29th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 1 1 . 1 a.m.
– Honourable senators, I have to announce that the President, Senator the Honourable Justin O ‘Byrne, is in the Canberra Hospital and is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate. In accordance with standing order 29 the Chairman of Committees, Senator Webster, will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– by leave- I move:
Mr Deputy President, in moving the motion I am sure that all honourable senators will join with me in expressing our regret at the indisposition of the President and also will join with me in wishing him a complete and very speedy recovery.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I thank the House for the honour conferred on me in granting me the position of Acting President for the ensuing period. Honourable senators will be pleased to learn that I have seen the President, the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne, this morning and that he is in particularly good health. He extends his best wishes to honourable senators and asked me to advise the Senate that he is suffering from what is known as a DVTthat is, a deep vein thrombosis. He will be in the Canberra Hospital until the end of this week and does not think it likely that he will be resuming his duties during this current session.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, is attending the Colombo Plan consultative meeting in Singapore and will return to Australia on 5 December. In his absence, the
Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, is acting as Minister for Foreign affairs and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, will represent those Ministers usually represented by Senator Willesee in the Senate. However, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, today is attending a memorial service for the late Honourable Sir Douglas Menzies, a justice of the High Court of Australia. Senator Murphy will be absent from the sitting for most of the day. In the absence of Senator Murphy and Senator Willesee during question time today, unless questions are of a particularly urgent nature, I would request honourable senators to place on notice any questions they would normally direct to those Ministers.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That they wish the Judbury Post Office in Tasmania to remain open.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should take action to see that the Judbury Post Office in Tasmania remain open.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Marriott
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I give notice that after the receipt of messages I shall seek leave to move a motion for leave to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to remuneration as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal and for leave to move the second reading of the Bill forthwith.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Has the Minister been receiving representations that he should close down the trade commissioner service which Australia maintains in South Africa and transfer the 2 trade commissioners to black Africa? Does the Government accept that to do so would imperil the quantity and range of a mutual trading relationship with South Africa and jeopardise the employment of black people in South Africa and, further, Australians in Australia? Will the Minister publicly state that the Government rejects the representations and that it will continue to maintain a trade commissioner service in South Africa?
-I will have the question referred to the Minister for Overseas Trade for an answer.
-I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation a question on a matter in which I have a particular interest because I was engaged or involved in these matters during the Second World War. What will be or is being done by the Government to provide adequate compensation for anyone incapacitated as a result of experiments with poison gas which it is claimed were carried out on Australian servicemen during the 1939-45 war?
– As honourable senators would be aware, there has been quite a lot of Press coverage recently of claims made by a Mr Soper that a number of servicemen during the Second World War were subjected to experiments with mustard gas and other poison gases and are suffering severe disabilities as a result. Mr Soper has been a frequent correspondent with me since I became a Minister and, as I understand it, with various predecessors in my portfolio. My Department has no record of such experiments having taken place although no doubt such records would in any event be kept by the Department of Defence and not by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. We do not have records of matters of this nature.
Generally repatriation benefits are available only to servicemen who served in a theatre of war although there are other ways, such as ex gratia payments, in which a government can give compensation to people who have suffered in the manner in which Mr Soper claims that these servicemen suffered during the Second World War. No claims have been received, to my knowledge, from anybody who says that he is suffering a disability or injury as a result of such experiments. The only thing I can say is that anybody who does feel he is entitled to either compensation or some other repatriation benefit as a result of these matters should immediately get in touch with the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in the State in which he lives. Beyond that, there is very little that I can say.
At the moment the information seems to be somewhat vague as to what actually occurred and who the individuals were who were involved in these episodes, but I can assure the Senate that as soon as any application is made by anyone who has a claim, or believes that he has a claim, to make as a result of these alleged experiments it will be immediately dealt with by the officers of my Department.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. Does he believe that consultation means give and take by both sides after worthwhile consideration of the issues involved? Is it not true that the wheat and wool industries have been denied such consultation? Why has the Minister not related the first payment for the 1974-75 wheat crop to the world market prices and costs to the growers in the manner that retailers are relating bread prices to their higher costs? Why has the Minister threatened to withdraw the 250c per kilo floor price for the wool industry after 1 July 1975 unless the Australian Wool Industry Conference agrees to the restructuring of the membership of the Australian Wool Corporation?
– I am quite sure in my own mind that Senator Drake-Brockman does not even believe the question that he has just asked, and that in his own mind he does not even believe it is the truth. I suppose if anything would cause one to have reason to be difficult at question time when giving answers it is that sort of question. I realise that Senator Drake-Brockman might have commitments to his Party but I know him to be a reasonably honest person. I say again that in his own mind he does not even believe what he has just asked me to be the truth.
Senator Sir Magnus Cormack- I raise a point of order. The Minister must not reflect upon a senator. He has clearly reflected upon Senator Drake-Brockman by describing him as a reasonably honest man. All honourable senators know that he is an honest man.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I entirely agree with the honorable senator’s comments, but the Minister will answer as he sees fit.
-I did not want to reflect on Senator Drake-Brockman but it is unfortunate, I think, that the question was asked in the manner in which it was. Anyway, in the broad context of the question it is incorrect to say that there has been a lack of consultation between this Government and the wool and wheat industries. No industry organisation has had more consultation with the present Government than the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. I would be surprised to hear any member of the executive of that body say that the position has been otherwise. Insofar as the wool industry is concerned, there has not been the same need for consultations as there was with the wheat industry during the negotiations on stabilisation schemes, but they have been adequate and I have always been prepared to listen to propositions that have been put to the Government. In respect of the first advance payment to wheat growers, I said last week that this matter had been given full consideration. I gave what I thought to be a fully detailed answer 3 weeks ago to Senator Young and I do not propose to bore the Senate by repeating the same figures again.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is he aware that at least 12 government departments or business undertakings employ advertising agencies which, judged by the present Government’s definition, are foreign-controlled companies? Does he agree that it is neither right nor necessary for such enterprises as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian National Line and the Australian Tourist Commission to by-pass Australian owned companies? Does his ministerial responsibility enable him to ensure the use of Australian owned companies, all other things being equal? What useful comments has he to make on this matter of principle?
– When this Government came into office I learned that after 23 years of administration by LiberalCountry Party governments most placing and charging advertising agencies used for government advertising were overseas owned. I think all of them were overseas owned with the exception of two. Over a period I have taken steps to ensure that all placing and charging agencies used by the Australian Government Advertising Service, which is a branch of my Department, for the placing of Australian Government advertising are Australian owned. I am pleased to advise the honourable senator that as from 1 December of this year all advertising agencies used by the Australian Government in the placing and charging of advertising will be Australian owned.
So far as the other portion of the honourable senator’s question is concerned, the policy of the Australian Government in the selection of advertising agencies is that where it is felt that the creative service of an Australian advertising agency is equal to or better than that of any foreign agency the service of the Austraiian agency shall be employed. My Department places advertising for and on behalf of Australian Government departments. Where these Government departments feel that the creative ability and service provided by the Australian advertising agencies are equal to or better than those of foreign owned agencies the Australian advertising agencies are employed. The honourable senator will know that the statutory corporations and instrumentalities are masters of their own business arrangements. Nonetheless having said that I can assure the honourable senator that I have written to all of my ministerial colleagues asking them to draw the Australian Government’s policy to the attention of statutory bodies for which they are ministerially responsible and answerable to this Parliament and suggesting that where Australian agencies provide the same or equal service and have at least the same creative ability they should be used.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. By way of preface I refer to bombing threats that were made to those who attended the Sydney Town Hall on Friday night last when, in addition to representatives of the Australian Government, representatives of Sir Robert Askin, the New South Wales Premier, were present. It is in that context that I ask for an early conference between the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Cameron, and the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, to see that there will be no appeasement of people like Suljak who appeared before a committee of this Senate as martyrs but who will be proved by events to be wrongdoers? How long will the police, Federal and State, have to work their guts out and see nothing for their efforts due to the continuation of these bombing threats?
-I will forward Senator Mulvihill ‘s comments and his request that Mr Clyde Cameron should meet the AttorneyGeneral in connection with the matters he has raised.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It relates to the extreme liquidity difficulty of the Tasmanian Labor Government, as reported last week, when doubts were cast as to whether Tasmanian public servants, particularly teachers and nurses, would be able to receive their holiday pay. I ask: Has the Australian Government received any request from the Tasmanian Government for any assistance to overcome these problems?
– I imagine the question should more properly be directed to the Prime Minister rather than the Treasurer, but whoever is the Minister responsible for an answer I shall refer the question to him.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to the report of the statement by Mr Snedden in Tasmania 1 1 days ago that the Liberal Party, if returned to government, would consider extending the Royal Flying Doctor Service to King and Flinders Islands? Will the Minister, for the benefit of honourable senators, Mr Snedden and his Tasmanian advisers, advise us of the situation with regard to the Flying Doctor Service and these Islands?
– I did see the statement by Mr Snedden that he would consider extending the Royal Flying Doctor Service to King Island and Flinders Island. It was a rather curious matter to give consideration to as it would seem to show that Mr Snedden is some 1 S years behind the times. In fact Flinders Island and Cape Barren Island have been receiving the Royal Flying Doctor Service since 1960, and King Island has been receiving it since 1961. This is being done with Australian Government support. That which Mr Snedden says he is going to extend has been going on for nearly 15 years. In addition there are modern hospitals on these islands and they are regularly visited by specialists from the Launceston General Hospital who make use of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in order to visit these hospitals. So I can only say that one can assume from this that the advice that Mr Snedden is receiving on Tasmania from his New South Wales expert on Tasmanian affairs is not of a highly satisfactory order.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction been drawn to the concern expressed by the Kingscote District Council on Kangaroo Island that the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement may debar construction of rental homes at Kingscote by the South Australian Housing Trust? Can the Minister clarify this position? Will the Minister, if need be, consult the Minister for Housing and
Construction and endeavour to have such action taken as may be required to ensure that the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement do not prevent the South Australian Housing Trust from meeting the demand for rental homes at Kingscote?
– I do not know the details. I would not have thought that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement would have prevented the erection of rental homes, if rental homes are needed, at Kingscote. This is an agreement between the State and the Australian Government, and therefore I suppose that if there is any restriction in the agreement and if an alteration of it is necessary, this question will need to be discussed with the State Housing Minister. I shall take up with the Minister for Housing and Construction the question as asked and see whether I can get a more detailed reply. I will see whether, if the position is as the honourable senator has stated, we can get any remedial action taken.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He will recall that on Thursday 28 November last Senator Bonner accused him of buying votes for the Australian Labor Party in Queensland by handing out money to the councils for the Torres Strait Islanders as though it was going out of style. Can the Minister inform the Senate who requested the financial assistance for the Torres Strait Islanders and whether the projects for which it was to be used were in fact necessary? Can he also inform the Senate whether Senator Bonner has ever sought financial assistance from him to be used for the welfare of the Aboriginal people in Queensland and, if so, did he consider that by agreeing to any such requests he might be leaving himself open to being accused by Senator Bonner of attempting to buy votes for the Australian Labor Party?
– I recall the remarks that Senator Bonner made in the debate in this chamber the other day. The grants for the Torres Strait Islanders were agreed to as a result of representation from the various councils operating in the Torres Strait Islands. I think they were assisted by our local officer to fill out the grant forms. These grants were for special works projects.
– Before or after you visited?
– Before the visit. They were for special works projects amounting to some $600,000. When we went there it was questionable whether the projects came under the category of special works projects but as they were all projects for the improvement of the islands concerned we more or less granted them $10,000 apiece for the purpose of establishing them in operation. If they can satisfactorily continue their operations for the improvement of the islands the other money will be available to them at some time in the future. These grants were part of a total of approximately $200,000 in grants made to the Torres Strait Islands.
Senator Bonner has on occasions made requests for grants on behalf of organisations in Queensland to assist them in improving the welfare of Aborigines. Some of them have been just as successful as the Torres Strait Islands projects. I take it that it has been in good faith, because of his interest in the welfare of Aborigines, that he has asked. For that reason many of the applications have been granted. Whether I would be accused of trying to buy votes by acceding to Senator Bonner’s request never entered my head, nor did it enter my head that such an accusation would be made in the Torres Strait Islands where I was trying to improve the conditions of Aborigines. I suppose that everything the Government does which is of benefit to someone could be alleged to be buying votes, but the Government- through my portfolio in particularhas a responsibility to advance the conditions of Aborigines and Islanders. Irrespective of what accusation is made we will continue to perform our duty.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, led by the Right Honourable Graham Page. The delegation, following a visit to Papua New Guinea, arrived in Australia last Friday. After leaving Canberra it will visit Hobart and Perth before its departure for home on Saturday 14 December. In welcoming our visitors to Australia and to this chamber, I am sure that all honourable senators will join with me in wishing that their stay will be both enjoyable and profitable to themselves, as it will be to us.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Can the Minister advise the Senate whether, and if so when, details of the rumoured support scheme for beef producers will be announced?
-I hope that the decision can be made this week and the announcement made before the end of the week.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. I ask: Does the Minister have any information about access radio, which is the name given to that field of broadcasting which involves private organisations and individuals wishing to express an idea or to encourage participation in different activities? Is it true that we can expect the first broadcasts in this revolutionary form of free programming very shortly?
– I did see a statement in one of the newspapers today that 6 units of 15 minutes each will be broadcast on station 2CY in Canberra, which is an Australian Broadcasting Commission station, between 5.30 p.m. and 5.45 p.m. today, tomorrow and Thursday and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. It is the Government’s desire to open up the airwaves of this country as much as is humanly possible. I have been in discussion with the Australian Broadcasting Commission on this matter. I can also tell the honourable senator that very shortly officers of my Department will be having discussions on the subject with the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters and hopefully also with officers of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations.
The honourable senator will be aware also that the Government recently decided that the 2 standby transmitters which have been made available to the ABC, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, should be put into more effective and constructive use. The one in Sydney is being used for a matter related to the younger generation of Australians, but the one in Melbourne, I understand, is being used by the ABC for access purposes. I am told that that station is expected to go into transmission some time tomorrow. A number of groups will be going to air this week and next week in Canberra. Certainly the results of the experiment will be watched very closely not only by the ABC but also by the Government in the hope that this form of access can be made available to a much wider spectrum of Australian citizens.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration whether, in view of the Government’s repeated expressions of confidence that trade unions would heed the call for wage restraint as a means of checking inflation, the Public Service pay rise is a clear indication that the real value of wages and salaries continues to fall as the rate of inflation climbs. Will yesterday’s decision inevitably lead to another round of wage claims and further deterioration of Australia’s economic crisis?
– It is not for me to comment upon the adjudications of Mr Taylor who has made his determination. I am not in a position to say whether the Government will make any review of the situation that might arise. It concerns 3 Ministers. The Government has made clear that it is placing a lot of weight on its wage indexation policy and a case to implement such a scheme is presently before the people who should determine such matters. It has been argued by the Minister for Labor and Immigration and the Government that, if wage indexation is accepted by the union movement and the employers and is supported by the Government, it will go a long way to easing many of the pressures that are currently being placed on the economy.
– I ask the Minister for the Media whether the Australian film industry is in a sound state and as such is now in a position to spread its activities outside this country. If so, is this a sign of a growing international reputation? How does this situation compare with the industry’s position before the present Government came to office?
– I am glad to inform the honourable senator that in the opinion of the Government the Australian film industry, as a result of the initiatives taken by this Government, is developing into a commercially viable industry. In 1972, when this Government came into office, there were 4 feature films made in Australia. Last year there were 8 feature films made in Australia. This year there will be 18 feature films made in Australia. The prognosis is that there will be 20 feature films made here in 1975. The simple fact is that more feature films have been made in Australia this year than have been made in the United Kingdom. I can also tell the honourable senator that film production companies are making theatre and television commercials in Australia for the South-East
Asian market, and film laboratories are servicing producers of the film in the various areas.
Overseas producers are coming to Australia for major feature productions, in part or complete. I believe that this sort of activity is indicative of the world standard of Australian film production and of the laboratory facilities that are available. The honourable senator will be pleased to know that one of the companies that received an award from the Australian Government under the export incentive award arrangement was a company known as Colorfilm Pty Ltd, which was established here in 1970 and which in a period of 4 years has been able to expand its export activities by some 1,000 per cent. It has maintained a steady doubling of sales and this year, as a result of its activities and initiatives, it has won an export award. I think that is indicative of the state of development of the film industry in Australia as a result of the activities of this Government.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration to a recent Press report which stated that privileged people are applying for benefits under the National Employment and Training scheme to the detriment of more needy people. Is the Minister aware that this is causing long delays in meeting the requirements of people properly seeking retraining and therefore considerably adding to administrative costs? Has the Government made any policy changes in respect to the NEAT scheme since its inception? What policy guidelines have been given to Department of Labor and Immigration employees to assist them in understanding the Government’s scheme? If the Minister has not given clear written directions to his departmental officers, will he do so as a matter of urgency to avoid continuation of the confusion that seems to exist in the administration of this scheme, and to assist his departmental officers, many of whom appear to be in the dark and are obliged to make their own decisions on eligibility for benefits?
– The honourable senator calls for a lot of information in his question and I will seek it from the Minister, Mr Cameron. I would like to say briefly that when Mr Cameron announced this scheme it was not intended to apply to privileged people. It was intended to apply to people who might be able to increase their work capabilities and fit into the economy in particular job classifications. It was intended that such people would be trained for those jobs.
As a result of this great reform lots of applications have been received from people who do not know whether they qualify. I shall get full details in reply to Senator Jessop ‘s question.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. In asking it I express concern at a report in the ‘Australian’ today which states that the Minister was ‘too busy’ to provide a letter of introduction for Miss Caroline Jones, a prominent television current affairs personality, who wished to make a documentary for Film Australia on Australian settlement in Paraguay. Will the Minister advise the Senate whether such a request was made? If so, by whom and when was it made? Is it the practice for the Minister to refuse such requests which could be in the interests of at least a section of the Australian community?
– It is true that Miss Caroline Jones, who is now employed by Film Australia, the Australian Government’s film production unit, is in South America with a Film Australia crew making a documentary about the descendants of the Australian settlers in Paraguay last century. I understand that in the ‘Australian’ this morning it was stated in the column ‘Perspective’ that before they left in October the party had asked for a letter from me to faciliate dealings with official groups in South America and that I was too busy at the time to provide them with such a letter of introduction. The columnist also said that without the letter Miss Jones has found things quite difficult.
– That is very flattering to you.
– Indeed. I can tell the honourable senator that no request was ever made to me for a letter and, on checking with my staff, as far as I can ascertain no request was ever made to any member of my staff. I can assure the honourable senator that this being a film of a type which I suggested Film Australia should engage itself in, recording the history of early Australian settlers in Paraguay, had such a request been made to me I would have complied with it. Even at this late stage I will be prepared to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to contact our various posts in South America asking that every possible assistance be given to the Film Australia crew.
-Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs received a telegram from the Chairman of the Queensland Aboriginal Advisory Board, a copy of which was sent to me? With your indulgence, Mr Acting President, I would like to quote part of that telegram. It reads:
We prefer co-operative effort by Commonwealth and Queensland governments in line with wishes of councillors expressed at October meeting.
It is signed ‘Les Stewart; Chairman of the Queensland Aboriginal Advisory Board.’ Will the Minister consider withdrawing his Bill, namely, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Bill 1974, until after he has had the opportunity of meeting with the members of the Queensland Aboriginal Advisory Board to discuss the matters contained in this Bill?
-I did receive a telegram somewhat similar in its terms to that mentioned by the honourable senator. I also received a telegram from Les Stewart which was one of the stereotyped telegrams sent from another source. I also have knowledge of the many public statements made by Les Stewart and reported in the Press. I have a great suspicion that these statements are prepared by someone other than Les Stewart because the phraseology used in them is greatly different from that used by Les Stewart. No one has done more than I to try to arrive at conciliation or to get co-operation with the Queensland Government and the Queensland Aboriginal Advisory Board. I reported to the Senate, last week I think, the fact that I met members of the Queensland Aboriginal Advisory Board, of which Les Stewart is Chairman, and asked them to make recommendations as to alterations they would like to be made to the Queensland Aboriginal Act. I was then told that each member of the Board, which was comprised of the chairman of each of the village councils, wanted to see me in private. When I saw them in private, their main request was for some assistance in repairing the flood damage caused in their particular areas in relation to which we were able to assist some of the councils.
All of the members of the Board told me in private- they were not prepared to say this in an open meeting- that they did not favour the continuation of the Queensland Aboriginal Act. I believe that there is a big protest in Queensland in relation to the Act. On every settlement that I have visited dissatisfaction has been expressed about the continuation of the Queensland Act. So it is as a result of a request made by the
Queensland Aborigines; it is for the purpose of giving Aborigines in Queensland the same rights as the white settlers in Queensland; it is for the purpose of giving Aborigines on reserves in Queensland the same rights as Aborigines off reserves in Queensland, and it is in keeping with an obligation we have to a United Nations agreement that we are obliged to proceed with this legislation. Anyone who has the interests of Queensland Aborigines at heart will vote for the Bill when it comes before the Senate.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, is in some ways supplementary to the question asked by Senator Bonner. I refer the Minister to his many attempts to have discussions with the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs in relation to land rights for Aborigines and other matters such as those raised by Senator Bonner. Can the Minister state why the meeting scheduled for 1 6 November for this purpose was cancelled? What alternative arrangements have been made for discussions in the future?
– I discussed with Mr Hewitt, the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland, the matter of the Australian Government’s taking over planning policy and the co-ordination of Aboriginal affairs in Queensland, since we have made similar arrangements with other States. Mr Hewitt was very co-operative and offered to make his departmental officials available for discussions with Australian Government departmental officials. One meeting was held which proved to be abortive. I asked Mr Hewitt to meet me to discuss the Woodward Commission report on land rights of Aboriginals. Mr Hewitt informed me that as the Premier had discussed the matter at the Premiers Conference in Canberra he thought no good could come from his discussing the matter with me. He had a direction from the Premier not to discuss the matter with me.
I then made an appeal to the Premier to discuss the question with me. At the Premiers Conference only an initial survey of the attitudes of the various States was made and all agreed to consider the Woodward report. The Premier definitely refused to discuss the matter with me. I then asked Mr Hewitt to discuss the incident which had occurred at Palm Island where he had dismissed the council. Mr Hewitt replied that Cabinet had directed him not to discuss the matter with me. The Prime Minister received a letter from the Premier of Queensland suggesting that we should discuss the future relationship between the 2 governments concerning Aboriginal affairs iri Queensland. That letter was written as a result of an earlier invitation from the Prime Minister.
At that time I contacted Mr Hewitt’s office and was told that he was in Brisbane only on Mondays. He was campaigning all that week and was spending the weekend at Charters Towers. I offered to go to Brisbane on the Monday or to Charters Towers during the weekend to have an interview with him. An interview was set down for 16 November. I was informed on the 15 November that Mr Hewitt had been ordered to hospital. He was released on the following Tuesday. He had 10 days to recuperate. I wrote to Mr Hewitt expressing my sorrow that he was being admitted to hospital. I wished him a speedy recovery and asked him to contact me at the first available occasion so that we could get together to discuss this question. I have had no reply since from Mr Hewitt. I think that I have done everything possible. The Government can now look forward- after next Saturday- to a road which will be easier because a Labor Minister will occupy Mr Hewitt’s position. Even if that is not so, the local Press is suggesting that Mr Hewitt will not be Minister for Aboriginal Affairs after the reshuffle. I know that the Press has reported that there will be a reshuffle. I am confident that as a result of the election to be held next Saturday we will be able to discuss this matter with someone of our own political persuasion.
– My question is directed to the Manager of Government Business in the Senate because I consider that this matter is both important and very urgent. My question follows the recent disclosure that a South Australian, Mr Mavrinac, while holidaying in Yugoslavia with his 2-year-old daughter, has been gaoled for 6 months for criticising the Yugoslav Government. I ask, as I did in July this year of the Minister for Foreign Affairs: What assistance and protection does the Australian Government afford its nationals when visiting countries in which they were born? In particular, I ask: What is the Government doing in relation to Mr Mavrinac who is a well respected South Australian and has held Australian citizenship for some 1 1 years? As Mr M avrinac has already been in gaol for one month, I ask: Why has he not been released and returned to Australia with his small daughter?
– The Department of Foreign Affairs has provided me with information on a number of matters about which they thought Ministers should be briefed. The information that 1 can give to the honourable senator from the Department of Foreign Affairs is that apparently the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 30 November reported that during a visit to Yugoslavia a Mr Mavrinac an Australian citizen of Yugoslav descent, had been gaoled for 6 months for criticising the Yugoslav Government. The Department of Foreign Affairs has reported to me that it has no information on the matter other than the actual Press report but that the Australian Embassy in Belgrade has been asked to inquire into the full circumstances of the matter and report to the Department of Foreign Affairs as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture: Has he seen a report that the Minister for Agriculture in the New South Wales Government criticises him for, among other things, suspending wheat quotas for 1975-76? Does this mean that the New South Wales Government is opposed to the suspension of quotas? Is the suspension of quotas an essential step towards maximising wheat planting next year?
– I have seen the reference made by the New South Wales Minister to the suspension of wheat quotas for the 1975-76 season. I have not had any personal communication with him and can only assume from the newspaper reports, assuming they are true, that his Government does not support the suspension of quotas for that year. I would have imagined that that Government would have been prepared to accept any move by this Government to increase incentives for wheat production in the ensuing year. However, Mr Crawford presumably does not agree with the policy of the Australian Government and the other State governments. What his policy is I do not know but apparently it is to maintain the quotas.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and I refer to the Government’s recognition of steep increases in the wheat industry’s cost structure, evidenced in its decision to increase the home consumption price to $2.27 a bushel from the end of December. Does not this price still reflect an industry subsidy to the Australian consumer of some $2 a bushel? Again I ask whether the Minister will impress upon the Government the urgency of increasing the current first advance payment to growers to $1.80 a bushel. Does he dispute that apart from spiralling wage costs the wheat grower faces all the other steep increases, such as in capital equipment, maintenance, fertiliser and transport costs? Has the Government not virtually admitted by the home consumption price increase that the present early return to growers of a gross $ 1.60 a bushel in 12 months is totally inadequate and that an increase is not only justified but also imperative in the light of current circumstances?
– This matter has been raised on several occasions in the Senate and I have said previously that I would not go through it all again. But in view of the fact that Senator Scott has introduced one or two new matters I shall answer them only. The present home consumption price for wheat, as is well known, under the stabilisation arrangement is below the world market price, but the whole purpose of the stabilisation plan is to cope with the situation when the world market price is below the home consumption price. It is not that the wheat grower is subsidising the consumer in this country at all; the reverse situation obtains when the consumer or the taxpayer generally is paying into the stabilisation scheme. The whole purpose of the scheme is to give that protection to the wheat grower and the wheat industry accepts that fact. In respect of the increased home consumption price, it is true that that price has risen from $1.93 a bushel last year on a cost of production basis to $2.28 a bushel this year. If the honourable senator did his homework he would find that that is a 17 per cent increase in the cost of production. The increase in payments to the industry this year is 1 10 per cent, as I pointed out to him a fortnight ago. If it is possible to equate an increased payment of 110 per cent with an increased cost of production of 17 per cent I would like to know the mathematics by which he does so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The President has asked that I draw attention to the presence in the chamber of former senators. He knew that they would be here. I mention former Senator Aylett and a former President of the Senate, Ted Mattner. We are very pleased to see them here.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Did the Australian Government underwrite a recent share issue by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd? As an underwriter, did the Government take any responsibility for the preparation of the prospectus which accompanied the offer of shares? Did the prospectus materially understate the potential profitability of company contracts, especially in view of today’s announcement of an 80 per cent price increase on all existing contracts? Since trading in Mary Kathleen shares has this morning been suspended on the Melbourne Stock Exchange will the Government make an early statement on its part in the preparation of a prospectus which may have reduced the equity of individual Australians in this company?
– The question should be placed on notice for a reply from the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media in the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen reports that unemployment has risen during 1974 in France by 40 per cent, in Italy and in the United States of America by 25 per cent and in Japan by more than one million persons? Is it not a fact that those countries are all governed by conservative governments similar in philosophy to the main Opposition parties in Australia? Has the Minister seen the fatuous comment by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, that if the Australian Government had accepted his advice Australia would have neither unemployment nor inflation? Is it not a fact that during 1971-72 when Mr Snedden was Federal Treasurer, unemployment, inflation and business uncertainty were rampant? Can the Minister indicate whether the Prime Minister is likely to recommend to the Australian Government any of Mr Snedden ‘s inane advisings?
– I have seen the reports to which the honourable senator refers, namely, that inflation and unemployment are rampant in countries like France and Italy which have governments of a conservative nature. The honourable senator will appreciate, even if honourable senators on the Opposition side do not, that the problem of inflation and unemployment is an international one and is not merely confined to the boundaries of this country. Having regard to the policies that were pursued by the conservative forces of this country when they were in office for a period of 23 years,
I often wonder what the unemployment situation in Australia would be if they were in office today.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that the Minister for Transport, exercising powers under the Roads Grants Act, has required the Government of Victoria to supply an immense quantity of detailed information as to arterial and sub-arterial road projects, including alternate projects, considered but not now being pursued and projects to be carried out only with State moneys? Is the Minister aware that the Victorian Minister for Transport has estimated that the expense involved in supplying this information, much of which is irrelevant, will cost the State many millions of dollars a year? Does the Minister now agree that such requests for information are wasteful and should be withdrawn?
-Information that is required from the various States by the Minister for Transport is sought in accordance with the Minister’s powers under the Roads Grants Act which was recently passed by this chamber. The purpose of obtaining the information is to keep the Australian Government Minister informed on the needs for roads and the programming of roads throughout Australia. If there is any undue application for information from Victoria I will take it up with the Minister and ascertain whether all the information he is seeking from the Victorian Government is essential for the purpose of carrying out his duty in accordance with the Act that was passed last session.
– In view of the answer to the question asked by Senator Gietzelt I ask this question of the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it not a fact that the rate of inflation when this Government took over was 4 per cent? Is it not a fact that inflation in this country has not been imported but has been selfcreated? Is it not a fact that unemployment began to grow in this country when the present Labor Government put on a credit squeeze which caused a slack in the building industry in particular and also when the Government cut tariffs, which was a departure from its well established Labor principle of high tariffs to provide work for Australians?
– I think, if the honourable senator casts his mind back to the 1972 election, he will remember that two of the matters upon which the Labor Government fought the election were inflation and rising unemployment- both brought about as a direct result of the Budget introduced by the then Treasurer, Mr Snedden, in August 1972. Despite all the camouflage that honourable senators opposite use it is an indisputable fact that when this Government assumed office in 1972 it had to face up to the problems of inflation and unemployment, both of which had been created by the previous Government. The honourable senator also tries to hide the fact that inflation and unemployment are problems in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy and all the other developed countries. If the honourable senator thinks that in those circumstances we can act in isolation he obviously has to have a hard, cold look at the political realities of international economics.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of the recent criticism made by Mr Ralph Hunt, the Opposition spokesman in the House of Representatives, that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has been negligent in assisting the Aboriginal community at Moree in establishing a housing society? Is this a fair criticism? If not, what is the Government doing with regard to the provision of adequate accommodation for Aboriginals in Moree?
– I remember the statement of the Opposition spokesman in the other place. It shows he has a superficial knowledge of what this Government is doing for Aboriginals in Moree. His statement is a completely inaccurate account of the present conditions. There was no application for funds from Moree for housing until January of this year when the Moree Aboriginal Advancement Association made a request for an establishment grant of an unspecified amount and also for $ 10,000 to enable it to place deposits on houses that became available for sale. At this stage the Association was not incorporated and therefore my Department could not fund it. Departmental officers have made a number of visits to Moree to see whether we could assist in the housing activities. On 7 August Mr Neil Makkeres representing a housing company, submitted a detailed application for an establishment grant. We sent officers up there to investigate it. A further application was lodged by Mr Makkeres on 15 August following discussions with officers of my Department. That application is still being processed. We think a housing association will be established. We made available sufficient funds, via the New
South Wales Department of Housing, to acquire some 57 houses in Moree up until June of this year. We think that is a good proportion of houses. As soon as the Moree Aboriginal Advancement Association gets a housing association establishment we will be prepared to finance its housing activities.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to talks in London now taking place regarding the future of AngloAustralian operations at the Woomera rocket range in South Australia. Is it a fact that the talks are designed- and I quote from the report- ‘to settle one way or the other’ the British involvement in the operation? Has the Minister received any further information since he last referred to the matter in the Senate? If not, when does he expect to have such information, especially as it relates to the future of Woomera?
-On 14 November last the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, announced that this meeting would take place. Presently discussions are going on in the United Kingdom between the British and Australian officials. They centre on the future of Woomera, taking into account the foreseen decline in the British work load. The Australian delegation will be reporting to Mr Barnard on its return. I understand that a series of studies and further meetings will be necessary. In due course the appropriate British Minister and Mr Barnard will announce the agreed plans. That is all the information I can give the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, refers to the public statement of the Prime Minister that sections of the trade union movement are conspiring with employers to force up prices. Since this is a serious accusation by the Government against the trade unions, what specific evidence can the Government produce to support the charge? Will the Minister provide the Senate with supporting evidence? Alternatively, if the Minister cannot provide such evidence, will he on behalf of the Government withdraw the accusation or dissociate himself from it?
– I have only seen the Press statement. I do not know whether the Prime Minister said these things. I think the question should be directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It is for the Prime Minister to say whether he made this statement and upon what his views are based. I am not going to add to any contention by Senator Carrick by following up this hare that he has let loose. I suggest that he put the question on notice and the Prime Minister can reply to him.
– I do not know. I will ask the Minister for Transport. The question seems to indicate the justification for the supplying of the information.
– Is the Minister for the Media aware that a ‘Four Corners’ segment of a program covering the first 2 years of Labor Government was shown in all States last weekend but was deleted from the program in Queensland? Was the cut in the Queensland program caused by technical reasons, or was the deletion of the segment brought about because of political pressure applied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Premier of Queensland, the Honourable J. Bjelke-Petersen, because of his diminishing political support in the current State election campaign?
– I did see a report in one of the newspapers that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program Four Corners’ was not telecast in Queensland last Saturday because it related to the 2 years of the Australian Labor Government. I understand that the program was telecast in all States except Queensland. The report did say that the program was not being telecast in Queensland because if it were telecast there the ABC, on past practice and custom, would have to give equal time to the opposing political parties. It was felt that this program, which related to the history of events insofar as the 2 years of office of the Labor Government is concerned, should not have been construed as being related at the same time to the political circumstances now applying in Queensland. I can only say that that is all I know about the matter.
As the honourable senator would know, it is the Government’s policy to guarantee political and programming independence to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That policy has been rigidly adhered to by me, as the Minister for the Media, in the time in which we have been in government. I will certainly refer the matter to Dr Semmler, the Acting General Manager of the ABC, to see whether I can obtain any additional information for the honourable senator.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report by the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education on supplementary funds for programs administered by that Committee.
– I present the second report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board dealing with the administration of Part III of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act for the period, July 1973 to 30 June 1974.
– I present the report on the operations of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)Pursuant to section 50b (3) of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1973, 1 present the annual report of the Director of Defence Service Homes of operations in relation to insurance for the year ended 30 June 1974. The interim version of this report was tabled in the Senate on 24 September 1974.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) Pursuant to section 14(1) of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1 948- 1 973, 1 present a supplement to the twentyfifth report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on the operation of the Act for the period 1 July 1972 to 30 September 1972, incorporating financial accounts and the report of the Auditor-General on those accounts.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) Pursuant to section 14 (2) of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973-1974, I present the second report of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority dealing with the general administration and working of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
-Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a statement concerning an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Prices into the effect of the abolition of licence fees in the 1974-75 Budget on hire charges for television sets.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Committee’s terms of reference allow it to inquire into and, as appropriate, report upon complaints arising from prices charged by the private sector. Honourable senators will realise that these terms of reference may be discharged not only by tabling a report in the Parliament but also by means of a statement made in both Houses. The Committee prefers such statements to the tabling of reports if the statements are brief because this enables the Committee to bring the matter to the notice of the Parliament more speedily.
The 1974-75 Budget abolished licence fees for television viewers. The Committee was made aware of the fact that some television rental firms did not intend reducing their hire charges notwithstanding the abolition of the licence fees. The Committee moved quickly and invited the public to inform the Committee of instances of television rental firms not passing on the benefits of the abolition of the fees. The Committee received a number of complaints on this matter and sought clarification of the pricing policy of the firms which were complained against. The firms contacted included large national rental firms such as Radio Rentals Pty Ltd. In addition, following the Committee’s Press statement, Canberra Television Services, one of the largest of the national rental firms, announced that it intended reducing rental charges following the abolition of licence fees. The Committee was pleased to receive correspondence from members of the public advising that the benefits of the cancellation of the licence fees had been passed on to them as a result of the Committee’s Press statement. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the response of television rental firms to the inquiries made by the Committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is the table an appropriate one for incorporation?
– Yes, it is just a very brief schedule of 7 firms and quite factually sets out the circumstances of the Committee’s inquiry.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the Senate. To summarise what is in the table, of the 7 firms contacted by the Committee following the abolition of the licence fees, four have reduced their charges; two have postponed increases; and the remaining firm hires television sets to hospital patients, such sets not being subject to licence fees. In conclusion, I would reiterate that the consumer should once again be made aware of the advantages of shopping around when his present contract expires so that he may choose a firm whose prices and services offer best value for money.
-I bring up the fourth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– I seek leave to make a ministerial statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-On 22 October 1974, during the sitting of Estimates Committee G, Senator Rae asked the following question:
In respect of the Seacoaster vessel being constructed at the State Dockyard, what was the nature of the protracted negotiations and the reason for them?
The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has supplied the following answer to Senator Rae ‘s question:
Tenders for a twin screw Seacoaster were called on 30 August 1972, and closed on 15 November 1972. Subsequently in March 1973, as part of its evaluation of tenders, the Australian National Line asked the State Dockyard to investigate the fitting of a single screw arrangement. On the basis of information supplied by the State Dockyard it was estimated this would reduce the construction cost by approximately $500,000 and offer certain operational economies.
The Minister for Transport was not prepared to agree to the ANL entering into a contract for the construction of a single screw Seacoaster at that time until further research being conducted into the likely performance characteristics of a single screw design was completed.
It is normal practice for vessels of advanced design to be tank tested. This is a procedure whereby a scale model of the vessel’s design is tested to determine the vessel’s likely performance characteristics. Such testing has become particularly important in recent years as problems of aft end vibration and propeller cavitation have occurred both in Australia and overseas on a number of highly powered single screw vessels.
The ANL asked the State Dockyard to investigate the single screw design. The State Dockyard undertook investigations in consultation with the Hitachi Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Japan with whom it has a technical co-operation agreement. Subsequently it also consulted with Hamburg Ship Testing Authority on tank testing of the design (The Hamburg Ship Testing Authority had previously undertaken work of the twin screw design).
On 14 November 1973, the State Dockyard advised as a result of these investigations, that there was a risk of cavitation with the single screw design. Mindful of recent similar problems in other single screw vessels the ANL decided in December to proceed with the twin screw design. However, to expedite production the ANL had prior to this sent a Letter of Intent to the State Dockyard on 6 September 1973, authorising the Dockyard to put in hand all work not subject to possible variation in design, including the ordering of all appropriate materials and equipment.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) I seek leave to table documents relating to the telegrams sent to Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, last week by various people in Queensland associated with Aboriginal affairs. I have shown a copy of it to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers).
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I want to add that Senator Cavanagh had questioned the source of the telegrams. As honourable senators know, the matter was referred to in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. My investigations show that without exception the telegrams originated from telephone numbers leased by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. The document simply lists the name of the sender as shown on the telegram, the time and date of lodgment, the method of lodgment, the lessee of the telephone service, if sent by phonogram, and the addressees.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
REMUNERATION BILL (No. 2) 1974 Motion (by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Remuneration determined by the Remuneration Tribunal
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria)^ 12.33)- I move:
I do not wish to detain the Senate for very long on this matter. I think it proper that I should inform honourable senators the reasons that have led me to take this action today. It will be recollected that last week I brought down a Bill to deal with the matter relating to the unfortunate position in which the Principal Parliamentary Reporter finds himself as a result of anomalies that existed in the 1973 determination brought down by the then Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee. In my speech I assumed a degree of blame- a blame of omissionnamely, that I had not noticed the situation in which the Principal Parliamentary Reporter found himself. However, I am not going to have myself saddled with the blame of commission. I want to be perfectly clear about that, and I will explain to honourable senators why I will not be saddled with the blame of commission. The reason is that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), who is not presently in the Senate but who is at the moment, we have been advised this morning, in Singapore or on his way there, was as the Minister representing the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) responsible for this error.
Because of my knowledge of this error I sought last week by way of question from Senator Douglas McClelland, who is the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, information as to what determination the Government was going to make in the context of this matter. I felt that the Principal Parliamentary Reporter was being ground between the upper and nether millstones of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on the one hand and some affronted pride of Senator Willesee on the other. I was told to mind my own business, notwithstanding the fact that the business on which I was engaged was the business of the Senate. I felt that I was entitled to ask Senator Douglas McClelland, as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, what the situation was in relation to the business of the Senate. It was not my personal business because once the Bill had been put down it became the business of the Senate.
I am informed by the son of process of osmosis that exists in Parliament House that when this matter was discussed in a certain area it was Senator Willesee, the man responsible for the original fault, who moved words to the effect that no further notice be taken of the matter. I understand that some of the arguments put and some of the observations subsequently made were that the Principal Parliamentary Reporter was not the only aggrieved person in this context of the failure of the Senate to agree to the totality of the Campbell Tribunal’s recommendations. As that seems to be the opinion of certain honourable members and honourable senators who sit in places around here, I felt that in the circumstances I should oblige them by bringing down a Bill which I have now brought down, which overrides the Bill which I put down last week and which is presently on the notice paper. I felt that I should oblige them by moving that all of the First Division officers and statutory officers should be given their rate of remuneration.
I go a step further than that and say that it was never the intention of the Senate on the occasion on which the Senate supported the motion moved by Senator Wright to disapprove of the Campbell Tribunal determination. What the Senate did at that stage is made quite clear if one reads the speech that Senator Withers made on that occasion. In my own speech in support of my Leader I said that for reasons that now seem to be embraced by the Prime Minister on all sorts of levels, except overseas travel, no encouragement should be given to those people who seek to have their rates of remuneration reasonably established. Therefore I commend this Bill to the Senate. But I go further than that. I would make some further observations in elaboration of what I have said already. I would find it most agreeable if honourable senators opposite would take my remarks into consideration and, in their Party conclaves, agree perhaps tomorrow to support this Bill before the Senate rises for the Christmas break.
The Bill proposes that the determination made by the Remuneration Tribunal on 19 July 1974 in relation to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices have effect notwithstanding the disapproval of the determination by the Senate on 25 July1 974. 1 have already outlined the circumstances of that disapproval. It is intended that this Bill supersede the Remuneration Bill (No. 2) which I introduced on 26 November1974 to give effect to the determination insofar as it relates to the remuneration to be paid to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter.
In the first place the Parliament must recognise a responsibility to correct serious anomalies in the remuneration of the senior officers of the Public Service and it is to be noted that these anomalies have worsened following the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator on 2 December 1974, the day before yesterday. The present position is, I believe, totally untenable.
Secondly, there is the simple justice of the matter. To put it in the normal Australian vernacular, we Australians are fond of asking for a ‘fair go’. It is not a ‘fair go’ that one small group of officers should suffer a wage freeze while other sections of the Public Service are being satisfied through the arbitral system. It is now 4 months since the Senate saw fit to disapprove the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal and in that time there has been a significant shift in economic policy. I put it to the Senate- I put it to the Senate strongly- that it is time to give effect to the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the Senate and express the hope that the Senate will proceed at the earliest opportunity to rectify the errors of the past and give these officers of the Public Service a fair go.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence Force Retirement and Death
Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1 974
Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill 1 974
States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1 974
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1974
States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill 1974
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is considered to be a money Bill and a second reading speech has been delivered on it in the other place. I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill is the second in a series of four which the Government will bring down in order to ensure that Aboriginal communities will be able to obtain land and, among other things, develop the economic potential of that land as they wish. The first measure in this series is the Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill which was recently debated here. It establishes the Aboriginal Enterprises Fund and the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund.
The Aboriginal Land Fund Bill, the seco nd major piece of legislation in this series, will establish an Aboriginal Land Fund and formalise arrangements the Government has made since coming into office to provide land for Aboriginal communities. Where appropriate and desired by them, the communities will be able to develop the land with loan assistance from the Aboriginal Enterprises Fund, as well as with grants.
The third measure will be a Bill to provide for the incorporation of Aboriginal councils and associations. This will simplify and adapt incorporation requirements to make it easier for groups and communities to set up legal entities which can receive and use grants and other funds from Australian Government and other sources and can act corporately for a variety of purposes.
The fourth measure, the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill, will vest reserve and certain other lands in the Northern Territory in Aboriginal trusts and will establish an Aboriginal Land Commission.
Honourable senators will be aware that the Labor Government recognises Aboriginal rights in land, and moved early in 1973 to set up an Aboriginal Land Rights Commission to inquire into and report on appropriate means to recognise and establish Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory in the first instance. Mr Justice A. E. Woodward presented his second report in May of this year, and the Government accepted its recommendations in principle. In addition to recommending that Aboriginal reserves and certain other lands in the Northern Territory should be vested in Aboriginals, and that machinery should be set up to enable Aboriginal claims to other lands to be considered, the report recommended that a fund or funds should be set up from which additional lands could be purchased for Aboriginals.
Lands purchased with these funds should include pastoral leases or substantial parts of such leases for social purposes, as economic ventures or as both, and land in town for residential and camping purposes. Mr Justice Woodward suggested that such funds should be seen as providing compensation in the form of useful land to those Aboriginals who have lost their lands. Although the recommendations of the report apply to the Northern Territory the recommendations for a land fund are, of course, equally relevant in the States. This Bill will establish a national land fund.
Arrangements proposed in the Bill will formalise existing Government policy and practice in respect of acquisition of land by Aboriginals. Although the former Government did not recognise Aboriginal rights in land, it did recognise the need of many Aboriginals living outside reserves for land to use and develop for economic and social purposes. On 26 January 1972 the then Prime Minister announced that the Government would appropriate a sum of $5m to purchase land outside reserves for Aboriginal communities, and would contemplate providing a further $2m in each year for the ensuing 4 years for this purpose. This Government has endorsed and extended this approach by undertaking to establish an Aboriginal land fund to purchase or acquire land for significant continuing Aboriginal communities, and to appropriate $5m each year to this fund for the next 10 years.
Funds for the purchase of land by Aboriginals have to date been made available within the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account. A number of properties have already been acquired for Aboriginal groups throughout Australia, including several sheep and cattle stations in Western Australia, Willowra and Kildurk in the Northern Territory, Everard Park, now known as Mimili, in South Australia and land adjacent to the Cummeragunga Reserve in New South Wales. The balance of funds already appropriated by the Government for the acquistion of land for Aboriginals will be paid into the land fund.
The Aboriginal Land Fund Bill provides for the establishment of a Commission, appointed by the Governor General and responsible to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, to administer the funds. The Commission will comprise a chairman and 4 members, at least 2 of whom shall be Aboriginals. Although the Commission will be small and its members will be part-time, it will have full statutory powers. Staff to assist the Commission will be employed under the Public Service Act, within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Land acquired with moneys from the land Fund will not be able to be sold under writ of execution or like attachment. This provision is included to ensure that land vested in Aboriginal corporations cannot be alienated without Government approval. I commend the Aboriginal Land Fund Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had disagreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this Bill.
Motion (by Senator Wheeldon) agreed to:
That the message be taken into consideration by the Committee of the Whole forthwith.
Motion (by Senator Wheeldon) proposed:
That the Committee does not insist on the amendment of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.
– I indicate on behalf of the Opposition that the Opposition has re-considered its attitude to this measure. As stated by its spokesman for social security in the House of Representatives, the Opposition does not insist on the amendment. However, I would like to take this opportunity to draw attention to the commitment given by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon), representing the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), that any programs that had been commenced under this scheme would be permitted to be concluded despite the fact that the date of expiry of the agreement may have been reached. The Opposition hopes that the commitment that was made when we dealt with the Bill in the Senate will be upheld, and for the reasons that were stated and the fact that there is a committee report expected by the Minister for Social Security the Opposition shall not insist on the amendment being carried.
– in reply- I thank Senator Guilfoyle for enabling this message to be dealt with quickly. I repeat the commitment that was given that any matters in train before the present date of expiry of the operation of the Bill will be completed. Any applications that have been accepted by the Government will not expire on the present date of expiry. As Senator Guilfoyle said, there is a committee of inquiry of the Social Welfare Commission. We are waiting for a report to be presented to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and it is appropriate that we should have the results of this report of the committee of inquiry before further legislation is proceeded with or before we commit ourselves to extend the operation of the present Bill. For that reason I appreciate the action of the Opposition at this rather late stage in agreeing to the passage of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
Consideration of House of Representatives amendments.
House of Representatives amendments-
In the Bill omit ‘Director-General’ wherever appearing, insert ‘Director’.
– I move:
Honourable senators will note from the schedule that has been circulated that it is merely intended by the Government to change the designation of Director-General’ of the Australian Development Assistance Agency to ‘Director’. That is the purpose in moving the motion.
– The Committee will recall that when this Bill was in the Senate I had the opportunity of speaking to it with others on behalf of the Opposition. The proposal that is now before the Committee relating to changing the term Director-General’ to ‘Director’ is agreed to by the Opposition. The Committee will recall that during the debate on this measure certain questions were asked in relation to the total work of the Agency, and also in the debate in the House of Representatives there were further questions and further comments relating to the Agency. As far as the amendments to change the term from Director-General’ to ‘Director’ are concerned, I merely make the observation, as been said here by way of comment and interjection, that it takes 28 amendments to correct something which is either an error or a change which has occurred since this measure was first prepared. I note that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in the other place said that it was merely a move to regulate titles and to adopt a consistency in the use of titles. It is understood that the term Director-General’ refers to somebody who has supervision of a number of directors either in States or in various areas of operations whereas the term ‘Director’ refers to one who presides over a particular operation within a given area. If this is consistent with the use of titles in other Government establishments, then of course we have no opposition to it. I merely take the opportunity to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that this consistency should be observed throughout its operations so that we do not have confusion in this area or the need to give agreement to some 28 amendments which ought not to have occurred. The Opposition concurs with the amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 14 November on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There are 2 Bills related to the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1974 which has been introduced by the Government. These are the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Bill and the Television Stations Licence Fees Bill. These Bills will need to be dealt with as consequential Bills to the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2). I shall now debate the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) as the action that we take may result in a certain course of action to be taken with regard to the other 2 Bills. This Bill, when it was before the House of Representatives on 12 November, was dealt with by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I wish to quote what he said when expressing the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill. He drew attention to the fact that the Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and pointed out that the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, had the ultimate control and responsibility for the Bill. He expressed the thought that the Minister would have been the logical person to present the Bill to Parliament. He went on to say that because of the numbers in the House of Representatives the Bill would be passed in that House and would then go on its way to the Senate. He said:
If it there meets what I would encourage honourable gentlemen to accept as being a proper fate, the Bill will be defeated and will come back into this chamber at some time in the future.
The Bill has now come into the Senate and I am dealing with it on behalf of the Opposition parties.
My colleague, the honourable member for Moreton, foreshadowed that the Bill will be defeated in the Senate. I think it is fair to traverse the ground that has been covered since the Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 3 October. There has simply been a sense of outrage by the public, the community at large and the mass media since the Government’s intentions were unfolded in the amendments which it introduced. I say this because it was only after the concept was understood with regard to the amendments that opinions were able to be formed. The second reading speech of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) representing the Minister for the Media, stated that the amendments gave 2 new powers to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which the general public had always thought the Board had. The Minister said:
While amending section 16, the opportunity is also being taken -
The Minister went on to quote other things for which the opportunity was being used. What emerged from the use of that opportunity was that the Government proposed a series of amendments which resulted in total control of radio and television in Australia by the broadcasting control authority. We believe that the control is unlimited, undefined and permitted discrimination between stations.
I wish to refer specifically to some items to which the Opposition has the strongest objection. I am confident that the public does not believe that the Board had such powers nor would it have been accepted in Australian society that such an infringement of the freedom of the Press would be tolerated. The proposed amendments were not about power to determine rules and standards, they were simply about total power and the use of power itself. To suggest that the amendments which were introduced clarified existing powers of the Board or those powers which were thought to exist is to overlook the intrusion which would now be possible into every function of a licensee of broadcasting and television.
I am glad to say that the community reaction to the amendments which were proposed was such that the Minister had an amendment moved in the House of Representatives which achieved 2 objectives. The first objective was to remove the possibility of discrimination between stations, and we considered that to be an important amendment which was understood by the Government when it was introduced by us. The other objective was to make a minimum licence period of 6 months instead of 3 months. We considered that that was an acknowledgement of the quality of 3 months as the minimum licence period, but in no way did it overcome our objections to attitudes in regard to licence renewals. So we have been dealing with amendments, and perhaps we have been diluting amendments or the intention of amendments since the Government first gave its proposals to the House of Representatives. We begin again with a new second reading speech from the Minister for the Media, which was presented on 14 November last. The Minister said:
These intentions have been the subject of some misunderstanding, to say the least, in recent weeks. The Government, by this legislation, basically is seeking to remove any legal doubt about whether or not the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has power to carry out its functions and to exercise its powers under the existing Act.
I think it is fair to say that the Opposition in another place, through the form of amendments it moved to this Bill, has indicated an awareness that it is universally accepted practice throughout the world that the privileges granted to licensees of radio and television stations are subject to regulation by Government or Government bodies in the public interest. Certainly that practice has been accepted in this country ever since the establishment of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in 1948.
But it is important to quote further from the Minister’s speech, in particular this part:
Unfortunately, however, the advice tendered to the Government, and also tendered to the previous Government, is that the instrument by which this regulatory process was initiated- that is, the Broadcasting and Television Actcontains several defects of major significance. The major purpose of this legislation is simply to remedy these defects.
There is no talk there about an extension of power or an unlimited power or an undefined power. The Minister then recognised one of our objections, which related to the possible abuse of power, and foreshadowed that he would move an amendment to place under the scrutiny of Parliament the rules and standards which could be determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or the Australian Broadcasting Authority as it is to be known. Those matters are important in the way in which they have outlined attitudes of government and changes of attitude by government, but as I will proceed to develop our approach to the Bill it will be seen that they do not overcome our objections.
Perhaps the principal clause of the amending Bill is clause 6 which seeks to amend section 16 of the Act, and it is the one to which we have given a great deal of consideration. In general terms clause 6 (a) of the Bill will give the Authority power. to do all such things as are necessary for the effective exercise of the functions of the Authority. We believe that this must be read in conjunction with sub-clause (d) which gives power to determine rules to be observed by licensees in relation to the televising of programs, including rules with respect to the nature and content of programs. We believe that sub-clause (a) must also be read having regard to section 16 ( 1 ) (c) of the Act which concerns the functions of the Authority, as it will be known, to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programs are provided. We believe that ‘adequate’ means sufficient and suitable and that ‘comprehensive’ means comprising much of large content or scope. The use of these words gives unlimited scope to the Authority to make rules which usurp not only the functions of the board of a commercial station but the day-to-day management of the station as well.
As an instance of the manner in which the Authority could use the amended section, it would enable the Authority to make a rule to be observed by a licensee in relation to the televising of programs to the effect that the licensee shall televise only such programs as shall in each case be approved by the Authority and, to facilitate the implementation of the rule, require the licensee to submit every program to the Authority before televising it. Moreover it would enable the Authority to deal with each program on its own and it would enable the Authority, especially when read in conjunction with other proposed amendments, to have the power to make a rule to require a licensee to insert particular material, even particular words, in any program which the licensee proposed to televise.
Concerning clause 6 (d) of the Bill, which seeks to insert a new sub-section 16 (3) (e) in the Act, the rule-making power with respect to the nature and content of programs could give rise to a rule, to give one of many possible examples, that the content of, say, a current affairs program which had in the opinion of the Minister any matter derogatory to the Government be not televised. A rule could also provide, for instance, that such a program contain no comment on matters currently before the Parliament or, for that matter, currently before the Cabinet. The rule-making power is such that it could be used to impose censorship of a general nature. We believe that they are important matters and we have given a great deal of consideration to the application of the power which is sought in the proposed amendments.
I mentioned earlier the fact that the Government had reviewed its approach to the renewal of licences and the minimum period for which licence renewal could be granted. This power is given in clause 11 of the Bill, which seeks to amend section 84 of the Act to grant a renewal of a licence for a period as short as 6 months. We believe that this power could give the Minister or the Authority a power to require a station to carry out at all times whatever requests were made under the threat of a renewal for this limited period of only 6 months. The Act provides no criterion as to what matters the Minister must take into account in determining the matter of the renewal of a licence. So it would be open to the Minister to give as a ground under section 85 of the Act that a station had not strictly complied with a rule and that for this reason a renewal was granted for only the minimum period of 6 months.
A most important feature of the rule-making power about which we are talking is that it can be invoked at a moment’s notice or without notice. I suggest that a rule could require that a current affairs program which is scheduled for, say, today must contain certain material and that notice of this rule could be received with instant request to the station concerned. A rule could result from wrong information, insufficient information or insufficient consideration of the matters involved, which could result in pressure on a station to observe particular requirements. Clause 6 (e) provides under proposed section 16 (3a) that rules determined by the Authority in pursuance of paragraph (e) of proposed subsection (3) may include requirements approved by the Minister with respect to programs of Australian origin. Here we see again the intrusion of the approval of the Minister in relation to the actions of a statutory authority which has its own functions to observe. We have no objection with regard to the development of programs of Australian origin but we do have objection to the fact that they shall be approved by the Minister concerned. I believe that it is fair to say that the establishment of a points system by the present Government has been accepted by commercial television in this country and that co-operation has been shown in the introduction of this system for the development of programs of Australian content.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was talking about clause 6 (e) of the Bill and referring to the points system with regard to the Australian content of programming. I make the point that in the past 1 8 years of the activities of television stations it is fair to say that there has been co-operation between the licensees and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board concerning any requirements that it has exerted. During the past 18 years there have been only 3 occasions when doubt was thrown on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s standards. Apart from those 3 instances which are related, the stations have abided by the Control Board’s determinations, including the introduction of the points system with regard to Australian content. The Opposition does not question the power or authority of the Board with regard to the introduction of a system that has developed Australian content in programming, but we do question whether such a system would need the approval of the Minister as far as the Board’s authority is concerned. We would want to place on record also that we have strong support for Australian content in the programming and the work that is done.
I wish to refer to clause 6 (f) of the Bill which refers also to section 16 of the principal Act. That Part of the Act states that in exercising its functions and powers under this section in relation to commercial broadcasting and commercial television stations the Board shall consult representatives of those stations. The amendment that has been introduced is to give effect to a new requirement and to add the words ‘and such other persons as the Authority considers appropriate’. We have an objection to the introduction of that concept. We see a relationship between the licensees and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the necessity for consultation between the 2 parties. We have not been given any sound reason as to why there should be consultation with any other persons who may be considered appropriate. When questioned on this matter, the Minister stated that the other persons would include such bodies as the trade union movement in this country. We feel concern that matters that ought to be matters of consideration between the licensees and the Board could become complex and unnecessarily complicated by a requirement that any ‘such other persons as the Authority considers appropriate’ must also be consulted. For this reason the Opposition has stated in the other place its objections to that amendment.
Clause 1 1 of the Bill refers to the duration of licences. We are not convinced that the 6 months minimum period would meet the requirements as we see them for the duration of licences and their renewal. We believe there is already substantial power and control over licensees in the existing Act under section 86 (2). There is power in that section to suspend licences with not less than 3 days’ notice for a period of not more than 7 days. We consider that this is a substantial sanction which can be exercised by the Board under the existing Act and is a power that can be exercised from which there is no right of appeal. We consider that it is unrealistic in the commercial sense that there ought then to be a period of 6 months as a minimum for which licences can be granted. The Minister may also revoke licences. Although there are requirements for the Board to hold an inquiry and appeals can be made to the Australian Industrial Court for the revocation of licences, we consider that there is a strong power already existing in the hands of the Board in this matter. Our basic objections to the new proposal with regard to the varying period of licences could perhaps be summarised by stating that we understand in the commercial sense the need to be able to make forward commitments. Indeed, in an industry such as the radio and television industry, where capital requirements are extensive, it would seem to us that to have no security of tenure beyond a period of 6 months for renewal would place in jeopardy commercial decisions that need to be taken.
I believe it would be understood that the need for capital expenditure planning for equipment and the functions of the station would require several years in the way in which it would be developed. We believe also that arrangements that need to be made for programs would require some time to be developed in the way in which any commercial decision should be taken. The Minister has written to me in response to an inquiry from me. He stated that after a one-year establishment period the overwhelming majority of licences would be renewed for a 3-year period. We ask in those terms: Why write a clause so that a variable period ranging from 6 months to 3 years is in the hands of the Board and the Minister to determine, without any security being given to the licensees who are seeking renewal? It was pointed out to me, and I have noted, that in his second reading speech in March 1972 my colleague Senator Greenwood recommended a 3-year period and stated that there was merit in getting rid of the one-year renewal period that is in the existing Act. Senator Greenwood spoke of technical breaches of the Act and the advantage of renewal for a short period on the condition that the omissions were repaired. We accept that that was the position of the then Government, but we do not accept that the proposed wording of the amendment relates to a technical breach, but rather that the Authority could have power to discriminate in licence renewals either as a sanction to ensure compliance or as an instrument to destroy the commercial decisionmaking functions of the licensees themselves. We believe that any arrangement that needed to be made in the terms of the letter that the Minister has sent, that it would be customary for all licensees to receive a 3-year licence, could be dealt with in a different way from the amendment that is proposed. 1 state shortly that we oppose also clause 13. That opposition is consistent with our attitude to clause 6 (b) regarding the control of programs. I state quite firmly that we oppose clause 14. This relates to advertising on the commercial stations. I believe the power that is sought with regard to control of this function is very serious, because it will be recognised that the income side of the transactions of a commercial radio and television station is very much a matter of the advertising revenue which can be gained. The unlimited power that would exist in the Act because of the amendment, which is to place in the hands of the Authority all matters relating to advertising, would appear to us to be an unnecessary infringement on the commercial decisions that should again be taken by those who have been granted a licence.
Having stated then our attitude to the clauses I have mentioned, I would like to make some general comments about our approach to the BUI itself. I want to use as a starting point the control of programs because this has been dealt with in various ways from the time that the amendments were first proposed. Fundamentally we accept the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or the Authority, as it is to be termed, as the regulatory body for standards of broadcasting and television. I am speaking of technical standards and community standards. To accept control of programs to the unlimited extent that is proposed by the amendments leads us to question the motives. For instance, there seems to be an unprecedented interest in news content at present, both by the Board and by the Government. I treat carefully the proceedings of the news inquiry presently being conducted by the Board but that does not prevent my questioning one of the terms of reference of the inquiry. I speak of the term of reference which sought information on ‘whether further conditions should be imposed on commercial television licences to ensure adequate and comprehensive news programs’. I also question who would be making the decision as to what further conditions should be imposed.
This inquiry is being held by the Broadcasting Control Board. Persons have come before the inquiry to give evidence and to state opinions, but I wonder on what basis the conclusions will be reached as to whether further conditions should be imposed on news programs. The Minister for the Media has left us no doubt that he thinks they should be imposed. In recent statements he and his colleagues have given an impression that they would like to impose Government control on all news. I do not know the impetus behind the present news inquiry but I would like to say briefly that having been a member of the Joint Committee on Prices, the Committee from which this matter originated, I have to place in question the impartiality of both the Minister and the Board for the events which have developed and have resulted in the present news inquiry.
While speaking of news I want to refer to the attitude of the Australian Journalists’ Association. I take this opportunity to express attitudes which have been expressed by that body to the Minister. Some impression has been given that the AJA is totally in favour of the amendments written by the Minister. That may have been the attitude expressed by the Federal Executive of that body but it is only fair to say that there are State districts of the AJA which have expressed disquiet and concern about this matter. I want to place on record one message of which I am aware which was communicated from the Western Australian district of the AJA. It was a message to the Minister in these terms:
Following the decision of the Federal Council of the Australian Journalists’ Association ‘that to remove any doubts on the amended Act being able to be used to stifle freedom of expression in news and current affairs programs, the Act contains a clause affirming the principle of a right to freedom of expression in news and current affairs programs’, can you–
That is the Minister- categorically state that this request will be acceded to by the Federal Government.
The message went on to ask the Minister:
If so, what is the exact wording of the protection clause? In view of the opinion that there is sufficient doubt concerning the interpretation of the wording of section 16 of the amendments in respect to possible control by any government over news and or current affairs programs, and that this doubt is generally conceded by the AJA, can you state why such a clause should not bc included in the Act?
The response from the Minister was to request the body concerned to indicate which clause it referred to. He said that he did not know of any clause of the proposed Bill which would have the effect to which it referred. We question whether the effect of the Bill as amended would have the effect suggested by the Western Australian District of the AJA. I think the Minister should have a good hard look at the Bill to be able to deny categorically that there would be an infringment of freedom of expression if this power were exercised by the proposed Authority.
I want to speak briefly about standards because this is another matter referred to most vocally in the community. I think there is an assertion by the community that there ought to be standards which are observed. Television program standards have been developed by the Broadcasting Control Board and have been accepted by the industry. There is a whole booklet of them. They are guidelines and standards which have been determined and which have enabled the television industry to present programs within the program standards. The standards also cover advertising, personal messages, hours of service and a great variety of matters associated with programming and the quality of the programs which are presented. What is the new undefined power needed by the Board to enable it to deal with standards? I think it is important to refer to this matter. I do not question the sincerity of the people who have written to me about the need to pass the amendments so that the Board has the authority to ensure that community standards are upheld, particularly in television. I speak particularly of people who have mentioned children’s programming. A good deal of work is being done by the Australian Children’s Television Action Committee. It is respected by members of the Opposition parties.
I cannot accept the premise, however, that if these amendments proposed by the Government are not passed children’s programs will be in jeopardy. As I said earlier, there has been cooperation by the commercial industry with the Board in the development and acceptance of program standards and in the improvement of programs. I see this as a matter of consultation, co-operation and forward thinking in the planning that needs to be undertaken in the future to ensure that the excellence and quality of children’s programming is developed as we believe it should be. I have no more reason to believe that a government-appointed authority will be the body that would uphold standards that I would choose than I have in accepting that a variety and diversity of commercial management of television industry could also do so. The simplistic attitude that a commercial motive, a profit motive, is less responsible than an authoritarian one is something that I cannot accept and I do not think that the people in the community who are asserting the childern’s programs should have excellence need take that point of view.
I want to talk again about Australian content because I have had notice and I think the Minister has made points about this subject. There was a release from the Minister on 1 1 November warning workers in the media industries that their jobs could be on the line if the Opposition’s attitude to the proposed changes in the Broadcasting and Television Act continued. The Minister was speaking at the opening of the annual conference of the Professional Musicians Union of Australia at Newcastle. He said that the changes proposed in the Act concerned the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and Australian content. He said also that the Government was concerned about the power of the Board to impose rules or standards to apply to programs and advertisements. He went on to talk of the success of Australian programming and the way in which it had dominated the top 10 programs in this country. He went on to say that if we did not support the amendments the jobs of Australian musicians and others would be placed in jeopardy.
We commit the Opposition to the continuance of the development of Australian content in programming. We want to see the continuation of a system which has given opportunity for the creative and performing artists in our community to use their talents in our programs. I think we should remind everyone interested in this Bill that the co-operation of the industry has resulted in a great deal of Australian content being successful. I would like to think that at some time in the future not only was Australian content acceptable in this country but that increasingly it was acceptable in other parts of the world as an expression of the national identity of this country and the creative people who are able to work here and to have their work seen. I think it timely to warn the professions involved that if the continuation of attitude expressed by the Minister is upheld, perhaps their jobs would be in jeopardy. As we have seen with policies of the present Government, there has developed a situation that business does not work if it cannot work at a profit.
If we are to place in jeopardy the commercial identity of Australian television we are surely to place limitations on the future occupations of and the opportunities for our Australian performers and creative people, because if we create instability in the television industry through the imposition of unrealistic standards by the Broadcasting Authority, and if we place in the hands of the Authority the power to control the whole of programming, advertising and other commercial decisions which should be taken, I think it is fair to assume that in common with other policies which have been adopted by this Government the industry itself could be endangered and diminished.
In the present Australian economic climate, if we are to suggest that all television in this country should be a matter of government responsibility, I have to pose the question: What priority should be given, in terms of economic management, to a development of expenditure on television, resulting in diminished expenditure available for other services which we are required to provide, such as education, hospitals, schools and so forth? If advertising is to suffer the attitudes which seem to be expressed so firmly by this Government, then the income side of the television industry and the broadcasting industry will be unable to offer job opportunities to creative people in this country who are so able to enrich the programming that we can undertake.
That is the message that I have for those people who have been saying to us that we must pass these amendments in their entirety. I am talking about the superb writers, artists, creative people, script writers and film makers, all of whom would have enormous potential in a healthy television industry but who would have very seriously diminished opportunities in an industry which is entirely controlled by a broadcasting authority.
It is of interest to me that the major developments which have taken place in radio and television in the past 2 years have been directed towards Australian Broadcasting Commission activities. The Government has set up 5 new national broadcasting stations and 22 national television stations or repeater stations since gaining office in 1972. We are aware of other plans for Australian Broadcasting Commission developments. The extension which has been given to this side of a 2-stream policy that had been developed in this country perhaps places out of balance the need for development in the commercial sense, because if there is commercial activity in this industry there is a great deal more opportunity for expenses to be shared through advertising, through profit, through those things which are developed other than through direct Government expenditure into something which could be questioned as a national priority.
There are so many more things that could be said about the industry and about the Bill. Perhaps I should say that if a government is serious in stating that it simply wants to clarify the existing powers of the Board, why has it introduced amendments which so considerably extend the powers of the Board? Powers that will allow it to control program content and advertising seem to me to be not expressing the present powers; they are a considerable extension of them. I think in fairness to the statements made by the Government we should draw attention to these extended powers which are sought. For instance, in practice the Board does not make orders under section 1 7 or regulations under section 1 34 as regards any of the significant matters that are contemplated in the legislation. In practice it has relied on issuing directions and standards to cover not only matters of detail but also substantive matters. These things should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. We were pleased to see that the Minister acknowledged that. However, it emphasises the absolute necessity to have a Bill which is able to be interpreted by the industry.
I wonder whether the Minister acknowledges that the Act as it stands and the Bill which seeks to amend it place in front of the industry the fact that it needs to work under a whole variety of terminology which is undefined. An industry which needs to accept rules, standards, determinations, directions, orders, conditions, regulations and requirements could undoubtedly become confused and power itself could become confused if this were the way in which the Act were to function. I can only suggest that if we are to have an Act which means something and if we are to clarify the authority of the Broadcasting Control Board, it would be in the interests of the industry, the Authority, and the Government to withdraw the Bill, to rewrite it, to define it and to clarify what it is that we are talking about and what authority it is we wish to impose. To have the confusion that stems from the variety of existing terminology is to place in our minds the doubt as to whether seeking to clarify the Board’s powers would allow to occur through the Bill unlimited, undefined power in the hands of the government appointed Authority.
These are our basic objections to the Bill, and we felt that it was only fair that we should tell the Minister in advance what are our attitudes before we dealt with the Bill in the Senate. I notify the Senate that the Minister and the Opposition have exchanged letters. We have expressed our attitudes with regard to the proposed amendments. We asked the Minister to indicate whether he would be prepared to accept on behalf of the Government the Opposition’s amendments. The Minister was not able to accept our amendments as they were moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Moreton, in the other House. Because we have reached this stage of being unable to have a concurrent point of view on the clarification of the power of the Authority without extending it, 1 regret to say that the amendments which have been proposed by the Government are unacceptable to the Opposition.
In recent days we have had the opportunity of meeting a guest from the United States of America, Mr Nicholas Johnson, who was brought to this country by the Department of the Media for a conference which it had arranged. 1 had the opportunity to meet briefly this representative of a consumer group in the United States. I was somewhat alarmed to hear the attitudes which he expressed in regard to Australian television and in regard to television in his own country. I was delighted also to have the opportunity of meeting Lord Willis who perhaps placed into balance some of the statements which were made by Mr Johnson. When one sees the headline ‘ Revolution- the Only Way to Get
Better Radio, TV, one wonders whether, in the terms of the man who was brought here as a guest of the Department, this will be the approach which will be taken by the Government to radio and television in this country. If we are talking about a revolution through mass communication, it would be advisable for members of the Australian community to recognise that this could occur under the amendments which the Government proposes to the Act.
It is a matter of placing by stealth an undefined, unlimited control in the hands of a government appointed authority and to pretend that this control is not an extension of the powers which already exist. To say, as the Minister did, that everyone thought these powers existed, I am sure overstates the situation and the way that people feel with regard to this important means of communication in this country. I am quite certain that the people of this country did not accept that the Broadcasting Control Board had a power which allowed it to intrude on programming, on content, on advertising- on all of the functions of the commercial stream of radio and television. If this were so I am quite sure that it would never be asserted by the Government that it had this power with regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Indeed, the Government has always been expressing very strongly the view that there is complete independence in programming and in content by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have to place in question then what is the motive behind the absolute, undefined control which is being introduced into the Broadcasting Authority by the amendments which are proposed. For these reasons I indicate that at the conclusion of the second reading debate the Opposition will be dividing the Senate and voting against the amendments which have been proposed.
-I believe that few measures which have come before this Parliament in recent years have been the subject of such public misrepresentation and false comment as has the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2). Significantly, most of that has come from certain vested interests. Perhaps that misrepresentation reached its height in an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 16 October of this year, the heading of which was: ‘Juggernaut to decide TV Wrongs and Reichs’. That has been the theme of a lot of the Press and general media treatment of this legislation. I believe that it has affected the Opposition’s attitude to a Bill which I suggest- and I will endeavour to show by examining the existing provisions of the present law- only has essentially a clarifying role from a legal point of view.
As the Minister explained in his second reading speech, it has 2 basic purposes, the first of which is to give the new authority the legal power to perform a function which this Parliament- with the 1946-49 Government, through 23 years of Liberal-Country Party rule and now through this Government- has always believed was a proper function of the broadcasting and television control authority irrespective of its name. That function is expressed, as Senator Guilfoyle has said- and I will examine it in detail later- in existing section 16(l)(c). The second purpose of the Bill- I do not suggest this is by any means the really important purpose of the Bill- is to alter the period for which licences may be renewed. We are at issue only to the extent of 6 months on that and I will come to that point later. Despite its comparatively simple objects I do not believe that the importance of this Bill should be overlooked. It applies to radio. We are now 5 1 years from the time the first radio station was opened in Australia- in New South Wales in November 1923. It applies to television. We have now had some 16 years of television in this nation. In that time, television has developed in this country as indeed it has in all other parts of the world, into the most effective, the most important and in some respects the most devastating medium of mass communication that the world has ever known. That being so, I suggest that it behoves this Parliament to ensure that the public interest is properly served by the type and extent of control that is exercised over that medium in the public interest.
The second reason I suggest this legislation is important and that the whole review of the control of radio and television is important is that there has been no diminution, as I understand it, from the trend that was apparent 20 years ago, prior to the introduction of television, to combine in the one hand the ownership and control of Press, radio and television media. The fact is that throughout this nation there is a tight tripartite control over the media often by one man or by one company. That point was adverted to very forcibly by the then Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Dr Evatt, in 1956 when a significant amendment to the existing legislation was introduced and was debated. He sought, by an amendment, to direct attention to this matter and he used these words:
The fact that all existing television licences in 2 States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting, in effect, combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolise to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia . . .
Dr Evatt directed attention in his motion to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communication, including radio broadcasting and television. I suggest that the words that he used and which were embraced within his motion nearly 20 years ago are just as true today as they were then. It is a fact, I suggest, that this Senate ought to bear in mind when it is considering the totality of the control which it is appropriate to exercise over these 2 particular media. It may well be that the provisions of the Trade Practices Act relating to monopolisation, which came into force on 1 October of this year, ought to be very seriously considered in relation to those combines of which Dr Evatt spoke and which, as I have said, are still a cause of real concern today. The tendency for particular proprietors to extend their sphere of influence- I am not referring in any way to profit now but to their sphere of influence- over all 3 media is a tendency which, I believe, is growing but which certainly has not been abated and which, I suggest, is of real concern to the people of this nation.
The Opposition’s attitude to this Bill, as expressed in another place and as expressed in this place today by Senator Guilfoyle, is to me difficult to understand when the history of this legislation, going back over more than a quarter of a century, is considered. It seems to me that the Opposition has 2 standards in relation to this matter and that its attitude expresses 2 standards. It has one standard when in Opposition and another standard when it is in Government. I think that is proved by the fact that in 1948 when the Broadcasting Control Board was established by amending legislation in that year, the cry of nationalisation was raised by the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition. That word was specifically used in the debates. In the 1956 Bill, however, a different attitude was expressed because the present Opposition was then in government. The need for control was very clearly recognised by the Postmaster-General of that day. I think that his speech is worth quoting from for the purpose of showing that that is so. In dealing with the 1956 Bill, he said:
Clause 40 also prescribed in Division 4 of Part III, the conditions to be observed by the licensees of commercial stationsboth television and broadcasting- in relation to their programs. I invite the attention of the House especially to the latter provisions because ever since there has been talk of the introduction of television into Australia, genuine fear has been expressed by large sections of the community that the introduction of television would have unfortunate effects on some sections of the population, particularly on children.
The Royal Commission on Television considered that selfregulation would not be sufficient to secure that commercial television programs would be of suitable standards to satisfy the public.
I pause there to say that the Opposition has obviously changed its mind. The Postmaster-General in 1956 continued:
The Commission recommended a reserve of authority to ensure ‘that commercial programs will, in the broadest sense, serve the public interest’. With those considerations in mind, the Government proposes, . . . that a licensee should bc required to provide programs which comply with standards determined by the Board and to vary his programs, if so directed by the Board, so that they shall conform with those standards . . . it is essential to ensure that television programs are of a proper standard. I do not want to leave any possibility of misunderstanding here. The responsibility for ensuring that television programs are of a proper standard is being imposed on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which recently was strengthened with this objective in mind. The Government expects the Board to discharge its duties in this field fearlessly. 1 wish to make it clear that the Government will stand behind the Board in its administration and will not tolerate any abuse of the new medium by licensees or advertisers or anyone else. This is a matter of vital importance which I know has caused considerable public concern. I give an unqualified assurance that every effort will bc made to ensure not only that television will not cause any harm to the people of Australia but that it will as far as practicable be a positive benefit.
Those words have been rejected today by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition. Yet they were the words of those parties in 1956. I ask why it is that the Opposition has changed its attitude from that expressed in the extract from the speech that I have just read. Following that line, the curious thing is that for more than a quarter of a century one of the prime functions of the Board as expressed in section 16(1) (c) of the present Act has been, and the words are important, ‘to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programs are provided to serve the best interests of the general public’. The emphasis has been placed on ‘the best interests of the general public’. The words to qualify the noun ‘programs’ are extremely wide- ‘adequate and comprehensive’- and although in 1948 the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition opposed the establishment of the Board that was set up by the legislation of that year, in 23 years of government it did nothing whatsoever to alter the power that was given by the 1948 Act. During that period of 23 years it introduced 21 amendments to the legislation, and one can search the record of debates in relation to those 2 1 Bills and one will not find, I suggest, any assertion that the powers conferred by the 1948 legislation had been abused or were not necessary. So 1 feel 1 am justified in saying that the Opposition has double standards, one when it is in opposition and one when it is in government.
I would suggest in a broad approach to this legislation that the Opposition’s attitude is based on a misconception. It is interesting to note that when the Opposition’s attitude to this legislation was being stated in another place the gravamen of the attack on it was that the powers that were given by section 16, as it would read if these amendments were agreed to, were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. That was the beginning of the attack by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). It was repeated more than once in the course of his speech. Now when the Government yields on that matter and proposes, as the Minister for the Media has said will be done, that in committee, if this Bill reaches the committee stage, to insert a provision that the basic regulatory powers of the authority be subject to scrutiny by Parliament in the same manner as regulations are, the Opposition virtually dismisses that by a reference of a few words and ignores it. It seeks to put its opposition on a much broader basis and in doing so I suggest that it is succumbing to the hysterical outbursts of some vested interests a few months ago who thought they saw in this legislation a means for the Government, not for the Authority, to exercise improper control over, in particular, the television medium.
Are we by this legislation doing anything more than other countries have found to be desirable? I suggest not and one only has to look at the position in England and in Canada to see that the powers given by this legislation, which are really powers to clarify legal doubts that have arisen, are in no way different from what is considered proper elsewhere. I refer to the English Act which imposes a duty on the authority in Great Britain in these terms: . . to ensure that the programs broadcast by the authority in each area maintain a high general standard in all respects and, in particular, in respect of their content and quality and a proper balance and wide range in their subject matter, having regard both to the programs as a whole and also to the days of the week on which and the times of the week at which the programs are broadcast.
Without going into the detail of the situation in Canada, I simply quote one section from the Canadian Broadcasting Act 1968 which states:
The programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should be varied and comprehensive and should provide reasonable balanced opportunity for the expression of different views on matters of public concern and the programming provided by each broadcaster should be of high standard using predominantly Canadian creative and other resources.
I ask the Opposition: In what way does section 1 6, as it would be amended if these amendments were agreed to, go beyond powers which in those 2 countries at least have been considered appropriate? ls the Opposition’s attitude consistent, having regard to the existing provisions of the Act? Senator Guilfoyle referred to section 1 7 of the Act which gives the Board power in these terms: In exercising its powers and functions under the Act to make such orders, give such directions and do all such things as it thinks fit. That has been the position since 1948. It is true, as I understand it, that section 17 has seldom been used but it does seem to me that if the Opposition succeeds in defeating the second reading of this Bill it will be necessary for the Board, as it would remain, to consider exercising those powers. I also ask the Opposition: Why does it ignore section 99 of the present Act which states:
A licensee shall provide programmes and shall supervise the broadcasting or televising of programmes from his station in such manner as to ensure, as far as practicable, that the programmes are in accordance with standards determined by the Board.
Of course, it is pursuant to that power that certain standards have been laid down. I regret to have to say this, but the Opposition does not appear to me to be sincere in its attitude in relation to this measure because when it was in government in 1972 it was advised that there were legal difficulties and doubts in relation to the exercise of its functions. There can be no doubt that it was given such advice, and as a result of that advice Senator Cotton, in the Ministerial office that he then occupied, made public statements to the effect that the then Governmentthat is, in 1972- would rectify that position. He made 2 such statements, the first on 8 December 197 1 in answer to a question by Senator Douglas McClelland. Following difficulties with one station, he made a second statement on 7 April 1972 that the then government would introduce legislation to overcome the legal difficulties that had arisen. He made a similar statement on 28 April 1972. Senator Douglas McClelland directed a question on 16 May 1972 in this Senate to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General and the same answer was given. I quote from Senator Greenwood ‘s reply:
My colleague, Senator Cotton, when Acting PostmasterGeneral, indicated that it was the Government’s intention to bring down legislation to clarify the law.
If- I say ‘if; I should perhaps say ‘since’- the Government by a number of clear pronouncements in late 1971 and early 1972 stated its intention to legislate to obviate the legal difficulties that had arisen, is the Opposition now suggesting that it would have done so in a way which fell short of the method that is provided for in this Bill especially if one adds to it in accordance with the Minister’s undertaking the inclusion of a provision that determinations of the Authority in a very wide area would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny as are regulations. I question therefore the sincerity of the Opposition because- I think this is absolutely vital to judging its attitude- for over a quarter of a century the Board has had power and it has had the statutory function of ensuring that adequate and comprehensive programs are provided to serve the best interests of the general public. It has had power to make orders to give effect to those powers and functions and, under section 99, it has had a direct control over standards. If you add all those together where is the room for the public criticism that this was going to become controlled by a juggernaut- I earlier referred to the newspaper headline in which that description was used- and where is the room for the Opposition ‘s criticism which enabled Senator Guilfoyle when she spoke earlier today to use such emotive expressions as ‘an outrage’ so far as the public and the mass media were concerned? Another of her expressions was ‘total control, unlimited and undefined’. A third expression was infringement of freedom of the Press’. A fourth expression was ‘intrusion into every function of radio and television media’. I suggest that the Opposition cannot be judged to be genuine in its decision to oppose the second reading of this Bill because when in Opposition before 1949 and while in government for 23 years and now, it is faced with a situation in which whatever protestations it made against the so-called nationalisation- I have referred to the speech of the Postmaster-General in 1956- it has accepted a situation in which there ought to be pretty strict control over such an important medium as television. The Opposition’s attitude as expressed by Senator Guilfoyle this afternoon just does not bear up to any logical scrutiny.
Senator Guilfoyle also dismissed, I thought somewhat ungraciously, the attitude of the Australian Children’s Television Action Committee. I will quote from one of its publications of which most honourable members will be aware. In the issue of October 1974 it pointed out something that I believe it is appropriate should be borne in mind specifically when it is realised that the Opposition is about to kill this Bill. It said:
Society has recognised that its most precious resource is its children and that it has a responsibility for undertaking a positive program of environment directed to meet the particular needs and interests of children. It is hardly necessary for us to point out that in the case of television this has not happened. The Broadcasting Control Board has excellent standards, but because it has no power to enforce them they are tragically largely ignored. There is more than sufficient evidence to show that television plays a large part in the lives and development of Australian children, that the entertainment programs provided now and any time during the 18 years of Australian television have not, except in rare and isolated cases, been of a quality to advantageously influence children’s development in any area. Children are not only continually exploited by seductive and misleading advertising, but are bombarded with a massive amount of violence which increasing amounts of research show to be detrimental to a child ‘s mental health.
One would ask the Opposition: Does it dispute that general proposition? If not, why is it not more anxious to ensure that the principle which it recognised for 23 years in government is given practical effect by the amendments which are sought in this Bill before the Senate? I have said that the essential purpose of this Bill is to clothe the Authority with a power commensurate with its functions. I have referred to section 17 of the existing Act. Why is the Opposition not prepared to have the Authority given the broad general power which is contained in paragraph (a) of clause 6 of the Bill before the Senate? That clause was criticised in another place and it is worth reading to see what validity the criticism has. It says: . . The Authority shall have power to do all such things as are necessary for the effective exercise of the functions of the Authority and, in particular, but without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Authority shall have power;
Various paragraphs then set out the scheme of the present Act. The matter has been treated publicly and in another place on the basis that that provision which I have just read confers some magic power, some stealthy power to use an expression used earlier this afternoon by Senator Guilfoyle, to do something that it was never intended the Board should have power to do. I point out that when it is analysed it is simply an enabling provision which has its counterpart in numerous statutes of this Parliament. It is usual when an Authority is given certain functions to give it a power to carry out those functions. If not, why should the Parliament impose the function or state the function or declare the function in the first place? To mention examples of statutes in which a similar power is contained in order to permit the function to be carried out, I need mention only the Australian National Airlines Act, the Australian Tourist Commission Act, the Australian Shipping Commission Act and the Australian Wool Corporation Act, all of which have general powers identical with that contained in clause 6 (a) of this Bill and none of which has ever been suggested as an unnecessary or an excessive power. I submit to the Senate that there is just no substance in the claim that that power is an unnecessary power or an excessively wide power. The proposal in the Bill before the Senate to remedy the defect which the present
Opposition when in government in 1972 was formally and legally advised did exist, is a proposal which really can be split into 4 parts. Firstly- I have already dealt with this-that contained in clause 6 (a); secondly, that contained in clause 6 (b) which simply adds to the existing function of the Board the words ‘or programs containing matter of any class or character specified in the determination’. I do not doubt that violence would be a matter which would attract the attention of the Authority primarily hi relation to that power. Is the Opposition prepared to be judged on the basis that it rejects to the Authority the power to control violence in a proper way? That is the effect of the Opposition’s attitude. The third provision, designed to remedy the existing defects, is contained in clause 6 (d). I shall read that clause because I feel that the failure to read and to understand it probably is the reason why there has been so much misinformed comment on this Bill. It inserts the following new paragraph to section 16(3):
This is in relation to broadcasting and television programs-
Apart from the fact that that provision puts in proper legal perspective the powers of the Authority to carry out its functions, I ask: Wherein does it differ from the existing power in section 99 of the present Act? As I have said, that section gives a power to the Board to determine standards and to require those standards to be observed by the proprietors of broadcasting and television stations and an ultimate power of direction by the Board. Wherein is there a difference? If there is no difference wherein lies the justification for the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill?
I said that there were 4 basic ways in which the present defects were sought to be remedied. I have dealt with three of them. The point I wish to make is that in none of those three new provisions is there any question of ministerial interference. This Bill has been presented by some members of the media, pursuing their ‘right’ to have freedom to write what they like, as a Bill which was brimful of ministerial control- ‘the Juggernaut’, as the ‘Age’ writer described it. In none of the 3 provisions so far that I have considered is there any question of ministerial control. It is a gratuitous insult to the Authority which the Bill proposes to set up in place of the present Board to suggest that it would permit itself to be subject to any ministerial dictation or control.
I ask members of the Opposition whether they will also answer this question: In the 23 years in which the Opposition parties were in government was there any instance in which it could fairly be claimed, and perhaps the Government blamed for it, that there had been an improper exercise of the powers of the Board as those powers were spelled out in the 1948 legislation? The second question I ask the Opposition is: Is there any instance in the past quarter of a century or more, since the 1948 Act right up to the present, in which it can be suggested that there has been any improper ministerial attempt to influence the Board? If the answer to each of those 2 questions is no, and I believe that would be the truthful answer, wherein is there any place for the Opposition’s criticism of this Bill? It is simply, in my submission to the Senate, a case of the Opposition’s parroting the attitude that it took in 1948 when, in the debates in the House of Representatives, the word ‘nationalisation’ was intruded to a nauseous degree. It is not a question of nationalisation. It was not a question of nationalisation in 1948. The suggestion that it is, as I have said, does an extreme disservice to a board which I suggest has been an adornment to the radio and television industries for a very long period. I should have thought that the Opposition, knowing that its attitude may result in the destruction of this legislation at the second reading stage, would have been at pains in fairness to mention at least some of the safeguards in relation to the exercise of these newly arranged powers of the Authority. But it did not do so.
I have not overlooked the fourth manner in which the defects are proposed to be remedied. I will come to that later. I want to mention the question of safeguards now. In the first place the Government has met the main objection of the Opposition in another place, namely that the powers of the Authority would not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. As I have said that concession received scant mention in Senator Guilfoyle ‘s speech on behalf of the Opposition. Secondly, proposed new sub-section (3b) which is contained in clause 6 (e) meets another Opposition objection in another place because it provides
Rules and standards determined by the Authority under paragraph (e) of sub-section (3) shall be of general application and shall not be expressed to apply to a particular commercial broadcasting station … or particular commercial television station . . .
There is no question of any station being singled out for some special treatment of an adverse or prejudicial character to its programming. The Authority, when it made a determination of this sort, would know that its determination would be subject to the scrutiny of this Parliament and to disallowance by either House in the same way as a regulation is subject to disallowance.
Again I suggest that it would be a complete insult to the Authority to suggest that it would capriciously, arbitrarily or wrongly exercise a power which will be expressed, if the Minister’s amendment had a chance to be considered and passed by this Senate, so carefully by this proposed amendment. In other words every determination of the Authority of the type of which we are speaking can come before this Parliament and be openly debated and if the Parliament considers it wrong it is disallowed. That, I suggest, is a completely democratic approach. Indeed, reading the speeches made in the House of Representatives on this Bill reveals that it was really a basic amendment which the Opposition then wanted. It has got its amendment and now it shifts its ground. By that it ought to be judged.
I said that there were 4 prime ways in which the present difficulties were sought to be rectified. I have dealt with three of them. I have emphasised that with respect to those three, there is no question of any ministerial power or control over the Authority. The fourth is contained in proposed new sub-section (3 a) which is inserted by clause 6 (e). It deals with programs of Australian origin. I point out 2 things because I think they are important in judging the Opposition’s stance. The first is that for the first time in these amendments the Minister is mentioned so far as powers are concerned. But the approval of the Minister can only be an approval of requirements which have been considered and thought desirable by the Authority. The Minister has no power of unilateral action. He can only, under the clear words of proposed new subsection (3a), give his approval to or withhold it from proposals which are made by the Authority itself. It is not a question of the Minister’s suddenly emerging one day and for some ulterior, stealthy motive deciding that he will act under proposed new sub-section (3a). He cannot do so.
The second point I want to make is that even if this Bill is defeated and even if proposed new sub-section (3a) therefore does not become law it would still in my submission be the very clear duty of the Minister to take every possible step to ensure that there was a proper content of programs of Australian origin. That, as I have said, is specifically written into the Canadian legislation. Any Minister who permitted a situation to arise in which, in particular, television stations could ignore the present points system and the principle which is contained in proposed new sub-section (3a) would be in dereliction of his duty. Otherwise, the public would be exposed to a situation in which some channels- I do not say all- would saturate the public with nonAustralian origin material acquired cheaply and, I suggest, not to the edification of the Australian public.
When I mention the Australian public I return to the fact that for over a quarter of a century the present Opposition, which was in government for a very large part of that period, and the present Government have accepted it as proper that a prime function of the Board should be to control programs, from the point of view of their adequacy and comprehensiveness, to serve the best interests of the general public. It is the public interest which is the test, and I was therefore surprised to hear Senator Guilfoyle say this afternoon that the Opposition even opposed the extension of the duty of consultation which is contained in section 16 (4) of the Act. She suggested that it was sufficient for the Board to consult representatives of the stations- to use the expression used in section 16 (4). Surely that Opposition attitude is ignoring the fact that the persons with the principal interest in ensuring adequate and comprehensive programs are the members of the public themselves. This is not a matter to be decided over a glass of sherry by members of the Board and the television stations; this is a matter in which- and I go as far as to say this- trade unions, and certainly the whole mass of the public, have a very pertinent interest. For the Opposition to deny consultation so that that interest can find expression is to me incomprehensible. I have referred to the safeguards which the Opposition virtually ignored, and I have referred to the fact that the only personal ministerial power contained in these amendments relates to the approval of requirements in relation to Australian content, as it is briefly termed. Surely any person who has as open mind would say that that was a proper approach.
The second matter that is dealt with in this Bill, and which also attracted the Opposition’s disapproval, relates to the period for which licences may be renewed. The Minister in his second reading speech explained the position with respect to the period. The Government has gone as far as to accept a change from 3 months to 6 months as the minimum period, yet the Opposition is not satisfied with that. One wonders, if all of the amendments proposed by the Opposition in another place had been accepted, what other argument would have been used by the Opposition to destroy this legislation- legislation which at least in principle I have explained to the Senate was in its contemplation as long ago as late 1971 and early 1972. Unless the independence of Tasmania’s so-called independent senator asserts itself this afternoon in a manner which has not been very noticeable in recent months, it seems that this Bill is probably doomed. It is regrettable and it is a rather black day because I believe that the Opposition’s attitude in this matter has been dictated by an emotional, hysterical and illogical response to this legislation by vested interests, and I believe that that is not the way in which this Parliament ought to consider legisation of a type such as this which has such an important bearing on the interests of the public.
It is noticeable that in almost parrot fashion the Opposition mouths such expressions as ‘freedom of the Press’, ‘nationalisation’ and other similar expressions. I say that the Opposition mouths these expressions because they come in this context originally from the interests that see in this legislation- but I suggest see falsely- a means whereby the Government, by some sleight of hand which does not appear in the legislation but which is attributed to it, will act in a manner which will stop the perpetuation of the empires of some of the media representatives. It is those representatives who wish to deny proper control, especially in the area of television, a control which has been considered appropriate, I repeat, for over a quarter of a century. It is those representatives who would deny to a responsible authority- I emphasise that it is a responsible authority- the right to scrutinise their programs. I believe that the media representatives who initiated the opposition to this legislation simply wish to bestride the communications industry and will not brook any interference in their licence, which I suggest is not just the statutory licence but a licence to do what they like.
Simply to bring the matter up to date, I believe from what has been said by members of the Labor Party over more than a quarter of a centuryand it was accepted by the Opposition when it was in government for nearly 23 yearsthat this Senate ought not tolerate that emotive and self-interested approach to legislation which is designed to give legal efficacy to provisions which have been considered proper for so long and to legislation which, if it is refused, will, I believe, lead to a renewal of the defiance which some of the stations have adopted towards the Board over a long period, a defiance which was recognised so clearly that when Senator Cotton and Senator Greenwood were in government they were able to say that the then Government would legislate in order to prevent that defiance. If the Opposition wishes it to go out to the public- and I believe that it cannot blame anyone but itself- that it is opposed to giving appropriate legal clothing to functions which have been accepted as proper for so long, the Opposition has no one but itself to blame if it is misunderstood. It is still not too late for the Opposition to invite sensible amendments to this legislation rather than to reject it out of hand, as Senator Guilfoyle has intimated is the present intention of the Opposition. I support the measure.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to say a few words on this matter and to state the case of my Party. The position has been outlined by Senator Guilfoyle and we support what she said in presenting her case. I just cannot follow the previous speaker, Senator Everett, in some ways. On 3 different occasions in his speech he said that over a period of 25 years the present legislation has been quite satisfactory. If that is the case, why does the Government want to bring in these amendments now? On several occasions it has been stated that only on 2 occasions in the last 25 years have the findings of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board been questioned. If that is the case, what is wrong with the legislation as it now stands? There is even some doubt whether the Broadcasting Control Board has any power, has any teeth, under this legislation.
It was stated in the other place that if people believe that there is something in the Broadcasting and Television Act which is not in the Act it should be put in the Act. That reminds me a little of W. S. Gilbert’s lines in ‘The Mikado’-‘We haven’t had an execution for a long while; let’s have an execution’. The inclusion of many of the amendments contained in this Bill will give an enormous amount of power to the proposed Australian Broadcasting Authority. The Broadcasting Control Board is to be renamed the Australian Broadcasting Authority. I do not know what difference that will make to the power and authority of the people in charge. Despite what Senator Everett said, there will be no regulations which can be either allowed or disallowed by either House of the Parliament. The Broadcasting Control Board came out with a list of submissions in the form of a couple of publications. I understand that they have been accepted by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) and will become part of the Broadcasting Control Board’s policy and programming for broadcasting and television. They will not be subject to disallowance by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. They are not in any way that I can see related to existing regulations gazetted under the Act. It simply means that in future a board or some kind of statutory authority will be able to approve of rules and put them in the form of a book which the responsible Minister approves and in that way circumvent the Committee which has been established to look at such regulations and perhaps disallow them- the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
– I suggest that you should have a look at the legislation again, particularly the amendment.
– I would like to quote a particular provision. Clause 6 of the Bill refers to the ‘requirements approved by the Minister’. Is that not enough? It does not say that regulations have to be made or anything like that. I contend that such rules do not have to be gazetted in the Australian ‘Gazette’. I contend that they cannot be disallowed by either House of the Parliament.
– That is the very purpose of the legislation. If you do not get that into your head I suggest that your contribution is not worth while.
-I am just reading the Bill, Mr Minister, and that is what it says. I believe that that is putting an enormous amount of power in the hands of one person- the Minister for the Media of the day, whoever he might be. It is giving him power to control this form of the media. As he is the Minister for the Media it surely must be the basis for the controlling of other parts of the media. We would not like to see at some future date, as a result of this power growing, this matter of socialism versus private enterprise getting round to the newspapers or other forms of the media and its being said that a newspaper has to have its leading article on its front or back page or that it has to have certain items on certain pages. That could easily come about because of the way in which this matter is developing. That is one of the things we are questioning.
We were told this morning by the Minister for the Media, in answer to a question, about a segment of a ‘Four Corners’ program not being broadcast in Queensland last weekend. I did not know that it was not broadcast in Queensland.
The Minister is to have a look at the matter and tell us the reason later. I question also the idea of altering the name of the body to the Australian Broadcasting Authority from the Broadcasting Control Board. What was wrong with the previous title? Is there something in the Public Service Act or something like that which alters the authority of the people involved in this case? I believe that there is too much generality in this Bill.
As Senator Guilfoyle said, we of the Opposition do not question the position regarding the amount of Australian content in programs. We support that but we do not think that unlimited power should be given to the Minister, through the Board, just to agree to these rules which, as I have already said, are not really the same as regulations. Another aspect of this legislation I wish to question is the granting of a licence for a period of only 3 months. How can a person contract for films for the future on a 3 months licence? He would not have a ghost of a chance. For some time I have been a member of an advisory committee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I know how far ahead it has to contract for and buy its films. These sorts of things have to be taken into consideration all the time. Films have to be bought and contracted for several years ahead. That cannot be done just overnight. One just cannot go out and do so on the strength of a 3 months to 3 years or, as it is now, 6 months to 3 years licence. The people who run the broadcasting facilities would not know where they were going from day to day. Their assets would be threatened. They could not make any plans for the future. That is all I want to say about this Bill. The Australian Country Party goes along with the case set out by Senator Guilfoyle.
– My remarks also will be brief. I am pleased to support the Opposition’s view that this Bill should be defeated. In fact, if the Opposition had proceeded in this chamber with its move in the Lower House to amend the Bill suitably I would have voted for the defeat of every amendment and left the Bill in a state completely obnoxious to the Opposition so that it would have had to defeat it on the motion for the third reading of the Bill. That is certainly the course I would have followed if the Opposition had done in this House as the Opposition did in the House of Representatives. I have taken that view after a great deal of discussion with many people on all sides of the question of whether this amending Bill should be passed.
I had spoken in the first instance to television interests, including the local television management in South Australia. I have spoken to representatives of the Broadcasting Control Board and I have spoken to representatives of radio and to other people interested in this matter. Like, I am sure, other honourable senators I have been inundated by requests to oppose these amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act on behalf of the children of Australia because of the standard of the program it has been said will be foisted on them if the Bill is passed. Out of all of this conjecture, statements and assessments I have concluded that the Bill is too dangerous to be passed.
Senator Everett can say that it is an emotional decision if he likes, but I believe that the Bill is dangerous because there is a very great rush at the moment to control the media in Australia. There have been words spoken about this matter in debates on other Bills in this House. Again I draw the attention of the Senate to what is happening in other forms of the media, particularly in South Australia. I have in front of me a copy of what has happily been defeated in the South Australian Parliament. It is the Privacy Bill which, in a most obnoxious form, was introduced in South Australia to restrict greatly the ability of the media and the private citizen to speak its and his mind in the South Australian community. That Bill went as far as to make it an offence to use a fact which was likely to annoy. That was a legislative arrangement which the Dunstan Labor Government tried to institute in South Australia.
In addition to that, however, there has been a very great attempt at thought control in South Australia. On the eleventh floor of the Premier’s Department building there is a new barrage of electronic media which is feeding out taped messages to the Press. The day is fast passing in my State when the media can question Ministers of State at first hand. The Press is to receive and is receiving recorded messages as answers to its queries. Of course no searching inquiry can be made of recorded messages. One will receive simply what the Government will give. It has reached such a state in South Australia that the public has never been told, for instance, that the State Government Insurance Office has an accumulated loss of $4m. The media is not interested in printing it because the Premier of the day has said: ‘It is all right. We will be making a loss for the next 10 years. I have told you it is all right and it is all right.’ The public of South Austrafia has never been told and is not likely to be told. That is a reverse type of thought control. 1 abhor the situation that could develop under this Bill when very considerable additional controls would be given to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I have been told that in certain quarters of the television management area there has been a pervasive influence of threat that has come out of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s view of the situation, and that it had been expected that this legislation would come before the Parliament because certain statements needed the backing of legislation and certain powers had to be confirmed. The Minister has gone too far. If he wanted to strengthen existing powers, he should have tried to strengthen existing powers. He should not have tried to spread a net of this width and strength that has certainly greatly alarmed the media wherever I have met its members. One can assume only that this Bill is really a statement of no confidence in the existing negotiating powers of the Board. I could not imagine that the Board, with the powers in the existing Act, could not effectively go to management of the media and demand and get co-operation. Its basic power is the power not to renew a licence. If that is not a basic power, I do not know what is. Therefore, the atmosphere in which the Minister brings this Bill into the Senate is not a happy one. There has been this attempt in South Australia. The Minister has said in the Senate in answer to a question that it is Government policy to have a national newspaper. He did not explain how far government thinking has gone on this matter. I do not wish to misrepresent him, but I think he said that it is under discussion. He certainly left the matter in the air in the sense that he said that it was current government policy.
– 1 think you will find that I said it is government policy to conduct a feasibility study.
– Yes. I will not misrepresent the Minister. I do not wish to do so. I accept what he said. I think it serves my purpose equally as well that it is government policy to have a feasibility study into the proposition to have a national newspaper in Australia. I utterly reject the thought that there should be such a vehicle. I say to the Minister that it is not a good atmosphere in which the Minister asks the Senate to approve extensive increases in the Control Board ‘s powers. With the policy standing as it is in that regard, the example of what another type of Labor government will do in a State and the powers that the Minister asks for now, I must vote against this Bill.
It is conceivable that there could be some interference with the presentation of the news or some slanting of reporting from a private source, but it is quite ridiculous to say that there is no risk of that from a government controlled source. It is quite fatuous to insist that one has a better morality than the other in relation to what it could do to twist the news media. If we look at what has happened in other countries we see very many instances of governments using and twisting the media and in fact re-writing history by their use of the media. This is going on in very many countries at the moment. We do not want to give our Government the means to do that in this country. We want to leave established the checks and balances that exist today. If after some further time the Board requires an increase in or a substantiation of its power to meet future challenges that will be engendered to its determinations, let this Minister or some other Minister bring the proposal to the Senate. Whoever the Minister is, he should realise that in solving the problem he should not bring forward a blanket proposal such as the proposal that is now brought forward.
I do not believe we should be extreme in passing this Bill. We should meet the situation and be encouraging the Board to be as co-operative as it can with private industry. I pay tribute to the leaders of the television and radio networks that have spoken to me, to the views that they have and to the track record that they have. In my opinion and in my experience they have not been obstructive to the desires and wishes of the Control Board. Why should they be penalised? Why should they be threatened? Why should their future development be cast under some sort of cloud because of a few who might cause a malfunction in the system? As I understand it, the negotiating powers of the Board have not been fully used in respect of its intentions if it says that its Act at the moment is not strong enough.
I do not distrust the present Minister, whose work I have admired on a number of occasions, but that is not the point in passing legislation. The point is this: To what extent would powers be put into the Act if this amending Bill were passed? The proposed Act would be available to some future Minister, of whatever type of politics, whose intensity of administration and determination to control is as yet unknown to the Parliament. For those reasons I will join the Opposition in voting to defeat this Bill.
– I was very interested in the comments of Senator Everett when he said that no doubt the Opposition had been influenced by vested interests. I want to refute that statement. This is not the case. The Opposition respects the fact that the people of this country have a vested interest in what happens in the area of communication, whether it is in radio, in television or in the Press or any of the media. We do and should continue to cherish the freedoms of this country. At the same time we should never allow them to be eroded in any way. Control itself should be exercised only by laws, but within those laws we can still have our rights and our freedoms. In having and applying those rights and freedoms we should be able to live within the law and to be protected by the law. One of the main freedoms in this country is our freedom of speech. That is something of which we have always been able to boast proudly, and I trust of which we in this nation always can boast. At the same time we should never put it at risk in any way, because as far as I am concerned, God help this country when we no longer have freedom of speech. We have seen what has happened in other countries. We have seen the tragedies of other countries where people have even been suppressed because they were not allowed the freedom to thinkCzechoslovakia for example. This Bill gives indications of eroding those freedoms.
I appreciate that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) in his second reading speech stated that the Government has made certain amendments to this Bill. The Government has been made aware of the necessity for those amendments because in the other place the Opposition made it clear and spelt out very firmly the grave areas- I emphasise the word ‘grave’- of concern in the proposed legislation. There is so much concern, in fact, that it was made clear by Mr Killen in leading the debate for the Opposition in the other place that the Opposition would be opposing the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The Opposition did that in the other place but by the sheer brutality of numbers it was not successful. He indicated at the same time that we, the Opposition in this place, would oppose the second reading. I was pleased to hear Senator Hall say today that he will be supporting us in our opposition to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
The Minister made certain amendments to the Bill but they do not go far enough. There are still many areas within it whereby there will be control by the proposed Authority in areas that I consider are completely unnecessary and wrong. Further, the Minister himself will still have quite a say by way of ministerial discretion or direction. There is too much erosion of freedom. We will be placed in a situation where there will be unnecessary interference in the freedom of operation of television and radio.
We do not disagree that there should be rules and standards. The broadcasting and television stations also agree with this because they want their guidelines and they want to know the exact area in which they can work. Having said that, how much further does the Government want to go? This Bill does not clarify or set out the guidelines. As Senator Everett said earlier when he was criticising our Party when in government, we had certain regulations and certain guidelines for the media. But this Bill does not stop there, it goes much further. The original intention of this Bill was to provide so much ministerial control that one could state firmly that the Minister would have had total control. Let me hasten to add that I have great respect for the Minister for the Media. I do not think for a moment that he would be a man who would abuse that control, but the Minister in charge of this portfolio at present will not always be the Minister in charge of it and it is the responsibility of this Parliament to legislate in such a way that the rights of the people and freedom of speech are protected. We cannot work on the immediate position and say that we trust the integrity of the Minister in charge of this legislation and the operation of the Act. This matter goes far beyond that; it goes far beyond personalities. Personalities change but the Act goes on. That is our view about this legislation.
Within the Bill various things are not defined. Mention is made of rules, standards, determinations, directions, orders, conditions, regulations, requirements. I cannot find a definition for any of those words yet they are in the Bill and they relate to grey areas as far as I am concerned. I would be pleased if the Minister could give me an explanation or a definition later on. These things need to be spelled out but that has not happened in any way at all.
I refer to clause 6 (b) of the Bill which seeks to amend the principal Act. That paragraph refers to ‘programs containing matter of any class or character specified in the determination’. This is an area whereby the proposed Authority can have quite a deal of control over programming. This concerns me greatly because the process of programming takes in such things as news and films for television. What can happen in this area? There can be influence, persuasion and direction by the proposed Authority over the broadcasting and television stations as to what will be shown and when it is shown. There are such things as peak viewing times. Perhaps the Government could say that it never denied a station the right to show a certain program but it could move that program from peak time and have it shown in another time slot.
Once there is interference in programming the Government is doing more than just having a say in the operation; it is interference in basic freedom. The Government also would be interfering in the efficiency of the operation and probably in the monetary return of a company. This is allimportant. This Bill refers to commercial television and broadcasting stations, not the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We are talking purely of commercial stations and they get no financial assistance from the revenue. I am not criticising the ABC for this. We accept the ABC’s operations in radio and television as being individual and entirely separate and its expenditures are met from general revenue, but where do the commercial stations go when they run down their liquidity? The only way they can operate is as efficient businesses, and if they do not do so they will not be businesses much longer. Interference by the proposed Authority or by a Minister could place a company in dire financial straits, be it a radio company or a television company. I am referring now to the business side of the matter, not just the aspect of the right of freedom of speech.
One other thing was said by Senator Everett today. I think he expressed probably why the Government is keen to have this legislation. He referred to the monopoly of mass communications. If I am not correctly quoting him perhaps he will correct me. He referred to tripartite control of the Press, radio and television by one man or one company. I think that may be at the base of this legislation. There is a fear, a suspicion, that eventually the media will come under the control of one man or a monopoly, or perhaps one or two groups. What is proposed in this legislation is that there be a transfer of control from that one man, that monopoly or that group to the Government so that the Government has the monopoly and the control. I do not want to see a monopoly or an individual have control in this area or in any other commercial area in this country. I do not support the concept of monopolisation. But having said that, I do not want to see this Government in charge of the media of this country. God help this country if we ever reach the situation that applies in some other countries where the government controls communications. I do not want to see government control over the Press, television and radio, in fact the whole of the media of this country, because it virtually would set up a total propaganda machine for itself.
I refer to other areas of this Bill and draw the attention of honourable senators to clause 6 (e) relating to a proposed new sub-section which states:
Rules determined by the Authority in pursuance of paragraph (e) of sub-section (3) may include requirements, being requirements approved by the Minister, with respect to the broadcasting of programs or with respect to the televising of programs that are, as defined in the determination, programs of Australian origin.
I would be one of the first to support the encouragement of more Australian participation in the development of the arts in this country. I think this is an excellent concept. It is something which was started by John Gorton when he was Prime Minister of this country and it has been carried on by this Government. I give the whole concept my full support but I am not prepared to give the Minister the right to say what will and what will not be the content of television programs, be they of Australian origin or be they of some other origin, because I think that such a decision should go further than one man. I will not support this concept even though I emphasise again that I do support the concept of the encouragement of the development of the arts in this country and of greater participation by Australians and the showing of more Australian programs within our radio and television system. Developments along these lines are taking place.
Today Senator Everett again made great play on section 99 of the principal Act which is dealt with in clause 13 of the Minister’s Bill. Here again we are dealing with the situation of the Minister wanting to take some control for himself. Clause 1 3 of the Bill proposes that section 99 of the principal Act be amended by omitting the words ‘standards determined by the Board’ and substituting other words. These words which it is proposed to substitute give further power to the Authority, which indirectly comes back to the Minister because the Minister’s amendments relate to clause 6 of the Bill, or section 16 of the principal Act. The Minister’s amendments are related directly only to paragraph (b) of proposed new sub-section (3B), but they leave open some of the other areas that are not covered by regulation or order of this Parliament. So there are situations in relation to which one could find loopholes in the Act.
Clause 14 of the Bill deals with section 100 of the principal Act, which is concerned with advertising. The Bill proposes an amendment to subsection (4), which reads:
A licensee shall comply with such standards as the Board determines in relation to the broadcasting or television of advertisements.
The Bill proposes to delete this sub-section completely. Sub-section (5) of section 100 of the Act reads:
A licensee shall not broadcast or televise advertisements on a Sunday except in such manner and in accordance with such conditions as the Board determines.
The Minister proposes by his Bill to delete the words ‘on a Sunday’. If the Minister’s proposal is accepted we will finish up with a very powerful sub-section of section 100 which will read:
A licensee shall not broadcast or televise advertisements except in such manner and in accordance with such conditions as the Board determines.
I want to return now to the area of commercialism. This Bill deals with commercial radio and television stations. Commercial radio and television stations live by advertisements. Under the Bill we find that the Authority will have a sayand a big say- in relation to the advertisements that are broadcast by the radio and television stations. Advertisements are the jugular vein of the various companies that run the radio and television stations. The Bill proposes an interference whereby these companies- let me be quite honest about this- could be slowly strangled if the Government and the personalities on the Authority were ruthless enough. If they wanted to go one step further- I am not saying that this will happen, but let us put it on the line because it could happen- we would then have the situation where the Government, having squeezed these companies down one by one, could pick them off. What would it do with them? It would take them in and nationalise them.
– Can you tell us how?
- Senator, if a company runs short of money and goes broke, it has had its chips. One only has to look at what is happening in the United Kingdom at the moment with its socialist Government; one by one big industries are slowly being bled to death. The Government picks up the tab and pays 40 per cent, 50 per cent or 60 per cent of the company’s worth and it gets control. That is what the game is all about. That is an inherent danger in this proposed legislation. That is another reason why I will not support it and why my Party will not support it. I repeat that it is no good saying that these things will not happen. It is no good saying that the legislation could lend itself to certain situations such as the one I have described but that that is not its intention. It is no good the Government saying: ‘We do not intend to do that’. We have already seen the Government’s attempt in regard to the Australian Film Commission. It tried to step in and provide not only for ministerial control of content of Australian films and short films but also for the Minister to have the ability to direct a picture theatre to show certain films. In other words, the Minister would have had such control that he would have been able to set up his own propaganda machine from production right through to distribution. That is one instance. Again I am not saying that it would have happened, but the proposed legislation contained the power for it to happen.
We have the same sort of power sitting in this Broadcasting and Television Bill. I repeat that it is no good saying that these things might not happen. The Pipeline Authority Bill was before the Senate not very long ago. Unfortunately we in the Opposition did not have the numbers to prevent it from becoming legislation but we pleaded with others who, collectively with us, would have made up sufficient numbers to block that legislation. We failed and the Government carried the day. The Minister in charge of the Bill was not concerned about the clauses in the legislation about which we were concerned. He said that what we feared would never happen. What has happened? Because of the interference of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) under that legislation it has been a disaster for this country. He has interfered from the northwest of Western Australia to the Redcliffe project in South Australia. One could go on, but I use that instance as an example. I refer to the recent move by the South Australian Government to provide for government interference in the media in South Australia. Governments are prone to do these things. We have seen the Film Corporation proposals and this television and radio Bill. Are the media next? My job as a member of this Parliament, as a member of this Senate, is to protect the rights and the interests of the people of this country. In the process of protecting those rights- I refer to the freedom of speech in this country- I have no alternative but to accept my responsibilities and to oppose this legislation.
-As a general rule I do not like undue government interference in the ordinary business affairs of the community. Honourable senators will realise that basically I do not like the general aims of a socialist government which seeks to control and interfere with as much business as possible. No matter what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said recently about how much he wanted free enterprise to be given a go, we must always remember that the aim of the Party now in control of the government benches in this place is control, and if possible total control, of most facets of the community. For that reason alone I think I would find it quite difficult to support the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) which proposes to give the Broadcasting Control Board much more say. I find it difficult to support the Bill particularly because the Board has rarely needed to resort to the power that it already has. That is one reason why I would be against most of the proposals which are attempted to be brought in by the Bill that we have before us.
We must also consider that the present Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) will not always be in charge of the Department that he now supervises with such obvious enthusiasm and interest. The Minister presently in charge of the media, I believe, is honest and reliable. As Senator Hall has said, we must admire the work that he has done in certain areas but the whispers that blow through the corridors of this place following Mr Whitlam ‘s desire to get rid of Mr Crean which obviously lead to a flow-on effect, are that Senator Douglas McClelland may not be the Minister for the Media much longer.
– Where did you hear that? Around your 6 chemist shops?
-He may be moved to something else. I said, if you had been listening Senator Milliner a moment ago -
– Where did you hear that? Around your eight chemist shops?
– I thought you said sue.
– No. I did not.
-Inflation has got to Senator Milliner. I have not got that many.
– You bought two more while I said it.
-Senator Milliner does not know the law very well because in Tasmania one is only allowed to have three.
– Yes, but you can get plenty of your friends to put their names in.
-One can get lots of people to put them in but they make more money by working for someone else than as a partner.
-Back to the Bill.
-Yes. I will come back to the Bill. Thank you very much, Senator Keeffe. We may not always have Senator Douglas McClelland in the position of being able to enforce or look at the regulations that come before -
– He has not been elevated yet.
-No. I said that the whispers that go through this place indicate that he could well be. I believe that this Bill will fail to pass. I believe that it is one of the Bills that should fail to pass this place. In the hands of the wrong person the powers that would be given by this Bill would enable much of the freedom of the radio and television stations to be removed. Senator Guilfoyle earlier today ably demonstrated just now this could happen. The powers under this Bill could be coupled with some other ideas the Government has, for instance, moving into the area of a newspaper. These things give me the impression- it is a sinister impressionthat the Government is up to no good with regard to the total freedom of the Press and other media.
We have to remember that in 1965 at its conference the Australian Labor Party decided to support the idea of a newspaper commission. We heard Senator Douglas McClelland say something about this by way of interjection a little earlier. But for all its faults, we do have at present a relatively free Press. Although it is not always extremely high quality Press, it is one that we do not want to see interfered with any more by the Government. The same applies to our commercial television and radio stations. If I had my way, that is the way it would stay. In fact, my opinion is that there has already been too much interference and too much control over the radio and television stations. I certainly will not be supporting any more administrative controls with the possible forcing down the necks of the television stations the official views rather than those at which they freely arrive.
Those people of Australia who value our present standards will be grateful that the Labor Government does not have full control over this Parliament at times like this. If it did, we would see all sorts of government interference in all sorts of ways. Australia, I think, would be much the worse for such interference. The shortage of numbers of Labor members in this place is, in my opinion, saving Australia rather than frustrating the Government. This is one area in which I am sure that the people of Australia will be glad to see the Senate reject the Bill totally. In my opinion this Bill must be defeated. It is dangerous. It could well be a part of Mr Whitlam ‘s Government’s insidious plan gradually to stifle free enterprise and freedom of speech in Australia. Because of the dangerous nature of the Bill I feel that the Senate should toss it out. It is a dangerous start to a dangerous total plan put up by politically desperate people. I will be voting against the second reading.
– Let me put it on the line, first and foremost, as straight as I can, that so far as the Labor movement is concerned its policy is that there shall be a dual system of radio and televisionnational and commercial. I think it is fair to say that the Whitlam Government has done more for the television industry, nationally and commercially, than any other government. I believe that that fact would have to be acknowledged by the overwhelming number of executives and licensees in the commercial sector of the industry. For instance, I shall name 3 or 4 matters that come readily to mind. Rather than have an overall percentage of Australian programming arrangements as existed under the previous Government, when we came to office we introduced a points system which gave commercial programmers complete flexibility in the program arrangements that they made, but providing for the employment of Australians.
We have not imposed any additional taxation provision on the television licensees. There has not been any increase in television station licence fees since 1 966 because we knew the huge costs that the stations were involved in in making conversions to colour television. We eliminated the wireless licences and television viewers licences for the public in order to assist to get colour television into the homes of as many working class people as possible. That will cost the Australian Government about $70m a year, thus spreading the coverage of colour and thus enabling the stations better to amortise their costs and get a greater return from their advertising.
We, as the Government, have substantially transferred a tremendous amount of Government advertising to television. Without having the exact percentage readily available 1 cannot give those figures but in terms of dollars and cents it has been a tremendous amount of transference from what was previously Press and classified advertising into the area of television and broadcasting. We knew that the stations were involved in heavy conversion costs and also had a responsibility, under the Government’s other policies, to meet costs of Australian productions. We have appointed to organisations, such as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and have recruited as officers of my Department, people who have been professionally involved in the industry; people who know the immediate problems; people who are prepared to talk to all sections of the industry.
I am absolutely amazed, if I may say so- by way of parenthesis- to see the Opposition opposing a provision brought down by this Government that not only shall the Australian Broadcasting Control Board confer with representatives of stations when they are considering program requirements but also that they should be enabled to confer with representatives of the trade union movement and others who are vitally interested in that area. However, as I said, we have appointed to the Control Board and to my Department people of this nature- people who are prepared to talk to all sections of the industry and people who understand the problems and have concern about the problems.
Let me say quite frankly that having lived, eaten and slept with this industry during the last 2 years I have developed- I am taking up a point made by Senator Hall- a very high regard for the overwhelming number of executives at managerial level in the industry who want to do something in co-operation with the Government towards the development and the fostering of an Australian culture. But unfortunately there are some people- admittedly they are in the minority- who could not care less. It is because those types of people exist in the industry, admittedly in the minority, that the Government has had to take this action. It is action that the previous Government said it would take but which it never did undertake.
Frankly I say quite openly that there has been a lot of sham and, if I might use the words, hypocritical talk in the attitude of the Opposition to this Bill today.
Senator Guilfoyle said that the Opposition, for instance, accepted that the Control Board had a responsibility to act in certain areas and she referred to those areas as technical and community standard areas. But she went on to say that to accept control of program content ‘leads us’- that is the Opposition- ‘to question the motives of the Government’. Therefore in one breathless sentence the Opposition, through Senator Guilfoyle, ripped up the whole tenor of the Act, because quite clearly under section 16(1) (c) of the Act one of the functions of the Control Board is to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programs are provided by commercial broadcasting stations and commercial television stations to serve the best interests of the general public. What Senator Guilfoyle was saying in that sentence was that it is all right for the Board to lay down technical and community standards but not standards in respect of programs, and that if the Opposition had its way it would move to delete section 16 ( 1) (c) from the existing Act.
Among the powers of the Board, specifically provided by an Act of Parliament which has been amended by a series of conservative governments, we find that the Board shall have power to determine the hours during which programs may be broadcast or televised. She would deny that power and Senator Guilfoyle went on to say that since this Government assumed office there has been an unprecedented interest in news programs both by the Board and by the Government. Let me tell honourable senators one of the things that has been done in respect of news programs. When I took office as Minister for the Media, Channel 0 in Brisbane- one of the metropolitan or capital city stations- did not have a news program and, far from wanting to suppress news, I made it a condition of renewal of its licence that it must provide a news service to the people that it served within a period of 12 months. That fortunately was readily acceded to by the executives of that station. Indeed, far from suppressing news or public affairs programs, under our points system there has been a 1 5 per cent increase in news and current affairs programs since this Government came into office. It is a complete sham and quite hypocritical for anyone to say that one of the ulterior purposes of this legislation is some attempt to suppress or to interfere with news programming arrangements.
We heard many expletives during the course of the debate. We heard such climatic and dramatic expressions as ‘revolution through mass communications’, ‘tyrannous legislation’, ‘the rights of the people’, ‘freedom of operation for the Press’, ‘the threat of nationalisation’ and other cliches that we have heard from the Opposition over a long period of years. Senator Young went on to say that the Opposition believed in rules and standards and that the stations wanted guidelines. True it may be that the stations want guidelines but, quite affirmatively, today the Opposition has indicated that neither it nor the stations want rules and standards. Surely that is the whole purpose of this ball game today.
I believe that the Australian people feel and have felt for a long time that the Broadcasting Control Board has a responsibility to determine what are to be regarded as children’s viewing programs. I believe that the Board has a responsibility to determine what it regards as family viewing programs, as prime time viewing programs or a program which features violence, and I believe that someone other than those who provide the programs should determine those things.
I believe that that is the wish of the Australian people and that they have believed that the Broadcasting Control Board always was vested with those powers. I believe that this Parliament always thought that the Control Board was vested with those powers and that the Australian people felt that the Broadcasting Control Board should have the responsibility to determine how much advertising is allowable. I consider that the Australian people want to ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has the power to determine what type of advertising should be allowed, for instance, during children’s viewing time and during family viewing time and so on, and that they believe there is a responsibility on the Board to determine how much programming should be of Australian origin. But by rejection of this legislation all those things that the Australian people believe to be the responsibility of the Board under powers they thought were vested in it are going to be denied the Board. Henceforth when I get letters of complaint about the time slotting of particular programs on children’s viewing time or in family viewing time, complaints about excessive advertising on television or the type of advertising on television during children’s viewing hours I will be able to say that because of the Opposition in this Senate the Control Board has no power to act.
Senator Guilfoyle said that there have been only 3 complaints about the Control Board’s standards. I intend putting those complaints on the record so that we will know what they were all about. At a meeting which the Board held with the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations- not with a station but with the Federation, or FACTS as it is known- on 2 1 May 1970, the Federation questioned the validity of paragraph 35 of the Board’s television program standards which read as follows:
Programs for Transmission on Sunday Morning
On Sunday morning, between 6.0 a.m. and 12.0 noon, no program shall be televised without the prior approval of the Board. In general, approval will not be given for the televising of programs other than-
d ) other matter of a similar nature to the foregoing,
news, excluding news commentaries and the replay of any sporting events, and
other matter as may be determined by the Board from time to time.
Except as otherwise approved by the Board all programs televised during these hours should be Australian in origin.
Subsequently the Board received the legal opinions which are included in a letter dated 1 July 1 970 from the then General Manager of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. The matter was referred by the Board to the Attorney-General’s Department. It was felt that the Board did not have the power to determine what should be transmitted on Sunday mornings. Anyone in Victoria who complains that the 4 stations on a Sunday transmit football replays has no one else to blame but the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. On 12 January 197 1, again dealing with Sunday morning programs, Television Corporation Ltd, commonly referred to as the Packer organisation, wrote under the specific title of ‘Meet the Press’ and inter alia stated:
Our belief is there is no authority for the Board to lay down that no program should be televised between 6.0 a.m. and 12.0 noon Sundays without the Board’s approval and indeed that the contents of circular letter T29 are not a “standard”.’
The Board replied to that letter on 12 March 1 97 1 saying, inter alia:
It is now apparent that it may be some time before the legal situation is clear.
Television Corporation went on to say:
We understand that there has been no further advice from you on the matter since your letter of 12 March 1971 and, as you know, we subsequently televised ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday mornings.
Now we are planning to transmit on Sunday mornings between the hours of 10.30 a.m. and 12.00 noon throughout the forthcoming Melbourne football season videotape replays of football matches played in Melbourne during that season. For the reason set out in TCN ‘s letter of 1 2 January 1 97 1 , we adhere to the view that the prohibition contained in circular letter T29 is invalid and that prior (or other) approval of the Board to the transmission on Sunday mornings of the aforesaid football replays, is not necessary.
As there has been no further advice from the Board since its letter of 12 March 197 1 , we assume that either the Board is still awaiting legal advice, or that such advice has been received and accords with the views set out in TCN ‘s letter of 12 January 1971.
We plan to proceed on the latter basis.
That was the challenge by TCN to the Board’s standards. On 14 March 1972 station GTV Melbourne informed the Board that it intended to transmit on Sunday mornings between 10.30 a.m. and 12 noon videotape replays of football matches.
On 30 March 1971 station TCN Sydney questioned the validity of the Board ‘s power to determine Australian content requirements under paragraph 25 of the Television Programme Standards in the following terms:
We refer to the Circular Letter (No. T43) headed ‘Australian Content in Television Programmes’ issued by the Board on 13 November 1970.
This letter states that a ‘Determination’ has been made under paragraph 25’ of the Standards concerning Australian content and related matters. Paragraph 25 provides that a licensee ‘shall comply with the requirements specified by the Board from time to time concerning the proportion of programme time to be occupied by programmes of Australian origin and the nature of such programmes. The Board may vary the requirements if circumstances arise which would prevent a station’s adequate compliance with them under reasonable conditions’.
The circular letter No. T43 dealing with the new requirements contains words similar to those which we have underlined above (see page 3 of letter at top and paragraph 3 of the Determination). It is these words which, in addition to the new requirements generally, are the cause of grave concern to us.
By way of explanation, we see in the underlined words suggestion that the Board may apply the new standards in different ways vis-vis individual stations. For example, if one station is unprofitable, the Board may ease the requirements as regards that station whilst applying them rigorously as regards the others. That the Board can, or can claim the right to, vary the requirements as between particular licensees is objectionable: that it may do so, relying solely upon its appreciation of circumstances generally and of circumstances applicable to a station in particular, appears to be a usurpation of a discriminatory power which can operate to the advantage of a particular station and to the disadvantage of another station, even though those two stations may bc in actual business competition within the same viewing area.
We have, therefore, sought Counsel’s opinion as to the validity of the Determination in question.
I interpolate to say that this was a determination of the Board so far as Australian content requirements are concerned, and bear in mind it is the specific written policy of this Government and of the Party that I represent that everything shall be done by a Labor government to increase the quantity and to improve the quality of Australian content. We are the only Australian political party that has in its platform a specific policy of that nature. The letter from station TCN Sydney dated 30 March 197 1 continues:
Counsel’s opinion is to the effect that the Determination is wholly invalid. One ground on which Counsel bases his view is the reservation by the Board to itself of a dispensing power to relieve individual licensees of the obligation imposed by the Act to observe the standards laid down by the Board. To say that the standard to be observed is such-and-such but that the Board may vary the requirements with respect to individual stations is not to prescribe a standard at all. The purpose of this letter is to seek an acknowledgment of the Board that the determination is invalid and an undertaking that until a new and valid determination is promulgated it will not require this Company to act in accordance with the present Determination. Any such new Determination would have to omit any provision similar to that underlined above.
If such acknowledgment and undertaking is not forthcoming this Company will make application to the appropriate Court for a declaration that the Determination is wholly invalid.
I have read that because Senator Guilfoyle queried my going to the annual conference of the Professional Musicians Union of Australia and telling the delegates that if this legislation giving the Board power to determine Australian content regulations is not adopted by the Senate, their jobs are in jeopardy. Of course they are. There can be no mistake about that. I say frankly- I have read it onto the record- that there was a clear and open challenge by one of the stations in 1971 or 1972, when the previous Government was in office, to prevent a certain amount of Australian content having to be put into the stations’ programs. The previous Government did nothing about the situation and we have determined, because we are bound to implement our policy of providing Australian content and quality in programming, that we must have the legislative power to bring that about.
– Did the station concerned adopt the points system?
– The station concerned has adopted the points system.
– Then what is the argument?
-Just let me say that the station concerned adopted the points system. It is not for me to say it adopted the points system, but I assure the honourable senator that if it does not accept the points system I will take action under section 85 to suspend or revoke the licence and then we will have it tested in the High Court or wherever it might be. We have set out to give co-operation, have consultation and undertake understanding. The simple fact of the matter is, in reply to the original query put by Senator Guilfoyle, that there has been a challenge to the power of the Board to determine rules and standards so far as Australian content requirements are concerned. Last year in December 1973, about 12 months ago to the day, the licence for a station came up for renewal. It was found that the station was behind in meeting the requirements of 4-hour school age children’s programs, and in approving the renewal of the licence I directed the Control Board to draw this matter to the attention of the station. The secretary of the Board forwarded to station TCN a renewal of the licence for 1 year commencing 1 December 1973. He went on to say that the Minister had directed that the company, as licensee, be reprimanded for its failure to meet the 4-hour school age children’s program requirement in the first period of the current statistical year. The Secretary of the Board then sought comments including details of plans to ensure that the requirement was met over the whole statistical period. In a letter subsequently sent on behalf of TCN this was said:
We refer to your letter of the 4 December 1973 (TCN/4) under cover of which license for the year commencing the I December 1973 was forwarded.
We note that in the same letter you said that in’ renewing the licence for TCN the Minister had directed that our company, as licensee, be reprimanded for its failure to meet the Four Hour School-Age Children’s program requirements in the first period of the current statistical year.
Setting aside any question of a ministerial right to reprimand’ we cannot accept that he had justification purporting to do so. Further, whilst the Board may be ‘concerned at the possibility that TCN will find extreme difficulty in making up the current discrepancy later in the year’, we feel obliged to question your request for ‘details of our plans to ensure that the requirement is met over the whole statistical period ‘.
As indicated in previous correspondence the problem is not an easy one, but is not being disregarded.
During the course of this debate we have heard suggestions that the industry should set its own guidelines, make its own rules and make and abide by its own standards. I say frankly that the overwhelming majority of executive people in the industry would satisfactorily do it, and do it well. Unfortunately there are some who I doubt very much would be prepared to do so. We as a government have an overall responsibility to the Australian people in this regard. After having introduced the Bill and then having a discussion with executives of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations we determined that we would amend the Bill so that the power would vest in either House of the Parliament and either House of the Parliament would have the right to reject the regulations that were determined by the Board. But apparently even an appeal of that nature to the highest court in the land is objectionable to the Opposition. What more can one do?
Now let me deal with the question of the licence period being from 6 months to 3 years. True it is that when we introduced this legislation we proposed a variable period from 3 months to 3 years for licences, in accordance with my Party’s policy. After discussion with the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations I decided to amend the legislation providing for licence periods varying from 6 months to 3 years. I was under the impression that that amended provision was not objected to. Certainly in legislation that was introduced by the previous Government in 1972 there was provision for a variable period for licences from 6 months to 3 years. After all the matter was referred to by an all-Party Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. Its second progress report dealt with all aspects of television and broadcasting including Australian content of television programs. Suggestions were made for strengthening the Board’s powers. One recommendation from the Committee was:
That the Board be empowered to recommend graded renewal periods to the Minister so that a licensee who, in the opinion of the Board, has not performed satisfactorily be faced with only a short renewal period. It was urged on us -
This is the Senate Standing Committee -
I am keeping my remarks short because I know from the expressions of opinion here today that the legislation will be automatically defeated. However, I wish to refer to another aspect. On 7 April 1972 the Acting Postmaster-General, Senator Cotton, issued a Press statement which stated:
The Government will be asked to consider an amendment to the legislation to clarify the powers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to regulate programs on Sunday morning.
The Acting Postmaster-General, Senator the Honourable Robert Cotton, in announcing this today said that an examination of the Board ‘s standards had been proceeding between the Board and the Attorney-General’s Department for some time but this was a long and complicated matter which would not be finished quickly.
However’, he said, ‘the action of station GTV in Melbourne in seeking a declaration from the Courts that the Board’s standards regarding Sunday morning programs are not valid makes it desirable for this point to be clarified at once.’
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Minister’s time has expired. The Minister has only half an hour to reply. I realise he was not aware of that.
Motion (by Senator Young) agreed to:
That an extension of time be granted.
– Thank you, Mr Acting President. I was under the impression I had an hour. I will only be about 2 minutes. I return to Senator Cotton’s Press statement of 7 April 1 972. It states:
The Minister said that he was taking the course of making the announcement immediately to avoid putting the station, the Commonwealth or any others to the expense and difficulty involved in legal action. This was particularly important in a matter which the Commonwealth recognised was open to doubt. ‘It is also’, he said, ‘desirable that the position be made clear for the benefit of licensees generally. ‘
He hoped that the Government would be able to consider the proposed amendment to the legislation within the next tcn days.
In the meantime Senator Cotton said he hoped that station licensees generally would respect the Government’s intentions and continue with the special types of programs which up to now have been regarded suitable for Sunday morning television.
Following that statement, on 28 April 1972 Senator Cotton, the then Acting PostmasterGeneral, issued another Press statement which stated:
The Government will legislate to make clear the powers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with regard to Sunday morning television programmes.
Announcing this today the Acting Postmaster-General (Senator Robert Cotton) said the Government had considered the situation which had arisen as a result of the challenge to the powers of the Board by station GTV in Melbourne.
Senator Cotton said the Government had for some time been engaged in a full scale review of the Board ‘s powers but this would take some time to complete.
However he was making an immediate announcement on the question of Sunday morning programs to protect a situation in which the existence of a number of programs of considerable value to minority audiences was threatened.
I could go on at length. I could talk, for instance, about the number of occasions on which stations are reported for engaging in excessive advertising. At the moment there are 3 reports immediately in front of me. But I have said enough. The fate of the legislation is known. If the Board is powerless to act in the interests of the Australian community in this regard I suggest we will be reverting to the law of the jungle.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 14 November, on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On behalf of the Opposition I indicate that this Bill, the Broadcasting Stations Licence FeesBill, and the Television Stations Licence Fees Bill are complementary to the Bill with which we have just dealt. If the Senate concurs I propose that these 2 Bills should be dealt with together as they are, as I have just said, complementary measures to the Bill which the Senate has just defeated. I indicate that the Opposition will also oppose these Bills.
– in reply- In view of the decision just taken by the Senate on the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1974 and in view of the fact that these 2 Bills are cognate Bills dependent on the outcome of the previous debate, we will press for the second reading of these Bills but we will not divide the Senate on them.
Question resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 14 November, on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Consideration of House of Representatives amendments.
House of Representatives amendments-
Proposed new clauses 7a, 8a, 8b and 17a.
Clauses to be amended:
The validity of an act done by the Commission shall not be questioned in any proceedings on a ground arising from the fact that the occasion for the appointment of a person purporting to have been appointed under section 17 had not arisen or that the appointment under that section had ceased to have effect.
Part VII- Miscellaneous.
House of Representatives amendments-
No. 1- Insert the following new clause: 7a. ( 1 ) The Minister may, by writing under his hand, give directions to the Commission with respect to the exercise of its powers or the performance of its functions but, except as provided by sub-section (2), shall not give such a direction with respect to a particular project.
The Minister may give a direction to the Commission with respect to a film, or proposed film, of a kind referred to in sub-paragraph 5 ( 1 ) (b) (i), (ii) or (iii).
Where the Minister gives a direction under this section, he shall, within15 sitting days after giving that direction, lay before each House of the Parliament a copy of the direction together with his reasons for giving the direction. ‘.
No. 2- Insert the following new clauses: 8a ( 1 ) For the purpose of carrying out its functions of encouraging the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of Australian films, the Commission or an authorized person may serve, either personally or by post, on-
a foreign corporation or trading corporation formed within the limits of Australia that carries on the business of exhibiting films in a theatre or theatres in Australia; or
any other person who carries on the business of exhibiting films in a theatre or theatres in Australia, a requirement in writing in accordance with this section.
A requirement referred to in sub-section ( 1 ) shall-
the period to which it relates, being a period commencing not earlier than the date on which the requirement is served; and
ii ) the theatre or theatres to which it relates; and
a specified proportion of the number of short films exhibited by the person on which or on whom the requirement is served in the specified theatre or theatres during the specified period the films certified by the Commission to be Australian short films; or
a specified proportion of the time devoted to the exhibition of short films by that person in the specified theatre or theatres during the specified period be devoted to the exhibition of films certified by the Commission to be Australian short films.
) A requirement referred to in sub-section ( 1 ) may be so expressed as to include both a requirement of the kind referred to in sub-paragraph (2) (b) (i) and a requirement of the kind referred to in sub-paragraph (2) (b) (ii).
A person shall comply with a requirement served on him under sub-section ( 1 ).
lt is a defence if a person charged with an offence under sub-section (4) proves that he had a reasonable excuse relating to the availability of Australian short films for not complying with the requirement to which the offence relates.
A requirement shall not be made under this section unless there is in force a regulation declaring that such requirements may be made on or after a specified date and such a requirement shall not be made before the specified date.
The regulations may make provision, not inconsistent with this section, with respect to any matter in relation to the exercise of the power to make requirements under this section (which may include provision with respect to the proportions that are to be, or may be, specified in such a requirement), and that power shall not be exercised otherwise than in accordance with any regulations so made and in force. 8b. The Minister shall give such directions to the Commission or an authorized person under section 7a as he thinks necessary for the purpose of ensuring the observance, in the exercise of powers under this section, of the obligations of Australia under the Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Commission or the authorized person shall comply with those directions.
No. 3- Insert the following new clauses: 17a. A person having a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a business or other undertaking involving the making, promotion, distribution or exhibition of films is not eligible-
to be appointed under section 12 as, or to remain, a full-time member; or
to be appointed under section 17 to act, or to continue to act, in the place of the Chairman or another full-time member.
No. 4- In Clause 19, sub-clause (2), paragraph (6), insert the following new sub-paragraph- (ia) is not, by virtue of section 17a, eligible to remain as a full-time member;
No. 5- Omit clause 21, insert the following clause:
The validity of an act done by the Commission shall not be questioned in any proceeding on a ground arising from the fact that-
a person purporting to be appointed under section 1 2 or 17 was, by virtue of section 17a, not eligible to have been so appointed; or
b) the occasion for the appointment of a person purporting to have been appointed under section 1 7 had not arisen or that the appointment under that section had ceased to have effect.
No. 6- Insert in Part VII the following clause- 36a. ( 1 ) Subject to sub-section (2), the Commission is not subject to taxation under any law of Australia or of a State or Territory.
The regulations may provide that sub-section ( 1 ) does not apply in relation to taxation under a specified law.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, the amendments that are proposed by the House of Representatives are basically those which were initially in the Bill and which were either amended or deleted during the debate in this chamber. I have had a discussion with Senator Guilfoyle about the manner in which these amendments should be dealt with. I think that it will be her suggestion that they be dealt with collectively. I move:
-Mr Temporary Chairman, on behalf of the Opposition I indicate that we will oppose the motion moved by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) that the amendments made by the House of Representatives be accepted. The amendments to which we refer basically relate to the objections which we expressed when this Bill was dealt with in this chamber. For all the reasons that were outlined by the Opposition on that occasion, we sustain our objection to the amendments which are now proposed. We regret that the Australian Film Commission Bill will not achieve the establishment of a commission which will be of assistance to the Australian film industry. We can only hope that early in the New Year the Government will see fit to recast the Bill in order to establish a commission that will give expression to the intent to assist the commercial film industry in Australia. We regret that we are unable to deal further with the amendments. Our opposition to them was expressed at the time when we removed from the Bill the clauses covered by the amendments. For this reason the Opposition will oppose the Minister’s motion.
– During the course of the debate at the committee stage when the Bill was first before this chamber the Opposition suggested that films made by Film Australia should be taken out of the quota for short films as expressly set out in the Bill. It was put to me that this was one amendment that the Government might be prepared to accept. For the sake of getting a Film Commission established, which I firmly believe is in the interests of the nation, I was prepared to consider and did consider agreeing to the taking out of the Bill the clause which expressly provided for Film Australia films to be included in the short film quota that would be assessed by the Film Commission. However, I had a look at the Cabinet decision that authorised me to proceed with the preparation of a Bill for the establishment of a film commission and I noted that that Cabinet decision said quite categorically- and that decision was subsequently ratified by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party- that Film Australia films should be included in the short film quota. lt was also determined that the assistance to be given to the States under clause 5 for educational films was originally agreed to only on the basis that it be limited to projects of national importance. Under the present wording in the Bill presumably that can be ensured only by keeping such a clause subject to the approval of the Minister or subject to a direction of the Minister. There was also a provision in the Cabinet decision that the provisions in the Bill should be subject to Australia’s commitments under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development code. It has now been proposed by the Opposition that those clauses be amended or deleted. Therefore the Government would regard the rejection of this measure, which I assume is going to take place very shortly because the Opposition clearly has the numbers as a failure to pass the legislation, namely, the Australian Film Commission Bill.
– Order! The question is: That the amendments be agreed to. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’; to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes’ have it.
– The ‘noes’ have it. A division is required.
– Ring the bells. (The bells having rung)-
– Order! For the clarification of the Committee I point out that the Committee is considering message No. 137 from the House of Representatives, which relates to the amendments which have been circulated to the Australian Film Commission Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator D. M. Devitt)
– Yes. Perhaps I should have explained that. I used the expression ‘amendments’. The Committee is dividing on all the amendments.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That Senators Withers, Greenwood and Guilfoyle be a Committee to draw up reasons for not agreeing to the amendments proposed by the House of Representatives.
- Mr Acting President, I seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When Senator Greenwood moved that a Committee of the Senate be formed to draw up reasons for the disagreement with the message of the House of Representatives I overlooked the fact that if that motion were carried the Australian Film Commission Bill would not be read a third time. I take this opportunity of indicating again, as I indicated during the Committee stage of the debate on the Bill, that the Government regards the Senate ‘s non-acceptance of the amendments as a failure to pass the measure.
- Mr Acting President, I seek leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I seek leave really to ask a question, I suppose. As a newcomer to the Senate the procedures are somewhat strange to me. This is the first time that this has happened since I have been a member of the Senate. If there is no third reading debate, I would like to have the opportunity of expressing my regret that this Bill was not worked on in its latter stages to an extent that would have enabled it to be passed in some suitably agreed amended form. I very much regret that. I would like some explanation of the reason for Senator Greenwood’s motion that a committee be formed to take up the responsibility of disagreeing.
– It is the normal procedure.
– It might be, but there is no explanation to the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- For the benefit of the Senate, I point out that this Bill has in fact been read a third time in this chamber. The Bill was read and was transmitted to the House of Representatives where it was also read a third time. The amendments were not agreed to by the House of Representatives and were returned to the Senate. As the Committee of the Whole has not agreed to those amendments this afternoon, a third reading does not arise in the Senate and it will not be until the message is transmitted to the House of Representatives and is returned that there will be any further debate here.
-Thank you, Mr Acting President, for a very full explanation.
Debate resumed from 28 November on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Defence Service Homes Bill 1974 seeks to amend the main Act, the Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1973, in 6 main characteristics. Essentially this Bill has arisen because of one factor- the record inflation that has been engendered during the term of this government which makes the present maximum loan ceiling of $12,000 an unreality and demands a higher loan ceiling. To that extent and for the other features it contains, the Opposition will not oppose the Bill and will give it a speedy passage. Nevertheless, I move:
The 6 main characteristics of the Bill are as follows: The Bill proposes as a first measure to increase the maximum loan ceiling from $ 12,000 to $15,000. Secondly, it liberalises the eligibility of persons for loans and now proposes to include single men and widows. Thirdly, it will allow, at the discretion of the Minister, the transfer of the balance of an existing loan to another property in very special circumstances. Fourthly, it extends the definition of the word ‘holding’ to include a lease on Norfolk Island and in the Northern Territory. Fifthly, it reviews the interest rate, which has been 3% per cent since the commencement of the main Act, and provides that for the $3,000, or part thereof, above $12,000 there shall be a higher interest rate. That higher interest rate shall be a prescribed rate, and the measurement of that prescribed rate is that it shall be 2 per cent below the most favourable rate that is charged by the Commonwealth Savings Bank on housing loans. That rate at the moment is 9lA per cent, so the prescribed rate at the moment would be 714 per cent. I think it intends to reduce the term of the loan from 45 years to 32 years. Sixthly, it seeks to provide a measure of relief in relation to certain of the instalments to be paid by certain persons such as pensioners. In common with the Opposition I would acknowledge that last year the Government made amendments to the Act which widened the eligibility within the Act and were a step forward. To the extent that the latter 5 measures that I have mentioned do so, they are meritorious and we will of course fully support them. We go further. The amendment to the motion for the second reading is similar to the policy that the present Government, when in Opposition, claimed was its written policy and which it sought to assert as amendments in November 1971. So there ought to be a community of viewpoint in this matter.
I do not wish to be vexatious or to delay the Bill. However, the simple fact is that any measure that relates to housing today, whether special housing under the Defence Services Homes Act or any other measure, must take into account the conditions of housing that exist. Those conditions are of course nothing short of disastrous. The building industry today is at its lowest ebb in several decades at least, and still falling. The building industry has been deliberately wrecked by Government policy. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) in another place has indicated quite clearly that the measures were taken to constrict the building industry and to achieve such a result. The credit squeeze, which the Government acknowledges is a direct action of its own, has bankrupted many hundreds of builders. In the weeks approaching Christmas one can expect many more builders will go to the wall as they face the problems of constricted credit, of 4 weeks annual leave with the 17% per cent loading and the impossibility of meeting rising costs. The housing situation is such that the rate of housing commencements will be reduced by at least one half. As some measure of the picture of housing at this moment I indicate that there would be a lag of at least 50,000 houses. By the end of next year the lag, on all authoritative trends, will be in the order of 100,000.
– The Bill relates to defence service homes. Is that what you are talking about?
– This is the picture of housing in Australia, whichever way one goes to seek a house. Because of shortages, because of difficulties, people who are seeking defence service homes face the same frustrations in many ways as does anyone else. Let me illustrate this because of the intervention of Senator Devitt. Does anyone really believe today that if we increase the maximum loan ceiling to $15,000 any person in Australia can buy a house for approximately $15,000? Does anyone believe it is possible for a person on the average weekly wage to obtain bridging finance and pay it off in order to buy a home? Let us consider an example. Let us say that the most modest cost of a home is $25,000 and that an ex-serviceman seeks $10,000. He starts with one disadvantage in that this Government decided to abolish the home savings grant which was one way of giving him an initial deposit and some help. Bridging loans today are running at 1 5 per cent. This puts such a home well beyond his pocket. The ordinary costs of repayment are beyond the pocket of the ordinary person. Taking into account this proposed increase of $3000, one must look at the realities of the situation. In the period of this Government’s tenure the cost of housing construction has gone up by at least 40 per cent, so this loan in itself has not kept pace with the cost of housing construction. It means that the $15,000 will purchase less than the $ 12,000 did initially. This Bill really is a backward step in that regard. That is obvious if we remember the Labor Party’s promises when in Opposition. We are going backwards. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), when in Opposition in November 1971, spoke in support of an attempt to amend the Act. He is reported in Hansard of 27 November 1974 in this way:
We are asking honourable members opposite to vote for our amendment to increase the loan from $9,000 to $ 1 5,000.
– A 75 per cent increase in 2 years.
-If that were right then, and if Senator McLaren helpfully commends it, let us apply our logic to it.
– You could not buy a house 2 years ago for $9,000.
– Let me complete what I was saying about the situation. Mr Uren continued and said:
This is not simply something that has been pulled out of a hat. This is the policy of our Party. This was accepted at the last Labor Party conference, held at Launceston, and this action was taken after an evaluation of the whole situation in regard to housing costs with a view to finding a realistic level of costs.
I am grateful to Senator McLaren. If he commends the increase to $15,000 on 27 November 1974 as being realistic and if it was Labor policy then, the policy today should be to increase the amount to at least $20,000.
– What is the date of that Hansard?
– lt is dated 27 November 1 974 and the page is 4 1 8 1 .
– You have the wrong conference. You know full well that the last conference was not in Launceston as you just quoted.
-No wonder they have 2 minutes silence. Let me repeat it. I was reading from the speech of Mr Uren. It was Mr Uren who said this, not I. Will the honourable senator please settle out of court with his own people? He already has been both accident prone to his own Party and enormously helpful to my cause.
– I will never help your cause.
– The honourable senator never helps wittingly. That is where the defect lies with him. The simple fact is that the statement was made, uncontradicted by his Party, that that was his policy. The present Minister for Housing and Construction said on the same day:
The first amendment was to provide that former members of the forces who had been honourably discharged should be entitled to war service homes.
The amendments moved then were stated to be Labor Party policy and stated to be realistic in terms of prices. What the Opposition seeks to do by the proposed addendum to the motion for the second reading of this Bill is to bring that Labor amendment up to date. Clearly, if there is to be an increase in the maximum loan it ought to go not to $ 1 5,000 but to at least $20,000. Clearly, if it was policy then to extend the loan to all former members with an honourable discharge it ought to be policy now. This ought to be sweet reason. It is against that background, and incidentally while paying full tribute to the amendments made last year and proposed this year to this Act, that I support on behalf of the Opposition the Bill in substance and seek to make the addition to the motion for the second reading.
– I want to make one or two very brief observations about this Bill. At the outset I commend the Government for bringing in this enlightened piece of legislation. 1 am particularly grateful to the Government for correcting what has been an anomaly in the law of the land since 1919 when single ex-servicemen who might otherwise have qualified for the benefits of the War Service Homes Act, as it was then, did not qualify because they had not married. My understanding is that when a person renders some form of service which gives him access to the benefits of a particular piece of legislation there ought not be any qualification on it whatever, but there has been. It is remarkable that last year we found an anomaly so far as it related to women exmembers of the defence forces. That was corrected. It has taken until this year to correct the situation relating to unmarried ex-servicemen who otherwise qualify. I am particularly grateful for that.
I have had a lot of dealings over the years with people who have felt seriously disadvantaged and unfairly discriminated against. I could not argue against that. I felt they had a case and that they were being discriminated against simply because they had not chosen to marry. They had chosen to build or buy a home and had chosen to enter into the financial commitments resulting from such a decision, and whereas they saw fellow ex-serving members of the forces entitled to the benefits of the War Services Homes Act, and the Defence Services Homes Act, as it has been more recently named, the beneficial provisions of the Act were not available to them. I am delighted to see that the situation has been corrected. I am sure that there are many hundreds of people- not thousands but hundreds throughout the Australian community who will now come into the range of benefits under this scheme and whose mortgage loan arrangement will be taken over under the provisions of this legislation.
As Senator Carrick stated in condemnatory terms, the provision is being increased from $12,000 to $15,000 to meet the increases in the purchase price of a home these days. One can argue up hill and down dale about all of this, but it is happening everywhere. There are increases in wages; there are increases in costs; there are increases in the purchase prices of the various commodities and essentials and necessities of life. Until we reach some sense of balance and sanity in our whole economic system this is bound to happen. But the Government has acknowledged that it is happening and it has decided that ex-servicemen who qualify for defence service home loans will not be disadvantaged by the situation which affects every other section of the Australian community. So I am grateful to the Government for having acted.
I am also very pleased to note that there has been some relaxation of the rigidity which has hitherto been evident in relation to the one home arrangement. In other words, finance has been provided in relation to one home and it has always been very difficult to obtain finance for a second home. When one reads the provisions of the Bill, and particularly when one studies the second reading speech, one can see that there is some justification for the attitude that has been taken in relation to the provision of finance for one home, because when that first home is paid off the money goes into Consolidated Revenue and any advances for the purchase of a second home must be taken out of the funds provided in the next year or in the particular year of the happening. This also has brought about some very anomalous, unfair and unjust situations. 1 recall a case of some years ago of a man who, as a reward for his service, was promoted- he lived in Devonport in Tasmania- because of the excellent service he had rendered to his employer. As he was employed by a State-wide instrumentality his promotion involved a transfer. Rather than the promotion being a reward for service, good conduct and all the other things which an employer looks for, it in fact turned out to be a disadvantage to him because he then had to discharge his loan under the War Service Homes Act and to commit himself to a substantially greater loan at a very much increased interest rate in Hobart. So whilst he was promoted, in fact it was a disadvantage to him. Had he not taken the promotion he would have lost his place in the order of seniority and ultimately at the end of his working life he would have been very seriously disadvantaged indeed in terms of the rank which he then held and the pension to which he would become entitled.
So the system, so far as it related to people like that, I believed worked unfairly. I can see the other side of the coin as well. However, I do believe that this is the appropriate approach to the matter. I hope that it will be treated with a great deal of sensitivity, and I have no doubt that it will be. I hope that persons who, for some reason such as outstanding service or for having conducted themselves as one would expect people to do, get promoted in their jobs do not find themselves in the situation of losing the benefits of the defence service homes scheme and paying a greatly increased price for a home at a substantially elevated interest rate.
The only other thing to which I wish to allude is what appears on page 3 of the second reading speech in relation to the situation on Norfolk Island. I am very pleased to see that there has been a change in the approach to the availability of benefits so far as they relate to Norfolk Island. During a visit to the island some two or three years ago- I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) will recall the occasion with great happiness and pleasure- we learned that the per capita enlistment from the populace of Norfolk Island exceeded that of any other place in Australia. Those people were very proud of their record of service to their country in times of war. I am delighted to see that there has been some acknowledgment of this situation. Perhaps it is not such a direct acknowledgment, but it is an acknowledgment nevertheless in terms of the fact that the legislation provides, in relation to the leasehold and general land tenure situation, for a relaxation of the availability of the assistance and the benefits under the Defence Service Homes Act. These benefits will now be extended, I would expect, to many more people who otherwise were disadvantaged by the former provisions of the Act in relation to Norfolk Island. With those few comments, I commend the legislation and I express my own personal gratitude, as one who had some little part in bringing about a new approach, a change, in relation to the provisions concerned with single ex-servicemen.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for not opposing the Bill and for giving it a speedy passage. 1 do not think there is a great deal to which I need to reply. No opposition to the Bill has been expressed; there was only an attempt again to make political capital out of the Bill. I suppose one has to give justification for what the Government is doing, and I suppose one should reply to Senator Carrick ‘s comment that the Government is doing insufficient. The fact that there is a need to increase the amount of money lent on defence service homes is possibly contributed to by inflation, but the Bill provides for the normal increase in the amount of loan, which the previous Government found it essential to do in 1971 when it increased the permissible loan from the War Service Homes Fund from $7,000 to $8,000. In accordance with previous increases we are lifting the amount of loan by $3,000 on this occasion. We believe that this increase provides an amount equivalent to $12,000 when the permissible loan was increased to $ 12,000.
The position now is that those who want a war service homes loan can obtain one to the extent of $15,000. I am somewhat in agreement with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who said in a statement, which was quoted, that he was in favour of increases in the amount of loans made available for war service homes. I often wonder why we put a restriction on the amount of the loan and why we do not lend a proportion of the cost of the home. On this occasion we are extending the eligibility provisions, which was not done under the previous Government. This is the second occasion on which we have extended the eligibility provisions since this Government came to power. It is a matter of not being able to give the best to everyone all at once. The question was raised whether we could extend loans to those people who are ineligible at present and who have been ineligible even since the operation of the War Services Homes Act, and whether at this stage they should remain ineligible for the purpose of increasing the deposit. The Government came down with the decision that we should give concessions to all; that we should extend the eligibility provisions. As Senator Devitt said, loans under the Act are now extended to those on Norfolk Island who, despite their service, previously could not qualify because of their land lease arrangement. Eligibility has also been extended to those single men who want a home.
This Bill does not offer opportunities to condemn the Government for what it has done in the housing field. As I have stated on a previous occasion, the Government took rather drastic action in relation to housing. Two years ago no one could get a house. One could get neither builders nor materials. The Government took action for the purpose of releasing to the building industry the necessary skills for house building and material for housing construction. The problem today is the financing of housing; it is not a matter of the availability of houses. The Government is offering people the opportunity to finance the purchase of a house.
I ask honourable senators to defeat the amendment which has been moved. It adds nothing to the Bill but only seeks an expression of opinion of the Senate, which means nought to anyone. While we could agree perhaps to an increase in the maximum loan, whether or not that was necessitated by inflation, the amendment seeks to add a political flavour to the debate. It would not happen if we were in Opposition. The amendment states that the maximum loan should be increased to a more realistic figure in view of spiralling inflation. As I said, I think that the maximum loan should be increased somewhat whether or not there is spiralling inflation, and we deny that there is. Of course, we have done more than any previous government to extend eligibility. We have extended it now to include everyone who operated in a theatre of war and also those who completed their national service and who were involved in the Vietnam War. Those persons neglected in the Bill who may have got an honourable discharge could be those who entered some part of the Services for the purpose of dodging actual combat in war. I do not think that an honourable discharge as a test of eligibility for everyone in the forces would be justified. It would defeat the purpose of the Act which is to provide a reward for services rendered in time of danger and in time of war. That is the intention of the Bill. I thank the Opposition for their support in ensuring the speedy passage of the Bill through the Senate.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Carrick’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Original question, as amended, agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
– I rise only to correct an error of fact that I made. If in making it I misunderstood honourable senators opposite, I apologise. I was asked for the page reference and the date of the copy of Hansard from which I quoted. I read in fact, from a copy of Hansard which was in front of me and I indicated an incorrect date. Mr Uren’s speech is reported in Hansard on page 3819 of 30 November 1971. I think I owe Senator McLaren an apology.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 November, on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) stated in his second reading speech that the amendments to this Bill are machinery provisions and are designed to facilitate the working of the Public Service and the operation of the Public Service Act. The Opposition accepts that they are and will not oppose the second reading of the Bill. I hope the opportunity will be taken by the Attorney-General to explain on this occasion some of the attitudes which the Government is proposing to adopt with respect to the Public Service in the light of the recent decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator and also the oftstated assurances of the Government that this is an occasion when wage restraint should be exercised. As I understand it, the Government chose not to appear before the Public Service Arbitrator on the hearing of the applications by the Third Division and it seems somewhat hollow that it should be preaching restraint yet desisting from taking any action which might induce the Arbitrator to exercise restraint. In the light of the decision which has been made the Government is faced with a problem, which so far it has not sought to overcome, as to whether the principle of conciliation and arbitration is to be paramount or whether the cause of restraint at the present time is one which in the Government’s eyes ought to be capable of universal applications. I hope that that is a matter which the Government will choose to make some statement on seeing that there is currently a vehicle before the Senate on which the Government might explain its views to a waiting populace.
The provisions of this Bill are many and varied and of a technical nature. There are provisions relating to the abolition of departments and the protection of rights of officers of the Public Service, particularly those who have been provisionally promoted in a department which is abolished. The Bill contains provisions which, it is claimed, will protect the position of such officers and it appears to the Opposition that they will do so. There are also provisions ensuring that where offices have been abolished and new offices have been established any recruitment notice will be effective and there will be no need for renotification of the positions for which applicants are sought. Likewise that appears to be a machinery measure of some value. Clause 12 of the Bill sets out a host of new provisions which are designed to provide a code for the transfer of other persons to the Commonwealth Service and, recognising the reasons which have been given for the introduction of these provisions, the Opposition likewise sees that there is benefit in them.
It may be that in the course of the Committee debate there will be some explanation of the wording which has been used to give effect to this objective but the general purposes of the measures as explained in the Bill commend themselves to the Opposition. It is to be noted also that within the Territories power is being sought to allow the powers of a permanent head to be exercised in accordance with powers granted by ordinance to persons who are in charge of offices within the Australian Capital Territory. The instance is given of the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission and the purpose of the amendment is likewise clear. That purpose ought to be facilitated. Clause 13 meets certain objections which have been made by the Parliamentary Regulations and Ordinances Committee with regard to the ambit of the regulation-making power conferred by the Public Service Act. My recollection is that this is a particular objection which has been made by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee over the years and it is encouraging to see the work of the Committee continuing with unabated ardour. I think it is a matter in which the Senate as a whole should take pride. This is one committee which, irrespective of the change of government over the 40 years or so that the Committee has been in existence, is fulfilling a function to the commendation of all sides of the chamber and this particular Bill is one further example of the way in which the role of the Committee is being acknowledged and the Opposition supports this aspect of the amendments also.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was indicating that the Opposition supported in principle the Bill to amend Public Service Acts. I think there are only 3 matters to which I would now advert. I notice that the Bill provides that members of the Public Service Board and officers of the First Division will now be expressly subject to the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal for the determination of their salaries. It is only proper that in an amending Bill those amendments should be made. It equates the actual position of the public servants under the Remuneration Tribunals Act to what should be the position, as it will now become under the Public Service Act. The final provisions which I think do not require any real attention because they speak for themselves involve the application of the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act to persons who may take positions in Commonwealth Territories.
In the Committee stage of the Bill the Opposition will move for the restoration to the Public Service of the oath of affirmation of allegiance. This oath or affirmation was removed from the Public Service Act, in circumstances which I do not detail here, during a guillotine of a number of Bills in the Senate last year and the opportunity which might then have been availed of was not able to be taken because of the fact that at that time the House of Representatives had risen and certain consequential disadvantages would have flowed from the Senate taking the action which was contemplated. There is no doubt that at that time the Senate would have rejected the removal of the oath or affirmation of allegiance because it was clear from the representatives of the Opposition and of the Australian Democratic Labor Party that they were opposed to this procedure. I think it was an acknowledgment of that position and a recognition that the majority of the members of the Senate were foregoing a right which they then had and would have exercised, but in deference to the Government’s reference to the fact that the House of Representatives had risen and other desirable amendments could not therefore become law in 1973, the majority of the Senate then deferred. We acknowledge the fact that the Attorney-General has honoured his undertaking, and this Bill which will facilitate the putting forward of the same proposition again for debate has now been submitted. The Opposition supports the motion for the second reading but will seek to move in Committee the amendment which I have foreshadowed.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for a speedy passage of this Bill to this point. Perhaps the important matters can be dealt with in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
– Would you briefly state what is being put?
– This amendment seeks to add new sub-clause (6) to clause 9 which is proposed section 50a. As presently drafted proposed section 50a applies only where a department is abolished. This is in accordance with the Joint Council of the Australian Public Service recommendation. The Government feels, however, that the new section should also cover situations where part of a department is transferred to another department. The proposed new subclause (6) will extend the operation of proposed section 50a in this manner.
– The Opposition recognises the weight of the explanation given and sees that this is a consequential amendment of note, technical as it is, and offers no objection. I ask the AttorneyGeneral I do so only because the effort was made to correlate closely the clauses of the amending Bill to the principal Act- why in clause 8 of the Bill the words ‘classes of offices ‘ are to be removed from sub-section (2) (a) of section 46 of the Act and the words ‘office or offices’ substituted. The question may have some added point because I notice that in the succeeding amendment the expression ‘specified class of offices’ and ‘class of offices’ continue to be used. I am sure there is no basic objection to what is proposed but it is a curious exercise in wording, and because so many of the amendments in the Bill are exercises in wording I wondered at the purpose behind that one.
– I am told that it is a purely drafting amendment and that is the way the Parliamentary Counsel thought it ought to be done, but I will endeavour to find some further clarification of why he thought it should be done in that way. I understand there is no change of any substance to the Bill.
– There are a number of other things which raise queries in the course of an examination of the Bill, but I notice that there is no representative from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel here so I do not pursue these matters as I might otherwise have pursued them if ready advice were available to the Attorney-General. I turn to the substantive amendment which I seek to move on behalf of the Opposition.
– If I may intervene, I thought the Committee was dealing specifically with clause 9 and I thought it was the Minister’s wish to dispose of that.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new Part IV- Restoration of Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance.
– I move:
This proposed new Part is described as ‘Restoration of Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance’. The purpose of the insertion of the new Part is to add a number of new clauses, namely, clauses 2 1, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 and new Schedules which will contain the proposed oaths or affirmations of allegiance. I think it is fair that I should explain to the Senate the circumstances in which this amendment is moved. In 1922 an amendment was made to the Public Service Act which required that all persons on becoming members of the Public Service should take an oath or affirmation of allegiance. That provision prevailed until 1 973 when by the amending Public Service Bill (No. 4) 1973 the requirement for the taking of an oath or affirmation of allegiance was removed from the legislation. The 1973 Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 27 November 1973. After an adjournment the second reading debate was held and completed on 13 December 1973. I mention these facts because they explain how it comes about that this amendment is being moved to this Bill almost 12 months later. The last sitting day for both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1973 happened to be 13 December 1973.
During the second reading debate in the House of Representatives Mr Viner, the honourable member for Stirling, who spoke on behalf of the Opposition, indicated that the Opposition would move in Committee for the deletion from the Bill of the provision which omitted the requirement for the oath or affirmation of allegiance. In due course in the Committee stage Mr Viner ‘s amendment was put and, as would be expected, that amendment was defeated on a division. The Senate received the Public Service Bill unamended on 13 December at 4.53 p.m. It was then presented to the Senate and the second reading speech was incorporated in Hansard. The debate on the second reading stage was adjourned to a later hour that same day, but not before 5.53 p.m., an hour later. However, at 5.42 p.m. the Government guillotined the remaining 11 Bills on the notice paper which it required passed that day.
– No, Senator. The Senate guillotined them.
– I accept the gentle rebuke. The Senate guillotined the Bills. The Government proposed the guillotine and the Democratic Labor Party, which is no longer with us, supported the Government. The Opposition opposed what the Government and the Democratic Labor Party had suggested. The guillotine allowed -
– We did not get their support very often.
-The honourable senator’s Party got the DLP’s support on a few occasions. He cannot deny that. The Government allowed one hour for debate and it effectively precluded debate on the Public Service Bill (No. 4). When the President proposed to put the final question that all the remaining stages of the urgent Bills be agreed to the fact that the requirement for the oath or affirmation of allegiance would be deleted without debate or opportunity for amendment was adverted to. It was the intention of the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party to oppose the deletion.
Senator Murphy, as Leader of the Government, indicated that in any event the House of Representatives had then risen. Senator Murphy said- I think these are the exact words from Hansard; I quote them as having come from Hansard:
I will bring the Bill back next year and bring in something to cover the position.
When the Statute Law Revision Bill 1974 was before the Senate in the middle of the year an effort was made by the Opposition to use that Bill as the vehicle to raise for debate this particular amendment. Indeed in the House of Representatives I think a debate took place, but in this place the Attorney-General indicated that an opportunity for a debate would be given later in the year, and the Opposition acceded to the AttorneyGeneral’s suggestion. That is how, on this occasion, this amendment is proposed. Why does the Opposition propose it? First we recognise that a provision has been in the Public Service Act since 1 922 that members of the Public Service should take the oath or affirmation of allegiance. We believe that no adequate reason has been shown why that oath or affirmation of allegiance should be removed from the legislation. I refer to one of the standard works on the Commonwealth Public Service. It is called the Commonwealth Bureaucracy’ by Mr Gerald E. Caiden who, in regard to the matter of security and loyalty, said:
No person is eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service unless he (or she) makes an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Queen and the Constitution. The loyalty oath is not considered a formality but a positive affirmation of patriotism. Since World War I there have been character checks. The details of applicants are sent to the State and territorial police forces for investigation and check with court and aliens records and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization for security purposes. In 1960 the Board was given powers to rule ineligible any person it thought was not ‘a fu and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Service’, a provision which could cover almost anything and was not subject to appeal.
The Opposition does not seek to restore that other provision about the Board having the power to reject persons whom it considers to be not fit and proper persons. I do not go into the pros and cons of such a provision. It has been removed from the legislation. As far as the Opposition is concerned currently the provision stands removed. We believe it is incumbent upon the Government to explain why it is that the oath or affirmation of allegience should be removed. We do not believe that any adequate reason was given when the legislation was introduced. It is not sufficient, as I think the Minister then said, to say that in the States there is no such oath or affirmation of allegience and that in the British
Civil Service no oath or affirmation of allegience is taken.
The blunt fact is that in the Australian legislation it had a distinguished position for more than 50 years. Why should it be changed? We noticed this tendency on the part of the Government to remove the oath or affirmation of allegiance from the oaths which public officers should take. Only within the last week attention was drawn to the fact that the oath that was to be taken by judges of the Family Court was not an oath which affirmed the allegience of the judges to the Crown. This is an oath which is taken by judges of courts right round the Commonwealth. We are grateful that the Attorney-General after representations saw fit to reinstitute that oath of allegiance as one of the oaths which judges of the Family Court would take. I think the AttorneyGeneral is aware that in other areas under his jurisdiction it is proposed to remove the oath of allegiance. It certainly has been removed from the Public Service Act. We believe it should be restored. I have moved this amendment comprehending in the one amendment the various clauses which would be contained in Part IV of the Bill. I hope that the Senate will give support to the proposal.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Greenwood, has referred to some tendency of the Government manifested only in the last week in regard to these matters. I remind him that the measure we were debating last week was not in the votes or any of the clauses of a Government measure. It was one on which there was a free vote. The question of the deletion of the provision for oaths was discussed in the House of Representatives in 1973 and the reasons were given for what was done. One of the reasons was that the provision has no practical effect. The other sections of the Act require officers to carry out their duties in a loyal and competent fashion. For example, section 55 of the principal Act states: (I.) An officer (other than an officer in the First or Second Division) who-
There are procedures to deal with that. There are obligations upon the officers and those obligations are set out in plain terms in the principal Act. The breaching of those obligations is an offence. Section 56 deals with offences by an officer of the First or Second Divisions. Under that section officers may be charged by any person with any of the offences mentioned in section 55 with which I have just dealt. So there are obligations upon the officers to carry out their duties. It is considered that there is no reason for this kind of provision relating to the oath of allegiance or affirmation being in the enactment. Senator Greenwood may say- and he doesWell, why take it out?’ The information I have is that there is no provision for an oath of allegiance in the State Public Services or in the British Civil Service. So it is not an unreasonable course which the Government is maintaining. Indeed, the argument should perhaps be put the other way: Why should there be this provision? It is said that it is a barrier to the employment of some migrants and that it creates problems for those who may have some allegiance to others. I understand that a provision was introduced into the Act in 1 966. Its purpose was stated in the Parliament by Mr Freeth in the House of Representatives and by Mr Gorton in the Senate as follows:
Clause 25 arises from the need to overcome a problem which virtually prevents the employment of United States nationals in Commonwealth departments. Under the Public Service Act all temporary employees, except those employed overseas, must, like permanent officers, take an oath or affirmation in which they swear or declare allegiance to the Queen and to uphold the Constitution. But if an American citizen does so he loses his United States nationality. As the professional and technical skills required on certain Commonwealth projects of national importance are sometimes most readily available by the use of limited numbers of United States personnel, it is desirable to permit temporary employment, without requiring the taking of the oath or affirmation, in appropriate cases. This attitude is consistent with that adopted in legislation relating to a number of Commonwealth statutory authorities- for example, in sub-section (4) of section 21 of the Science and Industry Research Act, relating to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which was enacted in 1 949. 1 should mention that the waiving of the oath in these circumstances will not affect the normal administrative processes of employment, including appropriate warnings regarding disclosure of official information. Before exercising his discretion to waive the need to take the oath or affirmation the Governor-General is to satisfy himself that the proposed employment will not be prejudicial to the national interest. I should also emphasise that there will be no provision for waiving of the requirement that appointees to the permanent staff must take the oath or affirmation
In 1966 we got to the point where for the nonpermanent staff a provision was introduced to do away with the taking of the oath or affirmation. Mr Freeth and Senator Gorton pointed to the fact that the provision still remained. The quotation goes on to deal with some other matters. Therefore, we have the position that there was in the Australian Public Service a departure from what was provided for in the State Public Services and the British Civil Service. The amendment of the Act last year brought us into line with the provision in those Services and avoided the practical difficulties that are caused to persons who for some reason- a legitimate reason- may not want to take the oath or affirmation of allegiance. We have indicated that the law still applies to those persons. There is an obligation upon them not to break the provisions of the Act, to carry out their duties promptly, and so on. Is not this a reasonable and desirable state of the law? If the information given is correct- and we assume that it is- why has there not been some great agitation in the British Civil Service to insert some such requirement as suggested by Senator Greenwood? Why is not the Liberal Party canvassing the States of Victoria and New South Wales? Why is there not agitation in Queensland to insert the requirement in the law relating to the Queensland Public Service?
It seems to me that it is a reasonable attitude that is being taken by the Government here. There is no reason why officers in the Public Service should be put in a position different from that of other persons, particularly where this may cause difficulty to those persons. We know that we have a large migrant population in Australia, and one would think that the elimination of this provision relating to the taking of an oath or affirmation would assist in the assimilation of migrants. We submit that we have some cogent and sensible reasons for adhering to the course that was taken by the Parliament last year, and we suggest that the Committee of the Senate should not re-insert the portions of the provision which were deleted, or such of them as Senator Greenwood now proposes should be re-inserted.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.28)- I rise merely to extract an opinion from the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). The requirements that must be observed by a citizen go back a long way, to the very roots of the history of the society from which we derive. I do not intend to canvass the historical matter at all. What I wish to put to the Attorney-General in point blank terms is: Let us take the case of Ehrlichman in the United States of America, who was an officer of the United States Government. He took it upon himself as an individual citizen, not as an officer of the Government, to extract all the relevant documents relating to the security of the United States of America. He took them along to a copying machine and began to fan out- whether or not it should have been done is not the point- all the high grade secret information which he had obtained by virtue of his office -
– I think you are referring to Ellsberg, are you not?
-Yes, Ellsberg. I am getting mixed up with the Watergate affair, which is on my mind a bit. Yet under the United States Constitution this man was not able to be brought to heel- it does not matter what one’s ideological proclivities are in this respect- for such a flagrant breach. I wish the Attorney-General would listen to me and not to his adviser.
– You are getting more egotistical every day.
-Mr Temporary Chairman, I am addressing myself, through you, to the Attorney-General and I think that I am entitled to expect him at least to listen to what I have to say. If he wishes to canvass my arguments afterwards he may then turn to his adviser, who is sitting near him. That is all I am referring to. The curious situation we have is that this man in the United States of America who, I assume, had given some sort of undertaking- he may not have done so; I do not know- and who then took high grade information relating to the security of the United States of America to a copying machine and publicised it was not in a position to be attacked through the courts by the Executive. One cannot have a system of government in which officers of the Executive divulge information of a high grade unless one is able to pursue them for doing so. I use that case as an illustration of the problem that seems to me to be engaging the attention of the Committee at the present moment. I shall take the argument no further at this stage. I merely ask the AttorneyGeneral, if he will, to reply to me as to how he would deal with such a situation. I can easily foresee circumstances arising in Australia whereby an officer of the Australian Public Service seizes upon the attitude taken in the United States of America and says: ‘But I am entitled to divulge the high grade security information’. I give warning that I am willing to pursue this argument a little further, depending upon the advice that the Attorney-General is willing to proffer to the Committee.
– The answer seems to lie in the Crimes Act of this Parliament, section 70 of which reads:
A person who, being a Commonwealth officer, publishes or communicates, except to some person to whom he is authorised to publish or communicate it, any fact or document which comes to his knowledge or into his possession by virtue of his office and which it is his duty not to disclose shall be guilty of an offence.
There is also a provision in relation to a person who has been an officer and who does that. A penalty of imprisonment is provided. That seems to be the offence. It is dealt with directly under our law. Let us take the type of case to which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has referred and let us suppose that a person disclosed some military secret or some other matter which clearly it was his duty not to disclose. He would be guilty of an offence. It is much more satisfactory to cover the legal obligations precisely and specifically in some form of law than to leave it to some vague oath or affirmation, particularly when one takes into consideration the other disadvantages which flow from requiring the oath or affirmation to which I have referred. One should realise that there are provisions and that there will no doubt continue to be provisions of some kind in the law dealing with a breach of duty in the case of such a disclosure. Therefore, is not the course correct that the Parliament previously took, that is, to bring us into line with the public services of the States and the British Civil Service?
– I do not desire to prolong this debate to the extent where one is unnecessarily emphasising points, but I do believe that the Senate has to make a significant decision in this respect. We would be, by conscious decision, reversing the pattern of some 50 years in this country if we were to remove from this legislation a requirement which was initially instituted as an act of patriotism. If we do that I think that we should do it knowingly and with a sound reason behind it. I do not believe that that sound reason has been given. I would regret to see its departure. I do not think that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and I would have any basic difference in the general concept that we would each espouse that we want to see developed in this country a spirit of nationalism and a sense of loyalty of the Australian people to that nationalist ethos. I believe that an oath of allegiance helps to serve that general spirit. Irrespective of whether one calls it patriotism or something in modern parlance, I think that the concept that persons who are in the Public Service should swear an allegiance to the Queen of Australia, her heirs and successors according to law, and promise to do their duty by her aids the concept of an Australian nationalism.
If the argument were as to the language in which the oath of allegiance is being taken, I can imagine that there might be differences of opinion but I think that that particular argument was raised during the debate on the Citizenship Act last year and that that issue has been resolved. We acknowledge that the particular oath which is now to be taken is an oath not to the Queen of the United Kingdom, Australia and her other dominions. The oath which is now taken and which is proposed in the amendment I have moved is to the Queen of Australia, her heirs and successors according to law. Why should that oath not be taken? I think that the basic proposition, having regard to the pattern of the past 50 years, is for those who want to remove the oath to show good reason why it should be removed. I remain unpersuaded that any such reason has been given.
I ought to mention that according to a note which the Parliamentary Library supplied to me British civil servants, whilst they are not required to take an oath of allegiance, are nevertheless required to sign a document incorporating an oath of allegiance with certain statutory requirements of the Official Secrets Act and that a form of oath or allegience is demanded of the United States civil servants. So the argument ought not to be regarded as being concluded by the fact that in Britain no oath or affirmation of allegiance is required. I do not think that the argument with regard to the States is an argument which ought to carry weight. After all, the Public Service of a State is the Public Service under which the government of a State of the Commonwealth is carried on, which is different in character from the government of the nation. lt may seem a little strange, in the light of arguments which have taken place in this chamber over the last couple of years, that I should be arguing the cause of an oath of allegiance to the nation and Senator Murphy should be saying that because the States do not have an oath of allegiance it should be good enough for the Commonwealth not to have one. lt is interesting that in relation to this argument the positions might have been somewhat reversed.
– What about if Her Majesty is Queen of Queensland?
– I think that Senator Milliner is endeavouring to distract me from my argument. I might just as well reply: Why do you not say a word in favour of that magnificent concept which is the Treaties Commission which the Queensland Government has now enacted and which I think has the most innovative and sensible provisions which any state has passed since Federation in regard to our implementation of international treaties? Some praise could be given to the Queensland Government for what it has done in that area.
– Order! I think that the Committee should come back to the amendment before it.
– I simply say that the argument raised that because the States do not have an oath of allegiance there is no need for the Commonwealth to have an oath of allegiance ignores the fact that the patriotism involved in the oath is a patriotism directed to the nation. One would not expect it to be so obviously required in the case of an oath of allegiance to a State Public Service. An argument has been raised with regard to the position of migrants. I feel that we desire people who are resident in Australia and who are desirous of becoming employed in our Public Service to become naturalised citizens. There is a provision in the legislation, to which there has already been reference, under which persons who are not naturalised and who are migrants can become members of the Public Service provided that, in the opinion of the Governor-General, there is no detriment to the national security. I think those are the words. Accepting that there is that gateway that will enable exceptional cases to be covered, why should not the general proposition be that the Public Service is open to natural born or naturalised Australian citizens, people who are prepared to take the oath of allegiance? That is what we are striving to achieve by this amendment. I believe the Committee would be wise, in the interests of the nation, to accept the proposition.
– I do not know that we will get very far by canvassing this matter back and forth. We have reached the position in which the requirements in this regard are much the same for the Australian Government as they are for the States. We achieved that position last year. We do not need to go through the history of the matter. Now it is proposed to turn the clock back and to do something that has not been found necessary in regard to the States. The system of government has not collapsed in Victoria or New South Wales since apparently as far back as the memory of man can go. No one is suggesting at what stage the States ever abandoned- if they ever had the requirement- the oath of allegiance, and they seem to have got on very satisfactorily. It is said that this creates difficulties. I have indicated the difficulties that were adverted to by the previous Government in the middle 1960s about nationals of other countries. Difficulties may be caused. If there is no real reason for this provision, as we have seen from the example of the States in Australia, there are no practical difficulties being caused and if we have laws which require people, under the threat of severe penalties, to observe their obligations to carry out their duties, why seek to reinstate this provision? Will there be some notion that every time a Bill comes before Parliament, every time some post is created and every time one walks in or out of the chamber one must take some oath or affirmation of allegiance? It is a very curious concept.
The law should set out with precision what one’s obligation are. It is not a good law that requires the taking of some oath or affirmation in vague terms and then to have a provision that a breach of that law is an offence. It is similar to the kind of vague and indefinite offence such as public mischief that is being frowned upon everywhere. If 1 might put it the other way to Senator Greenwood, I would have thought that he generally would incline to the belief that if we are to have obligations, particularly obligations the breach of which constitute an offence, we should be very clearly defining those obligations and we should set out quite precisely what those legal requirements are in the various parts of the law. We should get away from seeking to bind officers and making offences that are some vague and indefinite breach of some oath or affirmation. I would suggest to the Committee that in this instance we ought to follow the example of the State parliaments and the State governments, Liberal and Labor, that have got on so well and are getting on so well today in this respect. If this is such an important and overwhelming matter that a Public Service Act should be held up, why is it not a plank in the election in Queensland? Why is not Mr Bjelke-Petersen going to the people and saying: ‘I promise that although I did not think of it before, I will insist that there be an oath or affirmation of allegiance’?
– Do you want me to send him a telegram suggesting it?
– If the honourable senator sends him a telegram he will receive the answer: ‘You mind your own business. I will not create difficulties for the migrants who are honoured residents of Queensland. We have got on well ever since we have been a State without this oath or affirmation and we will continue in that way.’ If one sent a telegram to the Premiers of New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria,
Tasmania or Western Australia, one would receive the same kind of answer. Having reached this concordance of the Australian and State governments in this respect, why do we not leave well alone? I suggest that the Committee ought not to insert the provisions.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.46)- I am not being aggressive about this matter at all. I am seeking information that has not yet been divulged. I put aside the observations that relate to Queensland because I suppose one might just as well address that argument to the Prince of Hutt River in Western Australia, who is a self-proclaimed prince. I am not trying to take any points at all in a political sense from the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). He is a Minister of State. He is the Attorney-General of Australia. He is the principal law officer of the Crown. He is a member of His Excellency the Governor-General’s Executive Council. One day he may be a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. I hope he will be because I think he would be a very decorative member. I would like to see him a member of the Australian Privy Council. Having initiated the idea in this place 20 years ago, I hope it will come into being. I would like the Attorney-General to answer two or three questions. When he is sworn in as a Minister of State what is the oath that he takes? What is the oath that a Minister of State takes when he is sworn in before the GovernorGeneral? It is as simple as that.
– An oath of allegiance is taken and also, as I recall it, an oath to carry out faithfully the duties of office- something of that kind.
– As a Minister ofState?
– Yes. It is in the same form as the Schedule to the Constitution. I think we can get the precise form for the honourable senator without very much difficulty. The oath of allegiance states that one will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty- it will now be Queen Elizabeth- her heirs and successors according to law. The affirmation is in similar terms. It has been adapted slightly. It is one thing to consider a high constitutional position but the point is whether this principle should be extended to a whole range of citizens, the permanent and temporary employees of the Australian Government.
– If it is good enough for the head of a department, the Minister of State, why should it not be good enough also for every member of the Public Service? Why should not the basic principle of equality be adopted?
-I suppose one could say that, and one might also ask why should we not do this in the case of teachers and even schoolchildren and so forth. One gets to the point, if one starts on that course, of creating awful difficulties for people. Take the case further. What happens if we start extending this throughout the community? What do we do in the case of migrants who are here? Do we make a migrant take an oath of allegiance every time he gets some kind of position or before he is allowed to have a driving licence?
– Oh, no.
-Well, that is before he does anything else. We will get into difficulties with such people. A person will come here from elsewhere and before even being qualified for naturalisation we will have him taking an oath of allegiance which will render him stateless. Such an oath, in the case of many countries, will cause a migrant to lose his nationality before he has ours. We have a simple position here. Perhaps Senator Sir Magnus Cormack will answer me. Why should he, or Senator Greenwood, want to impose these unnecessary oaths and affirmations and clutter up the laws? Why should we have this kind of ritual throughout our laws when it is unnecessary? A person has obligations and those are to be carried out. If there is a breach of them, whether in the kind of example Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred to, or in others, the person’s duty is to observe the law. If he does not, he is liable to punishment. Is not this enough and is not the experience of the States good enough for us? Where is the harm going to come if it has not been found necessary throughout all these years in the case of the Australian States? Yet it is proposed to have this cumbrous nonsense of people having to be chased up in order to take oaths or affirmations of allegiance. All sorts of records have to be kept. I support there must be some great warehouse where the records ofall these things are kept, and to what purpose when the law provides that people are under an obligation to do certain things and if they break the law they are liable to penalties? I suggest with respect that the Senate ought not adopt this change.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.54)- The Attorney-General knows perfectly well that I have an affection for him which it would take a lot of tribulations on my part to throw aside, but that is not the point. It may be all very well, with due deference to the forensic ability of the Attorney-General, something which I do not possess, for him to say that there must be some great warehouse filled with this, that and the other. There must be warehouses containing immigration information relating to every time that people travel which could cover deserts. I do not know what the devil they do with the immigration cards that travellers fill in. Literally the Sahara Desert must be covered by the warehouses of the United Nations which are filled with immigration cards, but that is by the way. I do not accept this warehouse nonsense. Why is it in the law that a young solicitor when admitted to practise as a lawyer in the Statessomething which the Attorney-General has been canvassing- has to take an oath of allegiance to obey the equities, the honour, in relation to problems confronted by him in the profession of law? Why is it that a lawyer has to take an oath that he will be obedient and responsive to the law? The Attorney-General is an eminent barrister. When he was admitted to the bar and appeared with his peers and before the justices of the court, he was asked to subscribe to an oath or an affirmation that he would obey certain things. It seems to me on the argument of the Attorney-General that this is irrational and that there should not be this subscription.
– That is correct. In a moment I will answer you and tell you why.
-I am a layman in these areas. As a lay senator I am entitled, surely, to get some answers. Over the whole range of our lives we are required to make some subscription. The Attorney-General, as a barrister, had to make a subscription to an affirmation or an oath that he would do certain things before he was admitted to the bar. As I mentioned just now, he had to either take an oath or make an affirmation that he would be obedient to certain principles when he became one of the members of Her Majesty’s Executive Council, or the Governor-General’s Executive Council. I now take the matter a step further in his own profession. Senator Greenwood had to take an oath. Senator Missen had to take an oath. Senator Chaney is not here but undoubtedly he had to take an oath. Senator Sheil is here and he had to take the Hippocratic oath as a doctor that he would be obedient to certain things, and if he fails to be obedient to that oath he is subject to disciplinary action. This is not a ludicrous argument. I suggest that the Attorney-General’s argument is specious and I would like to hear some words about it.
– May I endeavour to justify my argument in relation to the example which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raised. He referred to barristers. The only oath or affirmation which a barrister is required to make in New South Wales, in any event, is one of allegiance; no other. In the case of a solicitor, it is true -
– What does allegiance mean?
– The oath of allegiance which appears in the Constitution. The honourable senator asks what it means. I suppose that question would give rise to a very long discussion in the courts, and I suppose it has done so on occasions. I think there was a treason case in which there was considerable discussion on it. But leave that matter aside for the moment. The only oath or affirmation one is required to make is one of allegiance. It is true that solicitors also are required to make an oath or affirmation that they will in effect perform their duties properly.
– So do boy scouts, do they not?
– I am not as familiar with the boy scout movement as the honourable senator appears to be. Consider the example of the barrister. The question of barristers was put to me some time ago- if Senator Greenwood casts his mind back I think he will agree that it was in the time he was Attorney-General- by the senior judge of one of our courts. I can check the matter but my recollection- I was reminded of this fairly recently- is that the proposal was that this be deleted from the requirements in relation to a barrister.
The reason behind this was that there were people from, say, Papua New Guinea and other places who might want to come here, study for their course and be admitted. This was causing embarrassment and it was serving no really useful purpose. I recall that when I saw this I said: ‘I will carry this out but one thing I am determined to do is to show from where the suggestion emanated’. Otherwise it would be put that we were in some revolutionary way trying to oppose the legal profession for no purpose. It is the fact that one finds all sorts of difficulties occurring to no good purpose. We have the obligation, whether in regard to a barrister, a solicitor or an employee of the Public Service, to ensure that they observe the law. This requirement still remains in the Public Service Act. That they will carry out all their duties is spelled out in various ways, and I do not need to refer to those requirements again because they are set out in section 55 and section 56 of the Act. We have the provisions in the Crimes Act which also cover their conduct. There is no need to require them to take this oath with provision for some kind of vague obligation or offence if it were broken.
We have the example of the States of Australia, which to this day do not have the requirement of the taking of an oath or an affirmation. This being so, all State Liberal and Labor governments and their parliaments have lived with this situation and have not found the necessity to have this requirement. Apparently practical difficulties are caused to some people whom we might want to be officers of the Public Service and who happen to have another nationality. Why bring in this requirement that they take an oath which might cause them to be stateless, which is the penalty of becoming an officer of this Service? It is demonstrably not necessary. It is not desirable. Every purpose which it could achieve is achieved by putting specific requirements in the law. Those requirements are there, and I say this is just an endeavour to turn back the clock. We have now reached the position where no government in Australia has a law which requires its employees to take this oath or affirmation. Why should we re-introduce it?
– What about a justice of the peace? He has to take an oath.
– I am talking about employees. I suppose one may cite the case of a justice of the peace. I would think that such cases ought to be examined. I think it will become apparent to everyone that much of this kind of material will disappear from the law, and probably it ought to disappear in the case of a country with a large migrant population. What is happening is that commonsense and the necessities of life are getting us to rely upon the specific provisions, specific offences, and specific obligations, instead of these vague kinds of oaths which cause difficulty to those who may have another nationality.
– When we initiated this debate I did not believe that it was going to develop as it has, and I think that the cogent points raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack have contributed to a development which is well worth while, because what we are really discussing is of national feeling, nationalism, and what conduces to national feeling in a country. The main argument of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy)- I appreciate the logic of what he is saying- is that it is not necessary to have an oath of allegiance or an affirmation of allegiance. I can see the way in which he puts that argument. However, I feel that he does not give sufficient weight to the mystique, the feel, the connection which must be imposed upon people between themselves and the services they render and the obligations they owe to the nation of which they are part.
After all, to take it at its essence, a person is a national of the country in which he is born. But people may leave a European country or an Asian country and come to Australia. They may desire to reside here, make this their home and become Australian citizens. But to become Australian citizens we require them to take an oath or affirmation of allegiance. I will go along with Senator Murphy and say that, if it is looked at in terms of necessity, it is not necessary to have an oath or affirmation of allegiance, but I think it is desirable from the nation’s point of view and I think it is desirable from the viewpoint of the person who is becoming an Australian citizen. The Australian nation accepts from a person who becomes a citizen his affirmation or his oath that he really binds himself to the country. From the citizen’s point of view, he knows in the firmest and strongest way that he has bound himself to the nation. This is part of that mystique. I suppose the word ‘mystique’ is not the best word to use to describe the way in which the concept of nationhood has really developed.
We have an oath of allegiance which members of Parliament take. On Senator Murphy’s argument it is not really necessary, but it is important, and 1 think that the people of Australia would expect that oath of allegiance to be taken. Ministers, though having taken an oath as a member of the Parliament, are expected to take and do take an oath when they become Ministers. Judges also take an oath. Some officers who are members of a tribunal also take an oath where the legislation requires it. It is part of our tradition that barristers and solicitors take an oath of allegiance, though I recognise that the case there is not as strong as in the other instances. It does appear to me that it is a desirable development. It helps to build a national feeling. I think for those who serve the nation in the role of the nation ‘s public servants, it is important that they, at the time when they become members of the Public Service, bind themselves in duty and in allegiance to serve their country. This has been the pattern over 50 years. I think that the argument as to why it should be changed has not really been developed, and therefore it has not been sustained. Even at this late stage it would be encouraging if the Attorney-General was prepared to concede that we do retain something by keeping the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
– I do not think any honourable senator on this side of the chamber intended to enter into this debate until we heard the final remarks of Senator Greenwood. If I may say so, I regard his remarks as being fairly insulting to a wonderful set of people in the Public Service. I cast my mind back to the time when I was an apprentice at the Queensland Government Printing Office. I took an oath of allegiance, but that did not impress me anywhere near as much as my overseer telling me of my responsibilities as a tradesman to keep secret the work done by the Government Printing Office. That made a far greater impression on me than any oath of allegiance I may have taken.
It may be of interest to the Senate to know that the fact that some people at the Government Printing Office took the oath of allegiance did not stop them from accepting an offer of money to leak to certain people some examination papers. But these people were not charged in relation to any oath of allegiance. An inquiry was held into the incident. The people on the job knew who was responsible for leaking the information. They were the ones who took action on behalf of the Government and on behalf of their own honour. They saw to it that the 2 people concerned gave notice and left the employ of the Government Printing Office. Honourable senators opposite should not think that just because someone takes an oath of allegiance they are going to be a purist of the best nature. The fact is that that person’s responsibilities and his own conscience will be the guide.
It is interesting to note that the oath of allegiance was required of employees in the Public Service of Queensland but now it is not required. Are honourable senators opposite going to suggest to me that the public servants of Queensland are inferior people to those who took the oath of allegiance? Are honourable senators opposite going to suggest that the 3 public servants sitting on my left would be inferior because they did not take an oath of allegiance? I say that having joined the Public Service, they have a conscience. They know they have a responsibility to the nation. They are aware of their responsibilities. They are aware of them when they commence their duties. Consequently, I believe that should be the only test- their conscience- of their responsibilities to the nation.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator D. M. Devitt)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
Because this Bill was introduced in another place and has been transmitted to the Senate, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The purpose of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill 1974 is to provide funds for post-school technical and further education in the States in accordance with the general program of development recommended by the Committee on Technical and Further Education.
The Committee was established under the chairmanship of Mr Myer Kangan, in April 1973, to advise on the development of technical and further education and to make recommendations on the financial assistance to be provided to government institutions providing technical and further education. The Committee reported to the Government in April 1974 and its report was immediately tabled.
The Prime Minister in his policy speech earlier this year referred to the Committee’s report. He stated: ‘We are determined that technical education shall cease to be the Cinderella of Australian education’. He went on to say that the reports which the Government had commissioned will provide an effective and expert basis for bold new initiatives to allow technical skills to find their proper and honoured place in a changing society. The Bill which I am introducing is an expression of our determination to give technical education that place. The Government has endorsed the approach adopted in the Kangan Report of a national program to upgrade technical and further education, with the Australian Government providing funds additional to a maintained effort by the States.
We do not wish to see technical and further education denned in any narrow way, related only to skills required by industry. The definition of technical and further education in the Bill covers the broad range of post-school education, including courses which have a vocational bias in order to meet occupational requirements and also courses which are not necessarily vocational but are designed to meet community needs. The Bill is therefore aimed at meeting national needs for an adequately educated and skilled workforce as well as providing continuing education for the adult population.
The scope and status of non-government institutions in the technical and further education field are so diverse that a good deal of consideration needs to be given to the nature of the assistance they might receive. The needs of these institutions, of which two of the more widely known are the Workers Educational Association and the Victorian Council of Adult Education, are, with one exception, not being taken into account by the Bill. The question of support for them will be the subject of a report by the proposed Technical and Further Education Commission and submissions from voluntary bodies not operated for profit have already been sought.
There is one non-government institution which for special reasons is deemed by the Bill to be a government instrumentality so that it may continue to receive grants to offset the student fees which the Government has undertaken to meet. The institution is the College of Nursing, Australia. The College, a private organisation, provides some sub-tertiary courses in nursing practice and administration as well as tertiary courses. Both of these groups of courses have been receiving fees reimbursement grants and the tertiary courses are continuing to do so under arrangements for colleges of advanced education. So that the sub-tertiary courses can continue to receive reimbursement grants, the College is being treated as a State instrumentality and we will arrange with the States for part of the recurrent grants they receive to be paid to the College.
The report of the Committee on Technical and Further Education recommended that grants totalling nearly $ 105 m be provided to the States over the 18 month period 1 July 1974 to 31 December 1975. The total appropriation under the Bill is $ 107.8m spread over the two year period 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1976. A further $7.2m, appropriated under the previous technical training legislation and unspent at 30 June last, is also available for expenditure. Together with the $3.5m to be available to the Australian Capital Territory and $250,000 provided for research, the total amount which we have set aside for technical and further education over the two years is over $ 1 1 8m.
If a single justification were needed for the level of expenditure we propose, it is given by the fact that the 1971 census recorded that some 67 per cent of men and some 80 per cent of women in the workforce claimed no formally recognized post-school qualification of any kind. While the provision of grants for training within industry, which is the province of my colleague the Minister for Labor, was excluded from the Kangan Committee’s terms of reference, it will be recognized that the program we are putting forward will be of some consequence in providing the buildings, the equipment and the trained staff to cater for those people who undertake courses of training or re-training at technical colleges under the National Employment and Training Scheme.
I would like to mention that some concern had been expressed by the States regarding the adequacy of the provision for general recurrent grants within the total sums. The States referred to their loss of revenue resulting from the abolition of student fees, the increased enrolment in their technical colleges and the higher running costs. The Australian Committee on Technical and Further Eucation gave its advice on this matter and the Government has reacted quickly to provide in the Bill the additional funds required to compensate the States for their loss of fees revenue. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I shall later seek to have incorporated in Hansard a table summarising the various grants to the States which are to be appropriated, as set out in the Schedules to the Bill.
The Bill sets out the purposes for which the funds appropriated under various headings, as shown in the Schedules, may be applied and the conditions to be attached to the grants. The approach adopted in the Bill is that general purpose recurrent grants are payable to the States as a matter of course, while grants for particular recurrent purposes and for capital purposes may be authorised by the Minister up to the limits of the appropriation and the particular programs or projects must be approved by the Minister. The recipients of the grants are required to account to the Minister for their use and to provide him with information on which he can report annually to the Parliament on progress made under the program. The Minister is empowered to obtain statistical and other information on which the improvement in quality resulting from the grants can be gauged.
While the Bill provides for particular amounts to be available to each State for particular purposes, as recommended by the Kangan report, it permits some flexibility in their use. Where a State is unable to make use of all of the capital funds available to it, the surplus may be transferred, by regulation, to another State. Particular purpose recurrent grants to a State may be used for general recurrent purposes and tied recurrent grants, contained in Schedules 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill, which are unused in 1974-75 may be used in 1975-76.
The States will be expected to continue their own support for technical education. The report of the Committee proposes a precise formula to guarantee the maintenance of the previous level of State expenditure. We consider this suggestion to be too restrictive. Instead, it is proposed that there be a degree of flexibility and the Minister will take up with the States satisfactory arrangements for the maintenance of State effort along the lines of those developed for the Schools Commission grants. It is to be understood that courses which are funded under other programs of assistance by the Government will not be eligible for grants under this legislation.
I would like to mention in the context of this Bill, although the thought applies more widely, that we see considerable economies being effected if what are basically educational buildings are so designed that they are suitable for other uses. In approving major capital projects under this program, it would be appropriate for discussions to be held with the States on the multi-purpose use of buildings in the interests of ensuring the integration of community and educational needs.
I turn now to the individual grants which are being provided by the Bill. In all, the Bill appropriates $107,838,000, the bulk of which is allocated among the States broadly to reflect their student populations and their needs.
Capital Expenditure Grants
General building grants of $25.85m are to be provided under Section 6 of the Bill. These grants may be used for the preparation of development plans for technical colleges and similar institutions, for the purchase of land and for the construction and initial furnishing and equipping of the buildings. The grants of $ 1 5.087m for minor works and equipment which the Bill provides for should do much to ensure an improvement in the facilities available at existing colleges. Minor works are denned by the Bill as those which cost up to $40,000.
The Bill appropriates $4m for the construction of student residential accommodation for existing colleges. Accommodation at new colleges may be provided from the general building grants. We regard the provision of residential accommodation for technical college students as a most important and desirable feature of the legislation. Assistance for student accommodation has long been a recognized feature of our grants to universities but here, for the first time, we intend to provide accommodation for technical college students. These student residentials will facilitate the development of block release training, both for apprentices and for students taking other courses. Reasonably priced residential accommodation is essential for country students who need to attend colleges full time for at least part of their courses. The States will be invited to submit proposals for the residential projects at their existing colleges.
Recurrent Expenditure Grants
Parliament is being asked to make the first grants by an Australian Government towards the recurrent expenditure of technical institutions in the States. Previous grants to the States for technical training were specifically for the construction and equipping of training colleges and other institutions. The Bill appropriates $48. 63m for general purpose grants, which the States may spend on technical and further education as they see fit.
Included in the general purpose grant of $48. 63m is, as mentioned earlier, a component to compensate the States for the abolition of fees at technical colleges. The Committee’s report recommends that a formula be developed for the provision of grants after December 1975 to cover loss of income resulting from fee abolition. We have not accepted the recommendation in this form. However, the States’ needs and resources will be taken into account in recommending future grants, without making a notional separation of the amount which they would have received as fees had fees not been abolished.
Additional to the amounts provided for general purpose grants, the sum of $9.81 m is to be available to the States for expenditure in areas listed in Clause 14 of the Bill. These areas include curriculum research and development, improvement of library services and the provision of external study facilities and student counselling services. The States will be expected to submit general programs of their proposed expenditure in these areas in order to be eligible for payments from the $9.8 lm. Each State will need flexibility in allocating the amount available to it to suit its particular needs and the amounts and proportions which the report suggests should be used for particular purposes, are to serve only as a guideline. It is to be hoped that the States will be generous in allocating amounts to that purpose in Clause 14 which is concerned with the provision of staff to promote safety, health and welfare in individual colleges. We think it is right to place a high priority on expenditure in these areas.
Again as recommended by the report, the Bill provides recurrent expenditure grants for some specific purposes. The amounts are earmarked for the purposes designated because of the importance which the Committee places on stimulating qualitative improvement through initiating a range of innovative measures. Accordingly, the States will be expected to submit specific projects for approval. The purposes to which the grants may be put, referred to in clauses 1 7, 1 9 and 2 1 of the Bill, are- $2.4m for in-service teaching staff development; $805,000 in total for the provision of library furnishings, the training of library technicians and the investigation of the feasibility of a bibliographic centre; $lm for furthering the concept of unrestricted access to recurrent education; $56,000 for the development of proposals for community colleges; and $200,000 for the design of model library resource centres.
The Bill does not allocate among the States the last two items I have mentioned. The $56,000 is to be available for distribution among those States which wish to develop proposals for community colleges. We have no firm definition of what a community college should be because we would expect them to vary in nature and scope to meet particular community needs. Broadly, their purpose is to provide a wide range of courses, which could include courses enabling adults to make good deficiencies in their primary and secondary schooling, and courses at diploma level which are in demand by the community. Those colleges would be particularly valuable in locations removed from large metropolitan centres, opening new horizons to people cut off from the mainstreams of educational opportunities, assisting them to transfer from one type of course to another and encouraging the kind of broad based education which widens job prospects. The Darwin Community College is an example of what can be achieved in this area.
The $200,000 provided for the design of model library resource centres is also to be available to States which intend to develop these centres. States wishing to share in the funds for the development of community colleges and library resource centres will need to submit firm proposals. The total of the recurrent expenditure grants to the States is $62,901,000 over the 2-year period. It will be agreed that this amount will have a great influence on the number and quality of the teaching and ancillary staff at technical institutions.
The Bill before us is a States Grants Bill and as such it makes no provision for expenditure in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. The broad principles of the Committee’s report which the Government has accepted are to apply in these Territories as well as in the States and provision is being made elsewhere for expenditure in the Territories. In its examination of the barriers preventing ready access to technical and further education, the Committee refers to the special problems faced by people in rural areas, by women and girls, and by handicapped persons and migrants. Special consideration must be given to these groups when plans for the expenditure of the funds we are providing are being drawn up. The Minister shall be asking the States to ensure that the needs of these groups are taken into account by the various education authorities.
The pressure of Parliamentary business during this Budget session has been very great and for this reason alone we have decided to delay the introduction of legislation to establish the Technical and Further Education Commission as a statutory body. Obviously, the most important task is to get the money flowing into the technical colleges and to this end we have given priority to this Bill. Nevertheless, the work which will be undertaken by the Commission is being effectively carried out by the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education under the chairmanship of Professor Richardson of Macquarie University. We express our appreciation to him and to his Committee.
We live in a world of rapid technological change, change that is brought about by informed, creative people. Resistance to change and fear of change are natural attitudes when people cannot see the effects of change on themselves. We endorse the approach of the Kangan Committee that technical and further education should develop the general education of individuals as well as providing them with specialised training. In this way, people will become confident of meeting change because the breadth of their education fits them for alternative employment. I seek leave to have the table referred to earlier incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the Senate. I wish the Bill a speedy passage through the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
Because this Bill has been transmitted to the Senate from another place and the second reading speech is exactly the same as that made in the other place, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The primary purpose of this Bill is to make adjustments to the approved triennial programs of universities to take account of cost variations. It is intended to preserve the original triennial programs of the universities and to ensure that they are not prevented from completing these approved programs as a result of variations in costs. Provision has been made in the legislation for cost variations for both building and recurrent expenditures by universities.
The Government intends to propose amendments to the principal Act during each Budget session to take account of variations in costs using indexes constructed by the Universities Commission. These indexes will be based on actual changes in costs arising from such things as movements in wages and salaries, costs of non-salary items and building construction costs.
Honourable senators will recall that earlier in the session an amending Bill to the States Grants (Universities) Act 1972-1973 was enacted which included provision for grants for teaching and research in community practice, social work and in special education at a number of universities. The present Bill provides for similar grants to additional universities.
In accordance with established practice, adjustments have been made to salaries payable to academic staff at universities arising from the national wage case decision in May 1974. New rates of salaries resulting from this judgment and which provide a basis for funding this part of university expenditures are incorporated into the principal Act by this Bill.
Because of the increasing volume of matters of detail before the Commission especially in relation to building and equipment programs and the desirability of quick decisions on them the Government has decided that there should be provision for a power of delegation from the Commission to its full-time members to enable administrative procedures arising from the legislation to be expedited. The Bill provides for the necessary legislative authority for delegation of the Commission’s powers.
The total additional cost to the Australian Government in providing for cost variations in the universities’ programs is approximately $51m. Earmarked funds for teaching and research in community practice and the other special activities I have already mentioned are provided in addition to this amount to the extent of $940,000. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
(9.24)- I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The major purposes of this Bill are to provide a program of financial assistance for seven nonGovernment Teachers Colleges for 1974 and 1975, and to provide for variations in both capital and recurrent costs for all colleges of advanced education which were not allowed for when the programs for the 1973-75 triennium were adopted.
In 1973 the Government amended the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act to give effect to the decision that former State Government teachers colleges as they moved toward autonomy would be funded by the Australian Government as colleger, of advanced education. Consistent with the policy that these teachers colleges should be so funded the Commission on Advanced Education was asked to report on the assistance to be provided for approved nongovernment teachers colleges. The Commission’s report was tabled on 17 July 1974. The recommendations have been accepted by the Government and this Bill gives legislative effect to this decision which involves a commitment of up to $6,543,820 in the years 1974 and 1975. This undertaking of the Prime Minister has been met this year with the extension of student allowances and recurrent funds in the nongovernment teacher education aree..
In accordance with the Government’s decision of 23 August, 1974, the Bill also provides funds for recurrent expenditure of up to $230,000 for the establishment of recreation leadership courses at colleges of advanced education.
The Bill also seeks the transfer of $ 1 m of capital funds from section 10 to section 9 of the principal Act. This allows fo, additional funds to be provided for student residences and affiliated colleges in country areas, and better reflects the demand made for funds under these sections. It is a growing concern of the Government to adapt tertiary education and technical and further education to the needs of country people and to do this the cost of residential accommodation must increasingly be met. This is a first step.
The Government intends to propose amendments to the principal Act during each Budget session to take account of variations in costs. The indexes used by the Universities Commission will also be used by the Commission on advanced Education to calculate cost variations for the college system.
Honourable senators will recall that this Government has provided assistance for courses in dental therapy at the Western Australian Institute of Technology, social work at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, social work and physical education at the Preston Institute of Technology and physical education at the Footscray Institute of Technology in Victoria. Grants have also been provided for courses in special education and for the preparation of preschool teachers. The Bill provides for variations in these specified grants to allow for increases in costs. Additional grants to cover increases in running costs are also provided for student residences and affiliated colleges.
In accordance with established government policy, following the national wage case decision of May 1974 adjustments have been made to salaries payable to academic staff at colleges of advanced education. Amounts to cover these increases have been provided in this Bill.
This amendment provides an additional $47m in the 1973-75 triennium for colleges of advanced education and non-government teachers colleges. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 November, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) that it would be appropriate to take this measure and the Taxation Administration Bill 1974 together in a joint debate. I will refer to them separately.
– The Government will support that proposal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
-The Banking Bill 1974 was not opposed in the House of Representatives by the Opposition. Indeed it was met there with approval and the measure as such receives the same support here from the Opposition as it had in the House of Representatives. However, it is fair to say that since it passed through the House of Representatives many of us had a number of representations on this Bill from various legal people, from quite a lot of financial people and from one or two associations of people involved in trade, in particular in the area of trade between Australia and the United Kingdom, and quite a number of us have discussed this Bill with these various people. We in the Opposition also have talked with Treasury officials about these 2 Bills and some of the problems people have raised in connection with them. In one case we arranged for some of those people who made representations to confer with Treasury officials and discuss the problems. We have since then talked on, I think, 2 occasions with Treasury officials about this legislation.
It has become fashionable in Australia for some people to knock off Treasury at regular intervals. For myself and for the Opposition I want to say that we have always had most courteous treatment from Treasury and its officials and we have a fairly substantial regard for their bona fides and hard work. I just wanted to make that observation.
– What did John Gorton say?
– I am speaking for myself. I want you to understand that.
– I thought you said ‘we’.
– I was using the royal plural. I think it is fair that that should be said of them and the good work they do. An explanatory memorandum was put out with the measure and we are given to understand quite clearly by a further explanatory memorandum that came out this morning that the Government proposes amendments to meet some of these problems and to overcome some of the objections people have raised. It will never be possible to overcome all the objections people raise to measures with such ramifications and of the order of importance of these. There will without any doubt be some people who will be worse off as a result of this legislation but the Australian community in total in my view will be better off and that is in accordance with the principal purpose of the Parliament. Other honourable senators have concerns to express about one or two extra factors in the debate in the Committee stage when the Government’s amendments are moved. I hope that the Minister will take these seriously, give due weight to them and consider whether they might be worth further attention.
As stated in the second reading speech of the Minister, the Banking Bill 1974 has 4 main purposes. The first is to take full advantage of the constitutional powers of the Australian Government, particularly in relation to exchange control regulations where they have regard to financial transactions overseas. The second is to provide for extra-territorial application of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations. The third is to validate civil proceedings or acts or transactions entered into or which might be entered into without the proper exchange control authority. The fourth is to provide a more comprehensive legislative basis for tax screening arrangements. An observation in the second reading speech that is interesting to those of us who follow this subject a little is that the present section 39 of the Banking Act has been on the statute books for about 30 years with only very minor amendments having been made to it during those years. I am one of those people who have believed for a long time, both when we were in government and now when we are in opposition, that the whole of the Banking Act is in substantial need of reconsideration, review and updating. This legislation is just part of a small process of change.
The comment has been made that governments need to have full legal powers to control financial aspects of all the various types of transactions which may be entered into between residents of Australia and residents of overseas countries. That general proposition was raised by the Government in the Financial Corporations Bill which the Senate agreed to and which is now part of the law of the country. As one observed then, one similarly observes now that this again gives the Government a greater area of authority over the monetary, tax and financial scene and with that, of course, goes a greater level of responsibility. Flowing out of that, the Senate Opposition is most anxious to watch very carefully the progress of the Government in its handling of the finances of the country, in its monetary position, in its exchange position and the broad ramifications of all that with the expanded authority that the Government now has.
Reference is also made to section 39 of the Act which deals with exchange control regulations. It is stated that the wording in that section, which has been for a long time in need of change, has given rise to some uncertainty and the proposed amendments which are the original ones, not the new ones that have come forward, should ensure that the regulations may be made to control the financial aspects of all overseas transactions entered into in modern economies. It is said that the wording in section 39 is a little uncertain, and the changes proposed in the amendment contained in this legislation are aimed at removing that uncertainty.
Clause 5 of the Bill will validate for civil purposes acts or transactions entered into prior to the commencement of the Act without exchange control approval, and also for exchange transactions entered into in future without the appropriate approval but in no way does it prevent a person being convicted if he is found guilty of any offence that arises under this Act. Those of us who were involved in this legislation last December, nearly 12 months ago, will remember that we did approve amendments to the Banking Act 1959-1973. They were proposed at the time to deal shortly and fairly urgently with the problem of tax payments. It is now necessary as the second reading speech states- one accepts this to be the fact- to set out rules in a much more comprehensive form. The responsibility really will now principally rest with the Commissioner of Taxation and not fundamentally with the Reserve Bank of Australia. There is, in effect, a formal move of power. The two are joined together but it is the Commissioner of Taxation who will be expected to make perhaps a wider surveillance under the broad lines of policy.
New section 39b requires or allows in certain cases the Bank to refuse applications for exchange control approval unless the Commissioner of Taxation certifies there is no avoidance or evasion. A lot of this, of course, is related to this general proposition of tax havens and the difficulties they present to countries like our own where we may be in a more favourable exchange position from one time or another and perhaps people may be induced to get money out of the country for speculative gain, and one would want to be doing everything possible to avoid that occurring. In the earlier measures referred to and again in this measure the New Hebrides is particularly mentioned as a place regarded as a potential tax haven. There are other potential tax havens around the world. I think we have to accept the fact that in a modern world like the one in which we live a good deal of loose money is moving around and it tends to find a home in places where it has a substantial tax advantage. There are some people who claim this is a beneficial thing for the country which can attract this sort of floating money by making tax concessions. Principally they are countries which are looking to attract capital for development programs. Australia is really not in that position. It is a bona fide country. It has its own resources, capacities and sophisticated methods of handling things, but it does have to watch the problem that there may be people who wish to speculate in Australian currency by taking various measures to get money out of the country in various forms and put it into places where they may think that they may have some gain. What that really does, of course, in the society in which we live is to advantage some people at the expense of others and that is not something which the Opposition Parties are in the least interested in supporting. They are interested in supporting any changes to the law that will make it perhaps less onerous and fairer but at the same time still operate in the public interest. It is in the light of this that we understand these 2 amendments are coming forward from the Government. I understand from one of my colleagues that he has some further concern that he wishes to express in an amendment which he will put to the Minister to consider. I will be waiting to hear the general observations of the Minister and the advice from his officials in regard to the comments that one of my colleagues will make.
These Bills really put beyond doubt the power of the Australian Government to make regulations in respect of all types of overseas transactions. The legislation brings within the ambit of exchange control financial action transactions of Australian residents which take place overseas. The validation for civil purposes has been stated. The Reserve Bank can, as we have stated, refuse applications if the applicant has not satisfied the tax authorities. As I have stated, we support the amendments that are proposed in this Bill. We will be supporting the amendments as they have come forward and will come forward from the Minister as we understand them to read in the memorandum which has been circulated.
We would look at this legislation in the broad and say that it would appear to us to be a further extension of the necessary legislation to protect the Australian revenue and to prevent abuse by unscrupulous persons. We hope it will fall fairly upon all people and that genuine people will in no way be harmed. There is, I think, one thing that can usefully be said. There is a state of great uncertainty in Australia at the present time in many areas of finance. There are a lot of very unhappy and very worried people and this is a product of other things the Government has done. There is a tendency for some Australian people to be saying: ‘ We have to get our money out of the country’. That is a very unhappy thing to hear. The only way to fix that is to run the country efficiently, well and sensibly and not have it put under these excessive financial and monetary strains. I have a view in the broad that one day Australia is going to have to grow up in the international financial world. It is going to have to learn to handle the problem of its own citizens who have genuine needs and wishes to invest abroad for genuine Australian purposes. I have always felt that we had learned to be a trading country of some consequence, but equally I have felt that we have failed to come to grips with the financing problems that are associated with an expanding trade position like ours. I believe the future will hold for us the need to invest Australian money overseas in alliances with people who buy our products and for market opportunities. We need to become more sophisticated and to have a greater understanding of the problems of international financing as they affect the broad Australian public interest. I think this legislation is leading in that direction, but we have a long way to go.
The Taxation Administration Bill to which I referred earlier is fairly simple. It is an associated measure. It also is supported by the Opposition. It also is referred to in the original explanatory memorandum. Classes of transactions are nominated, and authorised issue of a clearance certificate is necessary for people wishing to take money out of Australia for various purposes. Equally if those persons feel they have been improperly dealt with they have an opportunity to seek redress. I think that the proposed new sub-section ought to be referred to because it is important for those people who are going to be affected by this provision to know that if they feel the Commissioner has dealt unfairly or improperly with them they have redress. The proposed new sub-section quite clearly states that should the Commissioner decline to issue tax clearance certificates he is to advise the applicant accordingly. The applicant will have the right of formal objection against this refusal. If the Commissioner does not then issue a certificate the applicant may then have the matter referred to a taxation board of review set up under the income tax law. There will be a right of appeal to the High Court on any question of law involved in a decision of a board of review. In short there will be rights to independent review of the Commissioner’s decisions under this Bill as is the case under other legislation administered by the Commissioner. It would seem to the Opposition that, providing it is administered wisely and sensibly, the legislation provides for safeguards, provides for proper measures of control, puts the responsibility upon the Government to run the thing properly and allows a right of appeal to people who feel they have been unfairly dealt with by the Commissioner of Taxation. I concede there may be some people who will say: ‘The delays and costs that are involved make it something I cannot afford ‘.
In this general area of tax avoidance and evasion by transferring Australian resources overseas we are dealing with huge sums of money. Australia needs to protect itself. The people who are endeavouring to do these things for purposes which are not the right purposes will have to suffer the penalty. Those people who are doing them for a good, sensible and wise Australian purpose, I feel myself, should be able to do so. I hope the Government will aid them to do so. The only other part of the Bill contains a necessary reference to secrecy by taxation officers. Accordingly, as I have said, the Opposition supports the Bill as it is before us. We have read in the memoranda the details of the Government’s own amendments and we feel that they are worth supporting. We wait for our colleague, Senator Missen, to raise another matter that he feels ought to be brought up in this debate.
-I desire to address my remarks on this Bill to a particular section which gives me considerable concern. I refer to clause 5 in the Bill which is the validating provision. I draw attention to the original memorandum which was circulated in respect of this Bill. Among the main purposes of the Banking Bill, it says that it is to validate, for the purposes of any civil proceedings, acts or transactions already entered into or which might be entered into in future without proper exchange control authority and that the right of the Government to prosecute persons for breaches of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations will not be affected. The last part does not concern me at all, but the first part does. Clause 5 of the Bill as it stands validates all actions that may be done. I understand there are many actions which are, in most cases I imagine, quite innocent breaches of the regulations.
The further explanation in the memorandum says:
This clause provides for the automatic validation, for the purposes of any civil proceedings, of any act or transaction done in the past without the proper exchange control authority.
I notice from a further amendment that is intended to be moved tonight that that is to be changed. It is proposed, under clause 5, to exclude from that validation any act, thing, contract or other transaction the validity of which has before 3 December 1 974 been called in question for that reason in any proceedings whether or not the proceedings have been completed before that date. There is a further sub-section which is irrelevant for the purpose of my argument. So it is proposed to exclude from a date those proceedings where actions have been taken in the courts and where there has been reliance presumably on the illegality of the act not having obeyed the regulations.
I should also mention that during the afternoon we received a further addendum to the explanatory memorandum which explains amendments which no members of this chamber, so far as I know, had until quite recently. I do not think honourable senators would have had the amendment until a few minutes ago, except I and I think Senator Cotton had it earlier this evening. So far as the further amendment is concerned the explanatory memorandum states:
The purpose of the exemption is to enable proceedings which would be effected by retrospective validation to continue to be decided by the courts under the existing law. The exemption is considered to be equitable.
One of the purposes of my speaking tonight is to challenge whether all those exemptions will be equitable and to suggest that we should look very carefully at that amendment. I have circulated another amendment which would have the effect of saying, so far as the exemption is concerned, that it should be left to the court that is hearing the case to say whether it is just and equitable that that particular piece of litigation should be excluded and whether the right of claiming illegality should be allowed to that particular litigant. I wonder why we are receiving these amendments at such short notice. I wonder why we are receiving explanatory memoranda in the afternoons and the amendments themselves at night. The result is that I have been able to draft my amendment only this evening and I have not been able to consult my colleagues on the matter. I will be moving, at the conclusion of the second reading debate, that the Committee stage be adjourned until the next day of sitting so that there is proper opportunity to consider the amendments and the import of them.
The important significance is that while this is all retrospective legislation and while it is validating actions which I think have been taken mostly innocently by many people and companies over the years, we are going to exclude what, I understand, are very few cases which are either before the courts or, on one reading of the Government’s amendment, perhaps have even been completed. The Government’s amendment states that the validation is not to apply to persons where litigation has taken place before 3 December. The amendment goes on and adds:
Whether or not the proceedings have been completed before that date;
I raise a doubt as to whether the proceeding which has gone to court and been finished could now be re-raised or an appeal could be lodged. Would it be possible now to raise this question of illegality? I do not speak here from a position of not being without representations from persons who think that they will be affected by the Government’s amendment and who believe that strong representation may have been made to the Government for the purposes of individual gain. So in fact persons will in litigation be greatly affected by whether this amendment is adopted. If that is so we should scrutinise it very carefully before this Parliament adopts legislation which will affect litigation.
It is well known, I think, by lawyers in this chamber that very often claims of illegality on the basis that people have not obeyed regulations is a pretty unmeritorious defence where parties have entered into contracts and agreements and acted on them for years and then one endeavours to get out of the contract on the basis of some illegality which he suggests voids the whole contract. I suggest that when the Government says that the exemption it suggests is considered to be equitable it really all depends on the circumstances. One may be thinking of actual cases. But if in fact in litigation the defence of illegality has been raised by way of blackmail or by way of bargaining without any real suggestion of moral wrong on the part of the litigant, I suggest this Parliament should not, by its legislation, give some favoured position so far as the litigants are concerned. That is why I hope to have the Senate consider tomorrow whether it would not be fair that this issue should be determined by the court in which the litigation is to be heard. That court will have all the facts before it. It will have before it the circumstances of how the defence arises, how the parties have acted, how long they have proceeded and whether or not they should proceed. Why should we pick out the date 3 December and say that if people had put in some defence before that date they must be protected? Of course, they may have done that for unworthy motives. They may have just done that in the hope that this legislation might be amended. I suggest that that is no real test, it is no desirable test as to whether the validation which the Government considers should overwhelmingly be given to people who have not obeyed the regulations should be denied to parties who are in fact in this situation.
What I am merely saying at this stage is that this matter should be looked at very carefully by the Senate, because it is very easy, in the rush to get legislation through at this time, to pass something that will in fact be of great benefit to some persons who make representations and speak with a loud voice. Amongst other things I refer to the way in which this amendment is being proceeded with and the way in which it has not received proper consideration by the parties in this chamber. Nor has very much material been put before the Senate as to the reasons for the amendment, in what way it is equitable, how many people will be involved, and so on. For these reasons I suggest that after the second reading stage, the Committee stage should be adjourned so that we do not do an injustice in this area.
– in reply- Mr Acting President, it is quite clear that the substance of the legislation is not opposed by the Opposition. Senator Cotton indicated during the course of his remarks that at least at this stage the Opposition will support the amendments, which are to be placed before the Committee by the Government. But it is true that Senator Missen has indicated that at the Committee stage he will move a further amendment. It is apparently the position of the Opposition now that there is some uncertainty as to how the Opposition will vote at the Committee stage on both the Government’s amendments and Senator Missen ‘s amendment.
– Excuse me, Mr Minister. There is no doubt about our attitude to your amendments. We support them.
– There is doubt about the motion for the adjournment.
-That is true. As indicated by Senator Missen, at the Committee stage he will move for the adjournment of the debate. It is true that there are some important legal implications in the amendments which are before the Senate. One can understand the desire of all honourable senators to be as conversant as they possibly can with these amendments. I think that the proper course for us to adopt would be to take a vote on the second reading, move to the Committee stage and then we can determine what action we should take at that stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Part III of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Part substituted:
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I move:
The Government has decided to move this amendment which is intended to allow certain contracts, acts and transactions which lack the necessary exchange control authority to be more readily enforceable in overseas courts. Under the present legislation, in the absence of the proper exchange control authority, not only could a transaction between a resident in Australia and an overseas resident be illegal and subject to penalty under the Banking Act, it could also be null and void. In most cases where exchange control authority is not obtained the persons involved would be unaware of the need to obtain approval and in many cases the absence of exchange control approval does not present a problem to the parties concerned. However, the fact that such contracts could be invalid could lead to people using the alleged invalidity of such transactions to renege on their debts or other obligations. This would clearly be undesirable.
Clause 3, as it relates to sub-section (6) of proposed section 39, is intended to make provision for regulations to be made in effect to validate transactions which will be entered into in future without the proper exchange control authority. Clause 3, as it relates to sub-section (6) of proposed section 39, would have the effect of preventing a party or parties to the contract from raising the question of the invalidity of a contract in Australian courts on the grounds that exchange control approval was not obtained. That is, it is merely a procedural clause. The result would be that a contract which is void because of the absence of exchange control authority would probably remain void by reason of these clauses, but parties to the contract would be unable to use this invalidity in any proceedings in Australia. The result would be that parties seeking to use a loophole in the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations to renege on their debts would be prevented from doing so. Unfortunately, this procedural form of validation would make it difficult to enforce such contracts or collateral contracts in overseas courts, because if a contract remains void in Australia it is also void outside Australia and may be unenforceable in the courts of other countries. The Government proposes to amend clause 3 as it relates to sub-section 6 of proposed section 39 as far as is practicable to remedy the defect. The amendment to sub-section 6 of proposed section 39 would enable regulations to be made that provide for acts or transactions entered into in the future without exchange control approval not to be invalid or unenforceable by reason only of the absence of the necessary exchange control authority. I would assume that Senator Missen or Senator Cotton will comment further on this amendment, and that from there we can indicate the Committee’s feelings about the amendment.
– I will be extremely brief. As I take it, we in the Opposition are in agreement with this amendment to sub-section (6) of proposed section 39. As I see it, unless someone else wants to get involved in the debate, the amendment could go through without any further discussion or argument. It is when we come to clause 5 that we will get involved in a consideration of an amendment to be moved by Senator Missen.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
– I do not think that any of us want to spend an interminable amount of time on this matter. We are dealing with clause 5 of the Bill in relation to which it is proposed to leave out subclause ( 1 ) and to substitute another sub-clause. Senator Missen has indicated that he wants to add some words to the proposed amendment. The words he wants to add have been circulated.
In order to save a lot of time and trouble, it would help us greatly if the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) were to inform us whether his officers feel that they can advise him on that matter this evening or whether they would prefer and the Minister would prefer to have a little time in which to consider whether Senator Missen ‘s proposition is a useful one.
– As I indicated when I spoke earlier in the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill it is difficult to make a decision on a matter which obviously has considerable legal implications. I can understand the problems that have been raised by Senator Missen and the doubts that are in his mind. If in fact the passage of this legislation could be expedited as a result of further consideration I would be prepared to accept an adjournment of the debate until such time as we have perhaps discussed it further and it could be brought back into the chamber. If Senator Missen wishes to move for the adjournment of the debate the Government will accept his motion.
– I wish to make a brief observation. I suggest that we should accept the proposal put forward by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). We of the Opposition think that it is a very wise course of action and will shorten the debate considerably. I think that Senator Missen might care to speak briefly on the matter before progress is reported. The Minister can then put the matter under consideration.
– I do not desire to say any more than I have already said. I am quite happy to move that progress be reported. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 26 November on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28 November on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I indicate on behalf of the Opposition that it supports the Handicapped Persons Assistance Bill 1974. We of the Opposition were interested to note that this Bill, which repeals the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act and the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act, consolidates and extends the Australian Government’s programs of assistance to voluntary organisations that have assumed responsibility for the welfare of handicapped people. We are interested in some of the provisions of the Bill. I have one question with regard to the repeal of the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act to which I would like a response from the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon). In clause 35 of the Bill with which we are dealing tonight there is provision for repeal of the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act. I would like to have some clarification on whether the entire provisions of that Act will be reenacted in the present Bill and whether the benefits which are available under that Act will now be transferred to the new legislation. The original Act for the care of handicapped children gave a great deal of help to that sector of the community.
– About which Act was the honourable senator asking?
– The Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act, which has been repealed. We are interested in the educational programs that were able to be developed and that were related to the needs of handicapped children. The fact that we have made progress in the various States of Australia in the facilities and opportunities provided is noteworthy as a matter of government concern. It is simply to ask for an assurance with regard to the previous arrangements which were available that I have posed this question.
With regard to sheltered employment assistance, we are interested to see that the subsidy for the establishing of sheltered workshops for handicapped adults and training centres for handicapped children in hostels for both children and adults will now be $4 for every $1 which is raised by the voluntary organisations.
We believe that this will be of assistance in relation to the new projects which need to be undertaken to extend the services which have already been developed. I was also pleased to see the rate of benefit increased from $3 to $3.50 a day and the provision will now be made to enable short absences to be undertaken from institutions, such as a weekend break at home, without the discontinuance of the benefit for those short periods.
Another feature of the Bill which is commendable is the salary subsidy of 50 per cent for approved staff. This provision applied previously only in relation to sheltered employment. It will now apply to the whole range of prescribed services. A subsidy of 100 per cent where new ventures are being introduced will enable the staff to become established and to develop the additional services more quickly. The provision of sheltered workshops has been of increasing benefit to those members of the community who have physical, mental or social handicaps. The development of an understanding of the assistance that this provides is something to which we give our complete support. It was in the time of our Government that much of the sheltered employment assistance was developed. We are pleased to see that there are many centres throughout the various States of Australia that do provide opportunities for employment for those people, particularly those who have physical handicaps. A Bill that extends through the voluntary organisations assistance in both capital subsidy and assistance to staff has the support of the Opposition.
I can recall that when the honourable W. C. Wentworth was the Minister for Social Services he expressed the personal view that he would like to think that those people who were able to undertake employment in sheltered workshops would not do so with a feeling of insecurity about the continuity of any pension entitlements that they may have had. It was not something that he was able to develop as fully as he would like to have done in a personal sense, but he had the view that there should be nothing to impede people who have handicaps feeling that they ought to be productive and gainfully employed members of the community. Sometimes the feeling of insecurity that seeking employment may give to a person who has been in receipt of an invalid pension could be a deterrent to their seeking a complete expression of themselves to the extent of their capacities.
For all the reasons that were mentioned by the shadow Minister for Social Security in the other place when he responded on behalf of the Opposition, I indicate that we give our support to the measures that have been introduced. We are pleased to see that the Government recognises the role that voluntary organisations play in our community service and recognise that this style of service is best suited to those who have handicaps. I believe the personal attention, compassion and interest that are given to the people who use those services are best achieved through a strong volunteer system throughout our community. It is of interest to note that this Bill deals specifically with voluntary institutions and organisations and expresses Government recognition of the role that they play. We have pleasure in giving a speedy passage to this Bill, and we look forward to further extensions of both sheltered workshop employment opportunities and facilities for the training of handicapped children.
- Senator Guilfoyle has outlined the functions of the Bill and has pointed out how the Bill repeals the Sheltered Employment Assistance Act and the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act and replaces them. It represents an evolution in the development of our care of the handicapped, a system which I believe was largely started by Mr W. C. Wentworth when he was the Minister for Social Services. For all my philosophical differences with him, I recognise him as a man of great enlightenment in this field. We are not repealing and replacing these Acts because they are unsatisfactory but because they do not quite fit our ideas and, I am sure after hearing Senator Guilfoyle, the Opposition’s ideas of the assistance we should give. There has been great development in sheltered workshops, to the extent that some of them have become very viable industries. One can think of Bedford Industries Vocational Rehabilitation Association Incorporated in South Australia and others in other States that are a great advance in giving handicapped people a sense of fulfilment and a sense of achievement in society so that they can feel that they are not so very different from anyone else and that with very little help and rehabilitation they can get somewhere and achieve something.
I believe that in the past there has always been a tendency to take a simplistic approach to the handicapped and to divide the whole community into 2 groups- the normal and the handicapped. Out of this approach has arisen the idea that we must build accommodation and workshops- but particularly accommodation- to cater for the more severely handicapped. However, we have left out the group that is less severely handicapped which with very little rehabilitation and a modicum of help could lead fairly independent lives in the community. The psychological effect on these people in the past has been very severe because people who have not a great handicap have had to be accommodated and have had to work and train with those who are very severely handicapped. They have reached the stage at which they feel different and isolated in the community. As Senator Guilfoyle said, in the past this field has been almost confined to the voluntary organisations and the dedicated few. These groups are owed a debt of gratitude by both the handicapped and the whole community. Their attention to this problem and their development of solutions to the problem of the handicapped should be recognised by us all. In the 1970s they cannot go on alone. This is the reason that the Government in this Bill provides for aid to be given directly to these organisations.
We hope that by providing this aid we will be able to increase the flexibility of the aid to the handicapped and provide a variability in accommodation for them so that the problems that we have had in the past of having too rigid a form of accommodation and rehabilitation will be overcome. One problem, although it can be partly overcome by this Bill, will not be overcome. That is the tendency we have had in the past in all the States to draw a rigid line at the age of 16 yearsbetween the time when persons can be accommodated in a home for handicapped children and after the age of 16 years when they must be accommodated in a home for handicapped adults, if such homes exist. Frequently they have not existed. Quite recently I came across a disturbing case of a 16-year-old boy who was working in a sheltered workshop in a capital city, who was accommodated in a hostel that was suitable for handicapped children- not severely handicapped children- who turned 16 and who because of various circumstances could not go home. He had to be accommodated at the local mental hospital because there was nowhere else for him to go. In being accommodated at the local mental hospital he was uprooted from the environment that he liked and in which he was advancing at the sheltered workshop. This was not the fault of the people who had to put him there. This was not the fault of his parents. This was not the fault of the people who ran the institution. This was the fault of the whole system because we have not provided accommodation for these people in the grey area who are no longer children but perhaps not yet adults.
I feel that this rigidity of approach must give way to a flexibility in which accommodation, ranging from almost the hospital type to hostels, flats and bed sitters, must be provided for handicapped children. I hope with the increased aid that is given in this Bill and the increased aid that I hope will be given in the future that the voluntary organisations especially and perhaps the State governments will be able to extend the facilities particularly in accommodation. This is very important for those who live in rural areas and those who live in small country towns who must go to the cities or the big country towns where the training and the sheltered workshops are available. It is just not economically or practically feasible for these people to be trained in the small towns from which they come. This Bill goes some way to improving the system, but we still have a long way to go. I think we all must remember that the increasing sophistication of modern life and scientific knowledge have benefited those of us who have no handicaps, but the associated complexity of life has disadvantaged many people and made life very difficult for them. We must use some of the benefits that we have gained to assist our less fortunate brothers and sisters. I commend the Bill to the Senate, but I think we all recognise that this is just another step in the evolution of our care. If we can continue to assist voluntary organisations and others in developing care for the handicapped we will improve their lot and improve society as a whole.
– in reply- I appreciate the comments by Senator Grimes and the attitude put on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Guilfoyle in not preventing a rapid passage of this Bill. We regard it as an important Bill for the reasons that Senator Grimes has put to the Senate. The only thing I want to say at this stage, because the Government’s position was dealt with quite thoroughly in the second reading speech, is in answer to a question asked by Senator Guilfoyle during the course of her remarks. She referred to the two Acts which are to be repealed by the Bill now before us, namely the Sheltered Employment Assistance Act and the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act. Senator Guilfoyle referred specifically to the latter Act and asked whether all of its provisions are embodied in this Bill. In fact all of the provisions of both Acts to be repealed are contained in the Bill now before the Senate. All of the matters dealt with by those 2 Acts are dealt with by this Bill. The difference is that the provisions of both Acts are to be extended by this Bill. Specifically referring to the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act about which she asked her question, one will find that a greater measure of assistance will be made available to voluntary and other organisations which provide assistance for handicapped children. All of the provisions are there but they are extended and made somewhat more worthy of the very valuable cause they are serving. We certainly are not doing anything contrary to the principles of voluntary organisations playing an active role in these fields. In fact the very purpose of the Bill is to assist voluntary organisations to play an extended part in these fields of most helpful human activity. For that reason, I am glad that the Opposition supports the Bill and I trust that it will have a rapid passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28 November, on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Under the Commonwealth Constitution there is no direct head of power to enable a Commonwealth government to have sovereignty or responsibility over urban and regional development. As a result a Commonwealth government in Australia cannot, under the Constitution, act unilaterally on policies relating to urban and regional development. This Bill, the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Bill 1974, is drawn up in recognition of that fact. The Bill appreciates that if the Commonwealth Government is to evolve and implement policies of this nature it must do so under section 96 of the Constitution, and in doing so must arrive at individual agreements with the States.
The Bill before us really does 3 things. Firstly, it arranges that the Commonwealth Minister may, in consultation with State Ministers or a State Minister, approve programs of urban and regional development for a particular State or States. Secondly, it provides that the Commonwealth Government may agree with a State Government upon the financial assistance to be provided. Thirdly, it provides that all the agreements made with the States shall be tabled before this Parliament.
The Bill appears to be a simple matter but in fact very considerable complexities evolve from it. One of the really gratifying matters that have emerged in modern years is that all political parties, and indeed all sections of the community, have agreed on the need to upgrade urban life. The growth of affluence in the community has enabled the community to turn its mind and its finances towards urban improvement and towards improving the quality of life. All political parties have looked towards these goals and have sought methods of achieving these goals. They have looked towards the great cities and have devised policies to ease the pressure of growth on them- the building of corridors, the building of satellites and thebuilding of growth centres. They have looked towards the ageing inner hearts of the cities and have looked towards methods of urban renewal, towards methods of improving transport and towards communications generally. These things are common to all political parties.
In contemplating this Bill it is good to look at recent history. I remind the Senate that in September 1972 the Prime Minister of the then Liberal-Country Party Government made a statement foreshadowing the formation of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. That Authority, the Prime Minister said, would be an interim body which would work out ways, in co-operation with the States, of achieving the goals of urban improvement, centralisation, regional development and growth centres. In October of that year the enabling Bill to set up what became known as NURD A- the National Urban and Regional Development Authority- was implemented. It was a first class step to appoint as the first Commissioner of NURDA the then Chairman of the National Capital Development Commission, a great Australian, Sir John Overall. The Government of the day instructed NURDA, as its first task, to plan a 5-year program in terms of the concept of urban improvement and of growth centres and to have it ready for presentation by June 1973. NURDA directed itself to that task. The incoming Government in 1973 formed a new department and NURDA emerged as the Cities Commission. The Cities Commission presented a 5-year program in June 1973.I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What is the breakdown of moneys for medical research by the National Health and Medical Research Council given as dollars and as percentages of total grants between:
acute disease conditions,
chronic disease conditions,
non-disease oriented basic research,
general medicine excluding (d), (e) and (f),
general surgery excluding (d), (e) and (f).
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information sought cannot be supplied in a meaningful manner.
If I may explain, the division of disease into chronic and acute is an oversimplification since acute disease in some instances will become chronic or can give rise to related chronic syndromes.
Indeed a great deal of the research supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council which appears on cursory examination to be so-called ‘basic’ research has links with both acute and chronic disease. The other areas mentioned also show substantial interrelationship consequently it is not feasible to account for grants in this manner. The Council does not confine its grants solely to research into disease, but into all medical aspects of the maintenance of health, which includes the investigation of body mechanisms which are necessary for health. While grants in many of the areas mentioned may not relate directly to disease, they would certainly relate to health or medical care.
The honourable senator may wish to peruse the published reports of the Council which list details of all research grants given, or the annual report of work done under the Medical Research Endowment Act in which all grantees outline the progress of their projects and their significance. I have recently approved medical research grants and scholarships on the recommendations of the Council for use in 1 975 totalling approximately 5 million dollars. Details of these grants will be published in the proceedings of the 79th Session of the National Health and Medical Research Council which should be available early in the new year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Facilities- Mr Grassby is accommodated in the Administrative Building, Canberra, and uses the general facilities provided for officers of my Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to Senator Primmer’s question is as follows:
It is advised that the through composite carriage attached to the ‘Spirit of Progress’ between Melbourne and Goulburn was discontinued during the recent fuel crisis. At this stage there are no plans to restore the service.’
It will be appreciated that this service is not controlled by Commonwealth Railways. However, they have undertaken to again raise the matter at Commissioner level.
AIDC Advertising Account (Question No. 333)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The AIDC took a great deal of care in selecting an agency to handle its advertising. With the help of expert advice from an Australian marketing consultant, 16 advertising agencies were interviewed and 3 of these made detailed presentations of their experience to the AIDC. Two of these 3 agencies were Australian-owned.
The final step in the selection of the agency was the preparation of preliminary campaign outlines on AIDC subject matter by two agencies. Leo Burnett, which is foreign-owned but which employs Australians exclusively in Australia, was finally selected on the AIDC ‘s judgment of the merits of the preliminary campaign developed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Current Ministerial directions under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918-73 are as follows:
That where following the default of a puchaser or borrower, the Director becomes mortgagee-in-possession or cancels a contract of sale, the following rates, taxes, charges or other outgoings in respect of the land that are payable by the person who was, when the outgoings became payable, the purchaser or borrower, shall be paid by the Director under the provisions of section 48ab of the Act.
where following a cash sale or an advance is made by way of mortgage there is sufficient balance available for the purpose, after deducting moneys owed to the Director and the expenses of the sale;
Subject to the estimated future life of the property, that the term for repayment of a loan granted under the Act is to be restricted to 32 years; provided that a term for repayment up to the maximum term permitted under the Act may be granted in the following cases:
This direction was given on 26 November 1 974.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Will the Government, in view of the increased hardship caused to the growing number of unemployed persons, immediately abolish the requirement that a seven day waiting period must elapse before unemployment and sickness benefits become available.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has no immediate plans for the abolition of the seven day waiting period for payment of unemployment and sickness benefits which, it should be noted, is not required to be served more than once in any period of thirteen weeks. However, the matter for reducing delays in making the first payment of unemployment benefit is currently under consideration by the Department of Social Security.
RAAF Training Aircraft
– On 3 1 October 1974, Senator Drake-Brockman asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Defence, a question without notice, relating to the replacement programme for the RAAF Winjeel training aircraft.
The Minister for Defence has supplied the following additional information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A reassessment of the number of CT4 Airtrainer aircraft required has confirmed the decision to proceed with the original quantity of 37 but with a deferred delivery option for the last 12 aircraft by up to twelve months at no extra cost to the Australian Government should this be required.
The project cost is $2. 765m and it is not expected that this cost will be exceeded.
The first aircraft for the RAAF is programmed for delivery in January 1 975, with the last three aircraft due for delivery in January 1976. It is not intended to exercise the deferred delivery option for the last 12 aircraft.
RAAF Aircraft: Long Range Maritime Patrol
– On 3 1 October 1 974, Senator Maunsell asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Defence, a question, without notice, relating to the replacement of the RAAF Neptune aircraft.
The Minister for Defence has supplied the following additional information in reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The types of aircraft under consideration for final selection for replacement of the RAAF Neptune have been reduced to two- the Nimrod manufactured by Hawker Siddley Aviation, U.K.. and the Orion P3 manufactured by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, U.S.A. However, the Boeing Company has represented that its aircraft be reinstated as a competitor.
As part of the evaluation process, a mission has visited Hawker Siddley Aviation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in September/October 1974 to discuss operational, technical, contractual and legal aspects. This mission also visted the Boeing Company to assess its latest proposals but on the understanding that this is without any commitment to the Australian Government. The contending suppliers are being advised in detail of Australian industrial participation requirements. The level of Australian industry involvement offered by suppliers will be a consideration in negotiations leading to the final selection of the aircraft.
A recommendation on the type of aircraft to be acquired is expected in the first half of 197fc
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In answering this question it should be understood that the setting and policing of fire safety standards for nursing homes is a responsibility administered by the Queensland Government. In fact the general practice followed by previous Australian Governments and now by the present Australian Government is to accept, for purposes of establishing eligibility for nursing home benefits, nursing homes licensed by the Queensland Government. In short, the registration or the cancellation of registration of nursing homes rests in practice with the Queensland Government.
(a) 1972 -one 1973- seven 1974- nine (as at 3 1 October 1974)
Ascot Convalescent Home, Ascot; Avonlea Convalescent Home, Auchenflower; Bayview Nursing Home, Wellington Point; Bonnie Haven, Morningside; Brig-O-Doon Nursing Home, Yeronga; Clinton Convalescent Home, New Farm; Elin Nursing Home, Shorncliffe; Grayeagles Convalescent Home, East Brisbane; Indooroopilly Convalescent Home, Indooroopilly; Lorne Convalescent Home, Ashgrove; Lynfield Nursing Home, Wynnum; Machaven Nursing Home, Kelvin Grove; Mechain Nursing Home, Ashgrove; Moreton Nursing Home, Sandgate; Novello Nursing Home, Manly; San Michele, Ashgrove; Taringa Nursing Home, Taringa.
All of the homes mentioned in (b) were operated as commercial enterprise homes. No religious/charitable homes have ceased operation in the last 3 years because of adverse fire reports. However, one such home, Winston House, Gympie, has recently transferred all patients to a new building and the old ‘ fire risk’ building is being demolished.
Details relating to nursing homes currently operating under adverse fire reports are as follows:
Commercial Enterprise Homes
Bellevue Nursing Home, Eagle Junction
Date of last Fire Inspection: IS November 1973
Description of Premises: Old elevated timber dwelling converted and extended for its present use. Exterior walls of hardwood, interior walls and ceilings of pine panelling.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 35 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include:
Improvements to ramps, provision of emergency lighting, replacement or rehanging of doors, provision of smoke detectors, additional fire fighting equipment, installation of fire resistant materials, installation of fire doors.
The recommendations as set out would upgrade the fire safety of the home to a standard that would ensure a margin of safety for the occupants in a fire emergency. But it is to be understood that even by implementing the recommendations the old structure could not be classified as a Fire Safe Building in the eyes of the Fire Authority’.
Broadwater Convalescent Home, Southport
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 29 June 1 973
Description of Premises: The building is an old converted house and is constructed largely of timber.
Summary of Fire Report: The fire report in this instance does not list specific recommendations. However, the Chief Officer of the South Coast Fire Brigade Board has commented as follows:
The risk of spread of fire is very high due to the highly combustible nature of building materials. Some of the patients are bed-ridden and most are under sedation at night, and difficulty could be experienced in evacuating these people in the event of an emergency. Owing to the nature of the flammable materials of which the building is constructed, little or no fire resistance is offered, and if fire did occur, it is the Fire Prevention Officer’s opinion that it would be almost certain that loss of life may result’.
Crana Nursing Home, Herston
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 27 February 1974
Description of Premises: Two buildings connected by enclosed passageway. First floor of older building constructed largely of timber.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 8 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: provision of emergency lighting, installation of an automatic fire alarm system, improvements to means of escape, provision of fire resistant linings. ‘The absence of emergency lighting would present difficulties to any evacuation of the premises during the night ‘.
The steepness of the ramp could cause injury to patients being removed from the Home in an emergency’.
A covered passageway connects both buildings at first floor level and would assist in the rapid communication of smoke and hot gases from one building to the adjoining building’.
The readily combustible building materials used would promote a rapid spread of fire to the first floor section’.
Dalkeith Nursing Home, Wooloowin
Date of Last Fire Inspection: IS March 1974
Description of Premises: Two buildings connected by covered passageway. Set on concrete and timber stumps, external walls are timber, internal walls lined with asbestos cement sheeting and timber.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 10 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: provision of emergency lighting, provision of additional fire fighting equipment, alterations to doorways and passageways, introduction of fire isolation measures.
The absence of emergency lighting would present difficulties to an evacuation of the premises during the night’.
There is insufficient fire fighting equipment to provide adequate coverage’.
The enclosed passage connecting both buildings would permit the rapid spread of fire and smoke between buildings’.
Herstonville Convalescent Home, Herston
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 28 March 1974
Description of Premises: Two interconnected two storey buildings, the older building having timber walls and partitions in the upper storey.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 8 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: provision of emergency lighting, alterations to fire fighting equipment, alterations to doorways and passageway, provisions of fire proofing material. ‘The absence of emergency lighting would present difficulties to an evacuation of the premises during the night should normal lighting circuits fail’. ‘The open dumb waiter in the kitchen would allow the rapid passage of fire and smoke onto the first floor and ceiling space. ‘
Kelvin Nursing Home, Kelvin Grove
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 13 December 1973
Description of Premises: This building is a converted highset residence of considerable age. The original verandahs have been enclosed to provide more accommodation space.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 1 1 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: provision of emergency lighting, alterations to doorways, installation of smoke detectors, installation of fire resistant material, wider passageway.
With the exception of the installation of an automatic fire alarm system, which does nothing to overcome the high fire risk problem, there have been no improvements to the fire safety of the home since the previous fire inspection on5 October 1971 when it was stated that ‘because of the age of the building and materials of construction the spread of fire would be rapid’.
Under existing conditions the safe evacuation of the occupants would be doubtful ‘.
Le Roy Convalescent Home, Corinda
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 8 April 1 974
Description of Premises: A converted high set residence of considerable age, constructed almost entirely of timber.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 20 individual items arc listed for correction. Recommendations include: alterations to doors and doorways, installation of emergency lighting, installation of smoke detectors, alterations to corridors, installation of fire resistant material.
In an emergency situation the loss of lighting increases any difficulty in reaching exists’.
There is no impediment to either fire or smoke travel. The nature of the materials used in the construction is such that fire spread would be rapid ‘.
MarianIlla Convalescent Home, Coorparoo
Date of Last Fire Inspection:1 May 1974
Description of Premises: A converted residence set on sloping ground. The building is basically of timber construction.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 14 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: provision of emergency lighting, installation of fire resistant material, alterations to doorways, alterations to corridors, installation of an automatic fire alarm system.
The building is deficient in fire/smoke isolation, fire protection is below an acceptable standard and the installed fire protection equipment is also below standard’.
It is considered that the premises can be upgraded in regard to fire safety but it would not be considered a fire safe building but one in which a margin of safety exists’.
Rangeview Convalescent Home, Toowoomba
Date of last Fire Inspection: 13 June 1974
Description of Premises: The home consists of an old and new wing. The old wing of timber, glass and corrugated iron, is situated at ground level on one side and is approximately 12 feet above ground on the other side.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 29 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include:- installation of smoke or combustion detectors, improvements to means of escape, provision of fire proofing material, smoke/fire isolate sections of the home, improve supervision of patients.
The Fire Authority has recommended that because of:
The age, type of construction, the difficulty of access both for fire appliances and the removal of patients in an emergency from the old wing, this wing be discontinued to be used as a convalescent home and detached from the new wing’.
The use of an early warning system only, whilst giving an early warning, would not control a lire which it is considered would spread with great rapidity’.
St Joseph ‘s Nursing Home, Morningside
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 3 May 1974
Description of Premises: A timber frame, timber floored structure with umber and asbestos cement interior linings.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 14 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: replacement of portable heaters with those of a fixed type, installation of fire resistant material, modifications to exits, stairways and ramps.
The design and material of construction do not allow for this structure to be made a fire safe building without major reconstruction which would be an uneconomical proposition. Fire, if uncontrolled, could be expected to spread rapidly throughout the building. Fire safety of the occupants must therefore depend on adequate supervision at all times. An automatic thermal alarm is installed and this, together with normal supervision of the occupied areas, gives reasonable protection for the occupied areas’.
St Kilda’s Convalescent Home, Wynnum
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 26 March 1974
Description of Premises: An old timber dwelling, converted for its present use. Lined with pine and various other wallboards
Summary of Fire Report: Some 30 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include:
Modifications to doors and stairways, installation of emergency lighting, fire isolation of various areas, installation of “Combustion” detectors. These premises were reported to be unsuitable for use as a convalescent home. Adoption of the recommendations, it was stated would only give the inmates a degree of safety.
St Mary’s Nursing Home, Manly
Date of Last Inspection: 19 April 1974
Description of Premises: Two storey structure. First floor of timber construction, lined with pine and fibro inside.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 25 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: modification of doors and stairways, installation of smoke stop elements, installation of combustion detectors.
The upper storey of this two storey structure is not fire isolated from the lower floor and in the opinion of the Chief Fire Officer only its replacement with a fire resistant construction would render the building fire safe.
The first floor area is unsuitable for use as a convalescent home due to the flammability of the materials of construction ‘.
Sandgate Nursing Home, Sandgate
Date of Last Inspection: 19 March 1974
Description of Premises: An old single storey timber frame structure with timber floors and iron roof. Internal linings arc mainly hardboard and pine.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 12 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: installation dan automatic fire alarm system, emergency lighting, installation of self closing doors, installation of fire resistant material.
If an outbreak of fire occurred, rapid flame and smoke spread could be expected due to the combustible nature of materials used in construction and the design of the building’.
Seahaven Convalescent Home, Sandgate
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 30 April 1 974
Description of Premises: The main building consists of a large high set dwelling, converted for its present use. Walls arc of timber, internal walls of pine, masonite and asbestos cement sheeting.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 13 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: installation of emergency lighting, construction of exit and ramp, installation of water extinguishers, installation of fire resistant material.
The internal partitions possess no appreciable fire resistance and would allow the unchecked spread of fire through the entire building. Glass louvers and open fanlights above ward doors in the central passageway would permit the rapid build up of smoke concentrations to all wards’.
Weewondilla Nursing Home, Clayfield
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 1 6 April 1974
Description of Premises: Large timber structure set on timber stumps. Internal partitions are constructed of fibrous plaster and asbestos cement sheeting affixed to timber stud frames.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 1 1 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: modifications to doors and doorways, installation of fire resistant material, installation of emergency lighting.
The materials used in the construction of the building have no appreciable fire resistance properties, this then allows the unchecked spread of fire and smoke to all sections of the building. ‘
Wooloowin Convalescent Home, Wooloowin
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 10 April 1974
Description of Premises: A converted low set residence of considerable age to which an annexe has been connected at the same floor level. A further annexe abuts the original building but is set about one foot above ground level.
Summary of First Report: Some 15 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: installation of emergency lighting, alteration of doorways, provision of smoke detectors, installation of fire resistant material, improvements to increase the capacity of fire fighting equipment.
Due to the age and present layout it is considered that fire spread in the Ward Building (which houses the non-ambulatory patients and the nurses station) would be very rapid.’
Means of escape are impaired.’
Implementation of the recommendations will not make this a “fire safe” building but are designed to allow for greater ease of escape and to restrict the rate of fire spread.’
Woolenville Convalescent Home, Wooloowin
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 23 November 1973
Description of Premises: An aged, highset timber building formerly a dwelling. All internal linings, floors and ceilings in the original building are pine.
Summary of Report: Some 20 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: alteration of exits and doorways, provision of emergency lighting, provision of smoke detectors, installation of self closing doors, installation of fire resistant material, reconstruction of ramp and corridor.
The condition of this building is such that any outbreak of fire would spread rapidly. The implementation of the recommendations would upgrade the fire safety to a standard that would give a margin of safety to the occupants. ‘
This does not mean that the home would then be regarded as a fire safe building.’
Wynnum Nursing Home, Wynnum
Date of last Fire Inspection: 14 April 1974
Description of Premises: Consists of an old 2 storey converted dwelling of timber construction, lined with pine and assorted wall boards, a new two storey masonry and concrete structure of modern design and a small single storey annexe of masonry and concrete construction.
Summary of Fire Report: Some 25 items are listed for correction. Recommendations include: modifications to doorways and stairways, repositioning of nurses station, installation of self-closing doors, installation of detectors, installation of fire resistant material.
Because of design and materials of construction of the old section the spread of fire would be rapid and for this reason this section was considered unsuitable for nursing home occupancy.’
By the implementation of the listed recommendations, the fire-safety would be upgraded to a standard that would ensure the required margin of safety for the occupants.’
However, it must bc understood that even with the provision of the listed requirements the old section would not fall into the category of a fire-safe building and its replacement with one of fire-resistant construction is again recommended.’
b) Religious and Charitable Homes
Burdeu House, Brisbane
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 5 August 1974
Description of Premises: Two abutting two storey buildings, the upper floor of one building being constructed of timber.
Summary of Fire Report: 7 items arc listed for attention. Recommendations include: installation of emergency lighting, improved means of escape, kitchen walls and ceiling to be lined with fire resistant materials, fit self closing fire doors, provide extinguishers with location indicators.
Hillcrest Nursing Home, Annerley
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 17 April 1973
Description of Premises: These premises comprise two sections- one of brick construction and the other older section of timber construction which is set on timber piers 10 feet high on one side.
Summary of Fire Report: Replacement of the older timber building with a fire resistant structure is recommended.
Because of its age and general construction it could be anticipated that the spread of fire would be extremely rapid in this building.’
Salvation Army Nursing Home, New Farm
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 1 7 December 1 97 1
Description of Premises: A very old building constructed al most entirely of timber.
Summary of Fire Report: Two items are listed for correction, being necessary for the immediate safety of the inmates. Replacement with a structure of fire resistant materials is also recommended.
Whilst the above recommendations are necessary for the immediate safety of the inmates, I consider this building . . . has existing conditions for the rapid spread of fire and that a serious life hazard exists whilst used for the present type of occupancy. ‘
Sunsetholme Nursing Home, Normanby
Date of Last Fire Inspection: 25 February 1972
Description of Premises: The nursing home forms part of an aged persons home complex, having a high timber content and being approximately 35 years old.
Summary of Fire Report: It is recommended that the complex be demolished and replaced with fire resistant buildings.
The situation in the main structure under fire conditions would be catastrophic’
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following table shows details of loans approved by Permanent Building Societies for (a) houses and (b) total dwellings respectively for individual years from 1 970-7 1 to 1973-74.
Previously occupied and not previously occupied.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 December 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19741203_senate_29_s62/>.