29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 37 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Eliminate private insurance for Australians.
Cost taxpayers far in excess of the proposed $2 million capital and loan funds.
Permit unfair competition against private enterprise with inevitable losses met by the taxpayer.
Provide no better insurance service to the public than that already provided by the existing 45 Life Offices and 260 General Insurers.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable The President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Maunsell.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Have a serious effect on the private sector of the economy by the passing over of further funds to be controlled by the Government through its instrumentalities.
By the ‘National Interests’ provisions of the Bill provide the opportunity for any government to introduce national schemes which should properly be the subject of separate legislation.
Permit the ultimate acquisition by the Government of the assets of private insurers which include substantial interest in the private sector of the economy.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Maunsell.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject competely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Maunsell.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Drake-Brockman.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Primmer.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Primmer.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Primmer.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Primmer.
To the Honourable The President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefor humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Missen. (3 petitions).
And yourpetitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Greenwood.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Greenwood (2 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled, the humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Greenwood.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Withers.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Bunton.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Durack.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully refer to the Bill concerning the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office.
We are not necessarily against the formation of such an organisation. We do however, feel that the Bill could be rushed through Parliament without sufficient deliberation. Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Bill be referred to a Senate Select Committee or Public Enquiry Committee. In this way submissions from interested parties can be called for. Recommendations from this Committee would then reflect the true wishes of the Australian electorate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Sheil and Martin.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Tuesdays- 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.
Wednesdays- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.
Thursdays- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the number of South Vietnamese who are presently in Australia as students under the Colombo Plan or such like arrangements. I ask the Minister what the Government’s attitude will be should any of these people apply to remain in Australia. Will the Government permit them to remain if they so apply and will the Government allow them, provided they meet the normal criteria, to become Australian citizens in due course?
-I think most of those matters would come within the responsibility of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The general situation is that immediately the Government saw that things were going so badly in Indo-China it advised students whose temporary visas were to expire at a certain time that this provision no longer applied and that they would be able to stay in Australia for the time being, until they and the Government could see what the situation was. The honourable senator asked about 2 matters, as I remember his question. Firstly, he asked what the Government will do if the students apply to remain in Australia. As in all immigration matters, every case will have to be looked at individually. The second part of the honourable senator’s question was a little more specific. He asked if the Government will permit them to remain if they meet the normal criteria. Without committing my colleague on this matter, I think that if the students meet the normal criteria they will be treated as ordinary immigration applicants.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Is the Minister aware that an attempt in Western Australia to provide special insurance cover against the failure of wheat crops is in trouble and in fact has been suspended? Is this an indication that there may be a need for special national interest insurance in Australia to protect farmers and other primary producers from contingencies that at present they are unable to insure against?
-Some honourable senators may be aware that fairly recently an attempt was made in Western Australia to provide crop insurance. This was attempted as part of a joint arrangement between the Westralian Farmers Co-operative Limited and Western Underwriters Pty Limited. A recent bulletin issued by the Westralian Farmers Co-operative, The West Farmers News Brief’, announced that the so-called west crop multi-peril wheat crop insurance had been suspended for the financial year 1975-76.
– When was it established? senator WHEELDON- It was only a pilot scheme. I am not disagreeing with Senator Drake-Brockman; I think Westralian Farmers Co-operative should be applauded for attempting to establish a system of crop insurance. I am being in no way critical of them. I think it was a most praiseworthy endeavour because all farmers know that the absence of crop insurance is a quite serious hazard, and Westralian Farmers, in conjunction with Western Underwriters, did attempt to provide this form of insurance. They found it to be an unfinancial proposition, that for the time being they are not able to maintain this form of crop insurance and it has been suspended. They have said that this does not necessarily mean abandonment of the scheme, it may mean only suspension; nonetheless, the consequence is that crop insurance, which I would have thought wheat farmers in Western Australia would have found most desirable, will not be available to them.
– What sort of crop insurance do you mean?
– Multi-peril crop insurance. I should have thought that Senator Durack, as a Western Australian senator, would not have had to ask me what sort of insurance the people he claims to represent are able to obtain. I would have hoped that he would have known that. They were trying to provide multi-peril crop insurance. They have found that they are unable to provide this insurance and they are going to suspend it for the coming year. I agree with Senator Mcintosh that the unfortunate fate of the efforts of Westralian Farmers and Western Underwriters to provide crop insurance does illustrate the necessity of having some form of national interest insurance in order to provide this type of insurance for farmers.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the tabling of correspondence between the President of the Senate and the High Court relating to Senator Webster and the actions already initiated by the Court, will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate of what action has been taken to set up the Judicial Committee of Inquiry as required by the Opposition ‘s amendment passed on 22 April?
-The Attorney-General is currently preparing a submission to place before the Cabinet to expedite the resolution which has been carried by the Senate.
– My question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General relates to 2 prominent public figures who are not members of the Government but both of whom have given distinguished service to this Parliament. Is the Minister aware of widespread rumours fed by the media, falsely suggesting that these 2 men have been named as co-respondents in a petition for divorce filed in the Victorian Supreme Court? Will the Minister, in his capacity as the Minister representing the Attorney-General who is responsible for the administration of the Matrimonial Causes Act, give the Senate, in the interests of fairness and justice, any information which he has regarding this matter?
– I am advised that there is no foundation whatsoever for the malicious slanders concerning these 2 public figures. I am advised that there is no such petitionfiled in the Victorian Supreme Court or in any court in Australia. The alleged petitioner has said that there is no such petition and that there will not be any such petition involving these 2 public figures or either of them. He has said that there is no basis for the slanders concerning them. I will not mention their names as that would only give an opportunity to others to do further damage to them.
I am advised that in the case of one of these public figures a newspaper, the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’, actually sent a reporter to inform his wife in his absence that her husband had been named as co-respondent in such divorce petition and ask for her reaction. When she expressed her disbelief the reporter assured her it was a fact and it would be in the news. The behaviour of this newspaper must be an all-time low in an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs had discussions with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labor and Immigration on the subject of Vietnamese refugees? If so, has any decision been made on the number of refugees to be admitted to Australia? What will be the guidelines for admission? Have any quotas been fixed?
-Yes, I have had talks with the Prime Minister about this matter. We are following our earlier initiatives with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He has contacted us. He has a representative in Singapore. I do not know in what other places he may have representatives. We have cabled him telling him that we believe that those refugees who are in Hong Kong and Singapore are under his care and have asked him what he would like us to do about this matter. I would think that when he puts us into the picture the next thing we would do would be to send teams to go through the normal procedures to get the most suitable types of people to make a life in Australia.
We have not fixed any numbers. As far as I know Canada is the only country which has fixed a number. No previous government in Australia has ever fixed numbers in similar situations. It is very rare to do so. We have never done it, and the Opposition when in government never did it. Very few countries have done this. As I said, I think Canada is the only country which has fixed a number on this occasion.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 12 May in which Admiral Sir Richard Peek, a former Chief of Naval Staff, was reported as having accused the Government of wasting almost $2m by cancelling the DDL destroyer program? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether the report is correct?
– I have seen the statement and I have had inquiries made. I do not know whether Admiral Sir Richard Peek said that, but it was claimed that he said it. I can only confirm that a total of $2,035,000 had been spent on the DDL program. This was mainly spent on design investigation and management consultancy but at the time, of course, it was not necessary for the Government to continue with it. The Government decided to evaluate the program and the cost at the time was $355m at 1972 prices. The price at present would be nearer $500m. For that reason the Government decided that, because of risk and rises in prices, it should not go ahead with the DDL program. You will remember, Mr President, and honourable senators will remember, that last year the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, contracted to buy 2 patrol frigates from the United States of America at a price of about $ 1 87m.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the Government has had any communications with the Government of the United States of America or with the new Cambodian authorities about the seizure of the American ship ‘Mayaguez’? Has the Government had any communications with any government which it believes might have influence with the Cambodian authorities? If so, what has been the substance of those communications? Does the Government consider that, having been one of the countries which early recognised the new Cambodian regime, it might use influence with that regime with a view to releasing the ship which has been seized by those authorities?
-We are not a party principal in this situation. We can only hope that common sense will prevail in a matter about which, at the moment, there is a fair bit of confusion as to why the ship was seized, where it was seized and so on. With respect to the question of our having made contacts in this matter, I hardly think such contacts would be suitable at this stage of the negotiations, anyway. We certainly are in touch with the Americans, not on this matter specifically but generally. We are not in direct touch with the new Cambodian regime. Neither is anybody else because of the situation which exists in Cambodia at the moment. There are some spin-offs attached to this. All I can say is that I hope the countries do get together. Judging by newspaper reports hopes are high that these things will be broken down. I do not see where we can play a role in the matter at the moment.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether, following the recent substantial improvement in the wool market, the Australian Wool Corporation is disposing or has been able to dispose of any of its substantial stockpile?
– It is true that the wool market has firmed very considerably over the past few weeks and the level of the Australian Wool Corporation’s buying in now is down to 2 per cent, which shows the dramatic change which has taken place. This appears to be very firm trend. During the buying in period by the AWC, quite apart from the stocks being held in Australia which total about 1.7 million bales, approximately 200 000 bales were held by the Corporation overseas. I understand the bulk of this wool has been sold, which indicates the value of those stocks being held because buyers have been able to draw on those reserves which have been readily available. It also demonstrates the value of, not only being able to supply buyers who need certain types of wool when they need it, but also being able to supply the wool at reasonable prices. I think we have to accept the fact that the very thing the Government tries to avoid- the racing away of wool prices- could well happen again. The Wool Corporation will be very careful to ensure that the supplies which are available to it now in Australia- the reserve of 1.7 million bales- will be fed on to the market in a manner that will endeavour to keep the price from climbing too high too quickly. The whole purpose of the exercise has been to ensure, over the past 12 months, that the price of wool does not go through the floor. Our task now is to make sure it does not go through the ceiling.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, once again relates to the Toose report. I have had many complaints about the long delays with respect to this report. Can the Minister say why the report has taken so long to complete, how much the inquiry has cost the Government so far and when he expects to present the report to the Senate?
-Senator Jessop has asked n.e about this matter before, as have a number of other people. It will be remembered that some years ago Mr Justice Toose was commissioned by the previous Government to prepare a report on the repatriation system. Although, from the point of view of my Department, he has been provided with very considerable assistance, both since we have been in government and previously, apparently he has found some difficulty in completing the report. Last year I had a communication from him in which he said he was facing some difficulties. I think I already have informed the Senate of this in answer to an earlier question by Senator Jessop. I agreed to extend the time for the submission of a report to 30 March. Apparently other problems have occurred in the meantime, which I do not altogether follow, and thus have prevented Mr Justice Toose from presenting the report by 30 March although he told me that part of the report has been now sent to the printer and another part of it is in draft form.
I appreciate Senator Jessop ‘s concern about this matter. I think I also should tell the Senate, as this matter is becoming very prolonged indeed, that I have given an undertaking to veterans’ organisations that after the report has been submitted to the Government all these organisations will have 6 months to consider the report and to make any comments which they wish to make on it before the Government makes any judgment as to what action it should take on the report. It certainly would appear to be a very long time before anything is going to emerge from this inquiry. I shall find out the other information concerning the cost of the report up to this date and let Senator Jessop and the Senate know as soon as possible.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media and it relates to an inquiry yesterday by Senator Martin about the Australian Office of Information. Is it true that the Government intends to restructure the existing system of information outlets under its administration? If so, what form will this restructuring take and is it true that it will involve a huge increase in the number of journalists to the order of some 300 to which Senator Martin referred yesterday?
-Since Senator Martin asked her question of me yesterday I have had discussions with my Department. It is true that the restructuring is to take place. Indeed, it has been taking place for some time. By the nomenclature of the Australian Office of Information there is intended to be included within the one branch the Australian Information Service, the Australian Government Liaison Service and the Immigration Publicity Service which was previously a part of the former Department of Immigration but which, under the administrative arrangements of this Government, for better and more effective co-ordination of Government information efforts, has been transferred to my Department. The simple fact of the matter is that an additional 300 journalists have not been employed by my Department. Ten journalists have been employed by the new Australian Government Liaison Service.
The functions of the Australian Government Liaison Service are an extension of what was referred to, as I mentioned yesterday during the debate on the Supply Bills, as the Government publicity office that had been established under the previous Administration. I have never asked Cabinet to approve, and therefore naturally Cabinet has not agreed to, the appointment of 300 new journalists, as some reports appear to have indicated. I suggested to the Government, and the Government agreed with me, that additional journalists of the order, as I have said, of 10 be employed by the Australian Government Liaison Service so that there would be proper representation throughout the States. There is one journalist in each of the States and in the Northern Territory, and I think there are 3 in Canberra. Their principal task, of course, is to publish the ‘Australian Weekly Digest’.
Might I interpolate that I am informed that the public relations officers of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have rung the Service and asked to be supplied with a number of copies of what they regard as an excellent weekly public digest. I suggest that these totally misleading statements are being repeated time and again by people who should be expected to know better. Even a former National Country Party Minister, who was a Minister for the Interior not so long ago and who therefore was in charge of the Australian Information Service, made statements about propaganda machines and matters of that nature, encouraging the media to bark like dogs, as it were, at the Australian Government Liaison Service. He too has perpetuated this myth of the mysterious 300 propagandists monitoring the media and dispensing propaganda replies. I have searched the corridors of my Department and have yet to find them.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– A supplementary question can be asked only by an honourable senator who has already asked a question and who wishes to seek further information or clarification.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry refers to the recent widely publicised reports that the Commonwealth Government proposes to form a joint manufacturing enterprise between 2 Japanese car manufacturers, Chrysler and the Government for the purpose of manufacturing a motor vehicle- presumably a small one- in Australia. Is there any substance in such reports? Is the Government satisfied that the Australian automotive industry is capable of sustaining an additional competitor?
– I am astonished at the way in which a rumour, once it starts, can persist despite denials and despite statements of fact. There has never been any intention on the part of the Government or Nissan or Toyota or Chrysler to manufacture a new motor car. The plan about which the Government has talked is to attempt to get Nissan, Toyota and Chrysler- I may mention that other manufacturers have also expressed interest- to make a 4-cylinder engine, not to manufacture a motor car. The announcement of tentative plans by both Toyota and Nissan to commence local production has raised questions, such as the one asked by Senator Carrick, as to how the small Australian market can be supplied economically with an increased rather than a reduced number of manufacturers. I stress that what we are talking about is an engine, not a new motor car. I can assure the honourable senator and anybody else who is interested in this subject that the entry of Japanese companies would be compatible with the Government’s objectives of product rationalisation and improved resource allocation, provided their operations involved the use of existing under-used facilities for the production of components, particularly engines. The Japanese companies are well aware that any proposals for entry into local manufacture will be carefully assessed against the Government’s objectives for the industry, including the desirability of some form of Australian Government participation. I might mention finally that we are particularly interested to see the underutilised foundry at Lonsdale in South Australia involved in any such plans for the manufacture of a. 4-cylinder engine.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. What action has the Minister taken in the face of my recent report to him in which I sought a joint Australian-New South Wales arbitration inspection blitz on Sydney office contract cleaning companies which are exploiting their largely migrant female work force?
- Mr Cameron has referred to his Department the question of taking some action in this respect. I am told that one of the problems is that the workers concerned are most probably covered by State awards. The action which might be taken by the Australian Government is still debatable, but he has taken up the matter with the State inspectorate with a view to instituting joint action in respect of the matter. I am told also that if Senator Mulvihill can supply further details to the Minister for Labor and Immigration it would support any possible action to be taken.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. In my previous question to the Postmaster-General I named the Pitt Street, Sydney, office of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. So the facts are well and truly there.
– I will pass on that information to the Minister for Labor and Immigration.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Media, follows the question which I asked him yesterday and which Senator Poyser asked him today. Yesterday I asked the Minister whether it is true that a total of 300 people are to be employed by his Department in the Australian Office of Information. Can he now tell us, since he has additional information, the total number of staff which will be employed in this Office, the type of staff which will be employed- numbers of journalists and others- and the areas and functions of these people and of this Office?
-At present 135 journalists, I think, are employed in the Australian Information Service, including 27 who were transferred from the former Department of Immigration. Most of these people had been in the employ of the previous Government. The simple fact is that this Government has decided to expand the dissemination of information about Australia. A number of new information posts have been established. Over and above the establishment in the old Australian News and Information Bureau and the former immigration publicity section within the Australian Information Service an additional 12 journalists, I think it is, have been appointed. I am not sure. I will have to check that number. In addition I am in the process of negotiations with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs to open up further information posts overseas which I believe- I think the Minister and his Department believe- should be opened’ up and which were neglected by the previous Government. Ten journalists have been appointed to the Australian Government Liaison Service to disseminate within Australia information about Australia and about Government activities. That function was taken over from the Australian Government Publicity Office. I am not sure of the number of journalists who were in the employ of the old Australian Government Publicity Office. I think it was three. That figure has now been augmented to ten to modernise, update and upgrade the service within the Australian Government Liaison Service.
No proposition has been put to me about extension of the staff to 300. There are about 96 posts or Australian missions abroad. I believe that the Australian Information Service should be placed on a career basis. My Department has been conducting negotiations with the Public Service Board on the matter for some time. I am hoping these negotiations will be brought to fruition soon. When the service is placed on a career basis I hope that over a span of years we will be able to provide an Australian information office to every Australian mission abroad.
– Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs heard reports of the activities of the self styled Aboriginal rights leader Charles Perkins, who is now in London? What is Mr Perkins’ present position in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs? Is he on the payroll of that Department? If not, can the Minister say how his activities are being financed? Finally, is there any truth in the assertion that Mr Perkins proposes to seek National Country Party endorsement for the Northern Territory?
-Mr Perkins sought 12 months leave without pay from my Department in February of this year and that leave was granted by the Public Service Board. He has received a scholarship of $1 1,000 from the Australian Council for the Arts for the purpose of writing a book.
– How much?
– $ 1 1,000.
– Was that recommended by you?
-No. It was criticised by me actually. I believe that the book has now been written. The farcical position is that the demonstration yesterday outside Australia House in London comprised Mr Perkins, who is being paid a scholarship by the Council for the Arts, Mr Penrith, who is paid by Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, a company funded by my Department, and Mr Bob Little who is a liaison officer with my Department in Alice Springs. Therefore, the Government is paying the salaries of 3 officers from government finances to make an international tour to defame the Government and the Australian people. The alleged facts cited yesterday by Mr Perkins concerning 2000 people in Australia who are said to be suffering from leprosy are not correct. Between 1971 and 1975 we have reduced to 67 the number of admissions to hospital in the Northern Territory due to leprosy.
On the question of National Country Party endorsement, it is known that Mr Perkins has now embraced National Country Party policy, despite Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s attitude. Mr Perkins has shifted to Alice Springs. I believe his wife has sought to join the Memorial Club, about which 12 months ago Mr Perkins expressed the opinion that it was the biggest racist club in Australia. It is generally known that, together with Mr Giese, Mr Perkins hopes to be a National Party candidate at the next Senate election. He is making an international trip to denigrate the Australian Labor Party to enhance his pre-selection prospects in Alice Springs next year.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is it a fact that the postal operations of the Australian Post Office will incur a loss of approximately $60m in the present financial year? What increases in the basic letter rate or other charges would be required to secure sufficient income in the next financial year to cover the expenditure fully and to avoid any losses of this or greater magnitude?
-The answer to the first part of Senator Durack ‘s question is yes. To answer the second part of the question, it is not possible at this time to detail the sorts of tariffs which might be involved. It would depend on 2 propositions. One is whether the Post Office continues to be administered as it is at present. If it is, there would be recommendations by myself and the Post Office as to what tariffs might apply to recover the position. In the event of commissions being established the procedure, as the honourable senator well knows, would be more indirect, but I think it would resemble the present situation. So nobody is able to give an estimate of what tariffs might apply.
– You will probably put them up, anyway.
-It is true that in the forthcoming years it is likely that there will be increased tariffs not only in the Post Office but also in many other areas. That is the best I can say. If I am in a position to give any particular details, and I can give them to Senator Durack first, I will certainly do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. On 22 April the Minister answered a question relating to policy conditions for non-white, non-Europeans applying for insurance with the Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd. What action can the Minister take to eliminate these types of practices especially in view of the fact that the Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd is not the only company to discriminate against Australian citizens in this way? Is the Minister aware of the racial discriminatory practices contained in a document known as ‘The Manual of Policy and Information’ of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd?
-My attention has now been drawn to 2 life assurance offices which issued manuals which imposed racial discriminatory provisions in the rules applying to the availability of life policies to people of various ethnic groups. They were the Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd and the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd. Both of these companies have now said that the manuals which they issued are out of date, although apparently in both cases the manuals are continuing to be used by a number of agents employed by those companies. In fact my office this morning has been inundated by requests from New Zealand newspapers concerning the reference to Maoris which occurred in the manual issued by the
It may be remembered that when the requirements of the Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd were referred to, a spokesman for that company said that all the life offices engaged in this practice, whether or not it was printed in a manual. I believe this ought to be exposed to the people so that the people of Mediterranean races, for example- I think there are nearly one million of that descent in Australia- can make up their own minds about the authenticity of these companies. The other thing to do is to see that an office is established in Australia which will not function on the ground of race or sex discrimination.
– My question, which is directed to Senator Wheeldon as Minister representing the Minister for Environment, relates to a situation in Tasmania somewhat akin to the Fraser Island mining venture and raises the question of the necessity for an environmental impact study to be undertaken on any project on which work has already begun. It is reported that the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, has indicated that in his opinion where this situation applies a study is not necessary. I now refer to the sealing of the Cradle Mountain road in Tasmania, some of which has already been done. The Director of Environmental Control in Tasmania, Mr Pottinger, is now saying that before this work can be finished a study will be needed. I ask: What is the situation with this kind of problem? What should the people concerned do to overcome it?
– I appreciate the problem that Senator Bessell has raised and I can understand his concern about it. As he has pointed out there are certain problems in these matters when work has already begun on a project as to what precisely one does about it. I am afraid I do not know the particulars of the matter that he has raised. I can see the difficulty that is involved. I will see that this question is referred immediately to Dr Cass- I think from the way in which Senator Bessell has put it it would seem to be a matter of some urgency- and ask him to let me have a reply as quickly as possible so that I can provide Senator Bessell and the Senate with an answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. He will recall my repeated representations to him in respect of a television service for the coal mining town of Leigh Creek in the far north of South Australia. As many departments at both State and Australian Government level have an interest at Leigh Creek and could therefore be expected to share the cost of providing television for the area I now ask the Minister whether any progress has been achieved in convincing, these departments of the necessity for such a service in this very isolated area. Has any department signified its intention to share the costs involved?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDHonourable senators will be aware that for some considerable time Senator McLaren has shown a great interest in Leigh Creek. I think in the last sessional period I mentioned to him that discussions had taken place between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Post Office and the South Australian Electricity Trust because, as I understand it, that Trust draws its coal supplies from Leigh Creek, to see what, if anything, could be done to provide the amenity of television to the workers living at Leigh Creek. No decision has yet been made on the question of establishing a television service to Leigh Creek in South Australia. The Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board advises me that the costs of establishing such a service are far in excess of the highest per capita cost that has been accepted to date for the establishment of television services in country areas. Whilst the Board makes recommendations to me, and I approve the establishment of television services in my capacity as the Minister for the Media, it is up to the Department administered by my colleague the Postmaster-General, Senator Bishop, to provide the service.
The Broadcasting Control Board advises me that the estimated cost of providing a service to Leigh Creek is far in excess of the normal cost that is involved in establishing television services in reasonably remote country areas. I am advised by the Chairman of the Board that before any recommendation on the matter could be made it would be necessary to determine the means of meeting the difference between the accepted per capita cost to date and the higher per capita cost which would be incurred at Leigh Creek. As a result of that, and because funds of this nature are not immediately available to the Broadcasting Control Board or to my Department, recently I wrote to my colleague, the Minister for Social Security, to see whether it is possible for him to provide funds under the Australian Assistance Plan. I do not know that it is, but I am just trying to do whatever I can to assist the people in Leigh Creek to obtain some form of television service. I also suggest to the honourable senator that I think the South Australian Electricity Trust, which draws its coal supplies from Leigh Creek and which is responsible for the workers employed there, should bear some responsibility towards meeting the cost of providing this amenity.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that there are now more than 900 journalists employed by the Australian Government, including ministerial staffs, departments and other authorities? If not, what are the numbers currently so employed? Will the Minister further advise the Senate of the numerical and percentage increases in journalistic and other public relations staffs employed by the Australian Government since it took office in December 1972? Will he also give to the Senate a list showing the number of journalists and other public relations staff in each department or statutory authority and on each ministerial staff?
– If my memory serves me correctly, a similar question was asked some time ago by, I think, Mr Snedden in the House of Representatives. I am pretty sure that the Prime Minister has supplied the necessary information. Anyway, I will obtain a copy of the answer which was given to that question. If it does not cover all the details sought by Senator Missen I will endeavour to obtain them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. I draw the Minister’s attention to a recent statement by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that restrictions will be lifted on the advertising of personal products, including sanitary napkins, vaginal deodorants and on treatment for haemorrhoids, for a trial period of 12 months? Is the Minister aware that the circular letter from the Broadcasting Control Board states that advertisements for those personal products may be broadcast and televised at times when the audience is not likely to contain a large proportion of children and young persons? In reply to a telegram I sent to the Secretary of the Board asking for more accurate definition of the times, Mr Connolly specifically stated that there would continue to be a complete embargo on this type of advertising during the times set aside for family and children’s viewing. He has given the times as before 7.30 p.m. at weekends and on public holidays and between 6 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. on week days.
– Ask your question, Senator Coleman.
– I am coming to the question now, Mr President. As those times cannot be considered as family and children ‘s viewing times and because already a great deal of concern is being expressed, particularly by community groups, about the type of advertisement which could be televised covering those products, will the Minister advise whether there is any action he can take to ensure that if it is necessary to have these advertisments shown at all they will be televised at a time when there is almost a surety of there being young adult and adult viewers only- for example, after 10 p.m. at night- and that they will not be included in current affairs and sporting programs?
- Senator Coleman will appreciate, of course, that the programming and advertising standards insofar as radio and television are concerned are the complete prerogative of the independent statutory body- the Broadcasting Control Boardunder the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Broadcasting Control Board has informed me- I saw publicity given to this matter recently- that it has decided temporarily to relax the present restrictions on the advertising of personal products in order to test the reaction of the public to advertising of this nature. After consideration the Board determined that advertising of this nature will be permitted for a trial period ending on 1 June 1976. Such advertisements will not be permitted during family viewing time. Therefore they will not be allowed to be shown before 7.30 p.m. However, all advertisements for personal products will have to be subjected to individual approval by the Broadcasting Control Board. I have been advised that it may well be that some advertisements of this type will not be permitted by the Board before 8.30 p.m.
Personal products advertising also will be permitted on radio, but not during periods when the audience is likely to contain a large proportion of children and young people. Finally, I should mention to the honourable senator that it might be worth noting that a similar trial period was introduced in Britain during the last few years. The trial period was 12 months. After that 12 month period was up it was decided by the authorities that these advertisements once again should be prohibited.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I ask: What arrangements have been made with the Minister for Education to respond to questions directed to him through his representative in the Senate? I refer to the fact that I have not received the information promised relating to questions I have asked on several matters during recent weeks. In particular I have received no answers to my specific questions concerning the tertiary education assistance scheme and the secondary school library grants. I also refer to the additional information provided for Estimates Committee C concerning the Australian Capital Territory school transport contract services in which it was stated that the Department has not yet been able to determine the reasons for the saving of $100,000 and will provide further advice. Will the Minister expedite answers to the questions which have been asked?
– I can assure Senator Guilfoyle that every question she directs to me in my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Education is immediately sent by my staff to the office of the Minister for Education and replies are constantly requested. I will certainly take up the matter with my colleague the Minister for Education and endeavour to expedite the provision of replies to the questions.
– Order! Because of the limited time available to ask questions I would like honourable senators to be as brief as possible in the prefaces they give to questions. The information that is included should only be sufficient to make the question intelligible.
– What about the answers by Ministers, Mr President?
– I make that suggestion to the Ministers also.
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that the National Country Party has agreed in principle to the recommendations of the Woodward Commission on Aboriginal Land Rights? Is he also aware that the Premier of Queensland, the Honourable Joh Bjelke-Petersen, has refused to accept the policy of the National Country Party in that he will not agree to hand over control of 16 Aboriginal land reserves in Queensland to the Aborigines residing upon them?
-Yes, Mr President, I have seen the Press reports and it is correct that the National Country Party has adopted the Labor Party policy on Aboriginal land rights and endorses the recommendations of the Woodward Commission on Aboriginal Land Rights. I appreciate the National Country Party’s action in coming into line with a realistic policy. I look forward to support of its members when the Bill comes before the Parliament to give Aborigines in Queensland control of the 16 reservessomething that one of their colleagues will not do.
Whilst Mr Bjelke-Petersen has said that he will not hand over land rights, I think that as a member of a national Party he must comply with national policy and eventually he will do so. There has been a change of attitude on the part of the Premier of Queensland because when I wanted to discuss with him the implementation of the Woodward Commission report he would not even speak to me nor would he let any of his Ministers speak to me. But he is on speaking terms with his Party, which has the same policy as this Government and wants to discuss it now. I think there has been some relaxation in the Premier’s position in that he is at least in conversation with those who support Aboriginal land rights. At one time he would not even permit conversation with anyone who even suggested land rights for Aborigines.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport give the Senate any information regarding complaints that his Department has received from the airline companies regarding the limited length and therefore the safety of the airstrip at Hobart? Will the Minister say whether there are yet any plans to lengthen the airstrip by extending it in a northerly direction or to build a new and longer strip in another direction?
– I will endeavour to get the answer to Senator Townley’s question for next week’s sitting.
-Can the Postmaster-General advise whether trials in Victoria of electricity-powered motor scooters for postmen are proving to be successful? In view of Adelaide’s suitable terrain and intensely developed industrial area, will the PostmasterGeneral also consider conducting trials in the Adelaide area?
-Late last year the Post Office decided to experiment with an electric van which was manufactured in the United States of America- I think it was called Battronic- and at the same time to engage in trials of scooters produced by a local Victorian organisation. The trials of the van and the scooters are being conducted and have been worked out in association with the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. While these vehicles have a very limited range, it is of course a great advantage to have a vehicle which is so powered. I will ask the DirectorGeneral to consider whether trials with the same sorts of vehicles might also be conducted in Adelaide.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Is it a fact that the Government has virtually warned the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to avoid jeopardising the future of wage indexation in its judgment on the metal trades case? Does this mean that the Government is asking the Commission to do something which the Government itself is not prepared to do? Is the future of wage indexation already at risk because the Government has not had the courage to come out strongly in opposition to the first wage claim after the Full Bench of the Commission laid down indexation guidelines?
– I think that the position of the Government in its propositions which were advanced to the joint conferences last year are pretty well known because they have been discussed in the Parliament. In those consultations, the results of which have now to some extent reached the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Government put before Mr Justice Moore a proposition that wage indexation should apply. What has been given to the Australian Government’s advocate was published in the Press this morning. The Government and the Minister for Labor and Immigration have said and I think it was Senator James McClelland who said yesterday- this applies to every Minister- that we are wedded to the principle of wage indexation. That is the object which we are trying to achieve to avoid the problems which have been so marked in industry over the years. At this stage it would not be right for me to canvass what might be done by the Commission. It is now a matter for the Commission to decide what should be done in respect of the claims of the metal trades unions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. The Minister would be aware that over the last 10 years numerous insurance companies have been declared bankrupt with a consequent loss of millions of dollars of policy holders’ funds. I ask the Minister to arrange for the following details to be made available to the Senate: The names of the companies which have been declared bankrupt since 1 January 1965; a list of the personnel who comprised the board of directors of the various companies; and the total loss of policy holders’ funds by each of the companies concerned. Can the Minister also advise the Senate what compensation has been paid by Australian governments to policy holders who lost funds under these circumstances prior to 2 December 1972?
-Yes, I think that would be very interesting infomation. I shall obtain it as soon as possible and see that it is made publicly available.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that in March of this year the Government increased the charge to airlines for garbage disposal and incineration at Melbourne airport from 8.6c to 62.5c per cubic foot? Does this constitute an increase of 629 per cent? Is it 6 times the commercial rate for the disposal of garbage in similar circumstances?
– Is this not just an example of a further tax being imposed on airlines and therefore on the air travelling public?
– The honourable senator talks about garbage but I think his question is properly described by the interjection by Senator Devitt who said: ‘Rubbish’. Senator Rae would know the position because he would have heard the answer I gave last week to Senator Laucke, I think it was, in which I gave the charges which the Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, had announced in respect of Tullamarine. For example, the cost of running the cleaning service at Tullamarine is as much as the rental being charged at the present time. As Senator Rae well knows, during the period his Party was in government the question of what were to be proper charges to the airlines was put before an investigating committee. That committee continued its work and finally a recommendation was brought down by the Department to the Minister. The Minister has proposed to the 2 airlines that some recovery of expenses should be made. As I understand the position, it is still open to the airlines to agree with what the Minister has put forward.
- Mr President, a supplementary question, if I may.
– I call Senator Rae on a supplementary question.
– Is it not a fact that the amount charged is 6 times the commercial rate?
-The collection of rubbish is an incidental matter. I will find out the information that is sought. Senator Rae well knows the situation. This Government, like any government, has to recover the costs of running services. As I mentioned before, action to recover costs was commenced during the reign of his Party.
-My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security relates to the prospect of Victoria joining the hospital side of Medibank. Is the Minister aware that the Victorian Minister of Health recently instructed an advertising agency to prepare an advertising campaign seeking to explain to the Victorian people why they would not be in Medibank on 1 July? Is it correct that the advertising agency in question sought material from the Hospitals and Charities Commission in Victoria to support this advertising campaign? Was the agency informed by the Commission that there was no material available which would support the Victorian Government’s case?
– I understand that the Victorian Government, as part of its campaign to deny the people of Victoria proper health services and in order to further its own narrow, dogmatic and ideological ends, did wish to enter into an advertising campaign against the Australian Government. I also understand it did ask the Hospitals and Charities Commission to provide information to an advertising agency which the Victorian Minister for Health had engaged as to why the Victorian Government should not participate in Medibank. I am also informed, on a most reliable authority, that when the Victorian advertising agents went to the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission, they were informed that the Commission was unable to provide them with any reasons whatsoever as to why they should not participate.
-Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I understand that Senator Wheeldon has a statement to make in relation to a question previously answered by him.
-Earlier today Senator Jessop asked me various questions concerning the inquiry by Mr Justice Toose into repatriation. One of Senator Jessop ‘s questions concerned the cost of the inquiry. Subsequently I have been informed by my Department that, to the end of March, the approximate cost incurred in the undertaking of the inquiry was $600,000.
– Pursuant to subsection 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-74 I table a determination by the Remuneration Tribunal in relation to the position of Chairman (full-time) of the Australian Shipping Commission.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following 4 reports by the Industries Assistance Commission: Report on certain textile floor coverings dated 7 February 1975; report on fabricated asbestos dated 9 April 1975; report on brucellosis and tuberculosis dated 10 April 1975; and report on floor and wall tiles dated 1 1 April 1975.
-As Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, I present the one hundred and fiftythird report of the Public Accounts Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator MCAULIFFE (Queensland)-Mr President, on behalf of the Committee, I seek leave to have a short statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The one hundred and fifty-third report of the Public Accounts Committee is concerned with the Committee’s inquiry into delays by Australian Government departments in occupying leased premises. The inquiry arose from repeated references in annual reports of the Auditor-General to significant amounts of avoidable expenditure being incurred by departments because of these delays. In its inquiry the Committee took evidence from the Departments of Services and Property, Social Security, Labour (now the Department of Labor and Immigration), Overseas Trade, Transport, Civil Aviation (now the Department of Transport) and the Public Service Board.
The evidence presented to the Committee showed clearly that delays had occurred in the occupation of leased premises which could have been avoided or lessened by a better coordinated effort by the principal departments. The evidence also showed that at the time of the inquiry there was a large degree of confusion and disagreement among the principal departments involved and that the procedures then in operation were not capable of coping with demands placed on them either in the normal course of events or when unusual pressures or circumstances arose.
The Committee has recommended that the existing interdepartmental committee comprising the Departments of Services and Property, Housing and Construction, the Treasury and the Public Service Board should, as a matter of urgency complete its deliberations on the roles of the principal departments and should produce a set of recommendations covering all aspects of leasing and occupying office accommodation.
The Committee has also recommended that where substantial expenditure is involved in the leasing of privately owned office accommodation by the Australian Government on behalf of a department or group of departments, or where changes are planned to existing occupants of already leased premises, an interdepartmental committee should be established immediately comprising representatives from the principal departments, the Public Service Board and the client departments. The Committee has proposed that the interdepartmental committee should carry out certain functions, and should be chaired by an officer specifically appointed to coordinate that particular project or projects.
Other recommendations made by the Committee in this report include a proposal that the Department of Services and Property should carry out regular reviews of future accommodation requirements of departments and should sponsor such matters as the fitting out of leased buildings and place all requests for funds for consequential works directly with the Treasury. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
A 3-page second reading speech has been delivered in another place. I seek leave therefore, Mr President, to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision to terminate the home savings grant scheme after introduction of the scheme for tax deductibility of mortgage interest on housing loans. As announced by the then Treasurer in his Budget Speech on 21 August 1973, home savings grants will continue to be paid to young people who had commenced to save in the acceptable forms on or before that date and who contract to buy or build, or commence construction of, their homes on or before 31 December 1976. The Bill provides for this and other consequential amendments necessary to terminate the scheme.
The principal Act at present provides that an application should be lodged within12 months after a person’s prescribed date, that is, the date he contracts to buy or build his home or commences its construction, but the period for lodgment may be extended, in special circumstances, for a further period. To avoid prolonged adminstration of the scheme through the receipt of applications for an indefinite period of time after 3 1 December 1976, the Bill provides for an absolute final date- 31 December 1977- for the lodgment of applications, that is, a period of 12 months after the latest possible prescribed date. Applications for home savings grants will not be accepted after that date.
Several requirements in the Act may be met after a person’s prescribed date and, indeed, after an application has been lodged. For example, a person need not be married at the date he contracts to buy or build his home but, to qualify for a grant, he must marry within 12 months after that date or within such further period as may be allowed in special circumstances. Similarly, before a grant may be paid, an applicant must produce evidence that acceptable savings have been held over the required period, that the land on which the house is built will be owned by him, that he has adequate finance to complete the purchase or construction of the house and, in the case of an owner builder, that he has made substantial building progress on the home. It is usually expected that these requirements will be fulfilled within 12 months after the person’s prescribed date but the principal Act has permitted extension of this period in special circumstances. The Bill provides that the final date for meeting any outstanding requirements may not be extended beyond 30 June 1978, that is, a period of 18 months after the latest possible prescribed date.
I take this opportunity to explain to the Senate that persons who meet the eligibility tests for tax deductibility of mortgage interest and home savings grants may receive both benefits. The Government has conducted an extensive campaign through the media to inform eligible persons who are repaying housing loans of their right to claim deductions under the pay as you earn system in respect of mortgage interest.
The Bill proposes other amendments to the principal Act, the most important of which concern the acceptability of savings held in Papua New Guinea. The Act at present permits savings held with branches of Australian Banks in an external Territory of Australia to be treated as acceptable savings for purposes of the homes savings grant scheme. Unless appropriate amendments are made, changes to the banking system in Papua New Guinea associated with the granting of self-government may prejudice the possible eligibility of some Australians temporarily working and saving in Papua New Guinea. Furthermore, under the terms of the present Act, savings held with any bank in Papua New Guinea would cease to be acceptable for purposes of the Home Savings Grant Scheme on and after the date of independence. To overcome these problems, the Bill proposes amendments that will ensure that savings held with any bank in Papua New Guinea in similar forms to those acceptable in the case of banks in Australia will continue to be acceptable until 31 December 1976, that is, until the last day on which savings held in Australia will be acceptable.
Consequent upon the amalgamation of the former Departments of Housing and of Works as the Department of Housing and Construction on 30 November 1973, the Bill proposes appropriate drafting amendments to up-date references to the former Department of Housing. The Bill also makes provision to enable the detailed administration of the home savings grant scheme to be transferred if desired from the Department to the Australian Housing Corporation. It is intended that the Secretary to the Department will continue to be responsible, subject to any directions of the Minister, for the general administration of the scheme, but that the Secretary should have authority to delegate the necessary power to conduct the day to day operations of the scheme to the Corporation.
I have arranged for the distribution to honourable senators of notes explaining the purpose of each clause and sub-clause of the amending Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
The second reading speech on this Bill has been delivered in the other place and I ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, it is so ordered. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill has two main purposes. One of the purposes is to confirm by legislation some changes in the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel that were made by administrative direction early in 1973. As honourable senators know, the drafting of Bills for the Parliament is carried out by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, which was established in 1970 by our predecessors in government. It was generally agreed then that the establishment of the Office was a worthwhile move and experience has confirmed the success of the move. However, it is very doubtful whether the Office would have been able to meet the demands made on it in relation to Bills for this Parliament if a further step in streamlining the process of the drafting of Bills had not been taken. That further step was taken by this Government in 1973, then the Office of Parliamentary Counsel was, by administrative arrangement, relieved of the responsibility for drafting ordinances for the Australian Capital Territory, and Northern Territory, and regulations, and of the work associated with the printing of laws. This was transferred to a specially created Division in the Attorney-General’s Department.
These arrangements have been an undoubted success and, as I have already said, it is now proposed that what has up to now rested upon an administrative basis only should be confirmed legislatively. Clause 3 therefore provides for the statement of the functions of the Office as at present expressed in the Act to be brought into line with the factual position by confining them to Bill drafting and closely related work.
Honourable senators will note that the functions of the Office, both under the existing Act and as proposed to be restated in the Bill, are not confined to drafting for the Government. This is consistent with the practice of previous governments of authorising the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to provide drafting services for private members of the Parliament, on a confidential basis when so desired by the senator or member concerned, where this is possible having regard to commitments for drafting required by the Government. In fact a great deal of assistance has been, and is being, given by the Office to the Opposition as well as to Government members, particularly in the drafting of amendments to Bills. Unfortunately, it is not possible on all occasions to authorise the Office to draft Bills for private members, particularly where they amount to major legislative projects. However, the legislative confirmation of the removal of certain work from the functions of the Office will help to ensure that the Office will be able to continue to give substantial help to private members.
The other main purpose of the Bill results from a change that the Government proposes to make in the ministerial responsibility for the Office. Although the First Parliamentary Counsel and his staff have always maintained, and will continue to maintain, close professional collaboration with the Attorney-General and officers of his Department, it is felt that, because the work of the Office is concerned with the overall legislative requirements of government, the ministerial responsibility for the Office should lie with the Prime Minister.
It is proposed to make the necessary change in the Administrative Arrangements Order, but, because of some references in the Parliamentary Counsel Act to the Attorney-General, the Act will also need to be consequentially amended. Clause 2 of the Bill therefore provides for those references to be replaced by references to ‘the Minister’, who, by virtue of the change to be made in the Administrative Arrangements, will be the Prime Minister. The Bill also provides for a number of purely formal and consequential amendments, including a consequential amendment of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 April, on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition hopes that this Bill will have a speedy passage through the Senate. Over 4 months have elapsed since cyclone Tracy razed Darwin. Although that is not a long period of time in terms of the tremendous amount of work that has been involved in gathering information necessary to bring forward a compensation Bill- at this stage might I commend the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) and his Department on the work that they have done- it is a very long time if you have lost your home and your personal possessions and are waiting to go ahead with plans to start again. Therefore the Opposition supports the objectives of the Bill. Compensation obviously had to be granted by the Commonwealth to help the people of Darwin get back on their feet. I would hope that it is an obligation that no Australian would fail to recognise and support.
The $58m to be made available as compensation has been appropriated already and this Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Bill merely provides the legislative authority for the distribution of that money. But I do not believe that this is being done in a satisfactory manner. In effect there is only one clause in the Bill which is operative and which gives the Minister authority to make payments. In that sense it is another of the Government’s Bills under which the expenditure of public moneys is open to patronage by a Minister. The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation spelled out in his second reading speech the criteria for compensation but that does not appear in the Bill. Therefore in the Committee stage I propose to move to include new clauses designed to correct this omission.
The Opposition argues that the criteria is part and parcel of the Bill and cannot be excluded. Without it the Bill is a loose piece of legislation involving large sums of public money. I know that the Minister has put forward reasons why the Bill lacks the essential detail and I am sure that he will advance them again in this debate. He does not wish to see the Bill delayed; that is his principal reason. While I do not want to see any unnecessary delay to the Bill, I do not subscribe to the argument put forward by the Minister. The residents of the Northern Territory have fought strongly and persistently for an increased rate of political development in the Territory through the transfer of executive or ministerial powers to the new Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I believe that what the Minister is arguing is a reversal of everthing for which they have been fighting. The new clauses which the Opposition proposes simply set out the criteria that the Minister himself has fixed. They also add an appeal provision. Clearly a person should have a right of appeal in the event of rejection of his application for compensation or in the event of his dissatisfaction with the amount of compensation he receives.
I would like to raise one further point that is causing me some concern. I do not know how valid it is, but perhaps the Minister has already had a look at the situation and can give me some information on it. It relates to those cases in which the insurance policy holder is underinsured and qualifies under the provisions of this legislation for government compensation. I expect that there would be many instances of people being under-insured because of the fact that property values are inflated. Has the Government considered whether it could be interpreted as a violation of any dual payment terms in an insurance policy if a person receives government compensation? I do not know whether something of that nature may be written in very small print into some insurance policies. I would just ask the Government to make sure that when compensation is paid the money goes to the people to whom it is directed.
We do not have any quarrel with the Bill but we would like to see the criteria which the Minister so clearly spells out in his second reading speech written into the Bill itself. I have indicated that at the Committee stage I will move those amendments which I have foreshadowed. We support the Bill.
– I am very pleased that the Opposition is supporting the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Bill 1975. I only wish that when the Bill was introduced on 16 April of this year the Opposition had then passed the Bill through all its stages, which would have obviated the delay to which Senator DrakeBrockman referred. Because of that delay the people of Darwin have been waiting for 4 months to receive compensation for the loss of their houses and their personal property. It is my belief that there was no excuse for this Bill not being passed on 16 April of this year when the second reading speech was read to the Senate. In the second reading speech, which appears at page 1062 of Hansard, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) clearly illustrated the purpose of the Bill, the amount that was to be set aside for compensation and also the conditions on which the compensation would be paid. Apart from giving that information in his second reading speech the Minister also said that he would like the Bill to be passed as speedily as possible.
I do not know why the Opposition did not act as it has acted in the past and put through the legislation far more quickly. The Social Services Bill 1 975 was passed through all its stages by this House in about 8 minutes. The Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1975 went through fairly quickly without the debate being adjourned. Only recently a Bill which sought a change to the Constitution went through in about 5 minutes. The Darwin Reconstruction Bill 1975 was passed through this House on 19 February 1975 after full and complete debate, and the record of the vote taken on that Bill can be seen at page 311 of Hansard. I would have thought that honourable senators opposite would be fully aware that the people of Darwin who lost their houses and personal property need compensation. As a matter of fact, a report put out by the Minister shows that at the time of the cyclone disaster there were approximately 1 1 000 households in Darwin. A further report that has been put out shows that a total of 10 636 household claim forms and 1572 business claim forms have now been issued, and interviews have been held with 7783 household claimants and 1013 business claimants. A lot of these people have left Darwin since the disaster and will not return.
A comprehensive investigation that was undertaken by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation has shown that nearly 50 per cent of the people in Darwin were either insured or not insured at all. I know that a number of these 10 600 people who have already put in their claim forms are desperately waiting for finance to rebuild, to build elsewhere or to buy other homes elsewhere. I will refer to only one case. No doubt the other 10 600 cases would be in similar circumstances. This person is an employee of the Department of Housing and Construction in Darwin. He is still working up there. He had built a new house. His valuation was $5 1 ,000. The valuation of the Australian Taxation Office was $50,000. The house was not insured. Similar cases have been referred to today and other times. Insurance agents often delay the finalisation of the insurance contracts. In this case the insurance agent said: ‘I will come back in the new year and finalise the insurance policy’. It was too late in the new year because the cyclone struck on Christmas Day.
In many other cases the insurance company officers know full well that the households are very much under-insured because of inflation. The householder may have taken out a policy 5 or 10 years ago for the then market value of the property, but with inflation the value of the property has doubled and sometimes trebled. The insurance companies have not advised the policy holders that they ought to increase the value of the insurance on their properties so that they would be fully compensated if there were a natural disaster or any loss. We know of other cases in which the renewal payments have been 2 or 3 days overdue, and the insurance companies will not pay out compensation for the losses.
The case to which I was referring was the case of a person who had built a home valued at $50,000. He had no insurance. He does not intend to return permanently to Darwin because the site on which his house was built will be taken over by the Government for road construction. However, he bought a house to his satisfaction in Adelaide. He paid a deposit. The balance of the contract had to be paid within 28 days. The Commonwealth Trading Bank with which he was dealing said that it would advance the money provided it knew that he would get some compensation for the Darwin cyclone damage to his property. Although the Bill had been introduced at that stage it had not been passed, and the Bank did not know the attitude of the Opposition. It was only my representation to the Minister and his officers that resulted in this person’s position being temporarily rectified. However, he is still paying the full interest on the $25,000 bridging finance for the house that he has bought in Adelaide, which is only a substitute for the $50,000 house that he had in Darwin.
My belief is that this Bill should not have been delayed by the Opposition. We knew what the people in Darwin wanted. We knew that a number of them had returned and were eager to rebuild or renovate houses that were partially destroyed. It was not only this Bill which was delayed but also Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1974-75, which provides the initial finance of $25m to pay compensation to people in Darwin. There is no reason why this Bill could not have been passed here on 23 April when we were debating the Estimates Committees and the Appropriation Bills.
– Except that the Government did not give it a high enough priority.
-It is obvious that the Opposition does not read the notice paper because if Senator Drake-Brockman had read the notice paper he would have seen that the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Bill was right at the top of the notice paper on 23 April of this year. If Opposition members had not got up in a hurry about 5 o’clock and gone back to their respective States we would have passed not only the Appropriation Bill necessary to provide finance for the people in Darwin but also the Bill that we are now debating. So although Senator Drake-Brockman has shown anxiety because the people of Darwin have waited for months, the delay has been due mainly to the obstruction by the Opposition in the Senate. The 4 months delay to which he referred is now nearly 5 months. I hope that the Bill is passed quickly today and that the Opposition causes no further delay so that the people in Darwin who lost their houses and their personal property at least can receive the compensation that we have told them we will give them.
– I think it is quite disgraceful that Senator Donald Cameron should try to shift the responsibility for the delay of this Bill on to the Opposition, because the Opposition has no control over the Senate business. The responsibility clearly lies with the Government to allocate priorities to legislation which it wishes to present to this chamber. It seems to me that the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) failed to get his colleagues to recognise the importance of this measure. That is clearly the reason why this Bill has been delayed. Senator Donald Cameron referred also to the fact that people are unable to obtain compensation until this Bill is passed. That is quite true. But I am concerned that to my knowledge there has been complete inactivity in Darwin with respect to the reconstruction program. This morning I heard a complaint on the radio program ‘AM’ that no building is being carried on in Darwin because the Darwin Reconstruction Commission has been bogged down by bureaucracy and that some of the best people in Darwin are leaving the city. It seemed doubtful to the complainant that Darwin would ever progress to a population of 50 000 people. It seems that people are opting to leave Darwin, are purchasing houses in other areas and are settling in other States.
Senator Donald Cameron also brought out a point that I would like to emphasise and that is that some people who wish to rebuild may be interrupted by the town planning in that area perhaps as a result of new roads going through their property. I think the delays will be quite lengthy until the Commission can get on with the job of town planning and reconstructing houses.
I noticed in the national Press during the weekend that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission has advertised extensively a large number of positions. For example, the position of deputy general manager was advertised at a salary of $25,690. Twenty-one positions were advertised in that newspaper. The advertisements indicate that several positions will be available in some categories. Architects are being sought with a salary range between $13,000 and $18,000. Several positions are advertised for town planners carrying a salary of between $13,000 to $18,000. Several positions are advertised for engineers. It seems to me that the Government is developing a little National Capital Development Commission at Darwin. I hope ultimately that these people will be able to be employed somewhere else. I expect that the Government ultimately will give these people positions in other departments once their 5 -year term of service in completed.
– Order! I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Gerald Regan, Q.C., M.L.A., Premier of Nova Scotia and Chairman of the
Executive Committee of the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. On behalf of all honourable senators I extend to Mr Regan a very warm welcome and hope that his stay in Australia will be pleasant.
– This Bill provides the mechanism whereby people will be able to claim for damage which occurred as a result of the cyclone at Darwin. I am concerned that the Department of Repatriation and Compensation was unable to extend its capacity perhaps to compensate for other contingencies. For example, I mentioned to the Minister for Repartiation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) the problems that were being experienced by a transport company. He told me that compensation was available for vehicles damaged in the catastrophe. I ask the Minister to explain why it is not possible to extend compensation benefits to cover loss of income as a result of this catastrophe. The company to which I have referred had lost, as a direct result of cyclone Tracy, $47,389 up to 6 March. I was disturbed that immediately after the cyclone the Government chose to provide 19 semi-trailers to carry freight from Adealide and other parts to Darwin. I believe that sort of work ought to have been left in the hands of transport hauliers who have been providing a valuable service to Darwin for many years. That action contributed to substantial losses sustained by these people to whom I have referred. I support what Senator Drake- Brockman has said about this Bill. We recognise that it is necessary to move some amendments which we believe will tidy up a few matters. I hope that at that time the Minister will give favourable consideration to them.
– It was not my intention to speak at the second reading stage of the Bill. I intended to confine my remarks to the Committee stage, but I have been prompted to speak by the remarks made by Senator Jessop criticising Senator Donald Cameron and saying that the honourable senator’s remarks were disgraceful in that he was trying to shift blame from the Government to the Opposition for delay in presentation of the Bill. Senator Jessop would be well aware that this Bill could not be introduced into this place or be funded until a certain Appropriation Bill went through. As Senator Donald Cameron pointed out, the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Bill 1975 was listed immediately after the Appropriation Bills on the notice paper on 23 April. The Government wanted to continue the sitting on that evening to pass the Appropriation Bills and to pass this Bill, but the Opposition members, in their indecent haste to leave the capital to get back to their private practices and their private farms and all that, would not sit on to enable the Government to pass this legislation.
I know that Opposition senators are saying that we have to manage the business, but the Government had an arrangement with Opposition members on that day that they would curtail their remarks on the Appropriation Bills and also this Bill so that they could be dealt with on 23 April. But some of the mavericks on the other side did not agree. They spoke on and on in a repetitive fashion, so much so that time ran out. The Government was quite prepared to continue sitting on Wednesday night to deal with this matter because it is very concerned with the plight of the people in Darwin. Senator Donald Cameron has given illustrations in his remarks today of the suffering of some of those people. Senator Jessop was quite wrong in saying that Senator Donald Cameron’s remarks were disgraceful. Senator Donald Cameron’s remarks ought to have been made and the public ought to be made aware of them. Senator Drake-Brockman said that 4 months is a long time if a person is waiting for finance to rebuild a home, and he went on to say that he did not want to see any delay in the passage of the Bill. What a pity it is that both Senator Drake-Brockman and Senator Jessop were not of that opinion on the night of 23 April when they voted to adjourn the Senate. If that bright Independent had maintained his independence and had been prepared to stay in this place that night and vote with the Government we would have got the Bill through, but he was on his way back to Albury when this vital legislation on the notice paper was waiting to be ratified to give the people in Darwin, the people who were suffering, the assistance that they so urgently required. I rose to speak to repudiate the remarks of both Senator Drake-Brockman and Senator Jessop.
– I think I should say a few words, although I was not intending to speak at this stage of the debate. In view of the recent irrelevant remarks that have just been made I think something should be said about what happened on 23 April. Quite a lot has been reported in the Press. Mrs Child, in the other place, wrote a letter to a newspaper claiming, quite incorrectly, that pensions were not being paid because Bills did not go through the chamber. Here is another example of an attempt to throw to the Opposition some responsibility for this Bill not coming on.
We all know that Government members were ready, willing and- fortunately for them- able to leave on 23 April. True, they voted against the adjournment of the Senate for political ploy purposes, but everyone knows that they had the business of the Senate in their hands that week. They chose not to sit on the Wednesday morning of that week. They chose to bring other pieces of legislation into the chamber and to debate them at length. They claimed, of course, that we were not prepared to let the Supply and Appropriation Bills go through. They wanted us to pass them without proper consideration. That is what it amounted to, and that is what they would have desired if they could have had their choice.
This is all totally irrelevant to this Bill. It is just another piece of fog to try to obscure the true position and to place in the minds of the people of Darwin some idea that it was not Government mismanagement that was the cause of this Bill not coming on- when clearly it was Government mismanagement- but that somehow it is the responsibility of the Opposition. It is not in any way, and it was not on that day. Therefore it should be clearly stated that the Government must accept the responsibility of its own failure to bring on legislation which it regards as urgent and to bring on other legislation which clearly was not urgent. That responsibility must remain where it always was- with the Government.
– in reply- The amendments which have been proposed by Senator Drake-Brockman are not acceptable to the Government, and in fact will delay the passage of the Bill. I do not intend to become engaged in arguments about who delayed what in the past but I will say that if the amendments are persevered with they will produce a delay in the passage of the Bill because they are completely unacceptable to the Government. I shall explain why they are completely unacceptable to the Government. Some matters raised by Senator Drake-Brockman, I think, first of all require an answer. The first question he has raised relates to the position of those residents in Darwin who were under-insured. By ‘underinsured’ I take it he means that the value of their premises or property were not insured to the full marketable value. I imagine that it would not be surprising if everybody was in that position. It is very rare indeed that one finds that anybody has 100 per cent insurance cover over anything, except possibly in the case of some mortgage insurance or something like that, but certainly not on property. In this sense I think that everybody would fall into this category.
The question that Senator Drake-Brockman has raised is whether possibly the payment of compensation to those people who did not carry insurance to the full value of the destroyed or damaged property would somehow be harmed because of the dual payment provisions in their insurance policies, and whether the money paid by the Government as a result of this Bill becoming an Act would go not to the insured person but to the insurance companies. This is a matter in which I have had close consultation with the general insurance companies and I have received considerable assistance from them. They have provided me and my Department with a lot of information about the valuation of the various properties and the insurance cover which they had provided. I have been assured by them that any supplementary compensation which will be paid to insured people as the result of the passage of this Bill into an Act will not be regarded as a dual payment within the terms of their insurance contracts and that they will not be making any claim for the money.
This is primarily a matter of dispute, I suppose between the insured persons receiving the compensation and the insurance company, rather than for us to become involved in a domestic argument of this sort, if there were to be such an argument. Our understanding of the matter, particularly in regard to the assurance that we have received from the insurance companies, is that no problem of this nature will arise. Another matter which was mentioned by Senator DrakeBrockman I did not entirely follow him- was that in some way this was an abrogation of the rights of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. I am not clear how this could be so.
– No. I referred to the Bills that have been passed by this Government under patronage of public moneys. I mean the RED scheme and a few others.
– I am not in a position really to comment on Bills for which I am not responsible, but as far as the Bill with which we are dealing now is concerned, there is no parliament other than the Australian Parliament which could deal with it because the moneys that are being provided are clearly out of the general revenue of Australia. There is no way in which we could give the responsibility or authority for the passage of a Bill such as this to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. It has no right to make any allocations of Australian
Government funds. Senator Jessop has raised various matters which are critical of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, I take it. Again I am prepared to debate them when the occasion arises, but there is little that I can contribute to that matter in this debate. At present we are not dealing with the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. In fact, if Darwin were never to be reconstructed at all and there were to be no more Darwin we would still proceed with the Bill that we have before us because it is designed to compensate people for the loss of what they possessed in the past rather than to provide them with funds.
– On the loss of buildings, I was suggesting that no buildings be reconstructed.
-The only point that I am making is that whether Senator Jessop is correct or incorrect in the statements that he has made about the reconstruction of Darwin, it in fact has no bearing on this Bill because it is proposed under this Bill that we will pay compensation to people even though they may have decided not to return to Darwin. There is no specification as to what they will do with the compensation money that is paid to them. If they decide to go to live in Melbourne, under the terms of this Bill they will still be compensated for the property which they lost in Darwin.
Senator Jessop has referred to compensation for losses other than the loss of property. Together with Senator Jessop I met a gentleman who had had a series of very unfortunate experiences in the Northern Territory for which one has to feel a great deal of sympathy. This gentleman ‘s transport business was ruined, not so much directly by the cyclone in the sense that he lost a great deal of property, but through the fact that everything was dislocated as a result of the cyclone and he was unable to carry on his business. I told this gentleman that we would be able to provide compensation for the actual loss of property that occurred, of which there was not a very great deal, but I am afraid that there is no way that I can see in which we could provide compensation for loss of goodwill or loss of business. If we were to be making provision for compensation other than for actual physical damage what we could be paying out is incalculable. Not only would we have to compensate people presumably for loss of goodwill, loss of business and loss of expected contracts, but I presume that we would also have to compensate private persons for loss of enjoyment, for the incalculable disadvantages of having to uproot their families and shift somewhere else, and for loss of consortium between husbands and wives. All sorts of things would have to be brought into it. We believe that the only way in which we can tackle this question rationally is to deal with the actual loss of property.
I appreciate what Senator Jessop is saying. It is something which we certainly considered, but I can see no way in which any other form of compensation could be provided. People throughout Australia constantly find themselves in these positions, even if it is not through a cyclone. A man might own a newsagent’s shop, a greengrocery or some other small business in an area which is zoned as industrial and all the local residents move out, factories are built there and his business vanishes as a result of it. There is no way in which we could pay compensation to that man for the loss of his business, and I do not think that we can do it in Darwin. At the same time, as I said yesterday in the course of another debate, I wish that the Opposition would make up its mind on the expenditure of government money. On the one hand we are being told that one of the primary evils in Australia at present is the excessive public expenditure.
We were told recently by Mr Chipp that with regard to our social security programs we are building, as he put it, a nation of bludgers or spongers or whatever it was he called them. Yet at the same time it seems to be not inconsistent with this for the Opposition, whenever we put up a proposal for expenditure of this type, to say that we are not spending enough and that we ought to be spending more. I really ask the members of the Opposition- I ask this in all goodwillto tell us exactly what it is they want. Do they want us to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars more in Darwin, which will increase public expenditure, or are they saying that we ought to be spending less?
– Order ! The Premier of Nova Scotia is about to leave the gallery. We hope that he has found his short visit to the Senate interesting and that his visit to our country will be rewarding.
– I will deal now in broad terms with the amendments which have been foreshadowed by
Senator Drake-Brockman so that before the debate at the Committee stage commences my position and the Government’s position may be made clear. The amendments, or something along the lines of the amendments which Senator Drake-Brockman has given notice that he will move, were considered by the Government. This is certainly something which I would say obviously would occur to any government; that is, that when you are handing out quite substantial sums of money you ought to have some rules whereby people may be paid those moneys and may have some redress if they have not been paid what they regard as an appropriate sum of money. However, the decision to which we came- I think that there are good reasons for doing it and I think that those good reasons were explained in the second reading speech- was that what we are trying to do is to see that decisions are made which are in keeping with the real interests of justice and equity. In my second reading speech I said:
This is not meant to imply the absence of principles whereby these moneys are to be distributed- as broad principles will be used- but rather the need for a high degree of flexibility and discretion if this operation is to be just and effective.
The criteria which are enunciated in Senator Drake-Brockman ‘s amendment are in fact those which I said when introducing the Bill would be applied by the Government in exercising its discretion under this Bill. However, we have to exercise discretion in this case of compensation. I believe that the fundamental point- I hope that Senator Missen and Senator Chaney will agree with me on this- is in the proposed new clause 4a (c) in the amendments, which provides that compensation shall be payable only to persons who give proof of possession, entitlement and loss or damage suffered. If we insert the word proof in this legislation- in an Act of Parliament ‘proof means proof- we will take away the opportunity of applying the discretion and the flexibility which we are now seeking to apply.
If I may I will argue the point by giving an illustration of the sort of instance that can develop. As the situation stands now if somebody were to come along to the relevant compensation officer of my Department and says that he or she had a house in, say, Nightcliff that was destroyed and that he or she had a refrigerator and television set inside the house and if in the judgment of the relevant officer it is a reasonable thing to say that that person, living in that sort of house and in that sort of area, is the sort of person whom one would expect to have a television set of an average value and a refrigerator of an average value, we would be prepared to pay compensation to that person for those items. We would not be asking for proof that he or she had them. If we have to ask for proof- proof means proof- and if somebody were to come along and say that he had a refrigerator worth $250 and a television set worth $150 or what ever it is we would have to demand that he produce receipts for the purchase of those items and witnesses that the television set and the refrigerator were there and were working, not damaged, beforehand. We would have to apply all the strict criteria.
– Who says that?
– I say that, and I say that through having read the Opposition’s proposed amendment. The Opposition’s proposed amendment says quite clearly that compensation shall be payable only to persons who give proof of possession, entitlement and loss or damage suffered.
– That could be given orally or by way of a declaration.
– I know that the evidence can be given orally, but the proposed amendment does not say ‘give evidence’- it says give proof. I suggest that there is a difference between giving evidence and giving proof. I say that with all due respect to my brethren on the Opposition benches. If these criteria are to be made a matter of law and if appeals are to be available we will be placed in a position in which we will have to apply the provisions rigidly. Unless we cut out the adoption of an attitude in which we are being humane, flexible and generous in saying ‘You seem to be the sort of fellow who would have had a refrigerator and a television set. I know that you do not have any proof or, for that matter, any evidence of having them other than your statement that you had them’, and demand that they do give this proof we could be placed in the position in which we would be quite generously or flexibly providing money to meet various claims at the same time as claimants have the right to go to the Supreme Court in regard to some other matter. They may well do so, as it happens. I am sure that this would be the case. I do not doubt that there will be many people who will be claiming more than they are strictly entitled to and who will be receiving more than they are strictly entitled to. I say that here and now. I do not have the slightest doubt about that. I trust the honesty of people sufficiently to say that I do not think that this is going to amount to a very great sum, but it is going to be almost impossible to police this thing. We are not trying to police it. We are trying to see that it is carried out with judgment, discretion, efficiency and, at the same time, flexibility and humanity.
If this Bill were to become an Act and the Parliament were to place this whole matter in a position in which every aggrieved person will be going along to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory with a complaint I will have to instruct my officers to rigidly demand proof of everybody who makes a claim against us so that we will not be placed in the position of having people going to the Supreme Court and obtaining judgment against us at the same time as we are paying out in other instances large sums of money in a flexible and compassionate manner. This will delay the whole of these proceedings. It will increase inordinately the cost of the administration of this scheme. I have not heard any good arguments- I may hear them when we come to the Committee stage of the debate- as to why these criteria should be applied. The Opposition has said that it wants proof subject to the right of appeal to the Supreme Court. I should have thought that we already had a pretty clear precedent laid down, although there are appeal tribunals involved, under the Repatriation Act in which the benefit of the doubt is given to the veteran. Very largely the same people who administer the Repatriation Act are the people who will be administering the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Act if this Bill does become an Act.
It is the view of the Government and it is my view that acceptance of the proposed amendment would place quite unnecessary and narrow restrictions upon the Government and would involve us in a tremendous amount of additional cost. It would mean that all sorts of rigid assessments would have to be obtained. There could not be any flexibility. Anyone who has seen the damage which occurred in Darwin and who appreciates the great difficulty involved in assessing precisely what damage has occurred when some houses and their contents were totally wiped out would know that it would be impossible to predict what sorts of burdens and strains are going to be imposed on the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and what financial burdens are going to be imposed on the Government in trying to deal with all of the appeals.
I do not doubt that every person who made an application for compensation and who did not get the full amount he claimed would think that it was worth while making an appeal to the Supreme Court. That certainly has been my experience in the administration of the Repatriation Act. I have no reason to believe that the position in Darwin will be any different. Everybody who thinks that he has been short-changed in any way by the Department, however well he may have done, is going to go along to the Supreme Court with an appeal. The onus for accepting that type of expenditure and that type of unnecessary bureaucracy and adversary situation is not the sort of onus that we are prepared to accept. The Government will be voting against the proposed amendment and it will continue to persevere with this matter. If members of the Opposition wish to do so I will be happy to go with them to Darwin and debate the issues involved in this Bill with them in any public meeting hall in Darwin or anywhere else in Australia at which the evacuees of Darwin are present, but I will say here and now that the proposed amendment is totally unacceptable to the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The clause of this Bill to which I wish to refer is clause 4, which is really the operative clause. It states:
The Minister may authorise the payment by Australia, in accordance with directions given by him, of compensation in respect of loss of, or damage to, property arising out of the cyclone.
In the remarks I made in the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill I said that under that clause the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation has the full patronage of the public funds that have been made available- in other words, the $5 8m. I have circulated an amendment to clause 4.I move:
The only portion of that amendment which is new is paragraph 4C which gives a right of appeal to a person. The rest of the proposed amendment is based on the criteria that are already contained in the Minister’s second reading speech.
The Minister has said that if the Opposition pushes this amendment and it is carried then it will delay the Bill. I want to say something about that. The Bill will be delayed only if the Government does not accept the proposed amendment. If the amendment is carried then the amendment, together with the Bill, will be forwarded to the House of Representatives, which will study the Bill. The Government could change its mind and accept the Bill and it could go through the House of Representatives very early next week, if that priority is given to it. Very shortly after that the Minister would be able to operate under the Bill. That takes care of that delay. It is open to the Government to consider what the Senate does and reassess its position or toss the amendments out. As far as delay in payment of people ‘s claims is concerned, I do not see that there will be any delay because I take it that people have applied already or will apply very shortly. Officers of the Department will study the claims and assess them and then forward cheques to those people. It is only when the claim is returned with a cheque that people will realise that the Government’s assessment of their claim has not been as generous as they thought it should be.
– What procedure should they follow to give proof? What are you suggesting? What are the procedures for proof?
– I do not have the legal training that the Minister has, but I do not believe that the reasons he has given in relation to proof are ones that I would necessarily accept. I should like my colleagues who have had legal training to deal with that portion of the amendment. I have been advised that possession’ has a different interpretation to the one the Government is putting on it. In his explanation the Minister admitted that there will be claims where the value of the items lost in the cyclone will be exaggerated. What is the Minister going to do? The claim that a person puts on a refrigerator, which is one item the Minister mentioned, will be accepted. But what is going to be the situation when the person down the road hears that the Government paid out $250 or $300 on his neighbour’s refrigerator and he has made a claim for $ 100 for his refrigerator which he believes was as good as his neighbour’s? This could be carried through to other items involved in the claim, and surely there should be some body to whom these people can appeal.
I believe that people in general will assess their claims as nearly as they can to the estimated value of the particular items as at 24 December. I do not believe that there will be the number of claims coming forward that the Minister believes there will be. He admitted that in the case of repatriation his own Department had an appeals tribunal to assess claims where a person does not agree with the Department’s assessment of his claim. I can see no reason at all why the Minister, having set out in his second reading speech the criteria for the claims, cannot accept an amendment when the Opposition seeks to write the same criteria into the Bill. The only difference in the Opposition’s amendment is that it states that people should have the right of appeal. I conclude my remarks by saying that I believe the Opposition has every right to move these amendments and to expect the Government to accept them.
– I support what has been said by Senator DrakeBrockman and I want to emphasise the point he made towards the conclusion of his speech, namely, that in this Bill there is a very vague clause in clause 4, which gives the Minister power without any qualifications, without the Parliament in any way adverting to the terms on which it is to be given. I think that the Opposition’s amendments do set that out and they set it out in a reasonable way. We have to remember that this was a major disaster in the community, but it is not the only disaster that has occurred. There have been and there will be many other occasions when people who suffer loss due to this type of disaster and to other types of disaster do not get compensation in this way. Therefore I think it is necessary to set some standard and make some judgment and provide an opportunity for appeal in the way in which it is provided in these amendments.
Primarily, I want to direct my comments to the only matter which the Minister chose to deal with in expressing the opposition of the Government to the amendments. That was what I consider to be a most extraordinary idea of the meaning of the word ‘proof in proposed clause 4a (c), which requires the person who is claiming to give proof of possession, entitlement, loss or damage suffered. The Minister came forward with some extraordinary idea that this is really proof beyond reasonable doubt.
– Then tell me what it does mean. You do not say ‘give evidence’, you say give proof. What do you mean?
– The Minister wanted some patience when he was putting his argument and I ask for the same patience from him. I know he is eager to hear what it really does mean because it was clear from his speech that he does not know. One speaks of proof and one speaks of evidence, and the Minister in one sentence used them as alternatives. They are not quite alternatives because evidence is produced to prove certain things. Clearly, as these are civil claims, it is not a case where one could expect proof beyond reasonable doubt. Surely proof here cannot be interpreted as meaning that a person must produce receipts.
– It simply means an assertion by a person that he has lost property. If that is not challenged, then that is good enough.
– I am not trying to disrupt the honourable senator’s argument, but if what Senator Greenwood says is correct, what sort of issues would be discussed when a person goes to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory?
-Perhaps the Minister will let me finish my argument. If there are any dregs remaining then Senator Greenwood can pick them up. So far as I am concerned this proof would be a proof which satisfies the person making the decision that it is a genuine claim. If on the balance of probabilities it appears to be a genuine claim, it may be proved by oral evidence or it may be proved possibly by the production of receipts but it is most likely that receipts would have been blown away with the rest of the articles. I would expect that if there were suspicions, some evidence might be required to satisfy the person making the judgment that in fact it is a genuine claim. The amendment goes no further than that.
The suggestion that the Minister makes, in his own words, that he would instruct his officers rigidly to demand proof is, I think, merely intended, to intimidate the people in this chamber. It is not intended to be taken seriously by anyone else. He obviously would not act in that way and is not required under the terms of this amendment to do so. If on the balance of probabilities it is a satisfactory claim and it is thought to be an honest and genuine one, then it would be accepted, but it is necessary for such provisions to be put in this Bill, not left as it is or according to such directions as the Minister might determine later to lay down. It is better that this Parliament should put them in the Bill. Therefore I think there is nothing whatsoever in the criticism- the only criticism- which the Minister has made in respect of these amendments, namely, in relation to the word ‘proof.
There is another matter I had desired to raise in the Committee stage by way of question to the Minister. A considerable amount of money was raised to relieve the suffering of Darwin residents. Much of this fund raising was done by service organisations and a good deal was raised through appeals by newspapers and other forms of the media. In the city of Melbourne there is some concern at the lack of knowledge as to how this money is being expended. I raise this concern in relation to the extent this relief assistance will be taken into account in the assessment of compensation.
– Not at all.
-Quite apart from that, I raise for the consideration of the Minister now or in the near future, because of the concern which has been raised by people who properly contributed to a generous cause, the question of who is controlling the disbursement of funds raised by voluntary organisations; how much money has already been distributed; how much money remains; whether the funds are being distributed from a centralised source; whether the Darwin residents are satisfied with the disbursement procedures, and whether the moneys are being effectively supervised. I think it is important that this information should be known by members of the community who made these contributions. I invite the Minister to let us know at some stage whether he has any information on this matter.
– I believe it reasonable that the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) should have some latitude in discretion and should not be tied, as the amendment proposes to tie him, in regard to proof and as to the disbursement of sums of money as set out in the amendment. I think the Government should be given an opportunity to prove that it will act more positively in the future than it has in the past and that it will not continue in the vein of in some ways discouraging the rehabilitation of Darwin. The loss of the Chairman of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, the refusal of the Government to act on the widely presented claim for some real tax relief for residents and business people of Darwin have culminated in the matter referred to by Senator Jessop when he spoke of the demoralisation of the people of Darwin which was so clearly described this morning on the Australian Broadcasting Commission ‘AM’ program. I would like to hand to the Minister the latitude in discretion to prove that the Government can reverse an apparently fairly inactive and unsatisfactory involvement so far in the reconstruction of Darwin. I think it is fair that those people who have or who have not received compensation should be able to take their complaint to a proper place of appeal. Therefore I would support the latter part of the Opposition’s amendment, namely item 4c, because it seems to me that whilst the Minister should have discretion in respect of the detail concerning compensation and should not create hardship among individuals who cannot meet the rather strict stipulations set out in the Opposition’s amendment, I believe there ought to be some place of appeal for these people. It seems to me to be only right that this should be so. I would oppose items 4a and 4b and support 4c of the amendment which relates to right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.
– I hope that this does not become an acrimonious debate. If in any way I have sounded as though I am getting annoyed I do not wish that to be the case, because I think we are trying to work out a constructive way of handling this problem. I can only say that the judgment of the Government is that the propositions which are being put forward by the Opposition are not helpful to what we are trying to do. If I may refer briefly to what Senator Hall has just said, I must confess that I am at a loss to know how we can merely adopt the provisions of item 4c of the Opposition ‘s amendment which provides that a person who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Minister and so on may appeal to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory where there are no criteria whatever because it is merely saying that the Minister can dispense some moneys and anyone who is dissatisfied can appeal. I do not know what the Court would make out of that when people went along to it.
To deal with some of the other matters that have been raised- no doubt they are peripheral- by Senator Missen as to the disbursement of funds which were raised voluntarily, I quite frankly do not know what is happening about that. As I understand it, there had been some argument at some stage between the people who had been raising money and the Government about what was going to be done with the money. I understood that this had been resolved, but in any event that does not come within my responsibility and it has no bearing on this Bill because any compensation that would be paid under this Bill in the same way as the payments which are being made for personal injury which have not been the subject of a Bill are independent of any moneys which may be received from any charitable sources or elsewhere.
I turn to the problems, whatever they are, of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and matters which apparently were raised on a program broadcast this morning by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I notice that sometimes members of the Opposition listen to this program avidly and quote it as an authority on a subject and at other times apparently it is not quite so reliable. I am afraid I did not hear the program. I do not know what the complaint was about.
– I can tell you.
– I understand that Senator Cotton is going to lend me his tape recording of it so I can hear it later. I have not heard the program. I do not know what the people were complaining about but whatever it is, it is a matter which falls, I think, within the responsibility of the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). If someone wishes to ask a question of the Minister representing that Minister, which I am not, no doubt an answer will be obtained.
If I may deal again generally with the amendment which has been moved, I have heard various reasons put forward as to why there is nothing in particular wrong with the proposals in the amendment but I have not heard any good reason why they are being put forward. If someone is suggesting that the officers of my Department are not going to behave responsibly or if someone feels that I am going to be distributing patronage to people in Darwin, that has not been said and I do not think anyone believes that. I gather that the Opposition does not mean that. If and if indeed proof in the Opposition’s understanding of the word ‘proof in the amendment merely means some sort of evidence which a reasonable person would accept, then I really do not know why it has to be spelled out in the Bill at all. Unless one is laying down some reasonably rigid criteria I do not know why one wants to amend the Bill. If the Opposition is going to say that it is only going to be a common sense sort of thing that anybody would do, that is what we mean, then why say it? Under this amendment the Opposition is not confining the Minister at all, if that is the interpretation which ought to be put on the use of the word ‘proof, but I still must say with respect to Senator Missen that I do not accept that is what I would understand by the word ‘proof. Certainly what he has said would not constitute proof in a civil action and proof beyond reasonable doubt, as he knows, is the proof required in a criminal action. I would have thought that the sort of criteria which we are going to use, that it seems to be reasonable to expect that a person would have had a refrigerator and that it would have been worth about $ 1 50 or whatever it may be, is much less than the proof that would be required in a civil action.
I will deal with the sub-clauses of the amendments seriatim. Obviously there is no objection to clause 4A (a) or to clause 4a (b). I do not want to indulge in tedious repetition but as I have already said, with regard to clause 4A (c) if the applicants have to give proof of their loss and the word ‘proof is given the interpretation which I put on it, or even a more modest interpretation, many people will not get anything because it will be impossible to offer proof or, indeed, anything other than evidence of a most vague verbal kind. I cannot object to proposed clause 4B (1) because it does not make much difference to anything.
– Would you go back for a moment to proposed clause 4A (c). If it were altered from ‘proof to ‘evidence’ what would be your reaction?
– I am afraid that I then would have another difficulty and that would be that if it were evidence, how good is the evidence that has to be given? The evidence of a town drunk, if it were the only evidence, would still be evidence but what would we do with it? What about the evidence of a convicted criminal, a known liar and cheat? I suppose his word would be evidence but are we to accept it? It seems to me that that suggestion is not suitable either on this occasion. I am not advocating the word ‘evidence’ as an alternative to the word proof. I say that what you suggest is proof and not evidence and if you do say proof it is more than evidence.
– It may be unacceptable evidence.
-Yes, it could well be unacceptable evidence or unreliable evidence. What would we do if there was contradictory evidence? I do not know. There is no objection to proposed clause 4B ( 1 ) but we have a problem with 4B (2) and that is that discretion may well be needed possibly to give more than the uninsured value of the damaged or destroyed property if it turns out that the person is uninsured because of the failure of the company in which he held a policy. We have not given a strict definition of being insured in the second reading speech and we deliberately have not done so in the Bill. Without raking over old coals about an unfortunate episode that occurred which I think was quite beyond the responsibility of the company concerned, I think a number of people would be aware that the Northumberland Insurance Company went into liquidation in 1974.
Quite a number of people in Darwin were insured with the Northumberland Insurance Company. It is still a matter of considerable speculation as to what payments are to be made by the liquidator to people holding policies with that company. What are we going to call those people? Are we going to call them insured people insofar as they held a policy with the Northumberland Insurance Company or are we to say that they are uninsured because the company subsequently has failed? This is a matter of very complex drafting. I mentioned it because it is an example of the myriads of problems that are occurring in the whole of this Darwin matter and which necessitate the use of discretion by responsible officers, and not having rigid rules which will finish up being argued before the Supreme Court; and presumably, if it goes to the Supreme Court it can go on appeal elsewhere. I mention that specifically in the context of the proposed clause 4B (2).
With regard to 4B. (3), this is not very satisfactory but I suppose it could be accepted although I do not know that anything really is added. We have laid down already quite clearly that we are not going to compensate people in excess of this amount but if somebody wants to insert that, and that is all they want to insert, I would not argue. I would think that obviously we are not going to be over-compensating people. I think there probably is a problem about actually specifying a maximum amount and not just accepting the Minister’s word for it because I do not know what remedial action is taken if it turns out that somebody or other does get some small amount in excess of it. What do we do then if that is the only provision that there is in the Bill?
Proposed clause 4B. (4) overlooks the fact that people who use boats for business purposes ought to be compensated. In fact it is our intention to also compensate people who own a boat which is used in a business under the category of business plant and equipment. We intend to include boats under business plant and equipment in the general provisions for business plant and equipment. Boats which were used as homes, and there were some people dwelling in boats, would have been covered in any event otherwise.
I think that proposed clause 4B. (5) could well be unduly restrictive. The Government intends to look at each case on its merits. What about the problems of the position of guests in a house at the time or cases where the inhabitants of a house were not members of the one household? There are problems in this regard. In these cases more than one claim could be considered eligible under the flexible criteria which we prefer to see applied. There could be more than one claim for a household where there was more than one family that happened to be sharing the house and somebody was staying there, or something like that. There could be more than one claim up to a maximum of $5,000 made in respect of the one household. That is something which requires flexibility.
– How would you assess the 2 categories you mentioned, the town drunk and the criminal?
-By discretion. This does not quite relate to the point I am talking about but if there is somebody who is a notorious -
– I do not know about a notorious criminal but somebody generally regarded as being unreliable and not too coherent I refer to somebody whose memory is not too good and who does not have a fanatical addiction to pendantry in matters of fact when his own benefit might result. In such a case I think you have to say that you are going to use your discretion. If a fellow comes along and says, ‘You may not believe it but I had the finest collection of Rembrants in the southern hemisphere and that went off’, you are not going to believe him, but if he comes along and says, ‘I lost my electric shaver, my frying pan and spare suit of clothes ‘, I think you are prepared to offer something. I think this is the best we can hope to do. I must say that with all the appeal provisions that are provided for going to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory I do not think there is any better that the court could do either when the person concerned appeared before it, as he undoubtedly would if these amendments were incorporated in the Bill.
Proposed clause 4B. (6) refers to the business premises of a person. I suppose ‘a person’ can mean a number of things. It could mean a corporation sole, I take it, but we also have to consider the question of a firm. This amendment is not as well worded or as happily worded as it might have been.
– The draftsman did it.
– I am afraid that I am not speaking on behalf of the draftsman.
– The Acts Interpretation Act picks up the point.
– It may well pick up the point but I still think there may be happier ways of wording it in this instance with this complexity we already have of there being 2 people in a household. What happens between a couple of partners who were in business together with or without there being a registered partnership? I think that the general drift of my objections would be fairly clear by now. I want to refer just briefly to one matter. The fact is that 800 claims already have been received and approved by the officers of my Department and over $ 1 m in toto in compensation in fact is ready for payment to the 800 claimants. We would be able to pay it out immediately the Bill is passed. If the amendments are carried I am afraid- I am not saying this to be obstructive; I assure the Opposition of this because the points they have raised I have considered myself and debated at very great length- the whole thing will have to go back into the melting pot again and one does not know how long it would be before these people, and other people whose applications are in the process of being made to us, would be dealt with.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not really want to say anything further. I have outlined the Government’s objections to the amendment. I only say once again that the passage of the amendment would mean a tremendous inconvenience without any possible return. If one does a calculus of pains and pleasures on these proposals the pains clearly outweigh the pleasures. For that reason I oppose the passage of the amendment.
– I accept the statement of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) that my attitude was at fault- it was a very elementary fault- by supporting the right of appeal without any guidelines being laid down as to what the appeal would be about. I am convinced by the Minister’s explanation and I am confirmed in my view that he should not be tied, as the first two parts of the amendment do tie him, against any discretion that he might want to exercise in the cases which he detailed to the House. I would like to see some sort of appeal provision. I understand the problems that the Minister mentioned would arise if support were given to proposed new clause 4c in isolation. I assume that the Ombudsman Bill- I understand that it is to apply to both Territories- will cover complaints; I do not know. I am assuming, of course, that that legislation will be passed also. If it is passed and if some sort of ombudsman operates for the Northern Territory, am I right in assuming that he could deal with complaints from residents of the Northern Territory about this sort of legislation?
-What Senator Steele Hall has outlined certainly would be my understanding of the role of the ombudsman. The role of the ombudsman would be to deal with matters in relation to which ministerial or departmental discretion had been exercised. If one felt that one had been in any way improperly treated in a matter such as this, that would seem to be the classic sort of case which ought to be taken to the ombudsman, although of course as Senator Hall has said, as yet we do not have any legislation which provides for the appointment of an ombudsman. But certainly that is the sort of thing which ought to be dealt with by means of administrative courts of some sort. If we had administrative courts of the type to be found in France and in some other European countries, that clearly would seem to be the place to take any grievances that one had. Unfortunately we do not have courts of that type. We can rely only on the ordinary civil and criminal courts which, as I have said already, are not properly constituted to deal with the sorts of matters that we are trying to deal with under this Bill.
– I support the amendment which Senator DrakeBrockman has moved. With deference to those honourable senators who have earlier spoken, I say that the purpose of the amendment has not been clearly understood. There is one purpose and one purpose only behind the amendment, that is, to give a right of appeal to anybody who has been denied his claim for compensation. I think that it would be a tragic day if this Senate were ever to agree to legislation under which an amount of $58m- that is the amount which at the moment has been appropriated- can be dispensed with by the Minister and under which anybody who is denied his claim has just got to accept that fact and cannot do anything about it.
To put it in that way is not to say that a Minister is acting mala fide or is going to act arbitrarily and unreasonably. Ministers will try to do justice as they are obliged to do under their legislation. It is not to impute wrongfulness or improprieties to officials who will endeavour to carry out their functions as best they can. It is simply that in the ordinary course of things some person will be denied what he is asking for and it may be that he is the victim of a dislike on the part of some official or it may be that he believes that he is the victim of some official’s dislike and that he has not been treated fairly. He ought to have a right of appeal, and that is what this amendment is designed to achieve. What does the Bill say? Clause 4 of the Bill says:
The Minister may authorise the payment by Australia, in accordance with direction given by him, of compensation in respect of loss of, or damage to, property arising out of the cyclone.
That is a tremendous power to give to a Minister. It is the Minister who may authorise the payment and, whilst he will leave that to his officials as the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation has conceded in his second reading speech, it will be those persons acting on behalf of the Minister who will determine how the compensation is to be assessed, to whom the compensation shall be paid, the amount of compensation in particular cases, and all those instances are cases in which the decision is unexaminable by anybody and without appeal. There is scope for injustice, and that scope for injustice can be remedied by putting in the Bill an appeal provision. As I said, that is the one thing which the Opposition is concerned to insert. I am sure that Senator DrakeBrockman and the Opposition Parties would willingly agree to any amendment in regard to any of these criteria, providing that appeal can be retained.
At this stage I shall dispose of the suggestion which I think had its attractions for Senator Steele Hall, that is, that there is an investigation which the ombudsman can make. That is just not so. The Ombudsman Bill has not been passed by the Parliament. Indeed, it is not even being debated conjointly with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill with which it was introduced in the House of Representatives. The Opposition has been informed that the debate on the Ombudsman Bill is to be deferred until some time in the future, even though the debate on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill is currently under way in the other place. So who knows when the Ombudsman Bill will become an Act. It may not be this session; it may be later this year when much of the distribution of the compensation moneys will have taken place.
If the Ombudsman Bill is passed in the form in which it has been introduced it will not give any right of appeal, because clause 5 (2) of the Bill states:
The Ombudsman is not authorised to investigate-
action taken by a Minister;
It states quite clearly that no appeal can be taken by the Ombudsman or by the Deputy Ombudsman. The Bill equates them as being one and the same in regard to the purposes for which the Deputy Ombudsman is entitled to act. So there is no appeal in that area, unless it be then thought that there is an appeal under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill. However, that Bill has not been passed into law. That Bill, in its current form in the House of Representatives, does not say from whom reviews of decisions may be made. The Opposition is attempting to amend the Bill so that we specify what the actual jurisdiction will be. Unless the Government accepts our amendments- I hope it will, but indications so far are not encouraging- it will not provide any means of appeal. That is what the amendment we are considering is designed to achieve, and that is all it is designed to achieve.
I wish to refer to one or two other aspects which I think are red herrings which have arisen in the course of the debate. Senator Steele Hall has conceded what the Minister conceded after the point was raised, that is, if an appeal is to lie one has to have criteria upon which the judge can make his assessment as to whether the compensation claim has been properly refused. What the Opposition has endeavoured to do is to put into this Bill only those criteria which were contained in the Minister’s second reading speech. The amendment was drafted by Parliamentary Counsel after instructions were given to him. We accept that the amendment which he has drafted is in accordance with the Minister’s second reading speech. For example, the point was taken about the need to have a provision which states that compensation shall be payable only to persons who ‘give proof of possession, entitlement and loss of damage suffered’. They are almost the exact words which the Minister used in his second reading speech. He said:
Compensation is to be based on the market value of items on 24 December 1974.
That provision has been inserted in our amendment. He said:
Eligibility for compensation will be determined solely on the basis of uninsured loss or damage having occurred.
That provision is contained also in our amendment. He said:
No means test is to be applied. Assessment, determination and payment of claims is to be the responsibility of my Department. Examiners in the office set up by my Department in Darwin will apply uniform criteria to all claims. Where the full amount of a claim cannot be allowed, claimants will be so advised . . .
I ask the Committee to note these words: and invited to furnish proof of possession and loss or damage. Meanwhile, they will receive early settlement of a portion of their claim. Where further evidence is produced cases will be reviewed and adjustments made where appropriate.
That was the Minister’s statement. We have no objection to any part of that statement. We have inserted in our amendment the words which we did only because it was appropriate to do so. The appeal must be properly based. I invite the Minister to look at the amendment in this way: If, for example, he wishes to insert the words ‘as required’ following the word ‘proof, I am sure the Committee would agree, if he feels that it will help the position. If he wants amendments in regard to any of the other provisions, let him suggest the words which he wants to use. It is an area in which there is total flexibility. All we wish to do is ensure that the criteria which the Minister has laid down are adequately and accurately specified so that the basis of the appeal can be maintained. These matters ought not to be treated lightly.
In catastrophes such as the Darwin cyclone there will always be some people who will be met with a rebuff in some way when they seek their compensation. I think that those who experienced the Tasmanian bushfires felt that, for all the public appeals, they did not get a fair go. I do not know how the compensation was worked out in Tasmania. The compensation is part and parcel of the situation in which people can find themselves. One thing which we can do is to ensure that the right of appeal is there. It is no reflection upon the administration of the Department or of the Minister’s intentions in this area. I invite him to think how he would have viewed such a provision when he was in Opposition. He would have striven to ensure that the legislation was as good as it could be. He would have striven to ensure that any scope for injustice was remedied. Some amendment of this character, I am sure, would have been put by him when he was in Opposition. I invite him to say that the argument that we can trust the Minister is not the sort of argument which ought to appeal to a legislative chamber. We want to accept that Ministers will act in good faith, but legislation ought always to provide the right of appeal. That ought to be the position irrespective of the Government which is in power.
– I do not wish to see this Bill delayed any further. I would like to think that the Government would accept the suggestion of the Opposition that there be inserted in the Bill a protection clause in the interests of a person who has not been correctly treated. I would appeal to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) at this late stage to include the last clause in the Opposition’s amendment so that the Bill can be passed, and be passed unanimously. This legislation is important legislation. If there is a further delay, the aim of the legislation will be defeated. The people who will benefit are in dire straits at present. There should be no further delay. In legislation such as this there should be a full degree of equity applying at all times. What do we find? In reply to a question the Minister said that the Government’s contribution in this matter will not take into account donations already made by the public. We must remember that a large amount of the money subscribed by the general public went to the Government. I know that the quite substantial amount from my area was sent by me direct to the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). I think that all funds so collected should have been handled by the Commonwealth. I know that a large amount was handled by the Commonwealth and was sent to the Darwin folk.
We could reach a stage where people have benefited considerably from donations by citizens, but a person who is aggrieved as a result of the Government’s contribution and who had not been a recipient of money from any of the other funds being deprived of the right of appeal. Let me repeat that in these matters there must be a full degree of equity between the people who have been affected. The legislation is very important legislation. It should not be delayed any further. Even if the Minister is not prepared to accept the Opposition’s suggestion about appeals, I will still support the Bill, but I would like it to contain that safeguard as to appeals. Each person whom we are trying to assist should be assisted to get his rights. That is all the amendment providing for appeals amounts to.
– I do not want to prolong this debate unduly. I appreciate the contributions that have been made. I respect the views that have been put forward. I thank Senator Greenwood for saying that when I was in Opposition I tried to ensure that legislation was as good as it possibly could be.
– That statement was meant to be a real appeal.
-Yes. I can assure him that I have tried to do the same as a Minister. The points which have been put today by the Opposition were considered extremely carefully by me. It is not that we blithely went ahead and said that there would not be any appeals on this matter. The point was carefully examined. What Senator Greenwood thinks of my judgment is another matter, but I can assure him that it was as a result of investigating the matter and thinking about it as much as I could that I came to the conclusion that we could not really provide any criteria for an appeal. Once we provide for an appeal we must provide strict criteria. With the greatest respect to Senator Bunton who has suggested, as I understand him, that we follow Senator Hall’s initial suggestion that clause 4C of the amendment be included, it would seem to me to be quite impossible to make provisions for an appeal without any criteria. If there are appeals there must be criteria. Once there are criteria, it is my view that they must be strict criteria. Once there are strict criteria, one must of necessity, I believe, find that a number of people who with the exercise of a bit of common sense and with a bit of humanity should have received donations from the Australian people by way of compensation will not have received anything.
In addition, we will be involved in a great deal of extra expense in having to survey meticulously the claims to a greater extent than we would now. One cannot anticipate what we will be involved in by way of legal and administrative costs in the event of these appeals taking place. I know that the sum is a large one and I know that people will be making claims, but it is not unprecedented to have no right of appeal when money is provided. I know that the money provided to the victims of the Brisbane floods and the Tasmanian bushfires was provided through the
States. As I recollect, provisions of appeal were not made available for those people.
– That was a State matter.
– I appreciate that. I am not saying that it is exactly the same position, but I do not think that any of us were demanding that the Queensland Government or the Tasmanian Government should lay down some strict rules whereby victims of the Tasmanian bushfires or the Brisbane floods would have to argue their case and prove it and would then have a right of appeal. This is an ex gratia payment which must be made because we have a moral responsibility to make it.
I am afraid I do not know what is being done with the moneys which were publicly collected. I am sure that Senator Bunton, as one of those who participated in the collection of those moneys, is interested to know how they are being handled and how equitably they are being distributed. But they have nothing to do with this matter. Whoever is distributing them and however they are going about it, this apparently was some sort of mutual arrangement between local government authorities, States, private persons and the Commonwealth Government who agreed to set up a joint body to distribute the moneys. This compensation for property damage and the compensation which is being paid for death and personal injury will be allocated quite separately from any sums that people may be receiving from private sources or from this collection.
I do not want to appear to be disagreeable because I do not think it has been a disagreeable debate. If nothing else, I think it has been well worthwhile having an opportunity to discuss the matters that have been put forward so that the Government’s position can be more clearly understood. I can only repeat that the amendments are not acceptable to the Government and we shall vote against them. If they are carried, I think I would have to be fair and inform the Senate that they would not be accepted by the House of Representatives and the Bill would be returned to the Senate.
That the proposed new clauses (Senator DrakeBrockman’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator I. A. C. Wood)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
In doing so I thank those honourable senators who supported the Bill and I invite any Opposition senators, if they know of any instances in which they believe this legislation is not being properly administered, to advise me immediately so that corrective action can be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 7 April on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill 1975 arises from the collapse of part of the Tasman Bridge in Hobart on 5 January this year. It is, I believe, a notorious fact that it was caused by a ship owned by the
Commonwealth shipping line, the Australian National Line, being negligently handled- as found by a court of marine inquiry- and colliding with the eastern pylons of the bridge. In the disaster which followed the ship was lost, 3 spans of the bridge collapsed and 12 lives were lost. As there certainly will be further legal proceedings I make nc further comment at this stage than to say that prima facie there is a clear liability on the part of a Commonwealth agency in respect of the damage which was caused. The course of action which followed has been well set out in the speeches reported in the House of Representatives Hansard of 16 April at pages 1671 to 1685. I do not take the time of the chamber to detail all of those steps which followed the disaster on 5 January. However, there was a burst of early activity by the Commonwealth Government. Inquiries were instituted; offers of assistance were made; defence personnel were organised to assist in relation to the underwater search and other matters.
Although one could make some comment about other steps which might or might not have been taken, by and large I pay credit to the Commonwealth Government for recognising its clear responsibility and acting with expedition in relation to the matter. It is after that early period that a fog appears to descend. Statements have become vague; activity has proceeded at a rather slow pace and there appears to be a degree of confusion so far as the State Government is concerned. Meanwhile the people of Hobart are suffering. My colleagues Senator Bessell and Senator Townley will be speaking in relation to this matter and will refer in more detail to that aspect. Let me say that the result has been a city physically and socially divided, but united in a desire to have its problems overcome. It is now more than 5 months since that disaster took place and we have a Bill which is to give statutory effect to an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government. It simply creates a Commission to have the power and the function to restore the Tasman Bridge as soon as possible. This Bill does no more than put in statutory form that agreement. As there is an Interim Commission at present operating the action which we’ are taking at the moment of passing this legislation is what one might almost say perfunctory only.
The Interim Tasman Bridge Commission has been in existence for some time. This Bill will formalise its existence. Why there has to be a Commission and why the Commonwealth should need to be involved are questions which can be answered only in the minds, perhaps, of a centralist government which believes that all wisdom resides with it and its officers, but again, while mentioning the point that this is another case of the Commonwealth’s insisting on getting into State affairs, we do not propose to take any objection by way of refusing to pass the Bill or by way of attempting to amend it. We simply make the comment in passing. In all the circumstances there was a clear responsibility on the part of the Commonwealth, or through its agency or through its agency’s insurers, to pay. It may be that this offer by the Commonwealth to pay is no more than its duty anyway, but let us not quibble about that. The offer has been made and I am glad it has been made.
The Opposition will support the Bill and will take the opportunity associated with its passage through this chamber to endeavour to elicit a little further information for the benefit of all of those people affected by the disaster. I believe it is true to say that people want some tangible evidence that there is a firm plan for the restoration of the bridge and for relief of the other problems which arise from the disaster. Accordingly I raise a series of questions which we seek to have answered by the Minister. Firstly, there is the question relating to the building of a Bailey bridge to provide a temporary crossing at Dowsing Point. Immediately after the collapse the suggestion was made in letters to the editors of newspapers and in statements by various people that this was one way in which the problems created by the collapse of the bridge could be alleviated to some extent. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) responded. He arranged for Army engineers to visit Hobart and to inspect possible sites, and he announced that a temporary bridge would be built. He has indicated that it was the State Government’s wish that the erection should be under the control of the State Public Works Department, and that that had been agreed to by the Commonwealth. Now, 5 months later, the position is as follows: The approaches have been constructed; some sections of the Bailey bridge have been shipped to Hobart; and the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Nielson, has announced within the past 2 days that it will be September at the earliest before the first lane of that Bailey bridge is open for use. In other words, it will be 9 months after the emergency arose before at least one lane will be open.
The other fact that appears clear is that work at the moment is at a standstill. Mr Barnard has made it clear that this is not his or the Army’s fault. Presumably one can only conclude that it is the fault of the State Government, the State Public Works Department or the Interim Commission. I believe that people are entitled to know the position. Nine months at least is a long time to erect a Bailey bridge. The explanation given, just yesterday and the day before, is that the pile driving barge to be used in the construction at the moment is being used in connection with assessment work on the Tasman Bridge and will not be available for at least a further month. I have several questions to ask. In the light of this disaster and the urgency of building this already delayed Bailey bridge, is that barge the only one available? Has any request been made to obtain one elsewhere? Has the Commonwealth been asked to provide one either from defence services or from elsewhere? Does it mean that a Bailey bridge can be constructed only if there happens to be a suitable barge available at the site? I cannot and I do not believe that this is the best that can be done, and I ask the Minister to obtain the answers to those questions.
The second major area in which we seek information as to what is happening is the aspect of the salvage of the ship ‘Lake Illawarra’. Firstly, the then Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, claimed that the salvage of that ship was essential for the restoration of the bridge to proceed, that it was a prerequisite to that restoration proceeding. We now find that new Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, has totally reversed that stand and says that the ship will not be salvaged. I ask: What is actually happening? Who will take the decision, and when will the people know of that decision? There is in today’s Hobart ‘Mercury’ a report that some announcement about this matter will be made next Monday. That may provide the answers, I do not know. The Interim Tasman Bridge Commission and the Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission which will be established by the Bill that is before us are bound to report to both the Premier of Tasmania and the Prime Minister of Australia. Presumably it will be possible for the Minister to ascertain what report those commissions propose to make and to obtain the information which we are seeking at this stage.
The third question which I ask is: What is the extent of the Commonwealth’s commitment to provide financial assistance to the State of Tasmania in relation to this disaster and its consequences? I believe that the Minister in his second reading speech leaves the matter in some degree of confusion. In that speech the Minister said:
The ship belonged to the Australian National Line. The Australian Government has undertaken to meet the costs to the Tasmanian Government of the full amount of expenditure incurred by it and its authorities as a result of the disaster.
– It surely does not depend on an undertaking. It would be liable at law to pay that.
– That is the point which I made earlier. It would appear to me to be quite clear after the finding of the court of marine inquiry that there is every possibility at least that there would be a clear liability on the part of the Commonwealth or its agency, the Australian National Line or its insurers, to pay. I will repeat what the Minister said:
The Australian Government has undertaken to meet the costs to the Tasmanian Government of the full amount of expenditure incurred by it and its authorities as a result of the disaster.
That could mean all sorts of things. It could be very broad as to what costs will be met. Later in his speech the Minister said:
The collapse of the bridge has created a wide range of problems
I pause to emphasise those words ‘a wide range of problems’- within Hobart and has imposed many hardships on a substantial proportion of its residents. The agreement honourable senators are asked to approve will make a big contribution to solving one aspect of the problems, namely, the restoration of the Tasman Bridge to a satisfactory trafficable condition.
I ask the Minister: What does that mean? Firstly, what is meant by his earlier statement which I quoted, that the Australian Government has undertaken to meet the costs to the Tasmanian Government of the full amount of expenditure incurred by it and its authorities as a result of the disaster? How broadly does that go? Secondly, why does this agreement appear to be limited to covering only one aspect of the problems? It is a very narrow covering of that one aspect of the problems because the words in the speech appear to be quite carefully used. There is reference to the restoration of the Tasman Bridge to a satisfactory trafficable condition. That does not necessarily mean the full and final restoration of the bridge. One can imagine that temporary repairs or short term repairs, such as have been suggested by a Japanese company, which could be done in a brief period- apparently in less than a year- at a cost of less than $ 1 m would provide a bridge restored to a satisfactory trafficable condition, but it certainly would not be a permanent repair. Perhaps I am misunderstanding the Minister’s speech- I think that others may be misunderstanding it, too- and therefore I simply seek from the Minister some clarification of what is meant by the words used in his speech.
The next question I ask is whether the Minister can confirm that the Commonwealth .is committed to the full restoration of the bridge or whether there is any qualification in relation to that. I believe that people are entitled to know the full nature and extent of the commitment which has been made by the Commonwealth, and I ask the Minister to spell it out clearly and unequivocally.
– What do you mean by ‘full restoration’?
– Whatever is decided as being necessary for the full and final restoration of the bridge as opposed to any question of temporary repair. I do not know what is proposed at the moment and I am seeking information. I am endeavouring not to make a controversial speech but rather a speech in which I seek information on behalf of the people who are concerned. Full restoration is restoration such as is decided upon as the final work to be carried out in relation to the bridge.
– Permanent structural soundness, surely.
- Senator Wright says permanent structural soundness. I am happy to use those words to supplement the words that I used earlier. The next matter that I raise is the question of a second permanent crossing of the Derwent River. I suggest that as yet no member of the public knows precisely what is happening in relation to that. Investigation and planning have been proceeding for some 2 years, as I understand the situation, and alternative potential sites have been investigated. On 24 January last, some 3 weeks after the disaster occurred, the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) said:
There are no barriers as far as finance is concerned.
I understand that at the time he was referring to the construction of a second permanent crossing, a second permanent bridge over the Derwent River. What does that statement by the Treasurer mean? What is the nature and extent of the Commonwealth’s financial assistance and commitment? For instance, is it a commitment to a total grant of finance to the full amount that will be expended on the the construction of a second bridge over the Derwent River? That is one possibility. A second possibility is that it is a commitment to provide funds- perhaps part by loan and part by grant- towards the construction of a second bridge over the Derwent River. Does it mean that? Does it mean some more limited amount than either of those that I have suggested? Have any terms been discussed? Have any terms been agreed upon? Can people know what is the nature and extent of the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to the construction of a second permanent crossing over the Derwent River in the Hobart region?
The fifth question I ask is: Have any claims yet been made by the Tasmanian Government for reimbursement under this agreement or any other agreement with the Commonwealth? I understand that when the matter was debated in the House of Representatives about one month ago it was stated that no such claims had been made. I am curious to know why that should have come about. Has it been that it is part of the understanding that no claims will be made before a particular time? Is it that the Tasmanian Government does not believe that it has as yet expended any moneys which would come within the agreement? We know that the Tasmanian Government has incurred liabilities to this stage. I regard this as curious and a matter for explanation. If no claims have been made, does this in some way give some reflection of the nature of the agreement and the nature and extent of the reimbursement which the Tasmanian Government can expect? There has been quite a number of comments about the somewhat parlous state of the finances of the State of Tasmania, and I find it difficult to believe that if the Tasmanian Government were entitled to reimbursement of moneys expended to date it would not have made a claim. I ask the Minister to clarify that aspect.
The sixth matter that I raise is related to the question of the plans for the provision of any emergency and other facilities on the eastern shore of the Derwent River arising from the problems which have been experienced because of the fact that the Tasman Bridge crossing is no longer available, that there is no satisfactory alternative crossing by land unless one engages in the very long drive through Bridgewater, and that ferry services are not entirely suitable, particularly for some aspects of emergency treatment. What is planned, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, in the way of a contribution to any emergency health service which may be proposed and developed and to emergency services of any other nature, such as child care facilities on the eastern shore where now, because of the problem of transport, people are away from home longer and their needs in relation to child care may be greater? A vast number of problems of this nature have arisen all of which have been given quite a deal of publicity. I ask the Minister: Will the Commonwealth be contributing anything- if so, what amount- towards all the projects that come within that category?
I further ask the Minister: Has any general survey been conducted amongst all the Commonwealth departments to ascertain the need and the opportunity for those departments to provide facilities on the eastern shore? lt has occurred to me that an examination could well be conducted by each department of whether the convenience of the people would be better served by the opening of a composite branch office representing a number of departments. One calls to mind that such departments and sections of departments as the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Education- there are various others- may very well be able to open and staff even part-time an office somewhere on the eastern shore to facilitate contact between the Commonwealth Government and people living on the eastern side of the Derwent River. If no such general survey has been undertaken will the Minister take steps to have one undertaken?
The seventh question that I raise concerns the subject of whether there are any plans in mind to provide compensation to people, companies and other organisations who have suffered direct and ascertainable losses as a result of the bridge disaster. The annual community loss, other than the bridge restoration costs and other such costs, has been assessed in an exercise conducted for the purpose at some $26m. I do not have full details of the accuracy of that assessment, but if one just takes it at first glance it is very clear that the community loss has been severe. My colleague Senator Bessell will be making some further comments about that aspect. 1 simply say that the loss has been calculated at that figure. Even if that figure is not accurate the cost to the community has been very great. Will the Government establish and fund or assist in the establishment and funding of a form of compensation scheme through a tribunal or other appropriate body?
I remind the Minister that we have just been dealing with a Bill relating to the damage suffered by the community in the Darwin area as a result of cyclone Tracy. Compensation is to be paid to those people in respect of the immediate damage. There were those in Hobart who were involved in immediate damage as a result of the collapse of the Tasman Bridge. Community loss is continuing to occur in the area. I repeat that I believe that the people of Tasmania, particularly the people in the immediate area, are entitled to receive answers to those questions.
I have quite deliberately refrained from engaging in wholesale criticism of either of the governments involved. A large amount of criticism has been made. I believe that it is unnecessary and unproductive to repeat that criticism at this stage in this chamber. The fact that all the questions I have asked need full answers is perhaps some commentary on the importance of the matter. The Opposition will support the Bill but will pursue the obtaining of answers to those questions in order to enable Tasmanians to know what they may expect to happen.
-The Senate is, of course, debating a Bill which seeks the approval of an agreement reached between the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government in relation to the restoration of the Tasman Bridge which, as we know, was effectively destroyed when two of its supporting piers and three of its spans were knocked down by the Lake Illawarra’ on the night of Sunday, 5 January. When the 2 piers fell they took with them three of the spans of the bridge. The lack of communication between the eastern and western shores of the Derwent River is creating tremendous problems, which Senator Everett referred to in a speech he made about a month ago, to those people who have some of their family on one side of the river and some on the other side. The problems being experienced by some of the people in Hobart will not be solved easily.
I want to talk about the doubt that the destruction of this bridge has created with respect to the safety of the bridge from 2 points of view. I will deal with those in a moment. Firstly I would like to look at the history of the matter. In 1958 a committee of the Tasmanian Parliament received suggestions concerning the construction of a bridge across the Derwent River. One of them was the one which was eventually decided upon, which was really for the construction of the elevated roadway that we know as the Tasman Bridge. Another suggestion that the committee looked at quite seriously concerned the construction of a span bridge somewhat similar in style to the Golden Gate Bridge but, of course, not nearly as large and as expensive as the Golden Gate Bridge. That type of bridge, of course, is known as a suspension bridge. In its wisdom the committee of the Tasmanian Parliament decided on the suspension bridge and so reported to the Tasmanian Parliament.
But the Tasmanian Government, which was then under the leadership of the Honourable Eric Reece, decided not to accept the Committee’s advice. It decided against the construction of a suspension bridge and opted for the construction of an elevated roadway- a bridge that may have cost a little less than it would have cost to build a suspension bridge but one that would effectively close off a large part of Hobart ‘s wonderful harbour and a bridge that is quite an attractive looking structure but one that is a total failure from an engineering point of view. Even during construction difficulty was experienced in finding the bottom of the silt for the construction of some of the piles on the western side. Some of those piles go down 264 feet. They do not reach bedrock; they are just held in the silt by friction. If ever that silt moves there are some doubts as to whether those piles will be safe.
I have just been talking about the western side of the bridge. Today I intend to talk in particular about the eastern side of the bridge, which is the area that was knocked down by the ship. During the discussion in the Tasmanian Parliament about the bridge in 1958 it was pointed out that there was every likelihood that at some stage a bridge such as the Tasman Bridge would be struck by a ship and destroyed and that if that did happen the eastern shore would be cut off from the western shore for an extended period. That was a very accurate prediction. It came to fruition after what I would say has been a very limited life of the Tasman Bridge. Two things were obviously wrong with the decision taken by the Tasmanian Government. First of all, it chose the wrong kind of bridge. It chose, purely because of the price, an unsafe type of structure and one that was not recommended by the committee of inquiry. Furthermore it neglected to follow up the observations of one of the witnesses before the committee that a break in the Tasman Bridge caused by a collision with it by a ship could lead to the destruction that we now have. The Tasmanian Government took no action to upgrade the roads that connect with the eastern shore. So the Tasmanian Government was responsible for the construction of a bridge that I have seen termed a killer bridge. Having done that it took no action to fix the roads on the eastern shore, which should have been done. Surely that should have been done in case the predictions of the witness before the committee and I believe others in the Tasmanian Parliament were to eventuate. That, very briefly, gives us an idea of the past history. On Sunday, 5 January last, the Tasman Bridge came down.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) said that the restoration of the bridge is a very big and difficult task from an engineering point of view. That is quite an understatement. For those who do not realise the situation, a bridge made of stressed concrete was struck very solidly by a massive force. That force was large enough to bring some the bridge tumbling down 1 60 feet on to the ship below. The concrete that fell- a weight of some 7000 tons, I believe- either landed on the ship and broke it or was just sufficient to push the nose of the ship underwater so that it eventually sank and settled under the break in the bridge. Of course, it has to be remembered that at that time the ship, the ‘Lake Illawarra’, was fairly fully loaded.
Either before or after the ship had settledprobably before- some number of cars fell a distance of about 160 feet from the bridge, which is somewhat akin to falling from the top of a 12- storey building such as the AMP building in Hobart. At entry into the water the speed of the cars would be approaching 100 miles an hour. I should say that had the original decision been to build a suspension bridge the people who were killed at that time, because of a Tasmanian Government decision, would now be alive. I put this question to the Senate: What would have happened had the collision taken place when the bridge was fully laden with bumper to bumper traffic at about 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon? It might have been that not only would 3 spans have fallen but other spans could have been forced down because of the weight of the cars and the people in those cars.
The question I ask is this: What do we do now? Senator Rae has spoken about the need for a second bridge up the river, and I concur completely in that, but I feel that there is a need for some manner of link to be provided urgently between the eastern and western shores at or near the present site- not at Bedlam Walls or Dowsing Point but somewhere near the present bridge. While I support the establishment of this Commission and commend the Government for its choice of members, I feel that the Commission should have a great deal more freedom than it has. One of the functions of the Commission is set out in clause 5 (b). It states:
The Commission shall be empowered to exercise and may perform all or any of the functions of superintending, co-ordinating, directing, managing and executing the planning and performance of any work associated with-
I hope that answers to some of the questions that Senator Rae asked earlier will provide the Senate with information about the degree of restoration. The point I make is that I am not sure that we can really afford to rebuild the Tasman Bridge. First of all, when the Tasman Bridge fell it was being used to the limit of its traffic capacity. Hold-ups were frequent and it would not have been much longer in terms of the usual life of a bridge before something else was needed near the present site, and again I say not miles away near Bedlam Walls or Dowsing Point but at the present spot.
Then we are faced with the question of how long it is going to take to rebuild the bridge. In the ‘Mercury’ recently I saw that Sir Allan Knight has estimated that it might take about 2% years. Sometimes when in an aircraft flying out of Melbourne or driving around in Melbourne I have noted that the Westgate Bridge is now roughly back to the situation it was in when it collapsed, and that collapse happened about 5 years ago. The bridge is being constructed on a part of the river bank where it is easy to get at and to work on, and yet it has taken some 5 years to get back to roughly the stage the construction had reached when the bridge collapsed. In Hobart, of course, we have the added complication of about 100 feet of water which the piles must penetrate before they reach the mud. Then there is some 90 feet from the mud to the rock base at that spot, and the ship that is lying on the bottom has to be dealt with. When a suitable piling structure is put in, a superstructure has to be built to carry the roadway. Honourable senators can see that that is a much more difficult job than rebuilding the Westgate Bridge, which has already taken 5 years. When Sir Allan Knight says that it is only going to take 2% years to rebuild the Tasman Bridge, I think he is being extremely optimistic.
The main problem that concerns me is safety. It is all very well to say that the open part of the bridge should be replaced, and I have had many ingenious methods of doing that suggested to me. But I have also had advice from engineers that from a safety point of view a great deal more of the bridge should be replaced than is generally thought necessary. The Chairman of the Commission, Sir Allan Knight, recently said that there was 7000 tons of debris in the river which came from the bridge and that the location of the debris was extremely difficult. I mention that because no one can ascertain just how it was that this bridge failed, whether it twisted or fell straight down. Because of that, no one can tell what damage has been done to the unseen parts of the bridge. When concrete is impacted it tends to crack and if any of those cracks are under water then the water can penetrate to the reinforcing steel. So the bridge may be rebuilt but it may fail at a subsequent time at a spot where it is not realised that damage has occurred. As I said a moment ago, the death toll in such a case could be very much higher than the 12 people who were killed on the night of 5 January. The advice that I have had is that all of the bridge from the central span to the eastern shore should be replaced if we are at all interested in the safety of the bridge. When designing an engineering structure such as a dam or a bridge it is assumed it will last about 100 years. I do not think we can assume that some parts of the Tasman Bridge will last for that long, particularly those sections that are east of the mid-span. Of course, I have already said that if it does fail it falls a long way.
The second safety aspect is that, due to its style, the bridge is inherently unsafe. It is inherently an obstruction to shipping. It has been hit once in 10 years and it is quite probable that it will be hit again in the years to come as shipping becomes more frequent and as ships get larger. We know that suitable single suspension spans have been built recently in certain areas of the world. I have the design of one that was built recently in Canada between Halifax and Dartmouth. The bridge cost about $Can36m when it was completed in 1973, and of that $Can36m some $Can14m was for the acquisition of property and the building of the approaching roadways.
– How long is the bridge?
-The bridge is of a comparable length to the one that is needed in Hobart in an area that I am just going to suggest. I would be quite willing to let Senator Everett look at the folder that I have on it. I have photographs and reports submitted over the 3 years during which the bridge was designed and built. It is my contention that the Commission we are now considering should have the power to investigate whether the Tasman Bridge should be rebuilt and to recommend, if necessary, that a different type of bridge be built, probably between the Domain and Rosny Point, as was suggested in a 1958 report to the Tasmanian Parliament. That is a fairly short span when compared with the site of the present bridge. For the majority of people who live on the eastern shore it would make the trip a couple of miles shorter. I think that it would be a lot better to do that than to throw good money after bad. I do not think it is any good repairing a bridge if we are left with a structure that is of doubtful strength. Senator Wright said earlier that the safety of the bridge was one of the most important aspects that we should consider. We all have to take the long view on this, and I believe that it would be quicker to build a new suspension bridge than to repair the Tasman Bridge- again I say that the new bridge should be built between Rosny Point and the Domain- because a suspension bridge is fairly easy to design. One can almost walk into any engineering shop and ask for a design for a suspension bridge because there are so many of them around the world. I know that once upon a time one suspension bridge failed. Engineers know why it failed. It was a very slender bridge. It got caught in very high winds which we get in Tasmania, but suspension bridges can now be designed to overcome this.
Another point is that obviously 2 bridges are needed, or at least more lanes are needed, almost at the point where the old Tasman Bridge is located. What I have been saying applies only to the repair of the Tasman Bridge. I feel that we need an extra bridge further up the river as well. One of the things that has amazed me since 5 January is the length of time it has taken to build a temporary bridge over the Derwent. I am sure that most people in Hobart are amazed about a couple of things. They are amazed that it has taken so long to erect a temporary bridge and they are also amazed at the attitude of certain people or of the Government that this bridge should only be a single-lane bridge for priority traffic.
– Which government’s attitude?
-The Tasmanian Government’s attitude. I said that they were amazed at the people’s attitude that the bridge should be only a one-lane bridge for priority traffic rather than of at least three or four lanes. Also I am not convinced that a lot of Tasmanians are happy about Mr Barnard ‘s part in this. This has been dealt with somewhere else. I have heard some Tasmanians say: ‘If this is all he can do for his home State of Tasmania, I do not know what would be the situation for the defence of Australia if we had a war’. However, we are not talking about defence at the moment.
- Senator, if your record is as good as his when you leave this place you will have done all right.
– Thank you very much for whatever that means. I am just making a comment about a bridge in Hobart and I am trying to give the Government some indication of things that I have heard in Hobart, and this is one of them. The job at hand is to get for Hobart soon a bridge that is safe and suitable. I think the Government should widen the powers of this Commission so that it can investigate the whole of the bridge situation in the Hobart area. I do not want to deal with the costs involved in this disaster.
– Which Government made that statement?
-This is a combined one. It is an agreement between the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government.
– You are saying that the initiative was taken by the Australian Government.
– I am saying that this Government should widen the powers of the Commission. It should suggest to the Tasmanian Government that this Commission should have wider powers. I cannot see that there would be any difficulty in getting some agreement between the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government- both Labor governments- which will somehow result in getting for Hobart a bridge a bit quicker than might otherwise be the case and a safer bridge than we might otherwise get. I do not want to deal with the costs because I believe that someone else is going to deal with that in due course and it has been dealt with in another place. When we look at the cost of bridges it must be borne in mind that we have to take the long view. These bridges have to be built to last 100 years and therefore we have to look to paying off the bridges over that period, so the cost is not the important thing. Speed of building, efficiency and safety of the final design are more important than anything that needs to be done in terms of money. They are the only points that I want to make at this stage. I ask the Government to investigate the possibility of arranging with the Tasmanian Government to widen the powers of this Commission to enable it to be a bridge commission for the Derwent or something of that sort, because that is the way suitable bridges were built in the HalifaxDartmouth area.
– I wish to say, in indicating my support for this Bill, that I appreciate the approach adopted by Senator Rae in most of his speech and also the approach adopted by Senator Townley except the latter part. I remind Senator Rae, so that he will not repeat the error, that it is only a little over 4 months since the Tasman Bridge disaster occurred. When one is being critical, as some people are in this context, the precise time is material.
I want to proceed straight away to the last part of the speech of Senator Townley because I think it was extremely unworthy of him to repeat, without particulars, vague allegations against the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, whose record in this matter I suggest on examination indicates that, in less than 24 hours of the occurrence of this tragedy late on a Sunday night, he was in Hobart and after hours of discussion with the Tasmanian Premier had already reached agreement on the contribution by the Commonwealth to the rectification of the consequences of the disaster and he has maintained that position of liaison Minister between the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government since that time. I suggest that no one, not even Senator Townley in a political climate, could suggest one thing that should have been done by the Minister for Defence that has in fact not been done. When one reads scurrilous attacks made upon Mr Barnard in another place and adds to that what was said this afternoon by Senator Townley, the destruction of the argument that the Minister for Defence was not acting properly in this matter becomes extremely easy when the facts are examined. I have kept in my Hobart office a file- it is now a series of files- containing all the Press cuttings in relation to this disaster. I have been through them for the purposes of debate on this Bill, but I certainly do not intend to read them all to the Senate. They show the action taken from the beginning, from the cablegram from the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, who was then overseas to the Tasmanian Premier. Within less than 24 hours of the tragedy that cablegram was sent. It read as follows:
My Government stands ready in consultation and cooperation with the State authorities to do everything possible to alleviate this disaster and investigate its causes.
That telegram was received by the Premier on Monday 6 January.
– I thought it said something about the navigation of the ship.
-No, that was in a talkback program in Europe, I think, the following day. It is true that the Prime Minister referred to a criminal jury. It is true that with his innate sense of fairness when he was reminded about it he withdrew and apologised, something which some politicians do not do when they overstep the mark. On Monday 6 January, the Minister for Defence agreed with the Tasmanian Premier to provide whatever Bailey bridging was required for the construction of a temporary crossing of the Derwent in the vicinity of Dowsing Point. I should say that the total amount of Bailey bridging which the Commonwealth has agreed to provide is 5720 feet and every foot of that Bailey bridging promised on 6 January has been delivered on the day on which the Department of Public Works asked that it be delivered. It is not all delivered now.
– That was the only point.
-The Public Works Department does not want it in the way.
– Quite so. I did not suggest otherwise.
-The suggestion was made otherwise in another place but we will leave the gentleman who made that remark to wither under the lash of his own leader, Mr Fraser, who very smartly repudiated what he said in that debate. In addition to that, the Department of Housing and Construction has begun, and expects to complete before the end of this month, May, the removal and relocation of the Army depot which is at the bridge site. I have been shown a letter from the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) to the Minister for Defence which states that work was put in hand on 5 April to remove the depots and completion of that part of the works necessary for relocation of the depot is expected by the end of this month. If suggestions are going to be made, such as were made by Senator Townley, to the discredit of the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, trie obligation is on those who make the charges to particularise them. I ask Senator Townley to state, when he first gets the opportunity, in what manner the Minister for Defence has failed properly to carry out his duties in relation to this disaster. Let the particulars be given. Those who are not prepared to give particulars of a secondhand or thirdhand allegation of that sort ought to withdraw them.
– In other words, put up or shut up.
– Those words must not be used in this chamber. As I understand the ruling, they are offensive to some persons. In a regrettable lapse from the high tone of the debate which Senator Rae set, Senator Rae said that the fact that this was to be a joint commission as between the 2 Governments was a reflection of centralistic attitude. There is a far more accurate and a far more charitable explanation. It is simply that since the Australian Government had agreed from the beginning to pay all the costs associated with the disaster it obviously was commonsense from an administrative point of view that there should be joint involvement in relation to all work, especially restoration work.
– Do you not admit that the Commonwealth was liable at law to pay all the compensation?
– I am very glad that Senator Wright asked that question because I had intended to refer in a moment- I will do it now- to his earlier interjection when Senator Rae was speaking. I inferred from that interjection, and I certainly infer now from the question, that the view is held by Senator Wright that without any question all of the money which the Australian Government will pay to the State of Tasmania pursuant to its undertaking could have been recovered anyway at law.
– No, all that was properly due to reinstate the bridge.
-As far as the bridge is concerned, if that is taken in isolation, yes.
– That is what this Commission is for.
-But there is just one point to be considered. The honourable senator who raises this point must be unaware of the doubts that were held, and to the best of my knowledge still are held, as to the limit of the liability of the Australian National Line in law because of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. It ought not just be laughed off.
– Are you not the people who are going to establish a new insurance office? You are relying on those conditions of limited liability.
-They are not limited conditions at all. All I say is that responsible lawyers, including the counsel within the service of the Tasmanian Government in the early days of this disaster gave very serious consideration to what was the legal position of the Australian National Line because of the limiting provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act.
– I will put that speech over the door of the new insurance office.
– I do not mind where Senator Wright puts the speech as long as he realises that a serious question is involved as to what is the legal liability of the ANL. I am not prepared to give an answer on that point without considerable research. Therefore it was extremely desirable that any action taken should be taken in unison by the Tasmanian and the Australian governments. The point I want to make about the Bailey bridge, because of the allegation of undue delay, is that the Tasmanian Government at all times took the view, and the Australian Government was not prepared to dispute the validity of the view, that the Tasmanian Government should construct the bridge, including of course the approaches. It might be said that the Tasmanian Government is taking too long in relation to the approaches; it might be said that it is making too good a job of the approaches, but we do not know how long that Bailey bridge will have to remain there and I do not think the Tasmanian Government can be criticised for that. At any rate, the fact is that pursuant to an arrangement made by Mr Barnard on 6 January the Public Works Department ultimately said that it did not require any Bailey bridging to be delivered to the site until 14 April. That is the simple fact. The Minister for Defence has arranged, and the Department of Defence is carrying out the arrangement, that whenever the Tasmanian Government says through the Department of Public Works that it wants a particular amount of footage of Bailey bridging delivered on the site, it will be delivered there. It is as simple as that.
– Providing shipping is available, I presume, and we do not have other problems.
– We will not muddy the argument by intruding an irrelevant matter. So far as a second permanent bridge across the Derwent is concerned, assuming there is full restoration of the existing bridge, I am able to give some details in relation to that matter, although the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) will give the formal Government reply, because I was personally involved in the discussions between the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr Cairns), and the then Tasmanian Premier, Mr Reece, in Hobart on 24 January this year. I was present at a Press conference held by Dr Cairns at which he was asked who would pay the cost of the second bridge. He gave an answer at that stage which would have satisfied anyone but a pedant and it subsequently has been confirmed that it is the policy of the Australian Government that it will pay the cost of the second bridge as part of the national highway plan. I would not have thought that anyone was in any doubt about that. Statements accordingly have been made by Dr Cairns, the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and the Minister for Transport, Mr Jones. So there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind in relation to that matter.
It was I who suggested, and the suggestion was accepted, that there should be a joint task force to investigate and recommend the location and type of second bridge. I was fearful that if the State Government continued its investigations and then said to the Australian Government that it had decided to build such and such a type of bridge at such and such a point, asking the Australian Government please to confirm that it would pay for it, the Australian Government would not have been in the position to have given an immediate answer. Probably, and I think it responsibly should do so, the Australian Government would have made its own investigations. They would have taken a long time. It may well be that in the end the Australian Government would have said: ‘Look, our advice is that it is the wrong type of bridge and it is in the wrong place’. Then we all would have been back to square one. It seemed to me at least that the proper administrative action was to carry out a joint investigation. That suggestion was put to Dr Cairns and to Mr Reece and was accepted. The announcement was made in Hobart on 24 January that the joint task force would carry out this investigation. To the best of my knowledge there has been no alteration to what has already been announced, namely, that the report of that task force should be available by about the end of this month. Whether or not there has been any delay I do not know, but that is the last announcement of which I am aware. However, I do think that once the initial report of the joint task force is available merit probably will be found in the suggestion made by Senator Townley that there should be a unification of the bridge authorities in relation to both the existing bridge and a second bridge. Difficulties in relation to personnel, of course, arise.
The Chief Commissioner under the proposal which is contained in the Bill before the Senate is the Commissioner of the Tasmanian HydroElectric Commission, but I do not know how he would be able to fit in all of these duties. Provided the authority remains a joint one between the State Government and the Australian Government, I believe that there is merit in combining their activities at a later appropriate stage. As I have said, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sector Wriedt) will reply on behalf of the Government to the questions raised by Senator Rae. But in relation to the matter of the decentralisation of Australian Government departments from Hobart to the eastern shore, I am personally aware that a number of departments very quickly established branch offices on the eastern shore. I refer to the Department of Social Security and the Department of Labor and Immigration. I do not know the full list, but as far as I am aware those departments established their branch offices as early as January.
– I understand that there had been some recent complaint about something that happened. I had not checked the full list of which ones had and which ones had not.
– I am not suggesting for a moment that every government department has established a branch office.
– I understand that there have been some suggestions that there was room for further development.
– I have the utmost sympathy for any resident on the eastern shore who has to go to any government department and thereby be put to the inconvenience of travelling on the ferry- it is an extremely pleasant experience to travel on the ferry except when it is cold- or travelling around through Bridgewater. I suppose any of those residents would make the suggestion that facilities should be established on the eastern shore. But it is a question of the extent to which it is reasonable to do so.
There has been some criticism of the State Government and of the Department of Public Works by implication in the debate this afternoon. I do not believe that a lot of the criticism that is being made of the State Government and its departments is justified. I would refer Tasmanian senators in particular to a letter which appeared in today’s ‘Mercury’. It was written by a fairminded member of the Upper House, Mr Broadby, who makes the point in some detail that it is about time some people stopped knocking the Government presumably just for the sake of doing so. I want to pay a tribute also in that context to the work of the Public Works Department so far as the Old Beach Road is concerned. Prior to 5 January the Old Beach Road was a road over which one travelled either if one really had to or if it was a very nice summer afternoon and one had plenty of time and did not mind one ‘s car rattling as one went for a picnic in that area. It was substantially a dirt road, although there were some sealed sections. It was an extremely narrow road. Sections of it went down to the water’s edge. It was not a good road by any stretch of the imagination. I drove over it last Sunday. It is now a completely sealed road which takes traffic at high speed. All of that was accomplished in a period of barely 4 months. I believe that in the early stages work went on 6 days a week and continued until quite late into the evening. I believe that those responsible for that work, and in particular the workmen who worked on the road, are deserving of the thanks of the travelling public and all those people who will use that roadway.
– I did not intend any criticism in any way by what I said about the Public Works Department. My criticism was that the work should have been done a little earlier instead of it being left until the bridge got knocked down. I thought that it should have had some due regard to the fact that the bridge could easily have been knocked down as was suggested in 1958.
-That argument is nearly 20 years old. It was a matter of acute debate in the Tasmanian Parliament in the late 1950s, and it was a topic of special interest after the report of the committee to which Senator Townley has referred was brought down. Of course, anyone could tell from looking at the bridge that if a 10 000-ton ore carrier got madly off course and could not be stopped and was heading for the pylons that it would hit them. One does not have to be a genius or an engineer to know that.
– Why did they not fix up the road earlier?
-The ship was not travelling on the road; it was travelling on the river. I was in Canberra having discussions with former Senator Murphy within a few days of the collapse of the bridge and he was indicating the attitude that the Commonwealth would take. He gave his characteristic gesture with his hair and said: ‘Look, the ship ran into the bridge; the bridge did not run into the ship’.
– It will happen again with another ship-
– I can only suggest that Senator Townley should seek leave to appear before the Commission which is being established by this Bill and also appear before the joint task force which will be inquiring into the construction of a second bridge so that he can give both of those authorities the benefit of his views. It is no use Senator Townley simply making political speeches about this matter.
– It is not a political matter; it is a safety matter.
– I am suggesting that Senator Townley should formally seek to appear before the Commission and the joint task force before they make their decisions so that his views can be fully taken into account.
– The Commission as it is now constituted could not do anything to rebuild the Tasman Bridge. I say that it should have wider powers.
– I believe that if Sir Allan Knight, Mr Warrell and Mr Donnelly, who are the 3 people who have been appointed to that Commission, thought that they were perpetuat,me something that was unsafe they would direct the attention of the authorities to it. The record of the Chairman of the Commission, Sir Allan Knight, suggests- indeed, it cries out loudlythat he would never be a party to recommending anything which was not completely safe, in his judgment, in the public interest. I repeat that Senator Townley, instead of making political speeches and criticising the Minister for Defence by means of third hand unparticularised allegations, should ask the Commission and the joint task force whether he can appear before them. If he does not mind I will go along with him so that I can hear what he has to say. He should put his views to the engineers and to the associated experts who have the task of making recommendations, rather than put them to the Senate in the guise of a political speech. I wish to emphasise that the Interim Commission, according to an announcement published in the ‘Mercury’ today, will make a public progress report next Monday. If Senator Townley is still not satisfied, I think he ought to write to the Commission and say that he wishes to appear before it. If he does not mind and if he invites me, I will join him. We would be able to talk to the experts.
– Who are the experts?
-I am not an expert in this matter.
– You are not making a political speech either, are you?
-Dear, oh dear. I could continue talking about this matter, but a few weeks ago we had a fairly full debate on the problems of the people of southern Tasmania.
– I would be grateful if you would mention one thing, and that is the question of the legal aid arrangements which were made in respect of families of crewmen and other persons who were injured or killed in this disaster.
-I am in a better position than the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) to answer that question because I had the discussion with Senator Murphy, as he then was, in Canberra within a week or so of the disaster. I forget the precise date.
– I think it was 9 January.
-Senator Rae suggests that it was on 9 January. As a result, a public statement was made by Senator Murphy that, without regard to means, persons who had claims in relation to the disaster would receive legal aid. I have not given the precise text of the statement I hope that answers Senator Rae’s question.
– I thought it relevant to raise the matter in this debate as you were involved. I thought you should mention it.
-That is so. I commend to every Tasmanian senator Mr Broadby ‘s fair and honest letter in the ‘Mercury’ today. There is no room for any further carping criticism in this matter. It is a time for action. It is a time to accept the inevitable. It is a time for recognition of the extremely valuable work done by many persons in government, at both Australian and State level, to overcome the consequences of this disaster.
The simple fact is that from a city which had virtually no ferry terminal facilities 4 months ago and a city which had virtually no ferry services, some 28 000 persons are being ferried across the Derwent River at Hobart 2 ways each working day. In anyone’s language, that is not a bad effort. Private enterprise has played its part, and I recognise it. The Government has played its part also. I was disappointed yesterday morning to hear a question by Senator Marriott from which I drew the inference that he had hoped that the ferries which were towed from Sydney to Hobart would not complete the journey. They did. So long as they are able to continue in service the problems of ferrying persons between the 2 shores will be considerably minimised. I support the Bill completely. I make the brief and simple statement that in my view no Australian government could have done more, both at the time immediately following the disaster and in the intervening months, than the Australian Government did. I invite those who assert a proposition contrary to that proposition to give particulars of what the Australian Government should have done but did not do and what a Liberal government would have done which this Government has failed to do. I support the Bill.
-To try to answer in some way the last remark made by Senator Everett might I say that one of the greatest criticisms of the 2 governments concerned is that the people do not know what will happen and when it will happen. Like Senator Everett, I welcome the announcement by Sir Allan Knight in the ‘Mercury’ today that a progress report will be made on Monday. As I read and understood that article, it appears to me that the report is on whether the bridge can be repaired, not necessarily on the time it will take to repair it. It is quite obvious that because of the complexity and the magnitude of this disaster the estimate as to the time needed to rebuild the bridge is not known at this moment. While a lot has been said by the State Government, which is the real agent in this matter, the people do not know as yet what will happen and when. They know when the ferries will be there and when the ferry terminals will be finished. They have some idea when the roadworks on the Old Beach Road will be finalised. I agree with Senator Everett and the other speakers in the debate that the work done by the men who are undertaking this work should have drawn to them the highest possible credit for a job well done in a very short space of time.
It is now 18 weeks and 3 or 4 days since the bridge collapsed. The ‘Bulletin’ last month contained a rather trite paragraph in an article which illustrates what I have said about the frustration of the people on the eastern and western shores of the Derwent River. The article mentions a time scale which relates to the date on which the article was written. The article states:
It is 3 months since the 1 1 000 tonne ore tanker ‘Lake Illawarra’ slammed into the Tasman Bridge killing 12 people and dividing the city of Hobart. Now the city is united again, not by a new bridge across the Derwent River but by frustration and a rising anger over the lack of activity in solving the massive problems caused by the smashed bridge and the ‘Lake Illawarra’ which are settling on the muddy bottom of the river, covered by thousands of tons of debris.
I think this frustration has brought about the spate of criticism. I think that when Senator Everett spoke about the 2 ferries which were referred to in a question this week he nearly said if they do not sink’. Let us hope that they do not sink. There is some doubt about their seaworthiness. I heard somebody say that when the copper plates were taken off the bottom, half the planks fell out too. I do not think it was quite as bad as that.
– I wish you had told me that before I sailed on one the other night.
– It might be as well not to sail on it again. It does not matter which government, agency or body undertakes something in the public interest, it always brings about criticism because no 2 people will agree on it. We can see that point illustrated in the debates in this chamber. They are not necessarily political. As Senator Rae said when he opened the debate for the Opposition, we support this Bill. We are anxious to do all we can to assist the combined governments to get this repair job done. While all this is taking place there is a tremendous cost to the community. When Senator Everett was speaking Senator Wright attempted to interject about compensation of various sorts. Senator Wright said that the new theory is that the defendant has the right to supervise the expenditure of any amount received for damages. I do not know who will pay the damages. I think it would most likely be the persons who, unfortunately, live on the eastern or western snores of the Derwent River. A tremendous number of the people affected- approximately 50 000- live on the eastern shore of the Derwent River. The authority for various comments has been questioned, in particular by Senator Everett. The only authority for these figures is the Tasmanian Bridge Compensation Committee which was set up by the State Government to have a look at the cost and the problems associated with it. In economic and human terms the cost is enormous. For instance, it is estimated, as Senator Rae said, that the total cost to the people involved will be approximately $26m a year.
– Is that not the estimate of the citizens’ committee which has been disbanded?
– Whether or not the committee has been disbanded does not alter the fact that they were the people responsible for compiling these figures. The committee did this with the aid of information made available to it from the Bureau of Statistics, from inquiries it made itself and from a number of other sources. Even if these figures vary by as much as 10 per cent or 1 5 per cent there is still an enormous cost to the individuals involved.
I wish to refer to the extra travelling costs. The extra ferry fares to be paid by the people affected will amount in a year to $ 1.26m. People who travel by car from the eastern to the western shore will be forced to travel an additional 50 miles. The additional cost of this travel, estimated at 10c a mile, is $4!4m covering approximately 3500 vehicles a day. Fairly obviously if one must travel in heavily congested traffic conditions for 30 miles there is an enormous time loss, which is greater than if the traffic is of ordinary heavy density. The time loss has been estimated at 4 500 000 man hours and the total cost, calculated on an average weekly wage basis, is $ 17.392m. These are the costs which not so much the whole country but people who live in that part of the country must bear. It can be quite easily seen when we look at these sorts of costs that people will not bear them without having a growl. I do not know about other armies but I know that when I was in the Australian Army it seemed to be in the nature of the beast that we growled. Whatever else we did we growled. It seems to be the nature of the Australian people that if they are not happy about what is happening they growl about it and make their opinions known to their neighbour, their political representative or somebody else.
Other costs include additional service costs, increased capital purchase prices and the loss of property values on the eastern shore. The annual cost to the 39 eastern shore companies is estimated at $580,000, which excludes any additional costs with regard to service stations and so on in that area. The room occupancy rate at hotels and motels on the eastern shore has fallen by 70 per cent. It is estimated that the loss will be $5,000 a week. Airlines estimate their combined loss at $250,000, which is a fairly substantial loss. This loss is particularly noticeable with regard to the intra-State airline, Tasair Pty Ltd. I had occasion recently to travel with that airline. I was talking to the pilot and he said that the fall off in demand is very noticeable among people travelling from the north and north-west to Hobart because of the inconvenience of getting into Hobart by travelling either the long way round or by coming to Bellerieve and then travelling across the river by ferry.
The oil industry in Hobart has estimated a loss of $600,000 a year. I think it is extremely difficult to estimate what the long term effect on land values will be. I note that one real estate agent has indicated that just before Christmas, which was only a week or so before the accident, a person wishing to sell his home had refused $30,000 for it. A few days after the accident he was not able to obtain an offer of $20,000. 1 think that indicates an over-reaction, but it indicates something of the problem for people who live on the eastern shore. They must absorb these costs and I do not think that the long term depreciation of land values will be all that great for the people who will continue to live there. A number of these people by occupation are itinerant- bank managers and so on- and, of necessity must move around the country in their employment. If they are forced to sell their homes in this situation they will bear an unfortunate loss. Nobody has yet asked that compensation should be paid to such people. I think this is one of the things that people accept.
We dealt earlier today with a similar tragedy which will probably not cost in total any more than the reconstruction of the Hobart bridge will cost, because the figures that I have just given completely disregard the cost of repairing the bridge. Recently the Premier of Tasmania said that he did not know what the cost of the repair of the bridge would be-it might be $ 1 3m, $20m, $25m or even $30m. I think it is fairly obvious that he would not know the definite figure at this time because nobody, as Senator Townley tried to point out, knows what the cost of the repair work will be nor the magnitude of it. It is fairly important that we do not forget these matters. People are expecting in a somewhat melancholy way that they will have to put up with these sorts of conditions and these sorts of costs for a period which is as yet undetermined but variously has been put as between 2, 5 and 7 years. If we take a figure of $26 a year and assume that it may take 4 years to rebuild the bridge, we come to a figure of approximately $110m, which added to the cost of repairing the bridge is a pretty substantial burden for the 50 000 or so people to bear.
Not only the people on the eastern shore but also the people on the western shore have been affected. They have lost easy and rapid access to their airport. Also many people who are in business on the western shore do business or have agencies on the eastern shore. The facilities for getting their goods to market or to their other stores have been badly affected, I think the Senate will agree, by this unfortunate occurrence. Some idea of what this extra cost will mean to some of the people in that area is indicated in an article in the ‘Mercury ‘ of 5 January. It was written by a person living on the eastern shore, in fact on the Tasman Peninsula. In part the article states:
Transport operators R. B. and R. J. Skeggs, of Nubeena, yesterday announced that their freight charges would increase by about one-third because of the greater distance and time involved in transporting goods from Hobart since the collapse.
These are figures that people rather blithely ignore. For those honourable senators who do not know, in the Tasman peninsula area there is a very large poultry industry which necessitates the transportation of about 100 tons of feed grain a week; and the poultry must come back to the various processing works. When one adds up the total cost we can see that if this repair job takes 4 years the total cost to the State and to the Commonwealth could be approximately $200m. It is terribly hard to be definitive about such rises in costs and it is nearly impossible, I think, to estimate just what the cost to the individual will be.
We realise that winter is approaching and that because of the geographical situation of the southern part of Tasmania people there are now finding that they and their children must get up in the dark, must leave for work or school very early in the morning when it is barely daylight and must return home in similar conditions at the end of the day. They have all these problems associated with reconciling themselves to the fact that they must travel for an extra hour and a half or 2 hours prior to and after work than previously was the case. Prior to the collapse of the bridge on 5 January it took about 20 minutes to go from the eastern shore to anywhere within the business region on the western shore.
One other aspect that has not been mentioned but is terribly important is that at the moment medical facilities on the eastern shore are virtually of a first-aid station kind. I noted in the Press yesterday that it has now been decided that a community hospital will be built. Arguments are going on between the Clarence Council and the Government as to where the hospital will be built. We hope the matter will be resolved quickly. With winter coming on and emergency transportation services not being readily available it is fairly obvious that something of a positive nature is needed quickly. Many other problems are associated with the bridge. The question of the cost and type of bridge to be built was mentioned by Senator Townley and I think by Senator Rae. It is interesting to note that Mr Jones, an engineer with the Hydro-Electricity Commission, said in 1958 when giving evidence to the Parliamentary Public Works Committee that the possibility of such an accident happening to a bridge of this nature was very great. At the time Mr Donnelly- this is no reflection on him at all- who is one of the Assistant Commissioners, said he felt that it was not really a big problem.
We note from the 1968 Tasmanian AuditorGeneral’s report that the bridge finally cost $ 14.4m. The estimate of cost at that time for a suspension type bridge was $ 16m. Now, with the benefit of hindsight- I suppose anybody could be nearly as wise as Solomon with that sort of benefit- it would appear that had that plan which was originally recommended to the Government been adopted we would have still had a very good bridge, we would not have been faced with this almost inevitable delay in the repair of the bridge, and we also .would not have been worried about the enormous cost to the nation. Not only is it an enormous cost to Tasmania, it is also an enormous cost to the nation. Tragic as the situation is, I think when the nation is in economic turmoil we would prefer not to see any such additional expenditure. Continuing to deal with the problems associated with the bridge Mr Donnelly said- it is referred to in the House of Representatives Hansard at page 1539 of 10 April 1975- that there was little possibility of shipping damage to the bridge. He said that there had not been a serious accident of that type for 15 years. Ironically, the year before traffic started using the new Tasman Bridge there were 2 instances of ships hitting bridges within 2 months of each other- one in Venezuela with the loss of more than 20 lives, and one in Louisiana in the United States of America with the loss of 6 lives. As we know, 12 people were killed in Tasmania.
I think it was indicated this morning that we are trying to get through the business of the House and we have limited the number of speakers on this side as I know the Government has limited its speakers. I do not wish to take up a lot more time. I have more figures here which give a comparison of the cost of building a bridge of the nature of the Tasman Bridge. I remember Alderman Leo Port, an engineer from Sydney, saying when he inspected the bridge a few days after the collapse, that it was the most primitive type of design and that it seemed to be effective. It certainly was effective until a ship knocked a hole in three of its spans. The cost comparisons of bridges of a similar nature, spanning a similar distance and of the suspension type are not all that much greater in other areas in the world, but of course one does not go into a shop and buy a bridge. Approaches have to be built. There are other costs incidental to the cost of transporting traffic across water that are not necessarily catalogued or priced. It is fairly obvious that any figures taken out would be only comparative and of interest rather than of any real benefit. I will not weary the Senate or use any more of the dme of the Senate in going through these figures. I think it is important that the figures that we gave with regard to the cost to the people of Tasmania are not disregarded by honourable senators. The disaster must be looked upon sympathetically as one of those things that happens. It is the people of Tasmania who will have to bear these costs unfortunately for a long time to come. We support the Bill and wish it a speedy passage.
– in reply- I will be as brief as I possibly can as the debate has gone on for quite a long time. The debate, of course, has concerned the collapse of the Tasman Bridge. Many references have been made, especially by Senator Bessell, about the inconveniences suffered by the people living in Hobart. It is true that there are inconveniences which we unfortunately have to put up with. Every time I stand on the ferry terminals on the Derwent, whether on the western side or the eastern side, I think to myself what a privilege it is to live in Tasmania and to live in Hobart specifically. I feel sorry for those people who live on the mainland, and I even feel sorry for those who live in northern Tasmania. So, despite the fact that the bridge is down -
– Could I quote you, senator?
- Senator, for once you should agree with me; just this once. Despite the fact that the bridge is down I would still rather be living in Hobart than in any other part of Australia.
– Hear, hear.
-Senator Wright and I are finally in agreement. It must be the first time ever. I shall answer the questions which have been raised. Senator Rae mentioned the shortcomings which arose after the initial steps were taken. I am glad of, and I appreciate, the low key in which he made his contribution to the debate. That has generally been the case. I am glad that we did not see a repetition in this chamber of what happened in the House of Representatives where there was a most disgraceful exhibition by Mr Ellicott who represents the electorate of Wentworth, a man who was the SolicitorGeneral and from whom one would have expected a measure of balance and judgment in a situation. I believe it was a disgrace and an insult to the Parliament.
– I repudiate that entirely.
– That was my assessment of his speech. Senator Everett made the point earlier that his own leader might have made the same assessment. It is true that in the last few weeks enormous problems have been encountered in the reconstruction of the bridge. I saw only this morning details- it is a pity they were not made available to every one who has taken part in this debate- of the enormous engineering problems that exist in the bed of the Derwent River. I will not go into the details. It makes one’s mind boggle how anyone will be able to cope with the sorts of things that will need to be done to clear away the debris, get new piers down and so on.
I hope that all Tasmanian members of the Senate, if they have the opportunity, will watch the local commercial television station next Monday night when I understand a spokesman on behalf of the Commission will be giving a detailed description of the problems concerning the reconstruction of the bridge. The question was raised why the Australian Government had to be involved in deciding what is to be done. I believe it was said to be due to some sort of centralist attitude. The fact is, of course, that the Australian Government is providing the finance. It is reasonable that it should have a fairly clear picture of what is going on and, in conjunction with the Tasmanian authorities, ensure that the money is expended properly. In 1 967 when the bushfires hit Tasmania the Australian government of the day made considerable payments to Tasmania, but it certainly ensured that it kept a very tight finger on the moneys that were expended and did not allow them to be disbursed in a manner which was not consistent with its own desires at that time. That is a reasonable principle which I think any federal government, no matter what its political colour, ought to observe, and I think that most people would accept it.
Senator Everett dealt with the question of the Bailey bridge. Senator Rae raised the question of the salvage of the ship. I understand that this matter has not yet been determined. Again an engineering decision will have to be made. Because of the difficulties associated with the work being done on the bottom of the Derwent River the engineers are not yet able to make a decision as to whether the wreck should stay at the bottom of the river or not. Reference was made to the actual level of the Commonwealth’s commitment. I can only reiterate the statements that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I think that Senator Everett read one section of them. I will read again the telex from the Acting Prime Minister to the Premier of Tasmania. It spelt out the position quite clearly. It stated:
The Australian Government undertakes to reimburse the State Tor the full amounts of expenditure incurred by it and its authorities, subject to the various expenditures being accepted by the Australian Government as attributable to the bridge collapse, and reasonable.
I do not know what more could be said to illustrate quite clearly that the Australian Government intends to stand fully by the Tasmanian Government in respect of the costs of rebuilding the Tasman Bridge. The sum of $ 13m is not a limit. If it is necessary in the actual reconstruction of the bridge for additional moneys to be found to put the bridge back into the condition that has been mentioned, that money will be forthcoming. It is not a matter of doing a temporary job on the bridge. It will be a completed job. That is the undertaking which has been clearly given by the Australian Government. The other 2 matters raised by Senator Rae concern compensation for companies, and so on.
– No- people, companies, organisations or anybody involved in loss.
-I think the best thing I can do is to refer him to clause (g) of the agreement which states that the powers and capacities of the Commission shall include power, authority and capacity-
It is not a matter, as I am sure that Senator Rae as a legal person would understand- Senator Everett also made the point- in which I can give a specific undertaking that every individual’s desires or claims will be met. It is a matter for discussion and settlement at the particular time that this might arise.
– Is the position that there is no proposal to have any sort of a compensation scheme as opposed to a determination of legal liability?
-I think I would be right in saying no. The answer to that question would be no, no compensation scheme is envisaged at this stage. What might be done later I cannot say. To my knowledge, no such scheme is envisaged at present. I am going through these matters one by one because Senator Rae has indicated to me that the Opposition wants answers to these questions, otherwise we will be in some trouble later at the Committee stage of the Bill. As regards the question of facilities on the eastern shore, a great deal is being done there. I do not think it is necessary for me to give a description of what is being done. As one who lives in that area and who travels backwards and forwards to the city side of Hobart regularly I can only say that all the comments that I have heard since the whole thing started have been that people have been amazed at the rapidity with which the new facilities have been built. A new terminal has been built and ferries have been introduced onto the run. I really cannot say any more than that. Again, the associated costs are costs which the Australian Government itself is prepared to stand.
There are one or two other matters to which I will quickly refer. Senator Bessell referred to the decision to build a bridge across the Derwent River originally. He mentioned that the cost of building the bridge was $14m and that the cost of building a suspension bridge would have been $16m. I know that he would not do it deliberately, I realise that, but anybody listening to Senator Bessell would have been mislead into believing that there was only a marginal difference between the cost of the bridge which was built and the cost of building a suspension bridge. The original quote for the bridge that was built was less than half the final cost of the bridge. In other words, the quote for the bridge that was built was less than half the cost of building a suspension bridge. That was an important factor at the time.
– It was criticised at the time.
– Yes. Had we gone ahead and built a suspension bridge we would have wound up with a bill of about $30m. Obviously the Government had to take all those factors into account. The last thing that I want to do- it may help Senator Rae in the things that he requires- is to put on the record the categories of expenditure attributable to the bridge disaster. Those categories of expenditure are: First, costs associated with the restoration of the bridge, including preliminary investigation and survey work, and so on, and costs incurred by the new commission. Second are the administrative costs of the commission. Third are costs associated with emergency services provided immediately following the disaster, including search and rescue operations. Fourth are costs associated with the upgrading of roads made necessary by increased traffic attributed to the bridge collapse. Fifth are costs attributed to the building of new or improved ferry terminals and associated facilities. Sixth are costs incurred in obtaining any additional ferries and punts. Seventh are costs incurred in providing necessary additional bus services and associated facilities and in transporting schoolchildren and students. Eighth are costs incurred in providing necessary additional emergency services and employment of additional personnel in connection therewith on the eastern shore, including fire, ambulance, medical and police. Ninth are costs associated with the erection, operation and maintenance of temporary bridging. Tenth are costs incurred in investigating the proposal for a second permanent bridge. Eleventh are net increase in subsidies of ferries and bus fares payable to government trading authorities or private companies due to pensioners’ and students’ concessions. Twelfth are legal expenses associated with the marine court of inquiry.
In conclusion, the overriding consideration in this whole exercise is the safety of the new structure. If it means that we have to be delayed in rebuilding the bridge, or if delays are necessary as a result of that, it will be unfortunate but we will have to put up with them. Both the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government are adamant that when that bridge goes back it will not in any way be structurally unsound. The factors of cost, even time and, to a lesser extent, appearance are overridden by the need to ensure that when that bridge goes back there will be no question in anybody’s mind as to its safety.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-There are only 2 things that I wish to say. I was very glad to hear the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) say that the Government’s purpose and undertaking was that the Tasman Bridge would be restored not on a temporary basis but- he concluded by saying- as a complete job. I have no doubt that he intended to say that it would be restored on a basis of permanent structural soundness. I took that to be the general meaning of his reply. I would not have risen but for the fact that in paragraph 5 (b) of the Agreement language of a very meagre nature is used which might be seized upon later as being indicative of a lesser measure of restoration. It reads: the restoration of the Bridge to a condition which will permit it to serve the purposes it served prior to the collapse of sections of the Bridge.
The other point I wish to make is that when the Minister said that the Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission had certain obligations with regard to the measure of damage he referred to paragraph 8 (g) of the Agreement, which he acknowledged in the next sentence or two that he used was not in language of an undertaking but in language of a power. I have noticed that the power there is for the Commission to act as an expert adviser or assessor if so requested in connection with the apportionment of costs and liabilities arising out of the collision of the ship with the bridge. That seems to have been written in that language on the basis that for some reason or other, perhaps the limitation of liability arising out of the Sea Carriage of Goods Act or the Merchant Shipping Act to which Senator Everett referred, some apportionment of costs would be necessary between the 2 governments.
I have risen simply to say that I hope that the view is accepted that it is the complete responsibility of the Australian Government to carry out the whole of the work and to reimburse the whole of the costs referred to by the Minister in his speech. I just mention that from my point of view no apportionment of costs is involved and that the paragraph to which I have referred does not in any way obligate the Commission to accept the costs incurred, but I believe that the Minister’s speech does. That is the sense in which I have interpreted the debate to conclude.
– I do not want to prolong the matter unnecessarily, but I have found it a little difficult to follow Senator Wright’s statement. I take it that he is suggesting that what I have said is in conflict with paragraph 8 (g) of the Agreement.
– No. The Minister used it for the purpose of indicating an obligation, but it is only a power.
-That is right. It is a power to be exercised as the Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission sees fit.
– It is an apportionment and I think that no apportionment is involved in the matter.
-All I can say is that I do not think that this is a matter properly for me to answer but that it is a matter for the Commission itself to determine when the occasion arises.
– I thank the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, for the information that he has been able to supply to honourable senators in relation to the considerable number of questions which have been asked during the debate. I believe that of the 7 questions, many of which were divided into several parts, I have asked I have received answers to only about three of them. I seek from the Minister his reconsideration of certain of the questions, which I am happy to reiterate, and the provision of answers to them. Alternatively, if the Minister feels that the required information is not available to him at the moment, then in view of the fact that an Interim Commission is operating, in view of the fact that this Bill seeks to do no more than put into statutory form the Interim Commission and that therefore a delay until next week in the passage of this legislation will not in any way delay proceeding with the work on the restoration of the bridge or anything else but will only delay the legal form in which the work is being undertaken, and in view of the fact that a report is to be given next Monday to which reference has been made by the Minister and Senator Everett, it would seem to me to be highly desirable that this debate should be adjourned until next Tuesday so that full and considered answers can be provided to the questions I have asked. I remind the Minister that at this stage we know very little about a number of the matters that I have raised.
– I am sorry if I have missed certain points. I thought I had covered all of them. If Senator Rae will indicate again what they are I will endeavour to reply to them. I think that it would be absurd to adjourn a debate of this nature until next week.
– It has gone on for so long.
-Such a lack of co-operation is not going to get the matter finished any earlier.
– I hasten to add that that comment was not directed in any way to Senator Wriedt. It was made in response to an aside that came from another direction. I have asked a number of questions about a Bailey bridge. They were in relation in particular to the reason that has been given as to why work on the construction of a Bailey bridge is at a standstill. I have referred to the fact that it has been reported in the Press that the explanation that has come from the Tasmanian Premier is that the reason for this is that the only suitable barge is at present engaged, at the direction of the Interim Commission, on exploration and survey work in relation to the Tasman Bridge itself and that it will not be available for at least another month or more for resumption of work on the building of a Bailey bridge and that therefore there will be a month’s delay at least before any construction work can be resumed.
I ask: Is it the only one available? Has a request been made to obtain one from elsewhere? Has the Commonwealth been asked to provide one from either the defence forces or elsewhere within its resources? Does it mean that a Bailey bridge can be constructed only if there happens to be a suitable barge available on the site? Is there anything that can be done to expedite the construction? I have not been critical. Some time has been taken up in answering questions about whether certain bits have been supplied and so on. I am just talking about the position at present and am asking whether there is something that can be done. Is it correct that it is the only barge that can do it? If it is what can be done? Is it really the position that a Bailey bridge can be constructed only if there happens to be on the site a particular type of pile driving barge? That is the first matter. Perhaps I can come back to the others at a later stage.
– After all, such a number of questions were asked that it was difficult to try to get a note of them down on paper. It is true that only one barge is available. I understand that a barge is being brought from Port Latta on Monday. It will need to be slipped when it gets to Hobart. It will be available in perhaps another 2 weeks or thereabouts. Apparently it is not possible to say precisely when it will be available, but apparently a barge is available and will be brought to Hobart so that the other work can go ahead. That is the only information I can give the honourable senator.
-I thank the Minister for Agriculture. The next matter I wish to raise relates to the construction of a second bridge and the details in relation to that. I have asked what is the nature and extent of the Com.monwealth’s financial commitment and proposed assistance in relation to that. Have any details been agreed upon? If so, what are they? If not, what is proposed? Is there to be a total grant of finance to the full cost of the construction of a second permanent crossing? Alternatively is it to be part grant and part loan funds or is it to be some more limited amount? What is the situation there?
– It is my understanding that the commitment so far concerns an investigation of the site- a general feasibility study- of a second bridge. I am not in a position to make any statement concerning the capital cost of such a bridge and whether money will be provided in the form of loans or grants, nor am I in a position to say under what terms and conditions it will be provided. If that is an essential point to the passage of this Bill today, I cannot answer the question. I will have to get the necessary information from the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns).
– Perhaps one means of overcoming the problem would be if the Minister for Agriculture were prepared to give an undertaking to obtain and supply the information as soon as possible next week.
– Yes, certainly I give that undertaking.
– The next matter to which I refer is claims by the State of Tasmania. The questions which that raises in our minds are whether it still continues to be a fact that there have been no claims, as was stated in April to be the situation when this matter was debated in the other House, why it should be that no claims have been made and the doubt that that raises, because there has been a whole lot of expenditure by the State Government. Does it mean that expenditure which has already been undertaken does not come within the agreement? That is the real problem about which the Opposition is concerned.
– I am sorry, I did miss that one also but I have it this time. The total amount that has been paid to this stage is $1.5m. Practically none of that amount concerns the bridge itself. It has been mainly to do with the ancillary services such as the ambulance and fire brigade located on the eastern shore, and also, of course, the ferry terminal, which I understand involved about $500,000, and assistance in purchasing additional ferries. So the specific answer is $1.5m, virtually none of which concerns the bridge itself.
-Finally, Mr Chairman, there is the matter contained in the sixth question I asked in relation to the facilities on the eastern shore, to which the Minister replied in part. I would ask for some further consideration of that question. I asked: what plans are there for the provision of any particular emergency and other facilities on the eastern shore? Will the Commonwealth be contributing anything and, if so, what amounts, towards any such projects? In the third part of the question I asked: Has any general survey been undertaken by all government departments to see whether there is any way in which they can assist the people who have been adversely affected as a result of the collapse of the bridge? I asked about a general survey. I know that some departments have taken steps, but I was seeking from the Minister an indication that some general survey might be undertaken, if that has not been done, and details of any plans there might be for further emergency or other facilities and to what extent the Commonwealth would be contributing.
– The second part of the question really involves the State Government more than it does the Federal Government, I think. Nevertheless, allowing for the fact that there is a joint responsibility all I can do is refer the matter to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who is the Federal Minister responsible for liaising with the Tasmanian Government. I presume that he may in turn discuss it with Sir Roland Wilson, who is the Prime Minister’s special adviser on this matter. I think it would be a matter of judgment then as to whether they would be prepared to take up such a proposal with the Tasmanian Government. As to the Federal departments on the eastern shore, some have been established, as Senator Everett mentioned earlier. All I can undertake to do is get a list of those departments which have established offices there and those which intend to do so. In fact, I could get a complete list of those departments which are involved, if that would help. Some departments would not be involved.
On the question of further commitment of facilities on the eastern shore and the Australian Government’s commitment, I can only refer the Senate to the actual undertaking which has been given. It was for that reason that I read it out earlier. It states:
The Australian Government undertakes to reimburse the State for the full amounts of expenditure incurred by it and its authorities, subject to the various expenditures being accepted by the Australian Government as attributable to the bridge collapse and reasonable.
I cannot say any more than that. It seems to me to follow that any expenditure incurred by the State Government or any of its authorities which is attributable to the collapse of the bridge and reasonable would be accepted by the Australian Government.
-I wish to pursue this a little further, if I may. Part of the question was: What plans are there for the provision of services? If the Minister is not in a position to give the Opposition any further particularity at this stage, then the Opposition would be prepared to accept his undertaking to obtain the information. But it is part of the concern expressed by a lot of people that there is a degree of uncertainty about what is going on. The Opposition simply wishes to take the opportunity to get further and better particulars, if” that is possible. On the undertakings that have been given and with the co-operation of the Minister, I am sure we can all get to the sort of situation that we want to achieve.
– I will undertake to get that further information if I possibly can.
– I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for his co-operation in trying to achieve a situation where the people of Tasmania are better informed about what the future holds for them. The Opposition, of course, does support the Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 1974-75. Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 1974-75.
Debate resumed from 15 April on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I open this debate on behalf of the Opposition by saying: At long last this Bill has come before the Senate for debate. A racial discrimination Bill was first introduced in November 1973 and it was not presented to the Senate for debate prior to the Parliament being prorogued. A second racial discrimination Bill was introduced in April 1974 and that again was not presented to the Senate for debate. A third racial discrimination Bill was presented in October 1974 and that was withdrawn from the Senate in February 1975. On 15 April of this year this Racial Discrimination Bill was transmitted by message from the House of Representatives and today, after some 18 months, it comes before the Senate to be debated. The Opposition has many reservations about the Racial Discrimination Bill. It recognises that the Bill gives expression to a desirable and acceptable principle- the elimination of racial discrimination. In this the Opposition finds itself in complete accord with the claimed virtue of this Bill. But it should be recognised also that it is a Bill which tries to achieve a desirable objective in a particular way. It is a way which the Opposition considers will not prove efficacious. We have many reservations about the Bill and we will try to eliminate some of those matters which we find objectionable when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. The Opposition recognises that the Bill will help in some areas and, because we believe that it may help in those areas, we shall give it our general support. I emphasise that because I recognise that the Bill contains features which are repugnant to the rule of law and to freedom of speech. We do not welcome the intrusions which this Bill contains into established individual rights and liberties, and we do not regard the departure from traditional values, departure from the rule of law, departure from trial by jury in the case of criminal offences where there are substantial penalties and the virtual reintroduction of a star chamber system, as desirable innovations in our law. So we shall support the second reading of the Bill and propose a number of amendments.
The Bill gives expression, as I have said, to a principle which is regarded as unexceptional. Racial discrimination which proceeds from or which seeks to develop a superiority concept is to be deplored and avoided. A society which is plagued by the tensions of racial discrimination is likely to be a society torn by dissension and evidencing a developing instability. The Bill of course ratifies the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. This Convention was supported and voted for by the previous Government when it was before the United Nations in 1966. 1 thing it is appropriate to consider what it is that the Bill provides apart from its ratification of the international convention. It seeks to establish its principles by providing, in general provisions, that racial discrimination shall be unlawful and by providing, through particular provisions, that certain types of racial discrimination shall be unlawful. We recognise that there must be some general area of uncertainty of application in regard to the general provisions, but it is desirable to have in any legislation of this character an expression of a principle, and that is what we regard the general provisions as doing.
The particular provisions indicate that it shall be unlawful to refuse or to deny access to public places or to vehicles by reason of the race, colour or ethnic origin of a person or of a relative or associate of that person. The same type of principle applies in regard to the provision of and dealings in land, housing and accommodation, in regard to the provision of goods and services, the provision of employment or membership of a trade union or in regard to dismissal from employment. We recognise that it will be unlawful to advertise in a way that indicates or could be reasonably understood as indicating an intention to do any of the acts which are unlawful. It is recognised by the Opposition that if we are to cope with racial discrimination in a way that seeks to specify what are acts of racial discrimination and to indicate a community disapproval of such conduct, then provisions of the character which are contained in the Bill are desirable. The Bill of course indicates- it is a provision to which we take exception- that if an act which could be regarded as an act of discrimination occurs and the reason for that act of discrimination occurring has a number of facets to it of which only one is the intention to do an act of racial discrimination, then that is still to be regarded as an unlawful act. We think that that is an unreasonable position. If an act of discrimination occurs it should be unlawful only if the dominant reason is discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin.
We note also that there are provisions for enforcement which give enormous powers to a
Commissioner. We also recognise that there are provisions in the Bill which make it an offence to publish or disseminate ideas, and we regard that as repugnant to traditional freedoms long experienced in this country. The Opposition objects to certain aspects of the manner of enforcement which is proposed. We suppose that there are 3 broad ways in which enforcement could be obtained. One is what the Bill provides. It provides for a Commissioner of Community Relations to exercise coercive powers to endeavour to persuade a person to settle a matter. The Commissioner is granted under this Bill powers of enormous scope so that if his attempts at settling an issue do not meet with the success which he himself believes they should meet with, he can then institute court proceedings. It is a power which we believe is wide open to abuse. It can be regarded as totally unfair, and as we know the person in whom these powers are vested- he is on the public record as having expressed views which might make those who could come within his surveillance regard him as prejudiced against them- it is completely unreasonable that he should have these wide powers vested in him.
– Is there any other reason why we should not know who he is?
– I would have thought that it was generally known that it is Mr Grassby. I think the reasons I have expressed this is not to suggest that the fact that Mr Grassby is the person who would hold these powers is the fundamental reason that these powers should be denied to an official. Irrespective of who the person is, it is a dangerous precedent to grant powers of such wide scope to any government official. It is particularly evidenced in the case of Mr Grassby because his statements after his election defeat in 1974 indicated almost a paranoia about what had happened to him. Whether or not that was justified, people who could come within the scope of this legislation might- I would understand why- regard him as a person who would not deal with them fairly.
A second way in which the manner of implementation could occur is to say that the activities which are rendered unlawful are unlawful by virtue of an Act of Parliament. Normally when that occurs the activities which are proscribed are called offences. If the ingredients of an offence are established then there is a penalty which is imposed. The penalty is imposed because it represents the sanction for conduct which has community disapproval and that ordinarily would be the way in which conduct of this character would be prohibited. It of course is the way in which the Government in other areas has indicated that conduct which is against the community interest is to be prohibited and in which the sanctions are to be imposed. One only has to think of the trade practices legislation and the very heavy penalties which apply in that area for conduct which is regarded as being against the public interest, and to wonder why it is that in this area the Government has not imposed appropriate penalties for conduct which is against the public interest. The Government has not chosen to adopt that particular course. It would be interesting in the course of this debate to have aired some of the reasons why the Government has not chosen to follow in this area of anti-social conduct the procedures and the enforcement processes which it is seeking to apply in other areas.
A third way, and it is the way in which the Opposition will be proposing, is to provide for conciliation to be attempted by the Commissioner but to deny to the Commissioner any coercive powers, except one, with regard to the method of conciliation which he will be able to attempt. We think it not unreasonable in the exercise of the conciliation function that the Commissioner should be able to summon before him to, in effect, a compulsory conference a person who has made a complaint and the person against whom the complaint is made. He should be able, by that process of summoning people before him, to endeavour to have the differences which have occurred settled and a reconciliation effected. But if that process of conciliation is unsatisfactory and the person who has made the complaint is not satisfied, that person will have the opportunity to proceed in a court of law not for an offence, not to allege a criminal activitiy, but to seek an injunction or to claim redress of the character which ordinarily can be obtained in civil proceedings in the courts. It will not be open to the court to receive in the course of those proceedings any evidence which might be related to what took place before the conciliation commissioner.
It is not altogether a novel concept because a procedure of this character has been felt to be desirable in proceedings which have taken place before conciliation commissioners under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If it be said that one reason why civil proceedings are not the appropriate proceedings under the Racial Discrimination Act is because of the delicacy of the human relations which are involved, one might draw by way of comparison the fact that that has been the type of argument which has been used to justify certain types of proceedings before conciliation commissioners. One ought to try to conciliate in these areas rather than to come down immediately with the heavy hand of the law. If there is a comparability which can be drawn in that way with what the Opposition is proposing, I think the point can be made and sustained.
There are 3 broad areas on which I would seek to present a case for the Opposition. The first relates to the constitutional justification which might have been offered for this legislation; the second is to consider whether laws of this character can be expected to have the overall beneficial effects which can be claimed for legislation which deals with racial discrimination; and the third is to specify a little more precisely why the Opposition will propose its type of enforcement in preference to that which the Government has suggested.
This is a Bill which seeks to make unlawful conduct which may be described broadly as conduct involving racial discrimination. The Commonwealth, in enacting this legislation, is relying primarily if not wholly on section 5 1 placitum 29 of the Constitution. That is a power to make laws with respect to external affairs. There is no express power in the Constitution to make laws with respect to race relations or racial discrimination, or the conduct which may take place which is proscribed by this Bill. What the Government is doing is relying upon the fact that there is an international convention for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination which Australia is ratifying and which, because of the obligations which it is said flow from that ratification, enables it to exercise its powers to make laws with respect to external affairs. One says that if that be the position the external affairs power is becoming a plenary power of virtually no limit whatsoever. It would mean that the external affairs power could be invoked to virtually ignore or repudiate the divisions of power which are contained in the Commonwealth Constitution. One does not know in this particular area how far that might take the ratification of the convention which this Bill is concerned with because it is a convention which contains some curious obligations.
Once the convention is entered into, international councils are set up and those councils can require compliance by Australia with the requirements which from time to time they may impose. The convention also has within it conflicting principles. It states that any party to the convention shall guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of certain specified rights. Amongst those rights is the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
There also is an obligation upon a guarantor, a party to the convention, to declare as an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, or incitement to racial discrimination as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts. It shall declare illegal and prohibit organisations which promote and incite racial discrimination. There are many concepts and many ideas in a pluralist democratic society to which objection can be taken. I object to racial discrimination; I object to communism, to fascism and to other forms of totalitarianism.
– And to PLO terrorism.
– I certainly object to terrorism which is one of the vices, the scourges, of this century. Yet one must recognise, if we want to maintain the liberal type of democracy which most of us have experienced and enjoyed, that there must be an allowance, a tolerance, for the dissemination of views to which one takes exception. Notwithstanding that I object to communism, or fascism, or racial discrimination, I would recognise that it is the right of other people if they want to disseminate those views to be able to disseminate them. I accept the proposition that if an idea is so bad that some people want to proscribe it, there must be better ideas which, if the ideas are sound and of greater intrinsic value, will prevail. If the dissemination of any ideas can be linked and can be shown to be associated with acts which ought to be proscribed by the community in the public interest, then let those acts be proscribed and let any dissemination of ideas which is involved be linked with the actual acts of violence or the other conduct which is to be proscribed. That is one of the problems which this Convention raises. Those who claim that Australia has a power under its Constitution to make laws with respect to external affairs in order to implement the Convention must recognise that difficulties of this character will arise. Do you implement only certain parts of the Convention and repudiate others? If you do that, can it be said that you are implementing the Convention in order to invoke the power.
– Can they get all of that power just by having an external affair?
– I recognise some of the problems which flow from Senator Wright’s interjection, but is it to be accepted, if you can utilise this external affairs power because there is an international Convention made by the United Nations which is ratified, that you can search out some friendly neighbouring country and, on the pretext that you have made a treaty with that country, override virtually all the provisions of the Constitution simply to give effect to obligations which have been made with a small and relatively insignificant neighbour.
– Does Senator Wright propose to oppose the Bill on those grounds?
– I have said that the Opposition’s view is that we broadly support the principles of the Bill. These are reservations which have caused the Opposition some concern over the many months that we have had the opportunity to consider this Bill, and we recognise that it would be likely that the Bill would be challenged in due course before the High Court of Australia. If it is challenged it will provide the opportunity for which many people have been waiting when the scope of the external affairs power may be the subject of a judicial delineation. But I have indicated the attitude which the Opposition will be following. The Convention proceeds, of course, on the basis that the propagation of any doctrine based on racial discrimination is scientifically false, is morally condemnable and socially unjust and that there is no justification for racial discrimination. These are a priori assumptions, and no matter how acceptable they may be to a majority, their proof cannot be established simply by vote. The racist policies of a Nazi Germany did not become valid simply because they had the acceptance, as they did, of a majority vote of the German people. Christianity will not become scientifically false or morally condemnable and socially unjust simply because in some country at some stage a majority vote might declare it to be so.
I suggest to the Senate that in this area of whether or not the Commonwealth has a power to enact a law of this character under the guise that it is a law made with respect to external affairs it should heed what Sir Robert Menzies said when dealing with this issue in a series of articles he wrote last year in connection with the Human Rights Bill. He said:
The externa] affairs power was never designed to be an internal affairs power or to alter the distribution of power between the Commonwealth and the States.
One might say that the Convention which this Bill is ratifying was never a Convention which was intended by previous Australian governments to be self executing. It was intended to be a Convention which ought to be observed by the
States which had the constitutional power to enact laws in these areas. As far as possible the Convention imposed a duty on all parties to it to ensure that its laws were not contrary to its broad principles. The Liberal governments following the acceptance of this Convention in 1966 sought to have adopted by the States laws which were consonant with the broad principles and sought to remove from the statute book laws which were inconsistent with its principles, and in that respect there was a great measure of success. I think it has to be recognised today that there are few, if any, laws still remaining in this country which could be regarded as laws which involve a racial discrimination.
The second matter to which I refer is this: It must be doubted whether laws of this character can change human motivations and conduct. There is a tendency for laws of this character to exacerbate the tensions which they are expressly designed to avoid. It must be recognised also that this legislation, if it were enacted in the form in which it is presented, would create a bureaucracy or inspection force which would feed upon detecting racial incidents and bringing them before the Commissioner or before the courts for settlement. It is legislation which could be used as a source of provocation, a focal point for professional agitators who wanted to stir up trouble. I was interested to read what was said by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland), when introducing this Bill, about the hopes which were held for the Bill. It was said that the legislation has a vital role to play in the elimination of racial discrimination. I wonder whether it has such a vital role as is claimed for it. I would have thought that the ability to educate and to influence people in terms of their community obligations is a far more vital role than that of legislation which simply lays down the laws. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The proscribing of racial discrimination in legislative form will make people more aware of the evils of discrimination and will make it more obvious and conspicuous.
It may be that that will be a consequence of the Bill, but whether that will aid in the elimination of racial discrimination is very much open to question, because the more there is a concentration and a focusing of attention on an issue which to many people has never been an issue at all, the more it will create problems which never before were problems. That is one of the difficulties which I think is involved in what is contained in this Bill. The Minister went on to say:
In addition, the introduction of legislation will furnish an essential legal background on which to base changes to community attitudes.
One may doubt whether in fact such a legal background is essential to change community attitudes. I have seen community attitudes change in a host of matters against a contrary legal background. But in terms of endeavouring to stimulate desirable attitudes, one at least can recognise that there may be merit in what the Government is suggesting.
The Minister then went on to say:
The fact that racial discrimination is unlawful will make it easier for people to resist social pressures that result in discrimination.
I think that is a valid proposition. I think that people desire to observe the law, and if they know it is unlawful to engage in acts of racial discrimination then I think there will be a tendency and a willingness to accept that that is a conformity which they must respect. In those circumstances, it is a very limited appeal which can be claimed for this Bill. I know that in the United Kingdom where the racial tensions have a far greater recognition than in Australia there has been legislation designed to avoid racial discrimination since, I think, 1966. Has that legislation been particularly successful? If one looks at the commentaries in the news reports, one realises that racial discrimination is as great and as much a source of friction in the United Kingdom today as it ever was. That is the case notwithstanding that there have been race relations Bills designed to avoid it. I have just picked up two small volumes. One which is called ‘Race Relations in Britain’ is published by the Reference Division of the Central Office of Information in London, and it was published in October 1972. After indicating certain advantages which flowed from the Race Relations Act of 1968, it stated:
The effectiveness of the Act has been particularly marked in virtually removing discriminatory notices and advertisements from shop windows and newspapers and there are strong reasons to believe that discrimination in services and places of public resort has greatly diminished. On the other hand, although it appears that the Act has had beneficial effects in the fields of unemployment and housing the board considers that there is still evidence of discrimination, especially in promotion opportunities and the ‘white collar’ sector of employment and in private housing.
That is notwithstanding the impact of that legislation and the bureaucracy which has been established in an endeavour to enforce it over a period of almost 10 years now. The other publication to which I refer is ‘The Extent of Racial Discrimination’. It is a broad sheet published by the Social Science Institute in September 1 974. 1 wish to quote from its summary and conclusions. I do not read all of that chapter. It states:
The results of our tests demonstrate that there is still substantial discrimination against members of the minority groups when seeking jobs and housing. They also show that this discrimination is more related to race than to foreign origin, since the level of discrimination against Italians or Greeks is comparatively low.
The final paragraph states:
Although the level of discrimination seems, therefore, to be lower now than it was before the Act, the general conclusion from these findings must be that the number of cases of discrimination that are dealt with by the law (either by means of conciliation or by means of legal sanctions) forms a very small proportion of the number of acts of discrimination that actually occur.
One must have regard to statements of that character and must be cautious about the likely overall beneficial results of this legislation. One of the real problems in our society- not so much in Australia as in other countries- is that racial disharmony can poison the stability of a community. It can be played upon by those who want to use it for ideological or political purposes. I think there is striking evidence throughout the world that it has been so used. We in Australia have been singularly free of racial discrimination. I think it is only in recent times that we have had instances in which racial disharmony and racism have been highlighted. I think the instances have been created by persons who claim there is a racism which I believe does not exist. 1 think that the Government and its supporters have a heavy responsibility in this area. When they were in Opposition I can recall how they constantly, in this chamber and outside it- certainly, from my recollection, in this chamber- accused the Government of being racist because of conduct in which it was alleged to have engaged when those of us in government who were responsible for the decisions which were being taken knew that there was not a spark of racism or race relations in that conduct. It built up an attitude in the community which fed a hatred and a belief in an inadequacy which was not justified by the circumstances. The Press this morning reported that a senior Australian public servant claimed at Australia House in London that Australia is a racist country. One wonders what the ultimate consequences of that action will be. I mention these matters only because I feel that those who cry racist often create problems where previously none existed.
– You are referring to Charles Perkins, of course.
– Yes. The third matter to which I refer relates to the measures contained in the Bill, the way in which the Bill will operate and the desire of the Opposition to amend it. The Bill enables the Commissioner of Community Relations, an office held by Mr
Grassby, when he receives a complaint, or when he becomes aware in some other way of a matter which ought to warrant his investigation, to require the person who made the complaint or the person about whom the complaint is made to come before him. When that person comes before him very extensive powers can be exercised. The Commissioner is empowered to inquire into whether unlawful acts have occurred, to endeavour to settle the matter, to hold compulsory conferences, to require people to attend before him and to enable him to have a person interrogated and be required to produce documents. If the Commissioner is unable to effect a settlementthat means to have the matter resolved as he believes it should be resolved- he is allowed to institute civil proceedings. In those proceedings the court may grant injunctions and generally make appropriate orders against the defendants or award damages. The damages are to be paid not to the Commissioner but the aggrieved person.
We believe that, apart from the power to have a conference at which the effort at conciliation can be made, these powers should be removed from the Bill. There appears relatively little need to have a commissioner. The provisions in this Bill may be a cumbersome and expanded appointment simply for Mr Grassby ‘s benefit. The provision for inquiries and the settlement of civil actions with this power to institute proceedings if a satisfactory settlement is not induced can be open to grave abuse. The concept of civil remedies such as damages for humiliation or for unlawful acts appears to be inappropriate. If a wrong has been committed, society either makes it an offence and stamps it with a penalty or enables a person to exercise a private right by which he can sue to have rectified the injury done to him or, if the injury is likely to be repeated, to have the other party enjoined from repeating it in future. Either course is an adequate course, but it ought not be preceded by the star chamber methods which are contained in the Bill at present.
Generally speaking, we support the Bill, but we desire a different means of implementation. We shall seek that different means of implementation by amendments which we shall move in the Committee stage. I refer to the statement by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Sir Frank Woods, the Primate of the Church of England in Australia, about this Bill because I think it expresses a view which is well worth our support in this instance. He said: -
With people from more than 70 different countries already living in Australia the understanding of that concept . . .
That is the concept in this Bill- which is inherent in the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination becomes continually more and more plainly correct and it will be a notable day when this country of ours can join those who have ratified the Convention.
That there will be differences as to the manner of detailed implementation of the Convention is to be expected; indeed, it is to be welcomed so long as the differences are between individual groups or parties who share a common wish to give the values which are found in the Convention their best expression.
We believe that the objectives of this legislation are sound objectives. We doubt very much whether they will be realised by any form of legislation. Insofar as this legislation, by declaring certain types of conduct unlawful, will make people aware that there are some unlawful acts in which they ought not to engage and therefore make it easier for them to resist pressures to which they might otherwise succumb, it is a desirable objective to be pursued. As to its method of implementation, we believe that it would be far better not to have the Bill at all if the changes could not be made and we will seek to make those changes.
– I am pleased to hear that the Opposition will support this Bill, perhaps with amendments made at the Committee stage. I must admit to feeling a sense of shame that it is necessary to legislate for something that we white Europeans, as one insurance company terms us, accept as our right. I feel a sense of shame that we must legislate to allow people to live with the simple human dignity that we accept so readily. I was interested in Senator Greenwood’s comments one of which was that there is no racism in Australia. I will introduce a little documentation later in this debate which may prove him to be wrong. Senator Greenwood said also that this Bill would declare illegal organisations which foster racial discrimination. I could not agree with him more. There is a great need to declare illegal those organisations which foster racial discrimination.
The reasons for discrimination have never been terribly important. What is important is that there is discrimination. There is discrimination on any number of grounds. There is discrimination because of sex, age, race, colour, religious or political beliefs, an accident of birth, or otherwise. What is important is that we in Australia are perhaps not sufficiently mature to accept that people should be accepted just as people and not in those various categories and with those various side issues. Senator Greenwood spoke of the previous racial discrimination
Bill that had been introduced by this Government as long ago as 1973. 1 would like to refer to a couple of the clauses in the Human Rights Bill and which I think are relevant to this debate. Part II is entitled ‘Fundamental Rights and Freedoms’. Clause 7 of that part says:
Everyone is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms as set out in this Part, without any distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
In other words, the Bill said that all people are equal. Clause 8 of the same Part says:
Everyone is entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.
That is what this Bill presumes to provide.
Honourable senators will be aware, of course, that discrimination against women is nothing new in Australia. It is nothing new in many other countries. It is perhaps best described as a ‘hangover from medieval times’ when women were considered less valuable even than the household animals. They were treated as second class citizens, and even today in some aspects this thought still prevails. For instance, it is not long ago, it is claimed, that women were given the vote. I think that is rather a classic statement. Women were never given anything. They fought very hard to obtain the right to vote, and they fought for many years.
I wish to refer to the situation in the United States. It was 1972 before the Equal Rights Amendment Act was finally put to both Houses of the U.S. Parliament. In fact it was first introduced in 1 923 and was completely ignored by Congress until 1970. It took them a total of 47 years to get that far. It took them a further 2 years to gain Senate approval. In 1975, appropriately enough International Women’s Year, it is at long last taking its place on the statute book. Women have traditionally met discrimination when they have endeavoured to obtain finance, particular for housing and major purchases. Finance is available. But if one is a woman one must know where to look for it. One must certainly know where to look for it if one is a woman on her own. Financial institutions tend to regard women less favourably than their male counterparts when they want to borrow money. Yet I put it to you, Mr Deputy President, that a lot of women in this day and age would be more financially stable than their male counterparts.
When looking at discrimination we must take in the situation which existed in Western Australia until at least 12 months ago when it was not even possible because of discrimination for a woman to sign a guarantee for her son or daughter to continue his or her tertiary education. If a woman wanted her child to become a teacher and there was a bonding agreement to sign, only a male could sign. If a woman was a deserted wife and had no idea where her husband was she had to get the signature of a male relative. The fact that that male relative may have been already fully committed to his own family or that he may in fact have been unemployed, or even that the sole male relative available to put his signature on a piece of paper may have been an alcoholic, did not make the slightest bit of difference. The little slip of paper distinctly stated that the signature of a female would not be accepted unless it was the signature of the widowed parent of the student.
Not so long ago a situation arose in the Australian Capital Territory. A group of women desired to have a drink in a bar of a hotel and they were told that it was a public bar. The word public’ is a complete misnomer. A public bar is for the use of the public and yet this group of women was told by the management that it was for males only. What is the true meaning of the word ‘public’? To me it means all people who comprise the general public. But this particular bar was for men only. Women were required to drink in another part of the hotel where they also had to pay more for their liquor. If we are looking at discrimination against women in general we cannot bypass what happens in the Parliament. I remind Senator Wright, who is trying to interject, that Aboriginal women are included in the Racial Discrimination Bill. There are Aboriginal females.
– Sex does not come into this Bill.
– Sex comes into an awful lot of things. It comes into this Parliament. We do not find women in this chamber except as senators- there are precious few of us- and as Hansard reporters. We do not see female clerks of the Senate. I do not know whether any females have applied to be clerks of the Senate. But I do know that not long ago there was an application from a woman who had had the audacity to answer an advertisement that was placed in the men and boys’ column of the Press for the position of Clerk of Papers in the New South Wales Parliament. While she had the necessary qualifications she was not even permitted to go for an interview. I do not know what her colour was and I do not know what her racial origin was. I do not think that is important. I think the important matter is contained in the reply from the Clerk of Parliaments who said that he had not allowed her the benefit of an interview because ‘the position of Clerk of Papers calls for someone capable of lifting heavy loads. It involves shifting files and papers, sometimes in considerable bulk, and we did not think this appropriate employment fora woman’.
– That is beneficial discrimination, is it not?
-Mr Deputy President, I put it to you that any male who would make such a fatuous statement as that would never have seen women at work in a supermarket. I would like to describe to the Senate what quite often happens. The woman has a baby in her arms and a toddler or two hanging on to her skirts and because she is not allowed to take a pram or stroller into the supermarket precincts- sacred precincts- she avails herself of a trolley which invariably has four wheels which all want to go in opposite directions. She ultimately loads the trolley with household goods for a week for a family of perhaps five or six. She eventually makes her way to a checkout point where quite often she is required to wait for an extraordinarily lengthy time. She continues to nurse the babe and continues to control, with some dexterity, the fingers of her little darlings who are intent only on getting into the little goodies which the supermarket managers insist on placing right up to the checkout point. She then has to unload the contents of the trolley on to the counter and then load the contents from the other end of the counter into bags and boxes. She eventually makes her way home. Any man who says that a woman is incapable of lifting heavy loads and files of paper must have rocks in his head when one considers the work the women do in the supermarket.
The racial discrimination that we are specifically looking at today is just as apparent in many other areas. We have all read reports of racial discrimination, and some of us have been fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, to see instances of racial discrimination. I have seen instances where people whose skin is dark have been required to sit in specified areas in theatres, to use specified areas in hotels, to sit in specified areas in buses and even in specified areas in schools. Some hotels have bars marked for coloureds only and they are invariably in a much poorer condition than the bars which are available for the use of the white people. The furnishings, if there are any, are generally those that have been used in the whites only areas for many years. They are battle scarred and quite often they are not even useful for rubbish, but they are put there for use in the blacks only section or the coloureds only section. Restaurants and cafes have been known to refuse to serve even our own Australian Aborigines purely because of the colour of their skin. The proprietors say such nice things as: ‘Well, the white people won’t eat here if they see us serving Aborigines’. How on earth could the proprietors know that if they have never served Aborigines in the first place? How could they know that the white people would not in fact support the restaurants? Sometimes the proprietors simply say that it would not do their business any good and that black people are not allowed.
There have been cases of racism, despite what Senator Greenwood said earlier about there being no racism in Australia. Let me refer to an article which appeared in the ‘Daily News’ in Perth dated 30 August 1974, some 8 months ago. The incident referred to did not happen in Perth; it happened in the other golden State of Queensland. It did not happen to an Australian Aboriginal; it happened to a world renowned Negro singer. The newspaper account reads:
Queensland police have apologised to a world renowned singer who they accused of being a wanted Aboriginal and took for questioning. Simon Estes, a bass baritone, told disbelieving policemen that his credentials were at a top city hotel. They could further check his identity with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The incident happened before Mr Estes’s Brisbane concert on August 3. Mr Estes who has since returned to the U.S., said before he left that he was shocked by the racial prejudice he met.
I put to the Senate that it would take more than a letter of apology, or it would need to be a damn good letter of apology to make it right in my eyes if my skin were dark, for my having been apprehended and questioned by police purely on the colour of my skin. We had a bit more publicity in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 27 November last for Australia and Australians whom Senator Greenwood says show no racism. Australia was called the second most racist country in the world, eclipsing Rhodesia, the United States and Britain and beaten only by South Africa. The statement was made by a black British sociologist.
The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) in replying to a question today talked about a number of insurance companies which have made claims that they will not insure to the same extent people who are non-white and non-European. I know of two such insurance companies. One is the Prudential Assurance Company Ltd and the other is the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd. Those restrictions for insurance are not the only restrictions placed on people whose skin is dark. The restrictions are not solely the province of insurance companies. Financial organisations also discriminate against Aborigines. I can recall some 3 years ago when I was a columnist for a Sunday newspaper in Western Australia being alerted to the plight of an Australian Aboriginal who had fallen behind in his repayments on a hire purchase agreement. Whilst he had had 2 successful hire purchase agreements, both with the same finance company he had, for a number of reasons, suddenly become unemployed for a short term. Because he knew no better he was not aware that he could simply make an approach to the finance organisation and possibly no action would have been taken and a simple extension of his terms would have been granted. Because he was an uneducated person and his skin was dark- - perhaps that is why he was an uneducated personhe fell behind with his payments and eventually the finance company sent a field officer to Geraldton, some 300 miles north of Perth, who discovered that the man was an Aboriginal. All of his furniture was repossessed purely on the grounds of the colour of his skin. It was pointed out that a clause in the agreement stated that finance could not be made available to an Australian Aboriginal. Irrespective of his standing in the community or anything else, finance could not be made available to an Australian Aboriginal.
I said when I rose to support this Bill that I. was doing so with a great sense of shame, and it does not make me feel any better having to bring this next document to light in a debate of this nature, but I want the people responsible to know- I have not heard from them now for some time and if they still have a mailing list I hope that my name is not on it- just how disgusted I feel knowing that they are living in this wonderful country of Australia.
Senator Greenwood mentioned earlier that the Convention would declare illegal organisations which foster racial discrimination. I have no intention of reading these documents to the Senate, Mr President, you will see they are quite lengthy. They are put out by ‘Family Power: Families United for Australia’. Honourable senators will notice that the roneoed sheet on the front is underlined. I assure them it is the organisation’s underlining and not mine. The document says such things as:
Eighty thousand Australians were sacked to make way for 80 000 animals from the Middle East. . .
There are 3 documents. I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No. You can table them.
– Leave is not granted.
– I have no alternative, as I am not being granted permission to have the documents incorporated in Hansard, but to read them. The first one is headed: ‘Is Grassby Gullible Criminal Minimal or Animal’. The document reads:
The EASY VISA SYSTEM allowed Turks, Lebanese and Egyptians to bypass the normal screening of migrants as Tourists, this flood of undesirables came to Australia through a wide open screen.
– This is only giving rubbish wider currency.
-I asked for leave to have these incorporated in Hansard and I was refused leave by Senator Wright.
– That will result in its being distributed around Australia in Hansard and that would be a pity. It is rubbish.
– I think it is important that the people of Australia know the type of rubbish that is being put out. The document continues:
They severed all ties with their country of origin, brought all their diseases and ill health with them, to undercut 80 000 Australians for jobs. Grassby was with them all the way, departmentally and FINANCIALLY- in the biggest MIGRANT RACKET of all time. You can’t be gullible if you are in it up to your neck- or minimal if you are the BIG SHOT. 80 000 Australians were sacked to make way for 80 000 animals from the Middle East, either we send them back as Cameron wants to do, or you allow Grassby to regularise their visas (his own words) and keep them here, still in Australians jobs. Bribery in the Middle East is like breakfast, you don’t go far without it. Money greases the way through the slippery slide of easy viza officials, crooked doctors, and Australian officials, Union and otherwise.
But worst of all, easy vizas get round the Government quotas and Cabinet decisions. Grassby was Minister for Immigration, and he knows the approved intake, but as a protege of Whitlam.
In Europe, three quarters of a million of cheap labourers have been sent back to Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy and Turkey, and in America one million illegal Mexicans in the U.S. are being deported.
If Europe can do it, if America can do it, we can do it here, and send back home the Grassby horde of unwanted, undesirables about to be supported on the dole in Australia for another ten years.
Things are really bad in Australia- 200 000 declared unemployed are official, but unofficially 100 000 more, especially women have not registered. The Trade position, and a debit in our Balance of Payments (the first for six years) have put the lunatic fringe of economists, and the Brogan, Cairns, Whitlam Junta into a state of panic of facing bitter condemnation and failure.
Officially migration has stopped and Cameron wants to keep it that way. Cameron the hard-working balanced Labor Minister is being undermined, excluded and sabotaged by an inner circle of discredited Whitlam side-kicks.
For working families it is all like a bad dream since December 1972 all happiness is going out of their lives, kids leaving school, are told no jobs will be available for at least two years. Every day news comes of business collapse, big business in the ten million dollar category- but what of the small businesses, closing up at the rate of one a day, of the wiping out of the textile, footwear, clothing and rubber industries, of massive mistakes made by the BroganCoombsCairns triumvirate, Whitlam said in his first policy speech, we will buy back Australia, but in his most recent speech he unashamedly offers to sell to foreign capital.
We have always said, and we still believe that the tories are a dreadful alternative. The Party of Big Business, the landlords and the big retailers will strike without mercy. Can sane Labor and solid union leaders force a remake of Labor power, sack the massed hangers on and idiot fringe, and most of all return this country to the care, wisdom and patriotic love of its thousands and thousands of basic Australians, Mum, Dad and the kids and on whom the continuity of Australia depends, even the Tories know that.
The next document refers to the birthright campaign. It shows a certificate with the heading Your Australian Birthright’ and there is a space for a certificate number and a date. Then there is a heading ‘Starting in 1974- A Fight You Must Win’. It is still under the headline: ‘Family Power- Families United for Australia’. The document reads:
By 1980-6 years from now- we hope that even the poorest Australian born working families will have a new dignity, a share in Australian land and prosperity and a future- their birthright.
It is all very well for the socialites to say that the poor deserve what they get. You know damn well that adversity and poverty are forced in some of our finest families by fate. A father killed by a drunken driver, or an industrial accident, or ill health, leaves a family to battle it out. Kids leave school, take a dead-end job and bad pay.
There are a million reasons why deprived families stay down, but in a prosperous Australia, those reasons are not valid any more.
If you criticise the poor, be equally critical of the rich, most of whom reach super-affluence, through privilege and fraud.
In a dangerously over populated world it is not only justice we are talking about- it is sheer national necessity that our Australian born working families
I repeat ‘Australian born working families’-
It is not good enough that one Japanese now owns 17,000 acres of the best land on the Queensland coast- and at the same time 37 people live in a SO ft wide slum tenement in Sydney.
We are talking about quality- the innate goodness of a mother and father- and the deep religious hopes they maintain. The continuity of our nation.
It isn’t sane to let a congealed mass of corrupt dealers alienate the nation’s assets for personal gain. Half the usable land has been sold to Chinese, Japanese and Yankees, holding it for re-sale to their own nationals.
Whitlam said ‘We will buy back Australia’- but there is more to it than an off-the-cuff statement. There is your future and Australia’s future.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Honourable senators will recall that prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to articles that had been forwarded to me and, I understand, only to other female members of Parliament by an organisation that calls itself Family Power- Families United for Australia. If I may I wish to refer to the third of such articles. It is headed ‘Take your pick- the slob of slobs, the snob of snobs, the unwanted or the unbearable’. (Quorum formed.) The article reads:
You can take your pick between a motley gang of bushrangers holding up the nation with a gun pointing the wrong way, the men behind it all, communists who have openly declared they will stop everything and take over- or the men with unlimited money, who have stooped to the lowest criminal means of making more.
The slobs and communists are peanuts with nothing, no ability, brains or potential power to govern- but that other black cloud over the future- the Money Bags- rich, unscrupulous, and dirty, can have set our nation back so far, Australia will not recover in your lifetime. There are 1,500,000 living below the poverty line now, and next year we can expect 500,000 unemployed. Big Money will be in there buying up homes and possessions, exploiting the losers.
- Mr President, am I in order in moving that Senator Coleman be granted permission to have the text from which she is reading incorporated in Hansard?
– The honourable senator cannot interrupt another honourable senator’s speech. Senator Coleman sought the leave of the Senate previously to have certain documents incorporated in Hansard and leave was refused. Senator Coleman is therefore proceeding to read them.
– I was wondering whether the Senate had come to its senses and would allow the honourable senator to have it incorporated in Hansard. Could Senator Coleman seek leave again, Mr President?
– We think that it is as tedious as you do.
– I do not mean that.
- Senator McAuliffe, if you were to seek the suspension of the Standing Orders this matter could be re-submitted.
- Mr President, I rise to speak to a point of order. I think that Senator Coleman now has the right under the Standing Orders to seek leave to have the balance of the documents incorporated in Hansard. Is that correct?
– I am very thankful to honourable senators for drawing my attention to the Standing Orders. Mr President, I now seek the leave of the Senate to have the balance of the 3 documents to which I have been referring incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
- Mr President, could we get over this spitefulness by moving for the suspension of the Standing Order for the purpose of moving a motion that the honourable senator be granted leave to incorporate material in Hansard?
– Would you be prepared to move in that way, Mr Minister?
– Yes. I will do whatever is necessary.
– I rise to speak on a point of order, Mr President. I simply say that standing order 422 states:
No Senator shall interrupt another Senator whilst speaking, unless (1 ) to request that his words be taken down; (2 ) to call attention to a Point of Order or Privilege suddenly arising or ( 3 ) to call attention to the want of a Quorum.
My submission is that Senator Coleman is still speaking and that Senator Cavanagh has no right under that standing order to move such a motion. The standing order is quite clear.
- Mr President, I sought your guidance because I had a similar experience with Senator Wright some 2 years ago when he kept -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President.
– Under what standing order is Senator McAuliffe speaking?
– I am talking about a precedent established by your predecessor, Mr President, in Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order! I call upon Senator McAuliffe to resume his seat. Senator Wright is taking a further point of order.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I submit to you that at this stage Senator McAuliffe has no right to address you.
– He is speaking to a point of order.
- Mr President-
– Are you speaking to the point of order, Senator Poyser?
- Mr President, I understand that Senator Greenwood rose to a point of order and that Senator McAuliffe rose to speak to that point of order. That is my understanding of the situation. If we are not to be given any rights to speak at all in this place because honourable senators opposite are using the brutality of numbers we may as well go home tomorrow. I understand that a point of order has been raised by Senator Greenwood and that Senator McAuliffe rose to speak to the point of order when a further point of order was raised while that point of order was before you, Mr President. Senator Wright was out of order in raising his point of order. I suggest that Senator McAuliffe was within his rights.
- Senator McAuliffe has the right to continue making his point of order. I call Senator McAuliffe.
- Mr President, I was remarking that I was being guided by a previous decision by your predecessor, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, when I had a similar experience with Senator Wright, who kept the Senate here until 2 a.m. one morning by making me read through 26 pages of documents. On that occasion the then President said that I had the right to seek the leave of the Senate to have the remainder of the documents incorporated in Hansard. He appealed to the good sense and common decency of the Senate to give me permission to do so. I was only suggesting that in the interests of Senator Coleman, who has a long list of documents from which to quote and who has sought to have them incorporated in Hansard, the Senate might reconsider its previous decision of this afternoon and grant leave to her to have them incorporated.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. During what was being said by Senator McAuliffe I called attention to the fact that he had no right of audience. Senator Poyser -
– Order! He did have a right. He rose on a point of order.
– I am developing my argument. I hope that the logical development of it will appeal to you, Mr President. I was stating as the initial fact that I intervened at that stage. Senator Poyser then intervened to suggest that Senator McAuliffe was not making an independent speech but that he was addressing supplementary remarks to you upon a point of order. I suggest that when you consider Senator McAuliffe ‘s remarks you will find that there was not even the semblance of an approach to the making of a point of order and that the whole of his submission that any time an honourable senator may ask for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard is out of order. That was not a point of order. Senator McAuliffe ‘s remarks were entirely out of order.
– I want to speak to the point of order, Mr President. I think that it is important that I should do so before you rule on it. I have noted that Senator Wright has spoken twice on the one point of order. I will confine my remarks to the standing order raised by Senator Greenwood. His point was that I had no right to be heard because another senator had the call, was on her feet and could not be interrupted. Of course, that was not the actual position. While the senator had the call and was addressing herself to the matter before the Senate, she asked for leave to incorporate in Hansard the remainder of some documents. She resumed her seat waiting to learn whether leave would be granted. I rose before she continued with her speech. At that time she did not have the floor, although she had the right to continue, having asked for leave to incorporate the documents. To overcome this spitefulness, I will seek leave to move a motion, if that is permissible, because I think that there are still some decent elements on the other side who would not put another senator through the tortuous and tedious process of having to read documents that will be incorporated in Hansard, even if a series of senators have to read them. I have always accepted that rules are for guidance rather than for strict adherence, and when there is a question of getting through the business of the Senate we should bend sufficiently to do the right thing. I remind honourable senators of the many occasions on which the Government has permitted incorporation of documents when that has been requested by the Opposition. I appeal to the decency of honourable senators opposite and ask them to re-think this issue. If there is anybody who does not have sufficient decency to permit this incorporation, at least let us move a motion to see how many elements there are on the other side who are prepared to do the right thing on this occasion.
- Mr President -
-Is this on the point of order?
– Yes, on the same point of order, Mr President. The word ‘decency’ has come into this debate -
– Order! What is your point of order?
– I am speaking to the point of order that has been raised and I refer to the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh concerning the subject under debate.
– I do not want a debate on the words that were used in the point of order. I ask you to address yourself to the point of order.
– I want to help you make a fit and proper decision, Mr President, as you always wish to do. In addressing you in the Senate, Senator Cavanagh referred to decency. I should like to refer not only to decency- and I hope that I have always obeyed the rules- but to tradition and customs in the Senate in respect to the incorporation of material in Hansard. It is a tradition in the Senate- there have been rulings from the Chair to this effect- that any senator desiring to incorporate in Hansard a document or part of a document shall submit it to the senator leading for the Opposition, as I understand it, although I am not certain of that, and to the President. It is then possible to say whether or not leave is granted. I listened to the first part of Senator Coleman’s speech when leave was not granted to her and I gathered from the debate that no one but Senator Coleman had any idea of the contents of the documents that she sought to have incorporated, the length of them or the desirability of having them incorporated. Senator Keeffe will remember that on one occasion the Senate, without thought, gave him permission to incorporate a document in Hansard. Following that, the Senate realised that it had made a mistake and the tradition and rulings that I have referred to have been maintained since then. I hope that this course will be followed now. If permission to incorporate documents is not granted by the Senate, it will be a matter not of decency but of obeying the rules and traditions of the Senate.
– I think honourable senators should give a few moments thought to the background of the matter before the Senate, which is the Racial Discrimination Bill. It is a very controversial and divisive matter to which the Senate should give much care. To recapitulate, Senator Coleman earlier asked for leave of the Senate to incorporate a document in Hansard. It appeared to be a voluminous document and leave was not granted. Senator Coleman then exercised her right to read into Hansard the words of the document The debate was then interrupted. Senator McAuliffe, exercising common sense, asked whether it would be better to reconsider the decision because the Senate then knew the nature of the document. So the Senate had time for reconsideration. Senator Greenwood properly drew attention to the fact that Senator Coleman’s speech had been interrupted. A basic principle that must be preserved in the Senate is that a senator who has the call, who has the eye of the Chair, has the right to continue his or her speech uninterrupted. Standing order 65 provides:
Any motion connected with the conduct of the business of the Senate may be moved by a Minister of the Crown . . .
That is a different issue, but the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has exercised his right to seek to have the Standing Orders suspended. My ruling is that no senator has the right to interrupt another senator who has the call, but I suggest to Senator Coleman that she appeal to the Senate during the course of her uninterrupted speech for leave to move for the suspension of Standing Orders to allow the Senate itself to decide whether the remainder of the document should be incorporated in Hansard.
-Thank you for your guidance, Mr President. Perhaps I can alleviate the situation by explaining that immediately prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I said that I had voluminous documents that I wished to have incorporated in Hansard. Opposition senators were aware at that stage that there were a number of documents, and in actual fact I managed to complete reading only one of them prior to the suspension of the sitting. However, because so much time has been wasted, because I think that this BUI is an important one and because the documents that I am submitting relate to this Bill, perhaps I can ease the situation somewhat by quoting only those sections of the document that I think are relevant. I refer to an organisation which puts out a pamphlet which, I understand, for some reason goes only to the female members of Parliament. The document illustrates the type of racist activity that the organisation endeavours to impose on members of this Parliament. At this point I refer to a document entitled ‘Take Your Pick’. If I may I will deal with that document for a few moments. It states:
Nothing the Nongs of Labor can do, will ever get so low, or do so much damage as the Snobs.
A Minister of the N.S.W. Tory Government, cleared the way for the Yankee Mafia to operate in N.S. W. A Judge has recommended that they be deported as a danger to the community, and a channel through which Yankee criminals and Drug Pushers can come into this country.
I think that sufficient attention has been paid to ‘Family Power’, and perhaps it might be appropriate for me at this stage to mention another little document which came into my hands the other day. I feel sure that other members of Parliament also received it. It is signed by a gentleman who insists that he is a justice of the peace, which surprises me a little. He is the National Secretary of an organisation called the Immigration Restriction Council. Under the heading Your Conscience- V- The Australian Identity’ he states:
The Race Relations Bill comes up for debate in the very near future. As an Australian have you thought about it seriously, or are you simply following the party line of seeking the Migrant vote?
As an Austraiian, I have thought about it very seriously and I am not merely following the party line or seeking the migrant vote. I believe that people who come to Australia to live have a right to live as Australians have been brought up to live, irrespective of their colour, creed, sex or any other matter that other people may consider relevant. And obviously these people from the Immigration Restriction Council consider them relevant. The pamphlet enclosed with that letter states:
In 1966 … the Liberal Government, with the blessing of the Labor Party modified the traditional selective immigration policy . . . and commenced to admit a few well qualified Asians and others who could greatly assist us’.
Fair enough? . . . But what has happened since?
The immigration doors which were so imprudently opened in 1966 have since been opened wider and wider to flood Australia with all sorts of unassimilable people who are not the types we locals were asked to admit in 1966. . . .
The article goes on to report a news item published in the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 27 August 1974. It reads:
It shows with startling clarity what has already happened in Australia- most of it in the last 8 years . . .
More than a quarter of the people living in Australia’s capital cities were born overseas.
And about 19 per cent of Australia’s 12.6 million population came from abroad -
It does not say anything at all about colour. It goes on to say:
We must persuade the Government to stop all immigration or at least confine it to the traditional sources, that is, to people from the British Isles and Northern Europe.
With good planning and sound financial support we can achieve that ideal. Will you please help?
The brochure requests that a donation be sent to the Immigration Restriction Council to help stop multiracial immigration. It lists a Post Office box number at Neutral Bay, New South Wales. I admit to feeling slightly ill when I receive documents of that nature. I wish that people who regard my mail box here at Parliament House and also in my electorate office in Perth as a means of getting roneoed signatured letters to me, or even letters that are not signed, would contain themselves a little and perhaps think of me as a person who, in my capacity as a representative of the people of Western Australia and the people of Australia generally, is concerned with the manner in which all people can live in this country of ours. If for no other reason than these documents that I did endeavour to have incorporated in Hansard, I would indeed be supporting this Bill.
-We are discussing the Racial Discrimination Bill 1975 but after hearing that speech by Senator Coleman we could be forgiven for falling into some confusion because for all we know it could have been a discussion on a Bill on discrimination on the grounds of sex, income level, drugs, family power- anything but racial discrimination. No country on earth has solved the problem of inter-racial relations especially when those races are living side by side. The problems seem to me to be worse in those countries which have legislated in an attempt to solve the problems than it is in those countries which have not. Forced integration has been tried, for example, in the United States of America and it has proven a monumental failure. Forced segregation has been tried, for example, in South Africa and Rhodesia and it has led those countries into international ostracism, unjustifiably in my opinion because the multiracial and multinational problems in South Africa appear to me to be of much less magnitude than they are in other countries.
Problems of racial discrimination do not occur in the socialist countries. I have been to the People’s Republic of China. That country does not have racial problems. It has an immigration policy that is most stringent. It does not admit blacks, whites, reds or browns. If you go to the People’s Republic of China you see only yellow people. Similarly I understand that the socialist republic of Russia has just as stringent an immigration policy. Those countries are not subject to the same problems in racial discrimination as we are here. Australia over recent years has adopted an immigration policy that has allowed the immigration into this country of blacks, whites, reds* yellows and browns. This, I fear, is importing a problem for all of those people plus our own Aborigines as well as Australians of European extraction. In other words, we are importing a problem into this country that has not been solved by any other country. Because of these problems, once again created by governments, we are now faced with this Racial Discrimination Bill. In my opinion if this Bill is implemented it will create more discrimination, not less.
This Bill is being brought in on the grounds that Australia is a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is said to be urgent and overdue. The Government hopes to bring this Bill in by the use of its external affairs power which I submit is an abuse of that power because it will give rise to an internal affairs power that will alter the distribution of power between the Commonwealth and the States. The introduction of the Bill is supported by the Schedule of the International Con vention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and claims that the charter of the United Nations is based on the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings. The charter of the United Nations makes no such claim. It refers to the fundamental human rights, the dignity and rights of a human person and the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small. In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers to the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all people. In other words, the Bill is being submitted as supported by an assertion that the United Nations did not make. For the benefit of honourable senators I have a copy of the relevant section of the charter of the United Nations and also a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If they wish the documents to be tabled or incorporated in Hansard that can be done.
The beauty of the human race is that we are all different- one from the other- black, white, red, yellow or brindle. Each person represents his own individual slice of history, unique and unrepeatable. Only nature could alford to play the genetic lottery on such a massive scale and with such huge losses and wind up with 3 billion people on this planet, each of whom is unique and different from every other one no matter what the person’s religion, race, colour, descent or national origin or sex. We must not allow the mis-use of the words ‘the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings’ as used by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) in his second reading speech to cloud the hard scientific evidence that stands before us for all to see that we are all different. The charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights expressly recognise our rights and we must not allow legislation such as this to interfere with those inalienable rights.
The United States of America has a Bill of Rights and that country’s Constitution expressly states that no law shall be passed to interfere with those rights. The passage of this Bill would take some fundamental rights away from us, such as the right of free speech, free discussion and publication. Far from eliminating racial discrimination by making it illegal, the Bill will highlight the problems between the races and create an official race relations industry with a staff of dedicated anti-racists earning their living by making the most of every complaint in much the same way as does the Race Relations Board in the United Kingdom. At a time of economic chaos in Australia caused by this Government’s spending, this Bill will create yet another large and expensive Federal Government department. It will be headed by a race relations commissioner with the status of a High Court judge and with powers similar to those used in the Spanish Inquisition. He will have assistants in all States, each of which will have its own staff and offices. By making new regulations this commissioner will be able to limit individual freedon even if it is against every instinct of the person concerned.
This Bill will increase the power of the Government over the individual, both in extent and degree. The most dangerous effect of the Bill will be to discriminate against Australians; for example, in the field of education. At present there are in Australia some 10 000 foreign students from Africa, Asia and South America as part of the private students overseas program. In addition, there are about 8000 doing advanced courses and a further 1500 on the Colombo plan. The cost of all this in government subsidy to the 15 universities in Australia in which these students occupy one in every seven places is $42m a year. That cost is borne by the Australian taxpayers. Since the nationalisation of our universities in 1974 these students pay no fees. Except for the Colombo Plan, Commonwealth and State grants for their education have never been shown as foreign aid in the Commonwealth Year Book. Formerly these students were required to return to their countries of origin so that those countries would benefit from the education they had received, but in May 1973 the then Minister for Immigration altered the regulations so that they could stay in Australia, thus robbing their own countries of their services. Naturally, in Australia they would have a higher standard of living. They would be well paid and would gain the influential positions their university degrees would command. Having already deprived Australian students of positions in universities they would then deprive them of the jobs for which this training would have fitted them.
In January this year Queensland was conducting a recruiting drive in England for doctors because of the shortage of doctors in Australia yet Australia has been training 1500 doctors, dentists and paramedical personnel from overseas every year. Should this Bill be passed it will ensure that large numbers of positions in technical and educational establishments and in government departments will be filled with students from overseas to the exclusion of Australians. Any objection would be stifled by the race relations commissioner while complaints would be deterred by the magnitude of the fine -between $2,000 and $5,000. Any Bill which discriminates against Australians should be burnt. I hope that the amendments moved by the Opposition will lend some degree of sanity to the Bill.
– We have witnessed in this debate another example of the perversity of the conservatives in this chamber, another example of the division of opinion within the ranks of the Opposition and another example of obstructionism. Honourable senators opposite even took steps to deny a Government supporter the opportunity to incorporate in the record of this Parliament some of the racist propaganda which abounds in this country and which this Bill seeks to contain and stop. The absurd situation is that in the other place and in this chamber people who do not know whether they should support or oppose the proposition spend most of their time saying why the Bill is weak, why the Bill should be amended and why it should not be considered, but at the same time they are suggesting that the Opposition parties will support the legislation.
It is unbelievable that we should find a former Attorney-General of the previous administration castigating this Government for utilising the external powers under the Constitution to ratify an international document to which his Government put its signature on 13 October 1966, having taken something like 10 months to make up its mind about what it should do in relation to a convention agreed to by the United Nations. The conservatives and the conservative governments in this country turned to the United Nations time and time again to try to justify their involvement in, for example, the war in Korea. The United
Nations set out fundamental principles about human behaviour and human beings, yet in this debate today we have seen members of this House talcing the point that the Australian Government is acting improperly in attempting to ratify and have adopted the principles of the international organisation. I ask Senator Greenwood and his cohorts: What did they do in the 6 years during which they had the opportunity of ratifying the convention and introducing the essential legislation to make it operative within the Australian continent? The previous Government stands indicted for its failure to give legislative effect to the provisions to which it put its signature on 13 October 1966. It is somewhat incongruous that we find the Opposition parties criticising this Government which outlined in its policy speech- it also is in the program of the Australian Labor Party- its determination to play a significant part in abolishing any forms of racial, political and economic discrimination in this country.
This is a timely piece of legislation. It will be a milestone in the evolution of democracy in this country. It sets itself the task of creating a freer society yet members of the Opposition parties in the other place and in this House are endeavouring to suggest that certain clauses should be opposed. They propose to move amendments subsequent to the second reading debate.
I find racism the most objectionable and most obnoxious form of discrimination. I cannot understand how any Australian, or for that matter, any person can ever defend the sort of discrimination that has taken place in this country and many other countries. I cannot understand how any senator or any member of parliament can justify the racist propaganda to which Senator Coleman referred and to which I will refer in my speech. The Bill sets out very simply to ratify an international convention to make it unlawful for any person to practice racial discrimination. Who can disagree with those objectives? This Government is seeking to introduce legislation designed to meet Australia’s obligations under the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. Surely no senator or member of this national Parliament can disagree with those propositions.
It is not hard to understand why members of the Opposition parties squirm and seek to find some means of defending their past practices, of defending the status quo attitude which exists within this country. They are seeking to denigrate the Australian Government over this piece of legislation. I can quote no better authority on the question of racial discrimination than the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies. As reported in the ‘Catholic Worker’ in April 1965 the former Leader of the Party and Prime Minister at the time said:
Let me say this clearly and categorically; the White Australia Policy is under no challenge in this Parliament or in this country, except by bad administration. It is the settled policy of this country. It is the settled policy of the party which I have the honour to lead . . . I myself believe in it most profoundly.
That is what was said by the leader of the conservative parties in the Parliament of Australia in 1965. Yet within a year the Commonwealth Government led by his successor, Mr Holt, saw fit, on the basis of international pressures and for other reasons, to be a signatory to the international covenant.
The covenant recognises some basic fundamental principles, namely, that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust, dangerous and without any justification. I find it hard to understand the logic or the philosophical position of honourable senators opposite who have the temerity to criticise the Government in the context of this piece of legislation. Nobody can disagree, surely, with the proposition that racial discrimination continues to flourish in this country. My colleague, Senator Coleman, has given abundant evidence that this form of racial discrimination exists very far and very wide in our country. Token admission of it without action, token ratification of international conventions without legislation, is just not good enough. What is required are strong, operable, measures designed to eliminate racial discrimination in order that a more free and equal Australian society can emerge from the scourge of prejudice. Who can say that in the past there has not been abundant evidence of prejudice within the country? Who can say that they have not heard the words pommy’, ‘wog’, ‘dago’, ‘refo’ and those sorts of words used quite commonly in our community.
The Bill does not operate only on a legal front. It recognises also that racial discrimination cannot be curbed solely by legal means. I suppose on that point I could perhaps agree in a very limited way with what Senator Greenwood had to say. Sure, just sheer legalism will not eradicate this scourge from within our community. Emphasis is placed on the need for and promotion of educational programs, and that is what is involved in this legislation. It is concerned with research programs and studies in order to achieve understanding about human relations, to achieve understanding about human beings, to achieve tolerance and friendship among all people living in Australia regardless of racial and ethnic differences. That, of course, is what the Liberal Party constitution stands for. Those members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party who have some doubts about the basic objectives of this piece of legislation ought to read their constitution.
The legislation sets out to form a community relations council which is to be set up pursuant to section 3 1 for that express purpose. I am grateful for the small mercy that at least Mr W. C. Wentworth in another place said that he would support that portion of the legislation which seeks to implement the Convention and to carry out a program of education in order that racial discrimination is no longer fostered in our community. On the third front against racial discrimination the Bill provides for the settlement of alleged racial discrimination by non-legal means. These functions are to be carried out by the Commissioner for Community Relations. Senator Sheil, who preceded me in the debate, seemed to think that if some responsibility were passed on to an eminent person within the community to examine and regulate these problems of discrimination it would result in the setting up some form of bureaucracy and that that should be avoided at all costs. The fact that he made that comment is not hard to understand because Senator Sheil comes from the most racist State in Australia, the State of Queensland.
In the event that the Commissioner is unable to effect a settlement, court proceedings may be instituted. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that, in the context in which I have expressed the sentiments, legalism does not assume a paramount importance. According to the legislation, every endeavour is to be made by the Commissioner to settle the matter, to promote understanding, to deal with the lesser excesses of racial discrimination in a non-legal manner. Compulsory conferences between the parties concerned and the Commissioner are provided for in the legislation. The emphasis is not on legalism. The emphasis is on negotiation, persuasion and agreement. A discretionary flexibility exists in the carrying out of these duties. I point out to Senator Greenwood that they are not legal proceedings. The very nature of the problem demands that flexibility should exist and should be utilised by those charged with the responsibility. In order that these functions can be carried out it is also necessary, however, that penalties exist for non-attendance or failure to comply with the direction to attend the conference.
Last year I was a representative of the Senate at the conference in London of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I witnessed racial discrimination in that country. In fact, I saw the start of a march which had as its purpose the prevention of coloured migration to England. I did not witness the unfortunate death of the student leader, but I was appalled at the attitude of the ordinary people of England. They considered that their social and economic problems could be eliminated by the sheer simplistic approach of stopping coloured migration. It was a matter of great shame and regret that I witnessed people being whipped up in the hysteria of racialism in that country. It is to be hoped that we can avoid that sort of experience in our country, but I wonder whether we can when I hear honourable senators opposite and when I read the outmoded and outdated attitudes expressed in the other place by people who hitherto slavishly wedded themselves to the white Australia policy.
The role of education in eradicating social discrimination cannot be over-emphasised, and the Bill does precisely that. The role can be made more meaningful and effective if expressions and actions of racial discrimination are prohibited. No longer will it be possible for misguided racially biased information to be circulated without the threat of sanction. The freedom of speech of the individual is to be restricted by the measures of the Act no more than by the restriction imposed by our laws of defamation. Without this legal sanction the Bill would have little effect in curbing racial discrimination. The Bill would be nothing more than an empty declaration of good intent or a belated recognition that racial discrimination exists in our country. No one could assert that there is no racial discrimination in Australia. The campaign by which the Opposition Parties profited in the Riverina in May 1974 is to their everlasting shame. They did not decry the campaign against the Minister for Immigration in the first Whitlam Government. They did not disown the propaganda that sought to defeat a Minister because he was carrying out a humane and enlightened immigration policy. The gentleman who today sits in the other place representing the Opposition Parties ought to hang his head in shame because of the sort of propaganda which was carried out in the campaign.
One advertisement which appeared in a newspaper circulating in the Griffith area on 15 May 1975 said this:
If you want an Asian (or African) neighbour vote Labor and leave it to Grassby.
Yet Mr Sullivan is one of those people who only in these last few weeks were criticising the Government in respect of the refugee problem in South Vietnam and were suggesting that we should open the doors to bring in refugees from South-East Asia. He was elected as the member for Riverina because of that dirty, vicious, racist campaign- the most racist campaign that has ever been waged in this country. Yet honourable senators opposite have never once condemned that campaign. In fact, they welcomed that campaign because it gave them some political advantage.
One has only to look at the record. Australia scores another first as being the only nation in the modern world to succeed in exterminating a distinct race of people. I think it is significant that the perverse character who refused leave to Senator Coleman to table documents on racism comes from the State that carried out a policy of genocide of its Aborigines. Tasmania exterminated its Aborigines in the last century. That fact ought to be a constant reminder to us of what happens when people advocate armchair fashion attitudes and policies against discrimination and do nothing. That ought to be a living memory to us of what doing nothing and saying nothing means to an indigenous people. Who thinks that words are stronger than deeds- those who deny the existence of racism, those who talk about prejudice as if it does not exist, those who say this legislation ought not to be carried and those who are concerned to protect the guilty rather than the innocent victims of racial discrimination? If a racial discrimination Bill ought to have been in operation at any time it was at the time that the Tasmanian Aborigines were being exterminated by the settlers in that State. We did not have to kill them; we just waited to see them die. In the prevailing atmosphere of that .period of our history very few members of the conservative parties raised a voice about the events in that State. We made their conditions unbearable. We took away their cultural heritage. That happened not only to Tasmanian Aborigines but to Aborigines generally. We take away their land, their self-respect, and we impose our system which we say is superior. We condone and support inequities while claiming it is unintentional. All of us are guilty, by our passive conduct in the past, of inaction which this Bill seeks to redress in a small way.
In 1967 I was moved by a poem which Kath Walker wrote. Copies were distributed throughout Australia on Aboriginal Observance Day. I wish to recite the poem to the Senate because I think it puts something of our responsibilities to the Aborigines and something of the compensation that ought to be paid to these people to whom hitherto we have paid very little attention and whom this Bill is dedicated to help as much as it is dedicated to help all the other disadvantaged people. Kath Walker wrote:
We who came late to civilisation,
Missing a gap of centuries,
When you came we marvelled and admired,
But with foreboding.
We had so little but we had happiness,
Each day a holiday,
For we were people before we were citizens,
Before we were ratepayers,
Tenants, customers, employees, parishioners.
How could we understand
White man’s gradings, rigid and unquestioned,
Your sacred totems of Lord and Lady,
Highness and Holiness, Eminence, Majesty.
We could not understand
Your strange cult of uniformity,
This mass obedience to clocks, time-tables.
Puzzled, we wondered why
The importance to you, urgent and essential,
Of ties and gloves, shoe-polish, uniforms.
New to us were jails and orphanages,
Rents and taxes, banks and mortgages.
We who had so few things, the prime things,
We had no policemen, lawyers, middlemen,
Brokers, financiers, millionaires.
So they bewildered us, all the new wonders,
Stocks and shares, real estate,
Compound interest, sales and investments.
Oh, we have benefited, we have been lifted
With new knowledge, a new world opened.
Suddenly caught up in white man ways
Gladly and gratefully we accept,
And this is necessity.
But remember, white man, if life is for happiness,
You too, surely, have much to change.
I think it expresses the debt which we owe to those whose culture we sought to supplant and on whom we sougth to impose our civilisation. It might be said that our inaction was fostered by a lack of information or by mistaken information in respect of matters of race which had fostered intolerance and ignorance for the 200 years that we have held this continent.
We have said that Aborigines cannot take drink because of some physical disability, that their manner of drinking is at fault. We have said that Aborigines cannot drink spirits and wines. These views are inaccurate, in my opinion, and are not based on evidence and are misleading in that they attempt to attribute to a race an effect which excessive drinking would have on any race. We do not need to look too far in this chamber to see what excessive drinking does. To say the least, it is hypocritical for white Australians to say that. Our consumption of alcoholic beverages per head per year is over 130 litres of beer, 9 litres of wine and 1 litre of spirits. We should notturn upon the Aborigines as we do and fail to realise that the same situation applies equally to the white population as it does to the Aborigines. There is abundant evidence in this country at this point of time of puny public officials in central Australia and the Northern Territory who take it upon themselves to say to an Aboriginal woman or man that they are not to get social services or child endowment because in the puny mind of those officials the Aborigines might spend the money in a way that does not suit the custom of the white man. This Bill will make those public officials culpable. It will enable those of us who have a social conscience to say that such officials do not have the right to discriminate against Mr A or Mrs B because they are Aborigines or because they are members of some migrant community. It is hypocritical and racist for us to hold the opinion that little assistance ought to be given to the Aborigines because they take every opportunity to drink themselves into stupidity with any money they receive while we support and make contributions to organisations whose prime function is to deal with alcoholics, when we see in this Parliament members who are unable to handle alcohol properly. It is to be hoped that opinions and attitudes will not stand the test of inquiry and assessment which this Bill is designed to promote.
There still exists in our community the view that Aborigines are unable to manage their own affairs and property. This is particularly so in Queensland. Discrimination against the Aborigine in the administration of the criminal law and in the enjoyment of civil, political and technical rights still exists. There is abundant evidence of this fact. I refer to a report by Dr Elizabeth Eggleston to a seminar in 1974. She said that the fact that proportionately more Aborigines than whites are sentenced to imprisonment or denied bail in Australia has been amply demonstrated. Subsequently Professor Wootten as he then was, now Mr Justice Wootten, gave evidence before the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. He said:
This argument seeks to perpetuate the effects of past handicaps to the advantage of those who did not suffer them. In the past 180 years Aborigines have suffered enormous handicaps in Australian society by comparison with whites, commencing with violent dispossession of their land and destruction of their social fabric, and continuing through various forms of legal, social and economic discrimination.
It would be the height of hypocrisy for white Australians now to say to Aborigines that from here on the race must be on equal terms, without taking into account the 180 years start which white Australians have given themselves. This is particularly unfair when one considers how much power, prestige, affluence and education in the white community has been built on the exploitation of land from which the whites ousted blacks.
This Bill will outlaw the more outrageous overt abuses. Opposition to the sanctions within the proposed law must be viewed as equivalent to opposition to the Bill. I do not know what amendments Senator Greenwood and his colleagues will seek to make. If those amendments do not alter the substance, purpose and objectives of this Bill the Government is prepared to accept them. However, if they do seek to mutilate and destroy the substance of the Bill we will fight them and seek to defeat them.
Under the provisions of this Bill it will be unlawful for a person, ami gst other things, to do any act involving a distinction, a restriction or a preference based on colour, race, descent or national or ethnic origin. Many of the existing practices of racial discrimination will be outlawed. No longer will it be possible for people to be refused access to public places by reason of their race, a question which was raised by one of the previous speakers on the Government side. No longer, I hope, will policemen in Sydney be able to discriminate against Aborigines who drink in hotels around the Redfern area where the paddy-wagons draw up every Friday night at about a quarter to 10. Unless the Aborigines leave to go back to their places of abode they are the ones who are arrested and charged with drunkenness whereas the whites, who are in a similar state of inebriation, are allowed to proceed by their cars and by other forms of transport to their homes. It will become possible now for those public officials to be charged with discrimination if they persist in their unfair and discriminatory practices which are synoymous with the activities of certain policemen in the Redfern area, activities have been noted by lawyers of substance in the region, activities which are continuing to this very day to the everlasting disgrace of sections of the New South Wales police force.
No longer will people be refused employment because of race. No longer will people be able to do what has been done in several universities in this country where people have been discriminated against for positions within the university because of their race or their political point of view. No longer will people be disadvantaged financially in the acquisition of rented premises by reason of their race. The continuing practice, which is prevalent in the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, of not accepting tenants because of their racial background or accepting them on condition that they pay a sum of money in excess of that which would be asked of Senator Greenwood or Senator Gietzelt, will no longer be permitted under this Bill. People who indulge in such practices will be in breach of the law.
This legislation is long overdue and it is to the everlasting shame of the Opposition Parties that a Bill of this sort was not part of their mandate and was not part of their legislative and social responsibilities when they ratified it in 1966. They sat on the sidelines for 6 long years, years of inept government, years of inadequate government, years in which they were concerned only with sending Australian troops to fight in an unwinnable war and not with the disadvantaged people in our country. They had within their means the opportunity to bring into force legislation to which they are now prepared to give lip service. Even this year in the town of Glen Innes in New South Wales there was a demonstration by some residents because the Housing Commission of New South Wales had allocated houses to Aborigines in that town. To the credit of the New South Wales Housing Commission, it stood its ground and made those homes available to the indigenous people of this country. One would imagine, when one listens to the Opposition, that we have never had a problem associated with racial discrimination in Australia.
I would like to refer honourable senators to what happened to the displaced professional people- the displaced doctors- who came to this country as a result of the great tragedy of World War II. I refer to an article which quotes from a book written by Professor Egon F. Kunz, Senior Research Fellow in the Demography Department of the Australian National University, entitled ‘The Intruders, Refugee Doctors in Australia’. I would like to indicate to honourable senators that the previous Conservative Administration, during the 23 years that it was in office, did little or nothing to prevent these things happening to these unfortunate people. In this report attention is drawn to the problems faced by medical doctors brought to Australia between 1947 and 1954 as refugees from war-torn Europe to become labourers, cane cutters, filing clerks and suicide cases. We opened our hearts, we brought them here and then we began a policy of discrimination. This period, in my view, is the most damning indictment of the Australian Medical Association and the State and Commonwealth governments from 1948 to the mid 1960s when they permitted this very small organisation which I think represents approximately .07 per cent of the population, to be kept out of that little closed shop. That little union of prejudiced men and women practising as doctors, aided and abetted by conservative governments, denied any opportunity to these people, who were more eminent in many respects than those who were practising medicine in this country, solely because they were displaced persons from war-torn Europe, to carry out their profession. Worse still occurred because they were placed in the most menial tasks. They were placed in positions of inferiority in hospitals and were acting as orderlies when, in many cases, they had capacities and skills far beyond those of the medical superintendents. Surely members of the Opposition Parties remember the sort of racially discriminative practices that took place in the immediate postwar years.
We have had the opportunity in the last few days to examine the forms of discrimination practised against the migrant population in our country by the insurance companies, those great citadels of capital accumulation. It is all right for honourable senators to sit back with a smirk on their faces. The fact is that 2 million people in Australia at this moment were not born in Australia, and every one of those 2 million people has been discriminated against by the insurance companies and by a variety of other public and private organisations. Personal and life insurance contracts disclose racially discriminatory clauses. A presumption of inferiority in respect of certain races is the only interpretation which can be put on the policy of some of the major insurance companies. Yet honourable senators opposite seek to defend those policies and at the same time say that they are prepared to support this important piece of legislation but they give only lip service to its principles.
What is in the policy manual of one major Australian operating company- the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd? It will not insure persons other than of European race, persons such as Chinese, Maoris, Hindus and so on. These people are required to be dealt with under special instructions from the office with which the representative corresponds. Full information has to be obtained should any likely proposal be under consideration. The field officer is obliged to send a confidential report. What does the company say? It says that Mediterranean races are not eligible for weekly benefits. These are the benefits that apply to sickness and compensation for injury, the ordinary benefits to which the average Australian has ready access. Yet these insurance companies say that the Mediterranean races are not eligible for weekly benefits.
What do the insurance companies seek to do? They seek to place restrictions, if not a barrier, upon the endeavours of people who have been naturalised to be treated as Australian people. I have naturalised thousands of these people in my capacity in local government. I never realised until I was elected to this place the degree of discrimination to which the previous LiberalCountry Party Government turned a blind eye for so many years. It took no steps to eradicate these forms of discrimination. It was not until the United Nations and other international organisations drew the attention of the Australian Government to these forms of discrimination that we had an opportunity to compensate these people for the forms of discrimination which have been practised. Although insurance company spokesmen have appeared on television and have sought to defend their indefensible position, today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ says that the manual of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd still today after the denials of the last 2 days on television contains that proposed policy holders must be able to speak, write and understand English without any difficulty. Good heavens above, my senatorial colleague, Senator Mcintosh, with his broad Scottish accent might come within the discriminatory provisions of this insurance company. The insurance company says that proposed policy holders must speak, write and understand English. According to the official figures 2 million people in this country were bom outside Australia and they have the greatest difficulty in understanding the English language. Even the updated manual of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd still proposes that people of Mediterranean races shall not have the benefit of insurance unless they can speak, write and understand the English language.
Have the insurance companies not heard of the word ‘interpreter’? Do they not know that people can interpret and that there are people within the community who can explain the provisions to those who want to take insurance policies? The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, which seems to be the acme of all knowledge according to this place in recent days, states:
The claim is that this was to ensure that they understood the terms and conditions of the policy.
Who is fooling whom? Is it the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd or the members of the Opposition in this place? Are all business contracts to operate subject to these provisions? Does Senator Wright, as a lawyer, insist that everybody who goes into his office for legal advice has to understand, speak and write English without any difficulty before he gives a legal opinion. I understand he is quite adept at giving such legal opinions. I challenge the company to deny that the provision is not racist in operation and intent. This is one of the companies that have the temerity to challenge the established and declared policy as enunciated in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 2 occasions that we shall establish an Australian Government Insurance Office in which there shall be no discrimination on sex, race or religion.
This company and other companies with similar provisions are acting racially. This Bill will outlaw these provisions. I hope that the commonsense of the Senate will prevail. The latest manual I have states:
People bom on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, with the exception of the French, are not able to obtain sickness and accident insurance.
That is the latest manual. This was a general principle which was breached by the Colonial Life Insurance Company and extended in the following way: Greeks and Italians who are professional people and were educated in Australia were able to be insured. Subsequently the manual goes on to say that each case will be dealt with on its merits. Yet honourable senators suggest that no need exists for this legislation. We are indebted to Senator Coleman for her endeavour to read into the record of this debate propaganda that has been circulated. One of the documents I have refers to the great Australian takeover and asks: ‘Do you know that Australia has been taken over from within?’ Another heading states: ‘You conscience versus the Australian identity’. This information is circulated by the Immigration Restriction Council.
Senator Greenwood has the temerity to suggest that this can be put in the same category as those philosophical propositions of communism and facism, that the question of racism is part of a similar pattern and that it is in fact a philosophical position. Do honourable senators opposite say that they believe therefore that racism did not have its origins in the superior race theories of Adolf Hitler and in some of those racist groups that operate within the United States which clearly are gaining in influence within our own country. One has only to look at the propaganda from the Rights Committee that operates in the far north coast area of New South Wales and in Queensland to see that that organisation makes racism and discrimination a cornerstone of its policies.
This material incites and fosters racism. If the problems are to be overcome by research and education programs such biased, emotive racially discriminatory material ought not to be tolerated if its effects are to foster racism. I submit that this material does foster racism. A penalty of $5,000 is payable by publishers and distributors of material intending to promote hostility of a racially discriminatory nature. The Bill seeks to foster education programs and settlement programs which may deal effectively in time with some of the minor breaches of the Act. Substantially the Bill seeks to re-educate the Australian people, to bring about the understanding that all men are brothers and that race is not a question that ought to divide us. It is a question that we all ought to recognise. We should be able to say that we are one people, one nation. The purpose of the Bill is to bring people together by outlawing alienating behaviours and practices. It is the subtle unspoken discrimination which has to be eradicated. An unspoken inhuman discrimination- which I am sure was the substance of the behaviour of the insurance companies and of many others- from time to time manifests itself in a racist comment or joke and maintains the alienation felt by the migrant and the Aboriginal from the so-called original Australians.
One does not have to talk to many migrants or many Aborigines to appreciate how much they react to the attitude that exists amongst so many of the Australian people, to realise the alienation and confusion felt by the children of migrants in our schools. We are talking of the children of more than 2 million people who have come to Australia since the end of the war. Members of the Opposition parties in this place have praised the migration policy which was introduced by the late Arthur Calwell and which was continued by the previous Government and by the present Government. Surely it is our responsibility to do something about these people and the children of these people- to bring them up in a neighbourhood and in a community free of any form of racial prejudice. The is exemplified by a case which came to my notice. Recently a 12-year-old Jewish boy who was subjected to racial comment and abused on a football field felt so incensed, because he believed that was living in a free society and because he believed in the policies of the Australian people, that he sought the telephone number of the Australian AttorneyGeneral in order to lodge his complaints.
There are many instances racial injustices but time will not permit me to detail them to the Senate. The legal and civil procedures and the educational program which will evolve under this legislation will assist to bring about an end to these injustices. It will make more difficult the task of those who seek to maintain a racist postion wherever they are- whether it be in government, in private enterprise, in organisations, in clubs, on the sporting fields, in schools and in our communities. It will make it easier for people to defend themselves against racial injustices. It is important to note that this legislation will not play favourites in its application. It will apply to all Australians regardless of their background. Unfortunately Senator Sheil is not present in the chamber to hear that. The legislation will apply to minority groups as well as to the majority of Australians. It will seek to protect the rights of all people in this community, whatever their social, political and ethnic background. It can be said that the legal rights of the individual will not be handicapped by the operation of this legislation. Legal aid will be provided where necessary in proceedings before a judge which will effectively remove the cost burden involved in such proceedings.
In conclusion I will examine very briefly the position with other governments in Australia. At present in Western Australia Sir Charles Court is resisting the move to establish a royal commission to inquire into police brutality towards Aborigines in that State. The Queensland Government is resisting the decision of the Australian people which was given in a referendum which was carried in the 1960s. It is resisting the Australian Government’s endeavour to get land rights for Aborigines. There are instances concerning organisations such as the Good Neighbour Councils. I must confess that in thinking about my association with these bodies in retrospect, I believe that because they were made up mainly of Australians who wanted to help migrants, there was a tendency to help only those who could understand our language. There was a failure to recognise that we had a greater responsibility to help those who came from other countries and who were unable to understand or comprehend our language.
The Australian Government has taken some important initiatives in this area. For the first time in the post-war years, a prominent person who came to Australia in the immediate postwar years- I refer to Jim Bayutti- was appointed by this Government to a post on the board of Qantas Airways Ltd. The ‘National Times ‘ referred to that appointment in this way:
The appointment was something of a milestone in this country’s relations with its migrants, who, by and large, have been viewed as not much more than useful industrial fodder, and treated in official circles with an indifference bordering on contempt.
In the almost 30 years since the post-war immigration program began, no New Australian has been offered a Government appointment as senior as the Qantas post offered to Bayutti.
That indicates very clearly the policy which was practised by the previous Government. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Australian Council of Churches wrote to me on 2 1 April 1 975 in the following terms:
We write to urge your support of the Racial Discrimination Bill.
After careful study of the Bill in 1974 by our Solicitors and by members of the Council, the General Meeting of the Australian Council of Churches, held in Canberra in February, passed the following resolution:
It was moved and seconded That this general Meeting of the Australian Council of Churches supports the Racial Discrimination Bill, 1974, and informs the AttorneyGeneral of this, at the same time requesting him to ensure that those minority groups which suffer from dis.crirnination have substantial representation on the Community Relations Council which will be set up if the Bill is enacted.
This resolution was conveyed to the Attorney-General, and we now draw your attention to it, urging your support for the Bill and also for the request for minority groups to be substantially represented on the Community Relations Council, if and when it is set up.
We had heard specious arguments, apologetic speeches and a condemnation of the Government’s endeavour in this Bill. All I can say is that those who cannot find it in them to support this Bill will realise that they are off-side with majority opinion throughout the world and ultimately throughout Australia. It is up to those people to examine their consciences and to rectify their failure to appreciate their responsibilities in the past by unanimously supporting this Bill.
- Mr President, I wish to point out in preface to my remarks this evening that in my opinion over-government is as undesirable as under-government. In recent years there has been a tremendous increase in legislative provisions covering areas not previously regarded as ones in which there should be governmental direction. Modern society certainly has requirements within itself which make governmental participation necessary, but I believe that it is vitally important that the old adage about moderation in all things should be kept well and truly in our minds at all times. One hears continually in ordinary day to day living criticisms of excessive government, excessive regimentation and excessive intrusion into what the average citizen regards as matters that he himself is best qualified to determine without being pushed around. To my mind the Racial Discrimination Bill 1975 that is before us is, in its present form, in many aspects of the over-government type and is restrictive of the freedom of Australian citizens to express their opinions freely and to conduct their own affairs in accordance with the dictates of their consciences.
In considering this Bill I have tried to come to terms with the underlying philosophy of its provisions. I believe that the word ‘race’ was largely derived from the works of Georges Buffon, the French naturalist, scientist and author of the voluminous ‘Histoire Naturelle’ which was published in the 1 8th century- I believe between 1750 and 1800. It was a huge work of some 44 volumes. I have no doubt that the word ‘race’, with all its added emotional connotations, has helped to create the racist myth which has in turn inspired the bizarre form of political racism which the world has seen during this century.
Racial discrimination’ is a term which should be used very carefully. Personally, I define ‘racial discrimination’ as an expression of malice towards any human being because of his race. I feel it is important to realise that much of what passes for racial conflict may actually be more cultural or economic in nature. The anti-racist, psuedo moralists of today who seem to be obsessed by race as the all important issue and who try to convince us that race is what it is all about are, I feel, leading us astray. To blame everything on race is a cheap excuse and an evasion of personal responsibility. After all, something can be done about economics, education, culture, skills and so on but no one can change his or her race or colour. Personally, I adhere to a Christian ethic as foundational to my attitudes. I am very much aware of the very clear passages in the New Testament in which so-called racism has no place. For example, verse 28 of the third chapter Galatians reads as follows:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.
This goes right back to a time well before George Buffon. It was the well known Apostle Paul who delivered his famous speech in Athens more than 19 centuries ago in which he confronted the Greek philosophers with the great truth of the common ancenstry of all nations, even quoting from their own writings. I quote a passage from Acts, chapter 17, verse 28:
For we are indeed God ‘s offspring.
Therefore, I have no personal difficulty in agreeing fully with the assertion that racial discrimination is evil. At the same dme, I am aware that the State must be governed, not by revelation, but by reason; not by an abstract rationality but by an adherence to positive values. Is there anyone in this Senate or this Parliament who can produce a satisfactory model of a well functioning inter-racial or multi-racial society? Can it be shown that any country has more harmonious inter-racial or inter-cultural relationships than Australia? If so, which are these countries and by which means did such a model come about?
I fully agree with Kath Walker’s suggestion, which certainly manifests a great deal of commonsense, when she says:
Let’s forget about the colours of faces and just deal with human beings.
Earlier this evening Senator Gietzelt quoted from the writings of Kath Walker. I feel that the words I quoted from her writings are fundamental. I am not so sure that coercive measures will help to combat prejudice and discrimination. I believe that conciliation and education, which I see as the prime tasks of the Race Relations Commissioner will have far more effect than the form of judicial action which may be taken by him in accordance with the proposals of the Bill which is at present before us. Words like ‘racism reigns supreme in this country’ and ‘it is the major evil of the century’ and, as we heard tonight from Senator Gietzelt, ‘racism abounds in this country’, are highly emotive words which I feel must be challenged. We all know that the provisions regarding the prohibition on propagatory war, national, racial or religious hatred, was written into the United Nations International Covenant at the insistence of the Soviet delegates.
What about class hatred which has caused the killing of millions of people? Why was the word class ‘ left out of clause 9 of the Bill when it mentions acts ‘involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedon in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life ‘? There is a vitally important area of discrimination which, I feel, could cause more harm, hurt and damage than many other forms of discrimination. It is class struggle that has caused so much misery. Look at the time of the French Revolution or the actions within the Soviet throughout the years, where the animosity was due to class distinction between those who believe in a capitalistic system and those who believed in a communist system. I believe in these instances there is a discriminatory background of class hatred which should be looked at extremely closely because it provides a base from which a terrific amount of suffering has occurred in this world.
I believe that discrimination in the sense of making or constituting a difference in or between people is morally wrong in whatever way it comes about. However, as soon as we want to combat discrimination on the basis of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin and class, we should adhere to the great tradition of this country that a person is innocent unless proven guilty. The person should never be regarded as being guilty unless he is given the opportunity to prove his innocence. The law should at all times insist that it should be proven beyond any reasonable doubt that a person has committed an offence. Therefore, all clauses in this Bill related to judicial procedures should be subject, I believe, to intense scrutiny with the purpose of safeguarding that precious traditional right which Australians enjoy. It is in this spirit that we should examine the clauses of this Bill when it has reached the Committee stage.
Last but not least, I should like to draw attention to the far more dangerous form of racism which is promoted today in the name of scientific progress. So-called ‘scientific racism’ is founded upon and finds its justification in evolution and polygenesis. The facts are that the world is one race but the modern attitude of the so-called intelligentsia in many instances is leading to the promotion of the idea that all animosities between people are genetically based. The New School- the Nouvelle Ecole- founded on evolution, is committed to playing out 2 theses of neo-Darwinism and polygenesis and to underlining the inequalities and the profound differences which are alleged to exist between the races and to translating various degrees of evolution in the transforming movement of these races towards new species ‘between which unions will probably be no longer be fertile’. What rubbish! In 1972 the Nobel prizewinner in physics, W. Shokley of Stanford University, suggested the sterilisation of those people below a certain intelligence quotient. There was no hiding of the fact that this ought to apply firstly to individuals of a certain colour. This form of racism, which is progagated in a variety of journals under different names, should be detected and effectively eliminated, in spite of the fact that it appears under the cloak of scientific respectability.
Finally I want to say that racism is an expression of a particular philosophy of life by which the superiority of one human being over another is believed to be a legitimate form for a social order. I believe most firmly that it is not the ordinary man in the street, whatever prejudices he may foster, who is guilty of this kind of racism. It is, as I have said before, through the so-called intelligentsia in high places of learning that the disastrous philosophy of racial warfare is created, nurtured and spread. Therefore in my opinion any racial discrimination Bill should include a reference to the immoral ideologies by which racism is promoted at the expense of the dignity of humanity and all its individual members. I look forward to the Committee stage of the debate. I trust that as a result of certain amendments being carried this legislation will finally emerge as good, effective and just legislation and legislation that is actually able to achieve, in a way in which the Australian people would desire it, the elimination of whatever discrimination is present in our country.
-The Senate is debating the Racial Discrimination Bill. I want to speak briefly to the Bill. Senator Laucke, who preceded me in the debate, confused me with some of the attitudes he took towards the Bill, particularly that which he expressed as a desire to abolish class discrimination. It is thought in certain parts of the world that the only way in which that can be done is by the abolishing of classes. In a sense I suppose that I subscribe to that view, but I think that it should be a slow and painless process rather than the painful sort that Senator Laucke might have had in mind.
I turn to the basic principles of this Bill, which I do not think were discussed during the last few contributions to the debate. More general matters have been dealt with. The first of those basic principles is that racial discrimination should be proscribed by law and that fundamental rights should be guaranteed without distinction as to race. I think that the essential stating of that principle is contained in clause 9 of the Bill. It is the view of the Government and the authors of the Bill that the written expression of rights is an important way of preserving them and of ensuring that they remain preserved and that people have a better opportunity in that circumstance of knowing what are their rights. The infringement of those rights would then become much more conspicuous in our community. So the outlawing of racial discrimination by legal sanctions is also a basis for changing community standards.
The second principle that I think is inherent in the Bill is that there should be a comprehensive set of legal remedies for the enforcement of rights. Those legal remedies are set out in clause 26 of the Bill and are, I believe, to be subject to some amendments that have been suggested by the Opposition. But the emphasis in the enforcement of those rights is on civil rather than criminal sanctions. The reason for that, of course, has already been expressed during the course of this debate, namely, that it is felt that the imposition of criminal sanctions would in fact exacerbate rather than lessen the problems with which this Bill is concerned.
The third principle contained in the Bill is the emphasis on conciliation machinery for the enforcement of rights. Senator Greenwood had something to say about this section of the Bill. He cast some doubts on the constitutional validity of some of the clauses of the Bill. I thought that throughout his speech he was constantly casting doubts in a prophetic sort of way in speaking of the future of this Bill. In the silence of my room I dubbed him ‘Doubting Ivor’ rather than the prophet Doubting Thomas. In the view of the Government the importance of conciliation procedures cannot be over-estimated. It is a practice which has been widely accepted in North America- in both Canada and the United States- in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand. It is felt to be a fairly obvious proposition in the view of the Government that racial tension is best resolved by conciliation and not by enforcement.
As a fourth principle the Bill emphasises the importance of the use of education and other programs to combat racial discrimination. I think that Senator Laucke was saying that this could be said to be high in his priorities in his approach to this legislation. I think that it must be regarded as being very high in the Government’s priorities. The provisions relating to education and research in fact distinguish this legislation from the legislation in the United Kingdom which has not perhaps been as successful as the Government of that country might have wished. A need is seen for the use of positive programs as a supplement to the provisions of the Bill- positive programs of education, cultural exchange, research and activity at a local community level in relation to racial problems. To meet these objectives the functions of the Commissioner for Community Relations are to foster the purposes of the legislation and promote its acceptance in the community and likewise to promote the principles of the United Nations convention on which the legislation is based.
Laws are important, but if they are not backed up by a program of education and research it is felt that this legislation will not be able to go to the length that is desired in helping to solve this problem in Australia. I have said ‘helping to solve this problem in Australia’ because nobody on this side of the House would pretend for one moment that by passing a racial discrimination Bill we are in any way solving the problem of racial discrimination in Australia. I think that the highest we can seriously put it is that we believe- of course, we gather that the Opposition also believes- that the passing of this legislation will assist and facilitate the lessening of racial discrimination in Australia. As I have said before, we lay particular emphasis on education and research in that regard.
So much for the general principles of the Bill, which are, firstly, that for the first time in the history of this country other than in the State of South Australia we have a defined statement of rights; secondly, that there is a comprehensive set of legal remedies for enforcement; thirdly, that there is to be emphasis placed on conciliation; and, fourthly, that there is to be emphasis placed on education and research. Perhaps the most important of those, as I have said, is the last one. At this time one million Australians are involved because approximately one million Australians belong to ethnic minorities in various parts of this country.
Only last week in my fair to muddling city of Melbourne I attended a large inner suburban high school. Eighty-five per cent of the students at that high school were of migrant origin. A large percentage of that 85 per cent had language difficulties. All sorts of forms of subtle discriminations are at work in an institution of education situated in that inner suburb of Melbourne. If we are to progress as a united and cohesive society we have an obligation to do everything in our power to prevent the development of ethnic ghettoes in our community, with the residents discriminated against in employment, in housing, in legal remedies and even in their ability to obtain insurance cover, which is a matter we have heard referred to a lot in the Senate in the last few days. If I can make the simple point in another way- referring again to the city of Melbourne- I wonder how long it is since anybody has seen a labourer employed by the Victorian Railways or the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board who is an Australian by birth and ethnic origin. If one looks at another society such as the United States, the point can be made by saying simply that black may be beautiful but black also is poverty. That point is no better expressed than in a novel like James Baldwin ‘s ‘The Fire Next Time ‘.
I wanted to say something about the role of the Commissioner for Community Relations as a conciliator. The Bill establishes a Commissioner for Community Relations, and again the importance in his role of mediation is emphasised. He has to be an independent and impartial conciliator. That is different from the English legislation. The success of the Canadian human rights commissions such as the one in Ontario is due partly to the emphasis placed on independence and an impartial approach. For example, in the Ontario code the commission is enjoined to inquire into complaints and endeavour to effect a settlement of the matter complained of. He is not asked to determine rights in the same sense as his equivalent is required to do under the British Race Relations Act. The British Race Relations Board is required to make a judgement of the issues between the parties but it has no power to compulsorily acquire evidence as this Bill now before the Senate provides.
So there are 2 fundamental differences between this Bill and the British legislation. The first is that the Board in Britain is required to make a determination; secondly, it has no power to compulsorily acquire evidence; indeed there is a third difference, namely, that the Act in Britain does not establish the same sort of educative function as the Bill now before the Senate. A lot of criticisms have been made of the British Race Relations Board. Indeed, Senator Greenwood spoke of it as if it were much the same sort of thing as is being proposed in this legislation.
– But whole chunks of the British Act are incorporated in this Bill.
-No, Senator, that is not correct. The fact of the matter is that this legislation has been foreshadowed in this Parliament for some time. During that time the Government has taken advice and has considered legislation from, I think, every country which has legislation with a similar purpose. If this legislation has any strong relationship with that of other countries, it is clearly with that of the provinces of Canada and not with the United Kingdom Race Relations Board. But even in England, where the Board is said not to have had a great deal of success, I noted when I was there in 1973 that there was a big debate about the activities of the Race Relations Board, not directed at the existence of the Board but at whether certain machinery provisions under the Act could be changed, and whether they were working as well as they might. That is an important consideration when attempting to make comparisons with legislation in other countries.
I said that the Government had considered closely overseas legislation, and I believe that the more informed Senators on the other side of the House also have taken the trouble to do that. While that is true, the origins of the Bill can be found perhaps in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination which was signed by Australia in 1966. Since 1966 nothing very much happened in this country in relation to racial discrimination until this legislation was introduced. It is an interesting fact and a very happy fact for this country that both major political parties have in their platforms clauses which specifically deplore racial discrimination. The Liberal Party has it and the Government Party has it. So it is a question, not of joining one another in rhetoric about this problem but of determining what should be done, and this legislation is a response to that need.
In 1971 the Australian United Nations Association set up in Australia a committee to combat racism and racial discrimination. That committee, which had the support and co-operation of all the major churches in Australia, most major welfare organisations and both major political parties, made representations to State and Commonwealth governments asking them to introduce legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race. It is not true to say, as Senator Greenwood said earlier in this debate, that that was done. What was done was that the Australian States were asked in the late 1960s to remove specifically discriminatory clauses from their legislation. That is a vastly different thing, and I believe it has been done in most States of Australia, with the possible exception of certain legislation in the State of Queensland. The only State to respond to the request of the United Nations Association committee was the State of South Australia. As the committee reported at the end of 197 1 , South Australia acted quickly to introduce legislation, but no positive response has been received from other governments. I believe the Victorian Government is now considering such legislation, but apart from that, the legislation now before the Senate is the first positive response to the challenge which was thrown out by that committee in 1971.
I want to turn very briefly to the question of the need for this legislation. I believe very strongly that it is necessary. I have my own biases, of course. I am attracted by the notion in the long term of a multi-racial society, both from a genetic point of view and from a cultural point of view, but I realise that there are very grave difficulties in that notion. I have no difficulty with the sort of question which is raised: ‘Would you like your daughter to marry a Malaysian?’ I have in fact advised my sons that they should take every opportunity to do that if it ever comes their way. So my biases in this matter are different from those of some other people. I believe very firmly in this legislation because I believe it is an important step towards changing community standards. I hope I have not offended Senator Sir Magnus Cormack because he is one of the standards which might have to be changed, but there are some who doubt that.
– I was involved in anti-discrimination activities when you were going around in nappies, Senator.
-That may be so, and I hope we will hear more about that from the honourable senator later because the problem is that he did not have much success. When I was going around in nappies there was a lot of racial discrimination in this country and there still is. I see in 1975 a very great need for this legislation, but I recognise that there is a legitimate matter of debate about whether there is a need. Most honourable senators will have read yesterday’s Australian’ in which a letter appeared from a lady who described herself as being of British race. I think her name was Mrs Garnet, but I might have the name wrong. The lady in question took great pains to describe the Racial Discrimination Bill as rubbish, and she used other terminology of a similar kind. That view is one which frequently surfaces, and it was expressed with some force as recently as yesterday in the letter in the ‘Australian’. I refer, for example, to the activities of the League of Rights in Victoria and elsewhere and to the activities of the Immigration Control Association which I think forwards to most honourable senators a copy of its publication ‘Viewpoint’. If one looks at the December 1974 issue of ‘Viewpoint’ as an example- it is one of the least offensive examples I have seen- it will be seen that the issue is devoted to explaining the Association’s activities in the electorate of Riverina at the time of the May 1 974 election. In a number of the advertisements which the Association republished in this publication things like this appear:
If you want an Asian neighbour vote Labor . . .
There are other things of that sort. There is a second advertisement which says that the Government refused to continue the phosphate bounty amounting to $56m. The advertisement goes on to say:
But this year that same Labor Government is giving away six times that amount, $330m, in handouts (gifts) to Asian and African demagogues.
You’ve been robbed.
A further advertisement says:
Don’t let Grassby turn your country into a . . .multicoloured mess.
I affirm the right of Australians to hold those views. They are quite entitled to hold those views and I affirm their right to state them, but in so doing I must ask the Senate to look at the effect of that sort of propaganda in a society such as ours where both political parties condemn this sort of thing; in a society such as ours situated in an Asian region, in a society in which the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting that several thousand refugees from Vietnam should be permitted to come into this country when the Government is regularly admitting migrants from South-East Asian countries according to certain guidelines. Look at it in that context and ask: What sort of effect does that type of pamphlet have on children and people in the sort of communities in which it is disseminated because the implications in it are quite clear? People can say those things. They ought to be able to say those things if they want to, but let us not avoid the implications. The implications of course are that there is something unhealthy and something wrong about having an Asian neighbour, and that there is something unhealthy and something wrong about giving money to people in Asian and African countries and so on and that at another level there is something wrong about a multicoloured country.
I agree with Senator Laucke that of course multi-racial societies have problems. Nobody here is seriously suggesting that passing this legislation we shall introduce a multi-racial society tomorrow and invite all those sorts of problems which are attendant upon societies of that kind. The effect of this sort of propaganda is really, I think, a very insidious one and a very bad one for the people in this community because we have to face up, as every politician and as every national figure in this country keeps telling us, to the fact that we live in a part of the world in which people are of different colour, of different cultures, of different incomes and so on.
If one needs any further example of the activities of the group to which I referred earlier it is interesting to see what it says about this Bill in relation to marriage because this shows not the level of this group’s prejudice but the level of the group’s logic. This group says that under the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Bill and Human Rights Bill and the Victorian Avoidance of Discrimination Bill a person who chooses to marry his or her race, ethnic group, nationality, or religion, and not to marry a person of another race, ethnic group, nationality or religion, does an act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or religion can be prosecuted and could happen under the Racial Discrimination Bill. I can summarise that view. As I understand it, what this group is saying is that according to the view which it is spreading about the Racial Discrimination Bill a person who makes a choice to marry a person of Australian ethnic origin can be prosecuted because that is racially discriminatory, but of course that is just stupid and it is typical of the sort of thing which is printed in this type of publication I referred to earlier.
I want to refer to one other example of this sort of discrimination in our society. Last week there was an event in Melbourne which was described as a march against communism. I understand it was basically a march of women by women for women. Quite a large number of people attended it, including Mr Tony Staley, the honourable member for Chisholm. I again affirm, as I did earlier, the right of people to march against communism. I affirm their right to do that if by so doing they are expressing their dislike of the grey and palsied hand of authoritarianism which exists in so-called communist societies, but observers at that march tell me that the sort of thing which was being said by speakers and displayed on placards and things of that kind was that we should send no medicines, food or hospital supplies to countries in SouthEast Asia because they are Asian countries, and in particular in the case of Vietnam because it is now a communist country. It was said that we should not take into this country any refugees from Vietnam because they are coloured. These are the sorts of things which were being said in this atmosphere of engendered anxiety and so on in this rather depressing and pathetic demonstration which took place in Melbourne last week. I say that in our society we cannot condone these sort of manifestations of fear, neuroticism and anxiety.
I say that this legislation should be supported not because we can hold out great hopes for changing our social and racial attitudes overnight, not because we are going to create some new Utopia here which has not existed anywhere else in the world, not because we are a better people than any other people in the world and therefore are more capable of solving racial problems, but because I believe that it will help us to change our society towards a greater tolerance and acceptance of people of different backgrounds, different colour and so on. I believe that everyone with a sense of national rather than parochial responsibility and everyone who has a humane rather than a materialist priority will support this legislation. I commend it to the Senate.
-To my mind this is a very dangerous piece of legislation. I believe that we would be far better off without it. Unfortunately our governments have developed the view that we must have legislation for everything. In other words, they would like to put us in a straitjacket of legislation so that we could hardly move without offending it in some respect. I believe that we on this side would have been better placed if we had been strong and determined about this legislation and had thrown it out. Unfortunately there is often in public men a timidity that they may offend someone, may lose some votes here or may do something else, but so far as I am concerned it is a case of making a decision on whether it is right or wrong.
I believe that the introduction of legislation such as this will divide the country in many aspects and will cause a good deal of trouble. Can honourable senators imagine what is going to take place when somebody is accused of having done something or of having expressed something in what might be termed an antiracial way? Who does it develop upon to prove that that person did not do it? The accused has to prove that he or she did not do that act or say those words. This puts on the average citizen of this country a load which is very serious and which could be very costly.
– Where did you find that provision, Senator?
Sentor WOOD-According to this Bill if somebody says that a person offends, it is for that person to prove that he did not do it. There is no question about that. We run into hysterics when dealing with some of these aspects, particularly in relation to racism. I almost wept when I heard Senator Gietzelt talking about the great difficulty that some people have as a result of racism and so on. He even made a snide attack on the Good Neighbour Councils which do a remarkably good job for migrants. He implied that they mostly looked after people who could talk English.
Let us get down to basic thinking on these things. We are all human beings. Who does the honourable senator, or I, or anybody else prefer to talk to? Do we prefer to talk with someone with whom we can communicate, or with someone we cannot understand? It is one of those human differences which is very hard to overcome. I recall from my days in local government saying to migrants at naturalisation ceremonies that they should learn the language of this country so that they could talk to people. I told them that if they could talk to people they could communicate and become citizens.
– Do you speak Aboriginal?
– I do not speak Aboriginal. The point is that the language of this country today is English. Under our educational system the Aborigines are being taught English and there should be no great difficulty on the part of Aborigines or people who come to this country if they learn our language. Nobody can argue against that point of view. If you can talk to people or talk with them and you can understand each other you get on better. It is very difficult if you cannot understand each other. The honourable senator should try it. Then he would find out how quickly his enthusiasm for talking to another person will wear out.
I think we have to consider the human aspects of these things. Senator Gietzelt, in that tear jerking speech he made, talked about what some people have gone through, saying that some people are called poms, some people are called wogs and some are called something else. Senator Button mentioned a letter written by an English migrant which was published recently. I also saw a letter from an English migrant who said in a very sensible way that when people called her a pommy she treated it in a jocular fashion. The outcome depends upon one’s outlook- how these things are said and how they are accepted. One English migrant wrote to a newspaper about the British anti-discrimination Bill and indicated the great disturbance and divisions it had caused in that country. I think that this type of Bill now before us is going to do exactly that in this country. Why do we need this Bill? Has there been a great swell of feeling, a revulsion, in this country against people who discriminate against migrants, against people of a different colour, or in other ways?
As honourable senators know, I come from the northern city of Mackay which is the largest sugar-producing centre in Australia. In that area we have quite a number of Italian and Maltese migrants. They mix with the rest of the people and we mix with them and I would say those people are accepted wherever they go in the community. Over a period of time many of them have become quite wealthy citizens of the community as a result of their activities in the sugar industry. I have not found any great discrimination against people like that. Naturally people of different nationalities have a tendency to move more with each other, with people from their own countries, but to a very great extent the migrants in the Mackay area mix with the basic Australian community. In the Mackay area we also have a South Sea Island population who are a relic of the day when coloured people, the Kanaka people, were brought to the sugar industry because people had the idea that white people could not do hard labour in the tropics and live. That has been shown to be a fallacy because probably the people in that area are the healthiest people in Australia. That area has the best climate in this country.
– Where is this?
– I refer to the people in north Queensland. I am quite sure that the South Sea Island people are well regarded. There are some that I call friends. They speak to me in a friendly way. Only last weekend there was a conference of South Sea Island people in my city of Mackay. I met a lady from Sydney who probably spoke the most beautiful English I have heard and who was interested in the history of the place and the buildings. We talked with and tried to help that person. I found her to be a charming woman to talk to because she could speak the language; she spoke much better English than many of us. It is the human aspect that matters. There is no question that if you like a person and can communicate with him you will be friendly. You will not stand off and act in an anti-social way. Consider what we do amongst ourselves. Can we be accused of discrimination because a particular person goes to morning tea with me or somebody else goes with another person to morning tea or afternoon tea, or to supper or to have their meals? Can that be said to be discrimination? Many of us prefer the company of certain other members of Parliament. Honourable senators, on the Government side and on this side, find that there are little groups of people who become very friendly and gravitate to one another. People in the respective groups in the party, couples, quartettes, or whatever they might be, do not look on other members as being racist because they do not go to morning tea and afternoon tea with them. We accept that some people like certain people more than others. When we are talking about discrimination, the term can have a very wide aspect.
– We are not going to outlaw that.
– I should not think you would. The honourable senator is a legal man; so I ask him where this discrimination ends. I heard the sad story of Senator Gietzelt. I exonerate Senator Button from such remarks because he did have the good sense to say that apart from one or two speeches this really has not been a debate on an anti-discrimination Bill but it has been more like a debate on a migration Bill.
We have been speaking of discrimination and racism but let us consider where this exists. To hear Senator Gietzelt and other honourable senators talk one would think that Australians were the worst in the world in relation to racism. One speaker quoted some man who had come from overseas and said that we were the worst racist country in the world. We have these people who come here and express their superintelligence and like to let us know that they know more than anybody else and that they are keen observers. They probably go to one city only and get their impressions. You see this happening time after time in respect of women’s fashions and how they look after their faces. People come here and say that the skin of Australian women is the worst in the world. Probably such people have never met more than a dozen women in this country. People make these generalisations but what they say is just a lot of nonsense. They are seeking publicity.
Where do we have a deep division over racism? What has happened in Australia between what might be termed the basic white Australians, the Aborigines, the Maltese, the Italians, the Greeks and everybody else who has come to this country? Have we had any deep divisions? What happens between us and the Jewish people and what happens between the different churches and all that sort of thing? Has any honourable senator heard of anybody in this country being shot over these issues? We are said to be a terrible crowd of racists. What happens? Some poor boy has been picked on at school. Somebody has said something about somebody else, And these are thought to be vital national issues. Really, it is silly. The whole issue gets down to the simple humanities of people. No matter where one is one will always hear somebody speak of somebody else disparagingly and one will hear somebody speak of others very nicely. These are the differences in people. An honourable senator mentions that he is encouraging his sons to marry Malays. He decided to get married; I am a bachelor. Am I to be accused of discriminating against women or are women to be accused of discriminating against me? Where do we finish up in this business?
– When are you going to finish?
-I will finish all right. We in Australia are just amateurs in racial discrimination. In fact, as somebody who has travelled the world and who has studied recent history, I expect somebody to say that Australia is the weakest nation on earth because its inhabitants have very little racism in them. Let me give an illustration. People in this country have been bending over backwards in playing up to the Aborigines. There is more news on the radio and in the Press about Aborigines these days than there is about other Australians.
– Do you like Aborigines?
– I am very glad to hear the interjection from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I consider him to be a very sensible Minister because he does not get carried away with his portfolio. He has a sensible attitude to the matter and I pay him that tribute. We have been bending over backwards for the Aborigines. There is so much talk about them that I have often wondered whether there are 13 million Aborigines or part Aborigines in this country and 150 000 whites. That is the kind of talk that goes on. What do we get out of what we do? Do we get any credit? Of course we do not.
I read in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ this afternoon that Australia is a racist country. Who made that statement? It was made by a fellow who is employed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and to whom the Government is paying a very handsome salary. It was made by a chap named Charles Perkins. Charles Perkins has been featured as being an Aboriginal. He is not an Aboriginal. He is much more a white Australian than he is an Aboriginal. We should wake up to the fact that when people are less than half blooded Aborigines- when they are threequarter white or even seven-eighths white- they are no longer Aborigines. We are just being treated as suckers because of the way in which we have been carted along in this regard. If people are Aborigines, they are Aborigines; if they are not Aborigines, they are not. The pure blooded Aborigines practise racism against fellows like Perkins and others. They look down on those people and they do not call them Aborigines. The are practising a form of racism against those people. Perkins has gone to England and has called this country the worst racist country. Who did he have with him handing out brochures? He had with him Mr Bob Little who apparently is another person paid by the Government. In a very interesting reply to a question which was asked of him today, Senator Cavanagh mentioned a third Aboriginal who is there and is being paid by the Government. This fellow Perkins received a government grant of $1 1,000 to write a book about ‘my people’. His people? But true-blooded Aborigines do not look upon his as being an Aboriginal.
– I think you are mentioned in it.
– That would be unmentionable. Honourable senators should talk to their government car drivers to find out what they can tell them about what Aborigines say about white people. Although I do not use this sort of language, they refer to ‘those so-and-so whites’. Is that not racism? Of course it is racism. So wherever one goes one will find that sort of trouble with individuals. Goodness gracious me, as I said before, we in Australia are amateurs. What is there to be worried about? There are so many countries on the African continent that one gets mixed up in the races. A few years ago Nigeria, I think it was, was involved in quite a big war. In Biafra, the Ibos, I think it was, wanted to break away. The result was that there was a war and they got fixed by another coloured race. Was that not racism? Of course it was racism. There was also trouble in Malaysia a few years ago between the Chinese and the Malaysians in regard to occupying positions and so on. Was that not racism? Of course it was. It was a division because of races. Fights between races have taken place in Papua New Guinea. They have not been the natives fighting the whites, but the natives fighting other natives of different tribes.
– What is your definition of a native?
– I am talking about coloured natives fighting coloured natives. Is that not racial discrimination? Of course it is.
– We want to make it illegal.
– If the Government is able to fix racism in all these countries, it is a wonderful government. Then there is this fellow Amin in Uganda. What did he do? He popped off quite a few of the Indians in that country. He shot them.
– You are making the most racist speech I have ever heard.
– Yes, because I am talking about all the racism in the non-white countries. What did Amin do with the rest of the Indians? They were educated people and people who had lived all their lives in Uganda. What did he do with them? He threw them out of the country. Is that not racism?
– You just do not like them, do you?
– Now I am striking home, you see. As I said, we are only amateurs; we are just infants in the business. People like that make us look like fools when it comes to racism. That is Amin for you. What of the situation in Fiji which is not very far removed from us? What is the feeling of the Fijians towards the Indians in Fiji? Do they like them? Of course they do not. What was the trouble that took place in Fiji?
– Does it make us any worse or any better because we do not like them either?
– The honourable senator did not hear me before. We are only amateurs. When you go shopping in Hong Kong with a Chinese guide, you might see something nice in a shop window and get the come-on from the shop-owner. You say: ‘That is nice. I want to have a look at it’. If you insist on having a look the Chinese guide will reply: ‘It is an Indian shop. You do not go in there’. One of our Government officers in Hong Kong told me that the division between Indians and Chinese in Hong Kong is far greater than anything we have in Australia.
These are the difficulties and these are the things that are going on amongst the people of the different coloured races in other countries. Yet we are accused of being terrible racists because a boy at school says something about another boy or because somebody calls somebody else a Pom or a wog or something like that. It is really most pitiful. A song and dance is being made about nothing when we are said to be racists. As I have said before, this piece of legislation could create problems and difficulties for our people. It is the type of legislation that will cause disturbances and division amongst our people. It would be better if these things were left unsaid.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance 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.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750515_senate_29_s64/>.