst Premier that any State ever had because he controlled South Australia under a system in which his Party prevailed in government with a minority of the votes. Do honourable senators opposite deny that? Whenever did the majority of the people of South Australia vote for him?
– You tell us the figures.
– The honourable senator intervenes. I ask him to tell me when the majority of the people of South Australia voted for Tom Playford.
– I would say most of the time.
– The honourable senator would say most of the time. I would not gamble with the Moderator, because he would not bet, but I will put money into his church fund any time that he can prove that on more than 2 occasions in the history of his reign in South Australia Tom Playford received more than 50 percent of the vote of the people. When Walshe was elected he had to get 55 per cent of the vote. When Dunstan was elected he had to get 56 per cent of the vote. As I said earlier -
– Daly wants to make it 60 per cent for us to get back, does he not?
– Who was the honourable senator calling ‘us’? Daly is simply saying that the 5 electorates in Tasmania should be equal, whether there are 80,000 or 50,000 in each electorate.
– There is less than 5 per cent difference between them at the moment. Do they really need redistributing?
-I would think so, but the whole point is that I have made a challenge to Senator Davidson and I will do what I said if he can prove that on more than 2 occasions Playford had more than 50 per cent of the vote. Dunstan had to get 56 percent of the vote before he could even form a government. Harold has come in. I hope he has his figures with him. No, he is writing very hard. The simple facts are that I have never heard so much rubbish from South Australians as I have heard from Opposition members from that State tonight.
– We may recall what this debate is about. I represent in this chamber the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who is responsible for the support that the Commonwealth is giving to the area of Monarto. Senator McLaren thought he had a responsibility tonight to show up the attack that has been made on the progressive move of the South Australian Government. As with most things Senator McLaren raises here, the matter aroused a lot of opposition. Surprisingly tonight it aroused all except one of the Opposition senators from South Australia. Therefore, we had unanimity among Liberal senators that we should not go on with Monarto.
– We did not say that.
– Let us get it straight. I do not want to misrepresent anyone. I gathered from the remarks that there was so much opposition to Monarto that it should not be gone on with.
– Then what are we arguing about? We have complete unity. Let us get behind the wheel and see how much we can develop Monarto to make it the city we hope it to be. We can only assume from the Opposition’s interjections, and because of its recent attitude of attacking everything that the Government has done, that it opposes Monarto. In 1972 the South Australian Government decided that Adelaide should not be developed to more than 1 .3 million population and that that should be its maximum. Does anyone disagree with that? It did not want Adelaide to become another city as we have seen in Sydney and in Melbourne and other large cities. A French firm of consultants, Elkouby and Labro, came to Australia to make an investigation and reported that Monarto should not be developed because Adelaide is not yet sufficiently developed. The consultants stated that we should do the very thing that the South Australian Government is trying to avoid. The South Australian Government said that with a proposed planned increase in population for Adelaide, which will rise over a 10-year period at a rate of 1.8 per cent a year, it will reach that 1.3 million by about the year 2000. It is to stop the very thing that the consultants recommendedand they are supported now by Mr McLeay- the plan was envisaged. It was done so that we could reduce the present 3 per cent growth rate in Adelaide and so that an alternative site was available when Adelaide reached the maximum size to which we could permit it to grow. It was done to preserve the dignity and the respectability of a small city, something which I think will be an attraction. It will not be a large metropolis such as those which we see in other States of Australia.
I do not think anyone with a liking of Australia will greatly disagree with that. Because it was decided that the growth centre would be Monarto we find that, according to honourable senators opposite, it is the most unsuitable place in the whole of South Australia. Let us look at the facts. We have heard of Eyre Peninsula and Yorke Peninsula. But the essential thing that makes a city is its industries. If honourable senators opposite think that with the present interstate competition to attract industries- competition in this interstate field is becoming much more activeindustries will be attracted from Eyre Peninsula or from the south coast to come to this area that has a train line running interstate, they have another thing coming.
The other question involved is that we have no water there. Monarto is right on the Murray River that supplies the water supply. Senator Davidson told us this evening that we should not build this growth centre on the Murray River because we are draining too much water from the Murray system. Wherever we build in South Australia we use Murray water. The whole State relies on it. Right down to Kimba on Eyre Peninsula, people are using Murray water at present. Murray water is being used on Yorke Peninsula and at Woomera. The whole of the city . of Adelaide is using Murray water. If Adelaide is expanded, we still have to obtain water from the same source. That water will be obtained for Monarto with less transport costs at the present time.
The reasons for the decision of the South Australian Authority, which is supported by the Cities Commission under the Department of Urban and Regional Development, to establish in this area were because an adequate and reasonably cheap water supply was available and because supplies of gas and electricity were there already. Were such facilities available in any other township? There was also the rail link with Melbourne and Adelaide. There will be a freeway connection to Adelaide by 1977 and the possibility of a general aviation airfield site. Are those facilities available at the other site? The area has a reasonable climate and is in close proximity to the River Murray, the sea and the Mount Lofty Ranges for recreation facilities. It is within reasonable proximity of Adelaide for social and economic reasons and has the physical separation of the Mount Lofty Ranges to prevent a fusion of the 2 urban areas. I ask honourable senators: Where would you get an area in South Australia with all the qualities that Monarto has in order to attract industry? But we find Senator Jessop wanting to take things 100 miles to Adelaide for transshipment.
Senator Steele Hall spoke of conscripting labour. If you are interested in decentralisation, surely it is proper for government departments to be situated in areas which a government is trying to develop? If there is no need for those departments to be established in a crowded metropolis, they should be situated in the growth centre area. Many government departments will be situated in Monarto. There is only one other thing I want to mention. What Senator Poyser said about the Liberal Government in South Australia is true. Senator Laucke, as a former member of that Government, knows it is true. He knows that he was part of a gerrymander that took place in South Australia for a number of years. He knows that Tom Playford would only develop areas which were safe and secure Labor seats. That is why he developed Port Augusta, Leigh Creek and Mount Gambier. Where did he ever establish an industry in a Liberal held seat? I ask honourable senators opposite to tell me where he ever put an industry-
- Mr President, the reference to Senator Laucke-
– Order! Is the honourable senator raising a point of order?
– Yes. The references to Senator Laucke having participated in a gerrymander and having been responsible for gerrymanders, which are now being elaborated on, I think go beyond the provisions of Standing Orders.
– If Senator Cavanagh is directing those remarks specifically I think that he is out of order.
– If Senator Laucke objects or denies what I have said then I withdraw it. I do not think that it becomes a member from a far distant State which has the protection of the most democratic system of State elections in the whole of Australia to object to a reference to an area about which he knows nothing and which has the worst gerrymander system in Australia. South Australia has the greatest concentration of voters in the metropolitan area relative to total population of any State in the Commonwealth. The man who was called Uncle Tom’ was always known to me by the nickname of ‘Honest Tom’. This was the man who kept in office for 21 years by fooling the people with a gerrymander. Over that period he received a majority of the vote on 2 occasions. When he was finally defeated and realised that he could not be succeeded and was determined that he would never be exceeded, he appointed a young fellow to the leadership of the Party. His successor won one election, lost the 2 following elections and then left the Party for the whole purpose of coming to this place to criticise his colleagues from South Australia.
We can see the concentration of the attack on South Australia by the interjections that have been made tonight. There is no opposition to Monarto. Opposition senators are merely using the debate on Monarto as a means of getting a speech recorded in Hansard. Because Dunstan is building Monarto Liberal senators in this place have to attack it. They say that the proposed city is in the worst position in the world. The people in the Gulf country of South Australia where unemployment is at its greatest at present are relying on industry for development. They are crying out for the Redcliffs project. But the Opposition attacks everything that the Government is trying to do in respect of this project. We can see that everything that the Dunstan Government does will be attacked in this place. Don Dunstan is the outstanding Premier of Australia and Opposition senators are afraid of him. While ever he is in power in South Australia the Liberals will never get back to office in that State to carry out further gerrymanders. Therefore Opposition senators attack the greatest Premier that this country has. Don Dunstan will be Premier of South Australia for many, many years. Quite a number of senators who were defeated in State elections have entered this Parliament. Now Opposition senators have made attacks on those responsible for the change in the political climate in South Australia at present.
– I wish to speak very briefly tonight- and I emphasise the word ‘briefly ‘. I am glad that Senator Bishop is in the chamber. I simply wish to refer to the fact that I have referred on a number of occasions to the unemployment situation in Launceston. I have referred firstly to the need for a task force examination of the problems of unemployment in Launceston particularly in relation to the textile mills. Last week I requested in the Senate that a copy of the report of the task force be tabled or made available. I wish to emphasise that I am quite certain that Senator Bishop did everything he could. In fact, he arranged with Senator Wriedt to contact me in relation to this matter. But I raise the fact that still the report is not published, still I have not received a copy and still unemployment continues to rise in Launceston. The people of that city are anxious to see the details of that report, to consider it and to act upon it. It is a matter of daily importance. I simply say in the interests of open government, as espoused by the present government, and in the interests of endeavouring to overcome the problems in Launceston, I urge the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop)- I know he has taken action in the past and I make no criticism of his action- to take up again with the responsible Minister in the other place the publication of this particular report at the earliest possible moment. I again request that the report be made available to me.
– I should very briefly like to reply to Senator Rae. When Senator Rae raised this question last week I think Senator Wriedt was not in the chamber but the information had been given to him. The matter is the responsibility of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby). I am told that Mr Enderby was studying the report and had received the request from Senator Rae that Senator Rae be issued with a copy as soon as possible. The reply to Senator Rae’s request from Mr Enderby was that as soon as he could make a copy of the report available he would. That is the position. Senator Wriedt will be informed of the request that Senator Rae made tonight with a view to obtaining more information from Mr Enderby.
In relation to the question of Tasmania, I understand that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) issued a statement in Tasmania related to the sorts of examinations to which Senator Rae referred. I can only undertake to ask Senator Wriedt to respond to the invitation of Senator Rae, perhaps tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Trials were held at Sydney Airport in February and June. Further trials are being arranged for later this year. Meanwhile further bird training is still being undertaken after discussions with the State Park and Wildlife authorities. The project is still in its formative stages but results so far have been encouraging.
Birds have departed from the training areas but have returned or been recovered within a few days.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following 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 Minister for Transport, upon notice:
Has the Government received details of a South Australian report which alleges that concrete railway bridges in the north-east of the State, which carry the Indian Pacific Express are faulty; if so, what was the Australian Government’s response to the allegations and what is its interest in this matter?
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Details of these press reports have been received. Although the bridges were built under the Rail Standardisation Program funded by the Australian Government, responsibility for design and construction rested entirely with South Australian Railways.
Maintenance of the safety of the bridges referred to is also the responsibility of the South Australian Government. The South Australian Government has not communicated with me on this matter, nor would I expect them to. The Australian Government has no reason to doubt that all bridges on this standard gauge railway are maintained in a safe condition.
Country Aerodromes (Question No. 1S2)
-Brockman asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) Until 31 March 1976.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 October 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19741001_senate_29_s61/>.