29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 101 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:
. Shrink the flow of funds to the private sector.
Add to the taxpayers burden.
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 petition has been lodged for presentation:
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 Walsh.
Senator STEELE HALL (South Australia-
Leader of the Liberal Movement)- I give general notice of motion, pursuant to standing order 1 10, that at the next sitting I shall move a motion for the summoning of certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate. I understand that pursuant to standing order 1 10,I must deliver at the table a fair copy of the proposed resolution or resolutions at least one day prior to that for which I have given notice.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the Minister has now been briefed fully, I hope, by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and also, I hope, by the Prime Minister, I ask: Will the Government authorise all people involved in foreign loan raisings to disclose their involvement? Will the Minister inform the Senate fully of the true position relating to loan raisings overseas? Lastly, are documents relating to loans now circulating authentic? If they are not authentic, what action is the Government taking to deny them?
-Since yesterday I have had the opportunity to have some discussions with the Minister for Minerals and Energy and also the Prime Minister. I am asked whether I have been fully briefed. I suggest that if those people who are so interested in this matter and who have been prepared to throw around accusations of any improper practices by this Government had themselves taken the trouble to read the record over the past few weeks of answers which have been given, especially in the House of Representatives, by both Mr Connor and the Prime Minister, they would be fully briefed also. But obviously the campaign is being whipped up by a particular individual for the sole purpose of limelighting. If he had done his homework properly he would hot need to raise the matter because the questions which are being asked in the Senate have already been answered in the House of Representatives. I am surprised, now that I have had a bit of time to consider this matter, that there has been so much conjecture. All the questions which have been asked have been properly answered by Mr Connor, the Minister who is directly concerned in this matter. The Government has no need to call for any documents from any person. As I said yesterday, the documents which are circulating have to be authenticated by the persons who allege that they are genuine documents. They are the ones who ought to be determining and proving that they are proper documents. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that he himself ought to table documents which are allegedly in the possession of one of his colleagues- that would be the proper course to take- so that they could become public documents and be properly examined.
– Did the Leader of the Government in the Senate hear an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast this morning in which it was stated that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Malcolm Fraser, said in Launceston last night that the only ‘bitch’ he had about the Senate was that it did not knock back more legislation? Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate share Mr Fraser ‘s bitch’, as he put it, that the Senate Opposition has been too co-operative?
-I did hear the interview with Mr Fraser on the program ‘A.M. ‘ this morning. I am not particularly concerned about what his objections to the Senate are. The question invited Mr Fraser to nominate the other things which should have been knocked back by the Senate- for example, why did not the Opposition knock back the legislation providing assistance to Tasmanian industry, which was carried in the Senate only yesterday. I should imagine that the Tasmanian people are glad that this Government has been prepared to put through legislation which in fact assists industries in Tasmania. If Mr Fraser has an objection to that such assistance being provided, he ought to say so, and say it while he is in Tasmania.
-My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the answer that he just gave to the Leader of the Opposition, why did he call for a briefing after off-handedly dismissing the issue at question time yesterday?
– I would not have thought that I dismissed anything off-handedly. I do not make any apology for the fact that I wanted further information on these matters, and I have obtained that information. It has convinced me all the more that we have nothing but a storm in a tea-cup, and that is the way that the result of this matter will be determined in the eyes of the population. Of course, the proper course for the Opposition to take would be to seek further information, which I will give to the best of my ability. Of course, we have indications that a motion concerning a matter of urgency will be launched later in the day, and I believe that that will be the proper time for the real and truthful arguments to be advanced.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, relates to the resolution of the Senate to establish a judicial committee of inquiry into the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament and to the appropriateness of sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. The question follows one which the Minister was asked yesterday about delay in the establishment of such a committee. I ask the Minister whether there are special considerations which the Government has taken into account and which have led to the apparent delay, and whether such considerations include the need to avoid any embarrassment to members of the judiciary?
-Following the question that I was asked yesterday- I think by Senator Drake-Brockman- I spoke to the Attorney-General about the apparent delay in establishing the tribunal that we are talking about. The Attorney-General told me that in his search for the 3 judges whom the Government has decided to appoint he had approached one distinguished judge- whose name I do not think I should mention at the moment- as a beginning. He was the first judge whom the AttorneyGeneral approached. He asked him whether he would be prepared to serve on such a tribunal. I can assure honourable senators that the judge is a man of such repute that I am sure he would be acceptable to all sides of politics. The judge in question said that he would prefer to wait until the matters that are at present before the High Court- that is the matter concerning Senator Webster and the other common informer’s matter relating to Dr Cairns- had been disposed of by the High Court. As this judge put it, he thought that he would be embarrassed by adjudicating on such matters before the High Court had handed down its decision. I understand that in relation to the matter concerning Senator Webster it is expected that the High Court’s judgment- the judgment of Sir Garfield Barwick- will be handed down in the very near future. The other matter concerning Dr Cairns may take a little longer, but I think the attitude taken by the judge who has been approached is a very reasonable one. I think it would be the attitude that would be taken by any judge who was approached.
I can remember that when the matter came up before the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, of which I was a member, I expressed the opinion that from my knowledge of the attitudes of the judiciary it would be unlikely that any Australian judge would like to be pronouncing on these matters pending a decision of the High Court. I assure honourable senators that there is nothing sinister about the fact that there appears to be some delay and it is not likely that the contemplated tribunal will be constituted or will commence its deliberations until the High Court has pronounced on the matters before it.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: In the light of his own statement this morning that he now has information which he did not have yesterday, to what person did the Government give authority to negotiate or investigate the availability of the $4,000m loan or the $2,000m loan for which Executive Council approval had been obtained? Will he confirm that no person other than that one person was given authority?
-This brings me back to the opening part of my answer to the question asked by Senator Withers. If Senator Greenwood had done his homework he would have found that question had been answered half a dozen times over the past few weeks and that it was stated quite categorically by the Prime Minister that no such authority was given to any person. The Executive Council authority was to the
Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, and properly so, and that document is a public document. Now, as to any other person, no -
– Where is it public?
-Perhaps it is not public. The knowledge that the authority was given is public. I would accept the correction. No other person has been given any authority whatsoever to negotiate in any shape or form on behalf of the Australian Government. As to the person with whom contact was made I understand that discussions were held with Mr Connor simply for the purpose of ascertaining where money may be available on the world markets- no more no less. Any person who was in that position would do no more than advise the Australian Government of the availability of funds. As to any power to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Government, that was never given to any other person and I invite the Opposition to produce evidence to the contrary. If the honourable senator’s friend Mr Lynch has the evidence, bring it into this chamber and table it. If you cannot, I suggest that your argument falls to the ground.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– I call Senator Greenwood.
-My question asked about authority to negotiate or investigate. Will the Minister name the person whom the Government authorised to investigate whether loan money was available? If not, will he confirm that no person other than that one person was given that authority to investigate?
-As I have indicated, no authority was given whatsoever to any person to negotiate any loans on behalf of the Australian Government. A person was asked to inquire as to the availability of funds on the world loan market. That was all, no more no less.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment. Is he aware of certain works being carried out in the Sydney Botanical Gardens and at Lady Macquarie ‘s Chair, the site of Sydney Town’s first city dump? Is the Minister aware that archaeologists and historians believe that there are important artefacts and relics buried on the site and that the site should be regarded as part of the National Estate? Will the Minister make urgent representations to the State Government and the Sydney City Council asking them to make every endeavour to preserve any artefacts found on the site and that all works on the area be under the supervision of archaeologists and historians concerned with recording this vital part of our early history?
-I will try to contact Dr Cairns today in relation to Senator Gietzelt ‘s very important question in order to see what action might be taken as quickly as possible and I will let the honourable senator know the result.
– I direct my question to the ‘ Leader of the Government in the Senate who also represents the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to the attempt by the Prime Minister to remove the Minerals Research Laboratories and Solar Energy Studies Unit from CSIRO and into the control of the Department of Minerals and Energy. In the anticipation that the Minister has taken the opportunity to consider the legal, moral and policy objections raised by me and other speakers in the adjournment debate last evening, I ask: Why is the Government pursuing this policy of vandalism to the detriment of the nation and the future of CSIRO? What is the peculiar hold which the Minister for Minerals and Energy has over the Prime Minister that he is able to force this dissection of CSIRO? Will the Government reconsider its decision in the light of the representations made by CSIRO officials and other responsible persons?
– I am not going to involve myself in something which concerns the administration of the Government and which is solely a matter between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I suggest that the honourable senator place his question on the notice paper.
-Could the Minister for Agriculture indicate to the Senate, in view of our unsuccessful efforts to get a compromise resolution from the whaling nations to control unlimited destruction of certain species of whales, when the next meeting of such nations will be held? In the meantime, is there any way by which there can be an interim curbing of such slaughter?
– I am not aware of when the International Whaling Commission next meets but I believe it is about mid-year, so the next meeting should not be far away. I could not agree with the suggestion of slaughter taking place in the catching of whales throughout the world. I know that this is an emotive issue for many people. Senator Mulvihill is a long standing conservationist and I can understand his concern, but it would be more soundly based-I say this with great respect to him- if in fact proper safeguards were not being exercised by the Commission. The Commission relies very heavily on the recommendations of the scientific committee of the IWC and that committee has set quotas which have been revised. The precautionary methods adopted to ensure that there would not be over-exploitation have been updated in the last 12 months on the initiative of the Australian Government, supported by the Government of the United States of America.
I believe that the current measures to police quotas provide adequate protection for whales throughout the world. The most important species, as I have indicated earlier, is the sperm whale, and I think it should be stated again that the total world quota for sperm whales this year is 15 000. The scientific committee of the IWC estimates that the total world population of the sperm whale is about 350 000 so the world quota is about 3 per cent of the estimated world population of that species. I can assure the Senate that Australia plays a leading role in matters concerning the preservation of whales and the initiatives taken last year by Australia were without doubt a step forward in the conservation of whales.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What inconsistency does the honourable senator see in the statement by the Prime Minister that he removed Dr Cairns from his position as Treasurer because of letters Dr Cairns wrote to Mr Harris, and Mr Harris’ statement last night that yesterday he contacted Dr Cairns with a proposal for an overseas loan which Dr Cairns is now actively pursuing?
-The reasons the Prime Minister saw fit to change certain positions in Cabinet are a matter for the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister alone. I would not comment on his decisions in respect of those matters.
– My question to the Special Minister of State relates to the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. Has the Minister noted that the Commission’s terms of reference require that it examine family, social, educational, legal and sexual aspects of the male and female relationship? In view of the diverse and contentious nature of these subjects, when does the Government expect to obtain tangible results for the time, effort and money being put into such an inquiry?
– In the first instance I remind the honourable senator that the Royal Commission on Human Relationships owes its establishment to a proposition initiated in another place by private members and subsequently a resolution carried by the House. To date, the Commission has received and is in the process of analysing hundreds of written submissions. It has conducted a series of open house meetings in most of the capital cities throughout Australia. Currently it is engaged on a program of public hearings scheduled to be conducted throughout Australia. Whilst there is still an immense amount of work to be done by the Commission, nonetheless I am told it is satisfied that its inquiries will enable it to make recommendations of a very worthwhile nature to the Australian Government.
I am informed the Commission considers that even with the work that has been undertaken to date it has already brought a number of opposing groups to a closer understanding of each other’s point of view, and that the documentation already on hand and available to the Commission indeed will make a significant contribution to current studies of social conditions in Australia. Having perused the terms of reference of the Commission and, in the short time I have been Special Minister of State, having been able to study some of the work that it has undertaken to date, I am confident that the findings of the Commission will lead to improvements in the life of the individual in our society, improvements which perhaps cannot be measured in purely monitored terms but which will more than justify the time and effort of those who are contributing valuably to the work of the Commission.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: In view of the fact that the former Treasurer, Dr Cairns, has publicly disclosed his communications with an intermediary engaged by him in regard to overseas loans, namely, Mr Harris, why does the Government continue to refuse to table the letters, cables or whatever communications they were which Mr Connor had with the intermediary whom he engaged in regard to these matters? In view of all the circumstances will the Government now reconsider that decision and table those communications?
– As has been stated on many occasions, negotiations concerning overseas loans or matters pertaining to them are confidential to the Government. They always have been. They were before this Government came to office. This was a procedure followed by the Liberal-Country Party Government before 1972. This Government is not acting improperly in any way in not making public details of negotiations that may take place with any person or persons in respect of overseas loans until such time as finality is reached on those negotiations.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I prefaced my earlier question by referring to the fact that the former Treasurer, Dr Cairns, has publicly disclosed the negotiations he had in similar circumstances. I asked why there should be a discrepancy in these attitudes.
-I understand that Dr Cairns has made a statement that certain papers would be sent to the Treasury. I understand that as yet those papers have not been sighted by any Treasury officials. This does not alter the basic position which I indicated in my previous answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he is in a position to give further information regarding steps the Government has taken to seal the Eyre Highway in South Australia. When is the work likely to be completed?
-The South Australian work is funded from moneys approved under the National Roads Act 1974, under which work on national roads in South Australia has been funded, over a 3-year period, to the extent of about $ 15.5m. I understand the work has progressed as far as Bookabie, and although progress is not as good as the South Australian Government expected it is now anticipated that the work will be completed some time in 1 976.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It refers to the document circulating throughout Australia and reported widely throughout the world purporting to be a letter from Dolmac Consultants asserting that the company has an absolute mandate arising from an Australian
Government Executive Council minute to raise some $4,000m of loans on behalf of Australia. Does the Minister say that neither Dolmac Consultants nor any other person has or ever has had a mandate by way of agency or commission? If the answer is in the affirmative and since on that basis the letter must be either a forgery or a fraudulent utterance by the writer, is it not vital that the Australian Government should investigate the matter and take action to provide proof of forgery or fraud? Does not the Government have an urgent duty to make clear to all financial circles throughout the world the true nature of this and other letters circulating and purporting to be mandates? Does the Minister now say that all such letters are spurious. Have they no validity at all?
-The only specific document referred to is the letter of Dolmac Consultants to a Dr M. G. Ako. I do not know who Dr Ako is. Quite obviously the second paragraph of that letter claims that the company, Dolmac Consultants, is the holder of an exclusive mandate from the Government of Australia to do certain things. That is a completely erroneous statement.
– Is it a forgery or fraud?
– I am not saying whether it is a forgery. That is the very point I was making yesterday. It is up to the person who began this whole exercise, namely, the honourable senator’s colleague Mr Lynch, to vouch for the authenticity of the document. Yesterday I asked any honourable senator opposite to get up on his feet and vouch for the authenticity, but none would. The fact is that Mr MacDonald, the same Mr MacDonald who signed this letter, denied on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program, I think last night and possibly again this morning, that his company had been negotiating with Australia. He told the correspondent, John Highfield, that he had no authority from any government or government agency.
– Yet the letter over his signature says that he has.
– Exactly. I leave it to the judgment of the Australian people to decide whether Mr Lynch was giving an authentic document. As far as the other matter which the honourable senator raised in the latter part of his question is concerned, if this proves to be a forged document- I am not saying that it is but certainly Mr MacDonald could reasonably be said to have denied the contents of the letterthen it is a matter which I will discuss with the
Prime Minister to ascertain exactly how this came about.
-Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I direct attention to the latter part of my question in which I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he would say emphatically that all letters, or all the letters now circulating, were spurious or had no validity at all.
-I will say that any letter of a similar nature from any company claiming that it has a mandate from the Australian people to negotiate loans is incorrect in its contents.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs. In the light of the fact that under new United States legislation, the Freedom of Information Act, citizens have the statutory right to see their Federal Bureau of Investigation file, whether or not they have been charged with a crime or are under suspicion, will the Minister for Police and Customs assure the Australian people that such a right will be guaranteed in the legislation now being drafted for the Australian police force?
– I am not aware of the rules governing the availability of information on police files, the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the files of other American agencies. I know that the question of what criminal intelligence data should be kept secret and what should be available for perusal by interested people is receiving attention in many countries. The Attorney-General has referred this matter to the Australian Law Reform Commission which is drawing up the necessary safeguards for public interest in police investigations. That Commission will report to the Government in midAugust. I anticipate that the report will be available to members and senators and that it will set the standards which will apply in any new system of police enforcement in Australia.
– I also direct a question to the Minister for Police and Customs. I preface the question by reminding the Minister that it is quite clear that the Government’s decision to make the 25 per cent across the board tariff reduction was the main reason for unemployment in the textile industry throughout Australia. Has the Minister seen Press reports in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ today headlined Chinese won ‘t play ball ‘ relating to the fact that talks in Peking between Australian and Chinese officials regarding voluntary restraints on
Chinese textile exports to this country have broken down and that the Australian team left Peking without any agreement being reached? In view of the fact that we export to China considerably more in value that we import, will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will insist that China obeys the voluntary restraints for which Australia asks or else Australia will establish a protective barrier against cheap imports from China or any other country that has been flooding Australia with cheap clothing to the detriment of the textile industry?
-This is properly a question for my colleague Senator James McClelland who, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration, deals with the question of employment.
– There are several arms to the alleged question asked by Senator Townley. The first one was an assertion, obviously based on the fact that there is a textile industry in Launceston where a by-election will be held in the next couple of months, that the 25 per cent tariff cut was responsible for all the ills of the textile industry. I deny that all the ills of the textile industry are due to the 25 per cent cut in tariffs and I assert that many of them are due to the inefficiency of large sections of the textile industry.
– Go and tell that to the textile workers in Tasmania- in Launceston.
– I have had no hesitation, as the honourable senator knows, in stating openly my views about the textile industry and on all tariff problems, and I will not conceal those views. The next part of the honourable senator’s question betrays a curious naivety about relations between sovereign states. He has asked whether we will insist that China accepts voluntary restraint. How does he propose that we impose such a condition? Is he suggesting that we should send a gunboat to throw a few broadsides off the Chinese coast to compel the sovereign state of China with its 800 million people to do exactly what the Australian Government wants it to do?
If Senator Townley is interested in facts, the facts of what has happened recently in China concerning the attempt to obtain voluntary restraints on textile exports, which is the subject of an article that appears in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’, are these: There was a team of Australian officials in Peking talking with the Chinese about voluntary restraints. It is true that they did not reach agreement and there is no way that we can impose the sort of agreement that
Senator Townley seeks. The discussions were conducted in a friendly spirit and ended on a cordial note. No threats were made, no nuclear bombs were dropped. The talks arose out of recommendations in a textiles authority report. The negotiating team has not yet returned to Australia and consequently the Government has not received a full report of the talks. Any government action will be taken in the light of the full report by the delegation.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Media aware that there is at least one company using subliminal advertising in Western Australia and possibly in other States as well? As this is considered the most insidious form of advertising, and recognised world wide as extremely dangerous, will the Minister advise whether the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has changed its attitude to subliminal advertising?
-Some years ago, before this Government came into office, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board issued an edict to stations and commercial advertisers that they should not engage in subliminal advertising. During the time that I was Minister for the Media I understood that that requirement of the Broadcasting Control Board continued. I am not aware of any company carrying out this sort of advertising at the moment but I will refer the question to my colleague Dr Cass for further investigation.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister and Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy and follows the question asked earlier by Senator Missen. Is the Minister serious when he says to the Senate that the matter of the dismemberment of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is solely a matter between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Would he not agree that it is of some concern to the country and to the Parliament at least? Is he suggesting that the only way we can discover something so vital in government policy is via the notice paper? Will he give the Senate an explanation of the announcement made by the Prime Minister last week that sections of the CSIRO are to be taken away from the responsibility of the Minister for Science and Consumer
Affairs and made the responsibility of the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Would he tell us who made the approach for this sort of rearrangement to be made? Will he confirm that it was the Minister for Minerals and Energy and can he advise the Senate whether this was on the advice of the Department of Minerals and Energy or just an approach made by the Minister? On what basis did the Prime Minister approve this approach? What reason will the Prime Minister or the Government give for this new arrangement? Has the Government received representations from CSIRO and the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs to reverse its policy? What assurance can the Minister give to the remainder of the CSIRO and similar organisations that they will not be similarly treated in the future?
- Mr President, for exactly the same reasons as you ruled yesterday that a question be placed on notice, I ask that this question be placed on notice.
-Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General seen a report in yesterday’s Sydney ‘Sun’ headed Soviet Amnesty for Women’ which stated that the Soviet Government had announced a qualified amnesty for women and minors in prison or under investigation, as a gesture to International Women’s Year? Will the Minister confer with the Attorney-General to determine whether the same remissions can be extended to women and minors in prison in Australia, also as a gesture of leniency in recognition of International Women’s Year?
– I have seen the news item referred to by the honourable senator and, as one who has had occasion to criticise the Soviet Union for its restrictions on international freedom, I welcome the evidence of a loosening of such restrictions. I think that the suggestion that fell from the honourable senator is a worthy one and that perhaps we could take a leaf out of the Soviet’s book in this regard. I will certainly convey his request to the AttorneyGeneral.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware that on 25 March, J. F. Cairns, on Treasury notepaper, wrote a letter to Alco International Pty Ltd, Melbourne- for the attention of Mr George Harris- advising that the Government was interested in exploring overseas loan funds, and stating:
Is the Minister aware that as a result of those negotiations, money was arranged for the Government, I understand, in the sum of $2,000m?
-There are really 2 parts to the question- the suggestion that some form of commission has been offered and the suggestion that there is something improper about that. I am not aware that such loan moneys have been negotiated by anyone acting for Dr Cairns. I do not believe that to be the case. But it is customary, no matter with whom one deals on the overseas loan market, that some form of remuneration is eventually negotiated once agreements concerning loan moneys have been entered into. For the sake of the record I should like to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing the percentage of expenses paid by Australian governments, going right back to 1967, on various loans raised in London, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Japan. It shows percentages as high as 5.13 in the case of a loan of 60 million Swiss francs raised in 1970, and 5.06 in the case of another Swiss loan in 1 968. All this occurred, of course, under the previous administration, not under the Labor Government. For the record I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard so that people will be able to see that no great crime has been committed in any government suggesting that any person who might arrange a loan for that government should receive some remuneration for doing so.
– Does the table show persons or institutions?
– It shows loans which have been negotiated with countries. The actual institutions are not nominated. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-ls it a voluminous document?
– It is one sheet.
-ls leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
- Mr President, I ask that Senator Wood table the document from which he was quoting in asking his question.
– I am advised that it is at the discretion of Senator Wood to table the document. He can table it only by leave.
- Mr President, I was quoting extracts from a letter which I will not table here at the moment.
- Mr President, standing order 364 states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator -
It does not say that he has to quote the whole document- not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
Therefore, I seek leave to move that the Senate order Senator Wood to table the document. I think that it is another phoney document. We want to see it.
– I will give further consideration to this matter at the end of question time.
- Mr President, the statement made by Senator Cavanagh should be refuted. He said that he thought that the document to which I have referred was a phoney one.
– Order! Is the honourable senator making a personal explanation or seeking to make a statement?
– I am making a personal explanation. I would like to tell him that the original document was attested to by someone -
– Like whom? Come clean.
– Table it and let us see for ourselves.
– It was originally attested to by someone. It was also attested to personally to me by a person of merit and standing in the way of a public accountant.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. Over the past few days the Senate has been submitted to a barrage of challenges to the Government to table documents. Here we have a complete flouting of the principles that honourable senators opposite appear to be trying to establish. I submit, Mr President, that you have an absolute discretion under standing order 364 to require the honourable senator to table the relevant document. I submit that this is a test of the sincerity and consistency of the Opposition. Senator Wood should be ordered to table the document from which he has quoted.
– I have already ruled that I will give consideration to this matter at the completion of question time.
- Mr President, since there has been a speech on the point of order, may I just draw your attention, so that the matter may be considered, to the fact that standing order 364 relates to a speech. It is at the conclusion of a speech that the document from which a senator has quoted may be ordered to be laid on the table. No speech was made by Senator Wood.
– I will also take that matter into consideration.
– I would like to add to the series of questions asked of the Leader of the Government in the Senate on the matter of loan raising. Is it not a fact that the authority given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy to make investigations as to the availability of money was an attempt by the Government to break the longstanding arrangement created by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in raising loans through Morgan’s of New York? ls it not a fact that for many years the previous LiberalCountry Party Government arranged loans through Morgan’s of New York and paid substantial amounts of interest?
– In commission.
– As commission. Is it not a fact that Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, upon his resignation from this Parliament, took a directorship with Morgan’s of New York? Is it not also a fact that Sir Robert Gordon Menzies is still a director of Morgan’s of New York? Is it not also a fact that many of the questions which have come from the other side of the chamber have been inspired by a desire by Morgan’s of New York to maintain a monopoly of the loan raising by the Australian Government?
– I certainly was not aware that Sir Robert Menzies became a director of that financial institution.
– It would be no secret.
-No, but I was not aware of it; nor was I aware that he is still a director of that banking institution. If that is true -
– Great and powerful friends!
– Yes, that is a good example of great and powerful friends and explains many of the attitudes of the same gentleman over the years. It is true that channels of contact for loan raising have been established overseas by Australia over a number of years, but we are in a very different position today in relation to the matters which will be dealt with later, I am sure, in the urgency debate. A government is not in any way precluded from exercising its own judgement, providing there is nothing illegal or improper, in seeking loan moneys from other sources if those moneys are in fact available. In the particular case that has been the subject of so much muck raking by Mr Lynch over the past few weeks, in respect of which he is unable to produce any proof, the Government has not acted in any way illegally or improperly.
– My question which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows the answer that he gave to a question asked by Senator Greenwood in which he indicated that only one person has authority to investigate the availability of funds overseas. Who is the person who has that authority? Is it a Mr Khemlani or, if not, who is the person? What written authorities were given to this person?
- Mr Khemlani was in fact asked to obtain details of the prime banks from which money could be made available to the Australian Government. That was the sole role of Mr Khemlani- no more. If he received information which would indicate that such moneys were available, he had no power whatever to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Government. But had such information been brought back to the Australian Government there would have been negotiations between the principals concerned, and the principals only, that is, the lender and, in that case, the Australian Government. Mr Khemlani’s authority did not extend beyond what I have just indicated and certainly there was no mandate for him to negotiate, and certainly no mandate was given to anybody else.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Have the revised procedures for handling unemployment benefits resulted in any noticeable improvement in the number of people registered as unemployed?
-Yesterday my colleague, Mr Hayden, was able to advise me that the Treasury publication of economic statistics has shown that improved unemployment benefit paying procedures have resulted in the number of registered unemployed being reduced by 4500 people during the month of May. I believe that this is a matter of some significance because it appears quite obvious from the information that has been provided that in the past the numbers of unemployed that have been shown in the statistics have been inflated because of certain imperfections in the system of making available unemployment benefits.
According to the Department of Labor and Immigration the number of registered unemployed decreased during May by 1 7 290 compared with a reduction in unemployment during April of 5428. It is our opinion that the reduction during May- the considerably greater reduction, although there was a reduction in unemployment during April- was due largely to the more intensive checks being made of people who are on the unemployment register. Last April, in order to overcome the difficulties and delays which people were finding on some occasions in the weekly payment of unemployment benefit, my Department- the Department of Social Security- changed the paying procedure. Instead of payment being made on the lodging of a weekly income statement at an employment service office the procedure was altered to require a statement to be furnished by the beneficiaries directly to the officers of the Department of Social Security by post once each 4 weeks. Weekly cheques are accompanied by a notice requesting beneficiaries to notify the Department when they commence work.
This change in the procedure has enabled officers in the Department of Labor and Immigration to concentrate more on their responsibilities for maintaining the register of unemployed up to date. I think the Senate and the Australian people will be interested to know that these procedures have shown that at least to a certain extent the unemployment figures in this country have been artificially inflated and that this artificial inflation has been reduced, if not eliminated, by the introduction of more efficient procedures.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate supplementary to that asked by Senator Baume. Who is Mr Khemlani? Where are his headquarters? Who or what organisation does he represent? Has he been associated with Dolmac Consultants? What commission has he been paid for the loan investigations he has carried out so far on behalf of the Government?
-The answer to the last part of the honourable senator’s question is, of course, none. No commission has been paid to the said gentleman and none will be paid. That has been stated half a dozen times in the House of Representatives yet questions are still dragged up about commissions in order to keep that particular issue going. In all probability the honourable senator had not done his homework because if he had he would have found that exactly the same answer was given in the House of Representatives some time ago. Mr Khemlani is a person whom Mr Connor asked to investigate the source of possible finance available to the Australian Government. He was considered to be, despite again the accusations which have been levelled against him, a reputable person. Mr Connor quite properly saw fit to ask him to seek out the possibility those funds in exactly the same way as Mr Harris was asked. But in both cases no authority whatsoever was given to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Government.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Who or what organisation does Mr Khemlani represent? Has he been connected with Dolmac Consultants?
– I could not say whether he has been connected with Dolmac Consultants; I would not know. The authenticity of the document which has been circulated by Mr Lynch is now very much in question. I am not going to try to account for some letter which has been dragged up by Mr Lynch, the truthfulness of which is in doubt.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by saying that in the policy speech in 1 974 the Prime Minister offered to provide half the funding for the new general hospital in Launceston, and I understand that the Tasmanian Government agreed to that arrangement. Can the Minister please tell us what progress has been made with the planning and construction of this new hospital, and to what extent the Australian Government is now involved?
– In his policy speech delivered a little over a year ago before the double dissolution election, which resulted in the rout of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam did undertake to provide half of the cost of building a new general hospital in Launceston, something which had been neglected for 23 years by LiberalCountry Party governments. The Tasmanian Government has accepted the offer which was made by the Australian Government consequent upon Mr Whitlam’s undertaking. The planning of the hospital is now proceeding and the Australian Government is doing everything that it can, through the Department of Health and its Minister, Dr Everingham, to speed the development of this project. A development plan has already been prepared for the new hospital under the direction of a steering committee. The steering committee includes representatives from the Australian Departments of Health, and Housing and Construction and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. The development plan defines a 3-stage program of development in which a new acute general hospital facility will be redeveloped on a site immediately adjoining the existing hospital. The existing main hospital is proposed to be converted for use for the delivery of psychiatric, geriatric and rehabilitative care.
Senator Grimes would no doubt know, as a senator who lives in Launceston, unlike some people who have recently taken an interest in that area, that the Australian Government announced in 1974-75 Budget a 5-year hospitals development program of capital assistance to the States for the development of public hospitals and other health institutions. During 1974-75 an Australian Government grant of $1,833,000 was approved to assist the Tasmanian Government in the construction and improvement of hospitals. With these funds the Australian Government has helped the planning of the new Launceston General Hospital redevelopment and it will continue to meet its commitment in respect of this project as each stage of the redevelopment is negotiated and agreed to with the Tasmanian authorities. The action that this Government has taken with regard to the Launceston General Hospital is indicative of the attitude which the Australian Labor Party Government has taken ever since it has been in office, that is of doing everything which it conceivably can for States such as Tasmania, which was so neglected for so many years under the previous Government.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Have the statements made in response to questions with regard to Mr Khemlani resulted in a breach of contract or agreement? Does the Government expect litigation on this matter? Did cancellation of Executive Council approval set in motion a chain of events which is now emerging daily on the overseas loan market? Does the Minister seriously suggest that there is no basis for the concern of the Australian people over the attempts to by-pass established Treasury procedures?
-The by-passing of established Treasury procedures is something that I referred to earlier in my reply to a question asked by Senator Georges. I indicated that the Government is at liberty to use whatever channels are available to it if it seeks information concerning the sources of funds on the world money market. There is nothing improper or illegal about that. Insofar as Mr Khemlani is concerned, the Prime Minister issued a statement only a few days ago indicating that no more loans will be authorized and no attempts to establish sources of funds will be permitted without the authority of the Treasurer, Mr Hayden. That is the position.
– That shows you were wrong in the first place.
-The honourable senator will have his opportunity to make a dynamic contribution to the debate that will take place shortly. I am sure that it will be a great contribution. Mr Khemlani is a person with whom the
Government does not have any dealings now. The position is that any action taken by anybody on behalf of the Australian Government can be taken only with the authority of the Treasurer.
- Mr President, I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a supplementary question because my earlier questions were not dealt with by him. 1 asked: Have the statements which have been made resulted in a breach of contract or agreement? Does the Government expect litigation on this matter?
-I am sorry if I forgot to answer that first part of the question but, quite frankly, when you are asked about 6 questions in one it is difficult to keep them all in your head. No, the Government does not anticipate any action for breach of contract. As I indicated in reply to an earlier question Mr Khemlani was asked to obtain details of the sources of finance. Mr Khemlani was unable to do that. That is purely a matter for Mr Khemlani. The same situation applied, as I mentioned, in the case of Mr Harris as he spelt out the position in an interview on the radio program ‘PM’ last night. He said that he was required only to do that. He was not required to negotiate, nor was Mr Khemlani.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Minister seen documents currently being circulated bearing the names of Mr Dennis Walker and others which purport to be on ministerial letterhead? Can the Minister advise whether his office produced the circular and what action can be taken if the circular is, in fact, a fraud?
– I have seen a copy of the document that has been circulated. It is signed by Dennis Walker and a number of other people, mainly from the Aboriginal community in Sydney. The document seeks donations for Dennis Walker’s High Court appeal against his extradition to Queensland. The paper bears the Government crest and shows that it is from the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. It has a code letter (R) at the top. Obviously this letterhead came from my office, the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The (R) indicates the official in that office who dictated the original letter.
Investigations disclose that the original letter was an acknowledgement of a letter received from Dennis Walker. This letterhead with a message on it has been produced in the pamphlet. It has been photostatted to make it appear that it has the approval of the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. No approval for collection of funds for Dennis Walker’s appeal has been endorsed by that office or supported by it. While I suppose something can be done about it, I am inclined to think that Dennis Walker is in enough trouble now and it is not my intention to take the matter any further.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– During question time I have given consideration to and have sought some guidance on this matter, arising out of Senator Cavanagh ‘s proposal and his request that Senator Wood table the document. The relevant standing order is standing order 364 which provides:
A document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister or the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
There have been a number of precedents concerning requests for the tabling of documents quoted from during question time. Therefore in accordance with established practice Senator Cavanagh would be in order in moving for the tabling of the document quoted from by Senator Wood during question time. I call Senator Cavanagh.
– In accordance with that ruling, I move:
All morning challenges have been made for the tabling of documents by both the Opposition and the Leader of the Government. The Leader of the Government questioned the authenticity of some documents and has been asked to comment on some documents -
– I raise a point of order. While the Minister has been speaking to his motion the Leader of the the Opposition walked across to Senator Wood and Senator Wood immediately proceeded to mutilate the sheet of paper from which this quotation was made. I draw attention to this fact.
– The Chair did not see that. No point of order is involved.
– I speak to the point of order. Senator Keeffe ought to be hit on the head.
– Order! What is your point of order?
– I just asked Senator Wood whether he had a document and whether he was prepared to table it. He said: ‘It is written here’. He tore it off a staple. It was stapled to a mass of scribble paper. He tore it off and handed it to me to read.
– Has the document now been tabled?
– No. That is up to Senator Wood.
– I do not know what has happened to the document since the time it was quoted from, but it did exist. Senator Wood gave a particular date and then referred to its being signed by the Treasurer. Senator Wood spoke on a personal explanation and said it had been authorised and gave some authority. It was an authentic document. It was an admission that he was quoting from a document. Apart from Ministers refusing to table confidential documents from departmental files, I have never known anyone who has had a document which supported his argument and who refused to table it voluntarily. I would understand the reluctance if there were some secrecy about this document, but it has been quoted from here. The honourable senator does not have the courage to table the document. That immediately raises suspicion about the document.
Of course, if the document is not tabled one has a right to suspect that it is a phoney document, and this justifies what Senator Wriedt said. Are all these alleged documents phoney? No one will table them. We can read in the Press about what they say but no one has the original documents to table. Senator Steele Hall wants to call someone to the Bar of the Senate. Here is the first opportunity to obtain some concrete evidence about a document, but the person who has the document wants to hide it. He claimed that he was quoting from an authentic document. Therefore I ask Opposition senators to approve the forcing of the tabling of this document so that we can see what it is.
Senator WOOD (Queensland) < 1 1.12.) - I was not prepared to table the document because I do not have the document.
– You quoted from it.
– What I did was to quote from the letter that I had seen. It is all very well to impute dishonest motives to people -
– That is what you have been doing all morning.
-Thank you, Senator Wheeldon. I can talk, too, about Mr Whitlam ‘s praising you up as a Minister yet he never wanted you as a Minister. He also has been dishonest about you. I could not table the document because I was quoting from notes.
– Table the notes.
– You can have the notes. If you want the notes I am prepared to table the notes. Here, you can have the whole lot of them. I object to motives being imputed against a person, and statements that he is dishonest or afraid. I have been here for 2 5 te years and I do not think that I have ever been afraid to vote for or oppose in accordance with what I considered to be the right thing. When I refer to these matters I do not do so with a lack of knowledge. I happen to have had contacts with people who have been associated with this loan development, first in Amenca and then amongst the Arab people. I was the person who arranged the interview with Dr Cairns for one of these people, so when I speak I do not do so with a lack of knowledge of the whole process.
– What commission were you paid?
– Is that what you think, Senator Keeffe? I have not been paid commission. I was acting in my capacity as a senator to make an introduction or arrange an interview. I can tell the story of this whole business from the beginning to the end. In my opinion, authority was definitely given to raise this money.
- Senator Wood, the documents in question have been sent to the table by you but it is required that you have the leave of the Senate to table them. Would you seek leave of the Senate?
– I seek leave.
-Is leave granted for the tabling of the documents? There being no dissent -
– I want to raise a point of order, Mr President.
– I have to ask if leave is granted first. Is leave granted?
– I raise a point of order, Mr President.
– I can hear dissent. (Honourable senators interjecting)-
– Order! I shall put the question again. Leave has been sought for the tabling of the documents by Senator Wood. Now I am asking- and I should like silence pleasewhether leave is granted.
Some Honourable Senators- Aye.
– Leave is granted.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President.
– There is a motion before the Chair.
– If the tabling of that document satisfied the motion I would not go on with the motion. But it does not, and that is my submission in the point of order. I agreed to grant leave to the tabling of a document that Senator Wood wanted to table. But the motion is for the tabling of the document from which he quoted. While he has tabled one document I honestly suggest that it is not the document from which he quoted. A long time elapsed between when he quoted from the document and when he tabled a piece of paper on which, I take it, his writing appears. He got up subsequently -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. To clarify the issue, is Senator Cavanagh speaking to a motion or to a point of order? In what capacity is he on his feet speaking at the present time? I understand a document has been tabled and that an earlier motion which had been moved by Senator Cavanagh had been spoken to also by Senator Wood. I simply ask, what is the motion on which Senator Cavanagh is rising at the moment because, if there is a point of order, my submission is that it has not been identified.
- Senator Cavanagh is speaking to a point of order.
– I am speaking to a point of order, Mr President. I am sorry if I cannot satisfy Senator Greenwood. An Irishman is allowed to speak until he is understood, so if Senator Greenwood will be patient we shall get there eventually. My point of order is that I moved a motion for the tabling of the documents from which Senator Wood quoted. While that motion was being discussed Senator Wood sought to table a piece of paper, alleging that that was the document from which he quoted.
– That is right, I did.
– But point of order is that Senator Wood said: ‘I have made notes from the documents- the letter- which was the letter that I had shown the authorities who said it was genuine and had made notes from it, and that is what I was reading out today! ‘ He tabled that piece of paper. Standing order 364 states: ‘A document quoted from by a senator . . . ‘ Senator Wood stated that he had handwritten extracts from a document and he was quoting from it. Senator Wood may not have the document in his possession at the present time, but the motion which I seek to move is to seek an order of the Senate to table the document from which he was quoting, not the notes which he made from the document and from which he read.
– Order! I call Senator Wright.
- Mr President, we have heard -
– Order! Is the honourable senator speaking to a point of order?
– Yes, Mr President We have heard standing order 364 referred to. It refers to the tabling of a document quoted from. That obviously is the document, if there is a quote, from which the senator made the quote at the time he was on his feet. It is not customary in this place, unless the standard of the Senate has fallen to bedrock low, to hear imputations against an honourable senator that a document which he has tabled is not the document from which he quoted. I suggest to the Senate that the proposition that Senator Cavanagh is now advancing is a complete distortion and corruption of the standing order. It refers to the document from which the senator quoted. It does not refer to other documents from which notes may have been made. My point of order is that imputations of a scandalous nature are being made against Senator Wood who said that he has tabled the document from which he quoted. That should be accepted by the Senate, or a substantive motion should be moved to challenge the honourable senator’s integrity.
– I have listened carefully to Senator Wright’s point of order. I hope that Senator Cavanagh, when he speaks, will com- plete his point of order because I do not wish to h ave it expanded into a full debate.
– Is the motion still before the Chair?
– The motion is still before the Chair. I have accepted the fact that the documents have been tabled by leave of the Senate. Senator Cavanagh ‘s motion is still before the Senate. If he wishes to proceed with the motion, we will vote on it. If he does not wish to proceed, he may care to withdraw it now that the documents have been tabled.
– I do not accept that the document from which Senator Wood quoted has been tabled. Mr President, if you are prepared to rule that my motion is still before the Chair and that I have the right to reply, if necessary, I will not persist with the point of order at this time.
-Is the motion withdrawn?
– The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. 1 think the ayes have it.
– A point of order. Do we not have a right to speak?
– The question has been put.
– The question ought to not to have been put because the basis of the point of order was that there was still a motion before the Senate and that we had an entitlement to speak to that motion. The motion ought not to have been put, thus denying a senator the right to speak to the motion.
– No one rose, so I put the question. I declare that the ayes have it.
Opposition senators- The noes have it.
-Is a division required?
Opposition senators- Yes.
-A division is required. Ring the bells.
– I take a point of order. How can we vote -
– Order! A division has been called. Senator Marriott, you will be seated. You can address the Chair from there. (The bells being rung)-
- Mr President, am I allowed to ask on what we are voting? If the documents have been tabled and we are voting on a motion to table them, have not we reached the height of absurdity in the sense that we are dividing the Senate into almost equal camps on something that has already been done? I respectfully submit that we will have a divided opinion on a decision that the Senate took unanimously when it granted leave for the documents to be tabled. We are dividing on a decision that has been unanimously taken.
– I think that if I recapitulated the events it would put us right on this matter. The motion was moved by Senator Cavanagh. Debate ensued. Senator Wood gave his explanation, and at the end of it he asked for leave to table the documents. They were tabled. I explained to Senator Cavanagh that he could proceed with the motion or withdraw it. The Minister said that he wished to continue with the motion. He had it in his hands to withdraw the motion or to proceed with it.
– What will be the result if this motion is carried?
– May I ask Mr President, your having ruled quite clearly and distinctly that the motion was carried, what are the exact words of the motion now before the Senate?
– The words, as I understand them, are that the document quoted from by Senator Wood be laid on the table.
– Did you, Mr President, rule that the document had been tabled and that the motion had been carried?
– I indicated that I had accepted the tabling of the document when Senator Wood sought leave.
– Then, Mr President, may I ask what are we voting on?
– The Senate is voting on the motion moved by Senator Cavanagh.
– I believe that Senator Cavanagh has raised a legitimate point insofar as Senator Wood claimed that he was in possession of a letter relating to the raising of loans. Senator Cavanagh has moved that Senator Wood be called on to table the document. Papers have been produced by Senator Wood which, no doubt, will be the same photostat copies of something which have been floating around Parliament House for the past day. I would submit to you, Mr President, that Senator Cavanagh ‘s motion is that ‘the ‘ document- that is to say ‘the ‘ letter- to which Senator Wood referred should be tabled and not some pieces of paper which have been thrown around Parliament House in the past days. ‘The’ document should be tabled.
That the motion (Senator Cavanagh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justion O’Byrne)
Majority ……. 4
Question resolved in the negative.
- Senator Wood, by leave of the Senate, tabled the documents from which he quoted. He has tabled them and they now remain the property of the Senate.
Matter of urgency
– I have received the following letter from Senator Cotton: 1 1 June 1975
Dear Mr President, I wish to advise you that tomorrow, Thursday 12 June 1975, pursuant to Sessional Order, I intend to move- That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency: That failure, of the Government, when questioned, to make full disclosure to Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
- Mr President, we have had some interesting and exciting and one might say slightly abusive days.
– You are scared one of your own members will get the commission.
-I think Senator Keeffe might get a chance to speak later if he can get on the list. This is a matter which has been concerning me for quite some time in its broader aspects. I think it will have concerned other people. Therefore I want to deal with some of the broad issues that lie under this spectacular series of claims and counter claims. I think it has been for many of us a worrying business. I am of the clear view that the time has come for the Australian Government to explain what has been going on and, if it can do so, to clear up the misunderstandings. That is the purpose of the motion. The Government has been given a chance today to set out the facts, to explain the situation, to try to clear up misunderstandings and if possible, to clear its reputation and its name. But we give notice as a Senate Opposition that we regard this whole area as being so serious that we will continue to press on with our inquiries into this matter in order to elicit in due course the total assembly of facts that bear upon this matter. I believe that Australia deserves no less from the Senate. It does not really need any comment from Senator Georges who is trying to interject because we are dealing here with a serious matter and I am taking it seriously even if Senator Georges is not. On this last day of a long session one would not rise lightly to get involved in a matter which may go well beyond today. Accordingly I formally move:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency: The failure, of the Government, when questioned, to make full disclosure to Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions-
There is an observation about motions of urgency given to us by Mr Odgers in his book. It is worth quoting. It states:
The urgency motion procedure, which commands precedence of Government business for a period of up to three hours on any day for a debate on a matter which any five Senators regard as a matter of urgency, is part of the greatness of the parliamentary system of government. It is a recognition of the right of the minority not only to be heard but to be heard before the ruling Government of the day. In its variety of uses, the urgency motion provides a unique opportunity for bringing the Government to account for its administration, which is Parliament’s duty.
Mr President, in order to let it be known that this quotation is authentic, I seek leave to table a copy of it.
-ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Overshadowing this whole matter is the situation of extraordinary deficit finance entered into by this Government. These are the order of deficits in recent years by Australian Governments:
For the year ending 1975 the estimated deficit was $5 70m and the possible deficit will be $2300m. For the year ending 1 976 the deficit will possibly be $3,700m.
The critical matter with which we are dealing, among other things, is how the Australian Government is going to fund this order of massive deficit. That is the substantial problem facing the Australian people, facing the Government, facing the Senate and facing the Opposition. All kinds of strange exercises in overseas borrowing have been talked about, contemplated, discussed and ventilated, but overseas borrowing of the magnitude suggested will greatly compound Australia’s problems because such an overseas borrowing program would add to the already expanded money supply to the point where one would find it almost impossible to see how inflation ever could be brought within bounds.
So, first of all, how is the Government going to fund its deficits? What is it going to do? Clearly, it has been going around the world for quite some time talking in a very loud and noisy fashion about overseas borrowing. But it has alternatives. It can seek to raise its deficit finance by a local loan on the Australian capital market. The last loan so issued failed. The Government has been talking about raising a small amount of money- $ 100m- in New York. We have heard nothing about the success or failure of that attempt. So one begins to feel that we may be considering some kind of compulsion on Australian domestic savings lying ahead of the Australian people if they are to fund the acts of this Government. That is the substantial matter which lies in this general area. If that is not to be done, what then are we looking at? The printing of money? The funding of the exercise by Treasury Notes and the Treasury Bills with the Government borrowing from and lending to itself on the one day? There is a substantial problem here, and I want to quote very briefly from a work by Mr Gilbert, “The future of the Australian Loan Council’. These matters must come to resolution, and I imagine that they will come to resolution fairly soon when the Premiers and the Prime Minister gather together with their advisers. At page 15 he states:
Clause 3(8) of the Financial Agreement provides that loans to finance revenue deficits by the Australian Government or the States shall be included in the loan program.
The Government has been looking at borrowing money overseas clearly to finance deficits which have not yet been included, as far as one can see, in the loan program. There is another reference to clause 3 (8) on page 68. 1 will table that book so that honourable senators who wish to inform themeslves further can do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– Money has been borrowed. What are you talking about the Loan Council for?
-Senator Georges, we are not being helped by you. You are a nice chap, but if you are quiet everybody likes you a great deal better. There is a proper way to borrow money overseas and there is a past practice to be observed in this matter, whether the Government likes it or not and whether in the process of its discussions it seeks to denigrate people who have been occupying positions of high office in this Government in the past. Australia has overseas a substantial body of men who represent the Treasury, and they are in contact at all times with the overseas loan market. They know what is going on in finance around the world. There are Treasury officers in London, Washington, New York, Geneva, Tokyo, Paris and Brussels. Would it not have been sensible, if overseas loan borrowings are to be considered, for the negotiations to be conducted in the normal way by discreet inquiries through the officers of the Treasury stationed around the world and through Treasury itself in a proper discreet fashion? I seek leave to table a document entitled Treasury Officers Stationed Overseas ‘.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-Thank you, Mr President. I suggest to my colleagues in the Senate that what has happened is that the Australian
Government over the last couple of years, for reasons of its own, has broken substantially with past practice. I am suggesting that in that process Australia’s credit in the overseas lending area has been endangered. Where is all this money we hear about? What was the fate of the US$100m loan we heard about recently? We have heard all the speculation, but what comes out of this is a nasty feeling that Australia’s credit is perhaps being endangered. Once upon a time Australia used to be country noted for breeding and exporting confidence men, but it seems to me that we have lost that talent. We seem to have become the victims of confidence men both overseas and local, and the local ones were not bred here.
I suggest to the Senate that the whole Government is responsible in this matter. It is not good enough to leave it to Senator Wriedt to defend the Government’s position. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is responsible; Mr Connor is responsible; the whole Government is responsible. I noted with interest last night while listening to Mr Hayden, the new Treasurer, that he seemed to me to be rather anxious to evade responsibility for any past actions, and that of course I would naturally understand. I believe that the Government has a responsibility properly to itself and properly to the country to explain this whole position to Australia through the Senate, lt is true that in all situations- people become involved in difficult affairs- this is sometimes very difficult, but in the sense of corporate responsibility, which we are all engaged in from time to time, in the end the men of integrity and capacity have to clear themselves. They cannot in the end stand responsible for acts which they find themselves unable to believe in, if the facts prove this to be the case.
Australia as a nation is going into overdraft in a massive way. In effect what we say to be our assets and our future earning capacity are going to be pledged. We have heard a lot from Mr Connor in past years about the fact that we were a country huge in resource; the world was rushing us with money; anywhere we liked we could get it; they all wanted to come here. The carpetbaggers arrived in droves because we were a country of immense promise, immense resource, immense capacity and there was no problem. We heard this and things like it in debate on the Australian Industries Development Corporation. We have heard all this in the past. The great assets which we have are yet to be developed in the sense of borrowing to develop them.
What we are borrowing for now is to finance a fairly large overall extravagance. We are going into overdraft to do that. Someone will have to get the cash together and the resources to make the effort to produce the revenue to pay off this sort of loan. We are talking about a future charge upon the Australian people and their children. I think that under those circumstances everybody has a substantial right to be concerned. Various sums of money have been said to be involved in this exercise of what I call public controversy about Australia’s loan raisings. It has been very hard to get any illumination on the actual amount of money being talked about. That could well be clarified. Are we seeking to borrow overseas? If so, how much money? If so, for how long? Can we be told the rate? Who are the lenders? Who is arranging this? Why is it necessary to go about it in this way? What is wrong with the traditional method by which we have managed to do ourselves fairly well and achieve good results in overseas borrowings? When I have been worrying about this- I have been for some months now- I have wondered that perhaps this is why we have seen this consistent rubbishing of Treasury and its officers, and this perhaps is why the current permanent head of the Treasury is under some degree of challenge by the Government.
– There is more to it than that.
– There is considerably more to it than that.
-If that is the case it would be very helpful to hear from the Government.
– You will hear it from me.
-I would like you to do that and to illuminate this scene more accurately. If people are to be charged with things, I hope it will be done properly and they will be given a chance to defend themselves because, if there are any star chamber tactics, the Opposition stands ready to try to defend the people involved. Let there be no doubt about that. There are many matters to be cleared up, today or later. We have heard all sorts of things. We even had Press reports this morning. I cannot vouch for them. Nobody can vouch for them. There are said to be telexes mentioning $4,000m. There is said to be an amount of $20,000m. This is all too great for me. I am a fairly simple person in matters of finance having, I think, $2.25 in my pocket at the present time. But I am concerned about this total position.
There has been too much speculation; too much public talk; too many people involved in these acts- people who have not the training or the discretion to be so engaged. These are matters on which the proper officials of the Government and the proper people of responsibility, both in this country and stationed around the world, should be able to advise quite adequately. I have other colleagues who have a great interest in this matter and they will pick up other areas of reference as we proceed through this debate. We will be wanting to hear, as I said earlier, from responsible persons on the Government side, proper explanations of these matters if those explanations are available. I serve notice on the Government that the Opposition at the moment is a long way from satisfied about the wisdom, probity or common sense of this whole exercise in loan raisings in which the Government has been engaged.
– The debate on this matter of urgency comes about as a result of issues raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, namely Mr Phillip Lynch. Mr Lynch has a record of carelessness in making public statements. We all recall, for example, his great faux pas during the Vietnam war. We remember the water torture case. He said that there was not a scintilla of evidence to prove that there had been any water torture in Vietnam. It was not long before he had to eat his words because he was proven wrong. It was not long ago that he was making statements about a certain person who will be named during the course of this debate. I will name him now. It was Mr Khemlani. Mr Lynch made statements about his having a criminal record. It was proved that that also was a false statement. It was a slanderous statement, utterly untrue and used solely for the purpose of trying to discredit that person and in turn the Australian Government, and Mr Connor in particular. So much for the validity of the arguments used by Mr Lynch and also for his personal credibility. Even last night we heard Mr MacDonald, who has been involved in this matter according to Mr Lynch, denying the sort of things that Mr Lynch has been saying. That is the first thing that I believe ought to be established.
Here we have in the person of Mr Lynch a publicity hunter, a king-maker, a man who will say things, careless of the truth, in order to get his name in the newspapers and his face on the television sets for purposes inside the Liberal Party best known to members of the Liberal Party.
– Using documents that are stolen.
-That was a good point raised by Senator Georges. I intended to raise it anyhow. It would be interesting to know if the Opposition is prepared to lay on the table of the Senate the documents relating to some of the people that he has been talking to in certain places in order to get the scanty facts that he has. This is the basis on which this debate is taking place. It is taking place on the basis of unreliable information from an unreliable person.
What are the facts? We have known that for many years there have been traditional sources of supply of overseas money for nations that wish to borrow, and Australia has been a regular borrower on the world’s money markets. Great supplies of money have been arranged through Europe, from Switzerland in particular and Germany, the United States of America and more recently Japan. Established avenues have been used by the contacts and agencies which Australian Governments over the years have had in those various countries. But over the past 18 months a dramatic development has taken place. There has been an enormous shift of capital from those countries to the oil exporting countries, an amount of the order of $70,000m.
Is it not obvious that as a result the normal channels available to a government have to be reconsidered? Would it not be an absurdity if any government, the Australian Government or any other government seeking borrowings, was to neglect and disregard the new sources of lending which have become available? No government would be committed for ever and a day to remain tied entirely to those normal channels through which it could determine where moneys were available. This Government, like other governments, is quite entitled to explore the avenues that are available to it in various parts of the world. But it was absolutely essential for the Australian Government, realising the need to make contact with these new sources of loan moneys, to adjust and change its methods as it saw fit and the avenues that it used to explore where these various sources of capital could be located.
It is true, as I indicated during question time today, that Mr Connor was authorised- this point ought to be restated- to investigate the possibility of raising a certain amount of money on overseas markets. The authority did not extend beyond Mr Connor. No other person was authorised to negotiate loans on behalf of the Australian Government. One person, namely, Mr Khemlani, was asked to obtain details of possible sources of funds in a particular place. Having obtained such information, he was to report back to Mr Connor without any commitment whatsoever. Then, if the Australian
Government saw fit, the matters would be negotiated by Reserve Bank officers between principals only. Yet for some reason or another this seems to be regarded as some terrible thing which has been done by the Government. At no time was it ever suggested, let alone was such an authority given, that Mr Khemlani or any other person had any right to profess to have an authority from the Australian Government.
The document circulated by Mr Lynch is almost an absurdity. It alleges that the writer of a particular letter, namely, Mr L. MacDonald, claimed in the letter:
We hereby confirm that we are the holders of an exclusive mandate from the Government of Australia, represented by the Minister of Mines and Energy; confirmed by E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., Prime Minister; J. F. Cairns, Deputy Prime Minister; L. Murphy, Q.C., Attorney-General; and R. F. X. Connor, M.P. . . . approved in council by J. Kerr, Governor-General.
In this mandate we are authorised to negotiate a loan of US Dollar funds totalling 4,000 million.
That is a completely absurd statement, a completely irresponsible paragraph in that letter. Subsequently of course Mr MacDonald denied that any such mandate was ever given to his firm. We can only be left with doubt in our minds. I am sure that during the course of this debate Senator Carrick, who seeks to interject, will be able to give us unqualified proof of the authenticity of that document. If he cannot, there is no point in his constantly seeking to interject on that score. The fact remains that that document which purports to claim a mandate from the Australian Government in fact gives no such mandate at all. That is the essence of this whole question. At no time was anybody authorised to negotiate loans on behalf of the Austraiian Government, including Mr Khemlani.
Senator Cotton referred to the deficit which the Australian Government expects in the forthcoming Budget. Of course he did not claim to know how much that deficit would be. The Government has indicated on previous occasions its desire to minimise that deficit. But it should not be assumed that any of the moneys that may have been sought on any of the world money markets would be used for that purpose. It was indicated previously that there are many areas in which such loan moneys could be utilised- for payments to the States, for the Australian Industry Development Corporation and for matters related to energy requirements. It is said that Australia finds itself in a terrible position. But as was indicated here only a day or so ago the United States finds itself with a bigger budget deficit problem than we have in Australia.
– It is a larger country.
– Yes. At the time I indicated that $70,000m was proportionately higher than the estimated $3,000m in this country. Quite apart from the fact of what arrangements might be made by the Government to finance the deficit of the Budget, nothing has been borrowed under these arrangements which are the subject matter of the debate. No offers were made. No communication was given in the case of Mr Khemlani to the Government to say that the money was there and that therefore the Government could have it, if it wished. No loan offer was made and no such offer had to be accepted. So it is quite erroneous to suggest that because that person was used to examine the source of funds there was anything improper. It was certainly a departure from what may be described as the traditional means of establishing the source of funds on the world money markets.
I repeat, and I believe it is important that it be understood, that there was nothing illegal or improper. Senator Cotton went on to say that there were all sorts of things to be cleared up and that all sorts of documents were floating around. He admits that he cannot vouch for the authenticity of any of these documents. Why is it that if these documents exist and if they are authentic they have not been brought into the Senate chamber and tabled? Why is it that the Opposition cannot find one single document to indicate that any authority was given to any person to negotiate loans on behalf of this Government? The Opposition has been challenged. It has been asked to do this. It will not do it because it cannot do it. That is the simple answer. It is quite true that there are properly qualified people in this country who are competent to negotiate loans. As I have indicated, they are the people who would do any negotiating flowing from the information which may have been received concerning the source of funds. I do not fully comprehend the thinking of the Opposition in this case except if we assume that the whole purpose of the exercise is a deliberate attempt to discredit this country in the eyes of overseas lenders. No other possible motive could be behind the motion.
Again we have had reference by Senator Cotton to the $100m loan being raised on the New York market. He said that we have heard nothing about the loan and that Australia has been discredited. I say to Senator Cotton and to honourable senators opposite that they will hear something about it tomorrow. I am glad to be able to advise the Senate that the loss of credibility on the part of the Government is a complete fallacy. It is something which the Opposition, in its own mind, has conjured up for cheap political reasons in Australia. When the New York loan announcement is made it will establish beyond any doubt that the loan being raised in accordance with the requirements of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which seeks the most stringent conditions from any borrower, indicates that the credibility of this country has in no way been damaged.
I am quite sure that Mr Lynch will be among those who will be bitterly disappointed to know that Australia’s credibility still stands very high in places from which we traditionally seek our sources of funds. I think this is one of the most unfortunate matters which has been dragged across the arena for some time. There was no doubt in my mind from the beginning that all proper procedures had been followed by the Government. Yet despite that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made a whole series of accusations based on material which cannot be authenticated. If the Opposition is so sure of its position one would assume that it would be much more forthcoming than moving a motion to debate a matter of urgency, because that debate will not establish anything. One would presume that the Opposition would like to go further than that if it really believed that all this information was correct.
It is a great shame that the time of this Parliament must be taken up with matters which are based purely on hearsay and rumour. I doubt very much whether in past years we have seen a more puerile exercise than that which has been conducted by Mr Lynch for the sole purpose of some sort of self-promotion. I do not intend to cover all the matters in my initial remarks other than to outline the broad aspect of Government policy. But I trust that during the course of the debate other speakers on the Government side will be able to demonstrate to the Australian people in various ways the total falsity of the arguments and of the alleged case that has been instigated by Mr Phillip Lynch.
-I think that the first thing that should be stressed is that this motion criticises the Government for its failure to make a full disclosure regarding overseas loan transactions and for not tabling one document which would substantiate the claims which it is now making to the Parliament. What Senator Wriedt, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, has said today has disclosed some chinks of light which however have not dispelled in any way the darkness which surrounds that whole transaction. I simply wish to say one or two things by way of preliminary reference to what he said. He was concerned to regard this motion as being in some way a matter of abuse and personal attack upon Ministers. From the Opposition’s viewpoint that is not the case at all; we are seeking information. I think I should correct the record at the outset, in view of an imputation which was made earlier this morning. Sir Robert Menzies is not, and never has been, a director of the Morgan Bank of New York. If one looks at the names of the VicePresidents of the Morgan Guarantee Trust Company of New York the only familiar name which appears is that of Nicholas R. Whitlam.
Mr Lynch has been challenged by Senator Wriedt for allegedly having been careless of the truth. I think that Mr Lynch ‘s conduct in this matter has been one of creditable diligence in endeavouring to ascertain the facts of the situation which have not been disclosed to the people of Australia. He was concerned, as those who saw his appearance on television only 2 nights ago will recall, to stress that he could not authenticate a document or say whether a document was genuine. He was at pains to stress that. But he said that the existence of the document raised 2 questions: If it was genuine the Government has been concealing and has a lot to explain. If it was not genuine the Government really ought to conduct a most intensive investigation to find out why fraudulent statements were being made about what the Government had authorised or to ascertain who was responsible for the forgery.
As the Government has been ready to command the Commonwealth Police to move in on so many occasions in the past for far less important matters than whether the Government is being wrongfully charged with having granted a mandate to borrow $2,000m, it is surprising that there has been no reference whatsoever to any concern by the Government to investigate this matter. One also might ask: Why is it that in this very important debate we find the advisers’ benches on the Government side empty of any representatives of the Treasury, any representatives of the Department of Minerals and Energy and any representatives of any Government department? Is that a fair indication of the way in which the Government treats this matter? I further say, and this is in direct response to Senator Wriedt and follows on what Senator Cotton said, that we have developed over the years a pattern of having Treasury representatives located in the significant places throughout the world where finances may be raised, as required. Senator Cotton tabled a document which shows where they are. I ask Senator Wriedt: If there are new areas of finance opening up why does not Treasury have its representatives in these new areas? Why is it that we involve ourselves in these apparently murky transactions about which the Government is not prepared to give any information whatsoever and which raise the suggestion that our credit worthiness is not as good as it should be?
One of the questions to which the documents would give the answer is whether the Government was having difficulty in raising finance in the traditional centres of the world and had to resort to this type of approach in order to get the money it was wanting. Might I say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) it does not in any way answer any of the problems connected with the reason for the Government wanting to borrow $2,000m to say simply that we may hear tomorrow that $100m was able to be borrowed. Is the Government’s success to be measured by the fact that having sought $2,000m it is able to borrow only $ 100m?
Let me return to the particulars of the general case which Senator Cotton opened up. The first mention of this matter was in December last year when the private secretary of the shadow Treasurer, Mr Lynch, sought information from Treasury about allegations that Australia was engaged in loan raising. The proper reply which the private secretary received from Treasury to his proper inquiry was:
Approaches were made recently to the Australian Government for loans to it on behalf of unidentified principals. The Government placed itself in a position to investigate the approaches. In the absence of identification of the principals, the Government withdrew from further investigation.
That was last December, but the rumour persisted and Mr Lynch asked a question when Parliament resumed in February. He was brushed off by Mr Connor who simply said:
Matters relating to the currency, loans and the commercial credit of the nation should be handled with the utmost discretion.
It is a matter of record that Mr Lynch was issuing statements calling upon the Government to explain what was happening, and to confirm or deny information which he believed was important and which the Government could have denied if the facts were untrue that would have set at rest all the concern that was being felt by the Opposition. On 23 April this year when Mr Lynch asked a further question of Mr Connor, all Mr Connor could say was: . . borrowing transactions are a matter of confidentiality and responsibility and will continue to be so treated.
We have seen in the last few weeks such a revealing miscellany of apparently inconsistent statements, of cover up and a failure to give information that this motion is made a perfectly justifiable call upon the Government to explain itself.
I mention some of the questions asked by Mr Lynch. Is it correct that letters have been exchanged between the Treasurer or Sir Lenox Hewitt and the person to whom the brokerage was to be payable? Where are the letters? Is it a fact that the international institutions normally involved in the Government’s loan arrangements were by-passed in favour of an individual with alleged Middle East connections? Why was borrowing authority given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy and not to the Treasurer? Was advice received from the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department questioning the legality and the economic consequences of the loan? The Minister made no statement in the Parliament or outside the Parliament in answer to any of those questions. If those things had not occurred why could not a statement have been bluntly made that there is no truth in any of those allegations? Nothing was said.
Is it not a matter of concern to wonder what it is that the Government is hiding? The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam ) said in the Parliament on 23 April that none of the money was to be expended under the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act, but on 20 May he said that the borrowing was for matters relating to energy. In between times the former Treasurer said that not only would the States benefit by it but that the highest priority would be given to energy purposes under the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act. That was said at his Press conference on 8 May. In all this we have the statement that Loan Council approval had not been obtained. Loan Council approval was not obtained for a loan sought to be gathered in Australia’s name for $2,000m. Is it any wonder that a responsible Opposition seeks to find out the facts? Is it any wonder that after we ask question after question and are given the brush off we come to this point and seek to get the information that we want.
Who are the intermediaries who have been authorised by relevant Ministers? Apparently Dr Cairns was dismissed as Treasurer because he authorised a Mr Harris to investigate whether money was available. Whether Dr Cairns, in the light of questions asked this morning, has given all the facts to the Parliament is a matter still to be probed. I would hope that this is a matter that is regarded as being of some consequence so we will learn whether or not Dr Cairns offered a brokerage of Vh per cent. These are matters which ought to be explained.
We have sought to find out who were the intermediaries authorised by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). The Minister said in Parliament in May that there was a careful letter of identification to an intermediary. We find that the Prime Minister at his Press conference this week said there was no letter; there was a cable. This morning, for the first time in this Parliament, after 2 questions I asked yesterday, 2 questions I asked today and a fifth question asked by Senator Baume, the Leader of the Government in the Senate acknowledged that Mr Khemlani was the intermediary, and we are assured that he is the only person. If he is the only person, what is the reason behind the other letters that are floating around about which the Government appears to be not at all concerned and which suggests that an exclusive mandate has been given to another company? This word mandate’ is curious in the context. The Minister for Minerals and Energy on 22 May used the same word- an unusual word in the context in which these circumstances have developed. Furthermore, we find reference to an exclusive mandate. The Prime Minister himself, when he explained why the Executive Council authority had been revoked, indicated that it was revoked because the general pattern overseas was that when you gave an authority of this character it was an exclusive authority, and therefore it had to be revoked.
These are the matters upon which a probing Opposition has sought information and in respect of which the Government has not been forthcoming. We have a system of government in this country which depends upon the Parliament being able to exert its authority over the Ministers who come from that Parliament, and Ministers are expected to be responsible and responsive to that Parliament. If that is not able to be sustained, the efficacy of our system must be under challenge. So much depends upon an Opposition in its willingness to probe and to push. It is only 2 years ago that we heard so much from the paragons of virtue who now disgrace so many of the offices they hold that open government was the great plea and the great need in this country, but we do not hear very much about open government today, because this Government has set new standards in concealing matters from the people of Australia. I think it is a matter of great regret that we are called upon to move this motion, but we do it because the circumstances have left us no alternative. It is up to the Government to give far, far more information than it has already given.
– I have found great difficulty in detecting any coherent theme in what has been put to us today, and indeed in the line of questioning that has muddied the waters of this place over the last few days. What is it that is alleged against the Government? Is it wrong for the Australian Government to seek to get its hands on some of the billions of petro-dollars that are floating around the world? I am greeted with silence. Is it wrong to deal in financial matters with Pakistanis? Is that alleged against the Government? Should we be dealing with reputable American banking firms, such as has been the practice in the past, instead of dealing with reputable Pakistani authorities? Is that alleged against us? Is it alleged that it is perhaps wrong to deal through people with whom one goes to the football? That raises the interesting question of the deals Sir Robert Menzies may have cooked up here and in England when he went to the cricket.
I detected some charge in a phrase that was used by Senator Guilfoyle in a question that she asked this morning when she said, in horror, that we had been bypassing established Treasury procedures. Let me enlighten the Senate about established Treasury procedures. I have in my hand a document- I hasten to add that I will table it- which throws some light on these highly esteemed Treasury procedures. It is a minute addressed to Sir Lenox Hewitt, the head of Mr Connor’s Department, by a First Assistant Secretary in the Department of the Treasury, Mr J. T. Larkin, and it reads:
On 1 3 December 1 974 at about 7 p.m. there was a meeting at the Attorney-General’s Department between officers of that Department and Treasury to prepare an Executive Council Minute for a proposed borrowing abroad of US$4,000m. Present were Messrs Byers -
That is the Solicitor-General-
That is the Secretary of the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department-
Menzies and Rose -
Who are officers of the Attorney-General’s Department-
In the course of the evening while the Executive Council Minute was being typed up, Sir Frederick Wheeler rebuked Mr Hay for Mr Hay ‘s indiscretion earlier in the day in having a message passed orally by the Guard at the Prime Minister’s Lodge to Sir Frederick Wheeler. Sir Frederick said the message, which reported that Scotland Yard has failed to uncover any criminal record of Mr Khemlani, was very delicate and it should not have been conveyed orally by Mr Hay to the Guard for transmission to Sir Frederick when he (Sir Frederick) was in the company of the Prime Minister, Mr Connor and others. Sir Frederick pointed out to Mr Hay that there could have been embarrassment if the meeting at the Lodge knew that the Treasury was secretly and without authority having Scotland Yard investigate Mr Khemlani.
Fortunately, Sir Frederick said, Ministers and officials at the Lodge did not overhear the message which the Guard conveyed to him regarding the Scotland Yard investigations.
– Is that a secret document from which you are reading?
-This is a copy of a minute from a First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to the head of Mr Connor’s Department.
– No doubt we will have the accreditation letter to Mr Khemlani now that you are so forthcoming.
-This is very unpalatable to Senator Carrick. Is it any wonder that a government, in dealing with established Treasury procedures, should entertain some doubts about its relationship with that Treasury when the head of that Department secretly undertakes investigations of a man and does not want the government to know anything about it?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. As I understand it, the Prime Minister has instigated a Government inquiry into these matters and it is proceeding at this moment. I take the point of order that any reflection is quite out of place at this moment.
– The point of order is not upheld.
-This is the Treasury, with its established procedures, through which alone we are expected to deal in searching for funds throughout the world. This is a department which conducts a vendetta- or at least some of its officials conduct a vendettaagainst this Government. Is it such a mystery that a government in seeking funds abroad should go outside established Treasury procedures?
There was nothing secret about the fact that the Australian Government was seeking funds. As the document from which I have just quoted indicates, officers of the Treasury and of the Attorney-General’s Department were present at the meeting referred to to draw up a minute for the Executive Council authorising Mr Connor to seek to get funds on the world money market. The Executive Council decision is common knowledge. I think it is in one of the documents which Mr Lynch has mysteriously come by over recent days. It is marvellous, when you come to think of it, how Sir Frederick Wheeler goes to such pains to conceal information from the Government yet somehow or other documents that we would think were known only to the Treasury regularly get into the hands of Mr Lynch. But the minute of the Executive Council clearly establishes that Mr Connor was authorised to attempt to raise $4,000m. This was known to Sir Frederick Wheeler. Mr Khemlani ‘s existence and role in the scheme of things was known to Sir Frederick Wheeler.
– Is that the Executive minute you had in your hand?
– Yes, it is. I will table the minute if the Leader of the Opposition wishes. Unlike those on the other side who fling accusations at this Government we are prepared to table documents to which we refer in this place. I now table the minute of the Executive Council about which -
– You referred to Mr Khemlani and his accreditation. Will you table that?
– I have referred to Mr Khemlani. Unfortunately I am not able to table Mr Khemlani. Is that what the Opposition seeks? Does it suggest that there is no such person as Mr Khemlani?
– I asked whether you would table his accreditation?
- Senator, you can ask whatever you like a little bit later. At the present moment I am answering the outrageous charges that have been made by a reckless and unscrupulous Opposition which is quite unconcerned with Australia’s credit abroad. If there has been any damage done to Australia’s credit and its ability to raise funds, it has not been done by this Government; it has been done by a reckless and unscrupulous Opposition which is prepared to grasp at any straw in order to attempt to discredit this Government.
In any event, we have the spectacle of Sir Frederick Wheeler conducting his secret investigations of Mr Khemlani and being unable to come up with anything damaging to Mr Khemlani. I may add, by the way, that the Government had made its own inquiries about Mr Khemlani. The suggestion that there is something murky about it, to use Senator Greenwood’s paranoid term, just will not stand up. Mr Khemlani is a reputable member of the firm of Dalamal and Sons, an old Pakistani firm centred in London. We made our inquiries through Morgan Guaranty, among others, and we got nothing but good reports about Mr Khemlani. The fact that he did not come up with any money is beside the point. The only thing that matters is that he is a reputable man, outside of the main stream, perhaps, of international finance, but as Dr Cairns pointed out in his statement in the other place, there is nothing odd about that. We are in a totally new situation. The fact is that because of the energy crisis and because of the increase in oil prices there has been a totally unprecedented redistribution of the world’s wealth and the money markets of the world have shifted from their traditional sites and the petro-dollar, which is as good a dollar as any other dollar, is to be found in unexpected places. Is it at all surprising that a Pakistani firm or a Middle East firm, or some firm that was not centred on London, Zurich or New York, would have more ready access to petro-dollars than would the traditional firms? That is the reason why we went outside the established lines to attempt to raise this money. We suggest that to say there is anything sinister about that just would not stand up.
Another very interesting thing about the whole matter are the curious double standards that we get from the Opposition. This morning in this place one of its own, Senator Wood, stood up and made allegations from a document. These gentlemen opposite who are always screaming for us to table documents rose to his defence and divided the Senate on the question of whether he should be required to table the document.
– He produced it.
-We wanted the original document. Not only that, but also in the course of making an explanation Senator Wood acknowledged that he also had joined in this game of trying to raise money through unorthodox circles. He admitted that he had introduced people to Dr Cairns, and he did not seem to be ashamed of it. Neither he should be. But did we hear any howls of rage or indignation from his brothers who sit on those seats opposite? Of course we did not. What is done by one of their number is all right; what is done by one of ours must be evil.
Let me also discuss the curious new legal theory that is introduced by, among others, the lawyers opposite, including that great stickler for legal niceties, Senator Greenwood- the curious proposition that we, the accused, carry the onus of disproving documents which their spokesmen produce. Mr Lynch every day comes up with a new sheaf of documents.
– I think he writes them himself.
-He may write them himself. He may have somebody type them, then photostat them, and then produce them to a credulous public. Then we, according to the curious logic of Senator Greenwood and other honourable senators opposite, are called upon to disprove their authenticity. Senator Wriedt has said time and time again in answering questions in this place over the last week that the onus is on those who accuse. The onus is on Mr Lynch and others to prove that these documents are authentic. There has been only one test so far. I hear Senator Wright mumbling. He does not like this proposition; or does he, as one of the lawyers opposite, defend this curious reversal of a well-established legal principle, that is, that he who accuses carries the onus? We have had one of these documents tested on a program which was on the air last night. A Mr MacDonald, who is of a firm which was alleged to be involved in one of these documents, Dolmac Consultants in London, went on the air and said that he was puzzled about his name being linked with negotiations for the loan. He said that he had no authority from any government or government agency and that his company was involved in buying and selling commodities mainly for the Middle East. He went on to say:
No, at the moment I’m not trying to find any money for your Government or any other government at this point in time. Frankly, but if I could find money I’d certainly be delighted to offer it, and I think it would be a logical country to grant money to if one had money to loan.
I do not accept the absurd onus which Senator Wright, Senator Greenwood or any of the others attempt to cast on the Government. If we are talking about tabling documents, it is up to Mr Lynch to table the documents he has. Let us examine them. Let us test their authenticity. But no, the Opposition is prepared to hang us on hearsay. I suggest that members of the Opposition should hang their heads in shame at the harm which they have done to Australia’s credit abroad. I make bold to state that we will see in the next few days whether or not they have succeeded. But they are prepared obviously to stoop to any depths to discredit this Government. I trust that they will fail in that effort.
– Before I return to the burden of the motion before the Senate, I wish to give some information concerning the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies.
An allegation was made this morning- by interjection it was stated that there was a tie-up with great and powerful friends- that he was a director of the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York. I am informed by Sir Robert’s private secretary that Sir Robert was never a director. Sir Robert Menzies was on the International Council of the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York from 1968 to 1972. 1 am assured that that is a group which dispenses charitable moneys provided by the company. It has nothing whatever to do with the management of the bank itself. The chairman of the Council during that period was the Right Honourable Lord Shawcross, formerly Attorney-General in the Attlee Labour Government. I notice that Senator James McClelland has now left the Senate chamber. He has stated in the debate that there is more than one company. That is one and the same company in which Nicholas R. Whitlam is listed as a vicepresident. So much for the sort of interruption we had this morning in an attempt to defame a very distinguished Australian.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) said that he could not understand the theme that the Opposition was trying to get at. What Senator James McClelland did this morning was to give the evidence of why he has been promoted by the Prime Minister. He had been promoted to a more significant portfolio whilst Mr Clyde Cameron, as somebody said, has been blinded with science. Basically, he has been promoted because his chief role seems to be that of the Prime Minister’s hatchet man to carry out the execution of Sir Frederick Wheeler, one of Australia’s most distinguished public servants. What the Minister did this morning brings no credit upon himself and very little credit upon the Senate.
The documents produced are very interesting. The Minister asks what is the theme. Mr Larkin ‘s document is dated 23 May 1975. It is all about a conversation of 13 December 1974. It is some time since I practised in the semi-criminal jurisdiction or the criminal jurisdiction. But I always thought that notes had to be made reasonably close to the event to be of any real value. The evidence of a policeman who wrote up his notebook days or weeks later was not always that good. Apart from that, I ask the question: Why did Mr Larkin prepare on 23 May 1975 for the file this note of something which occurred on 13 December 1974? That is something I would like to have answered.
I thought also that the Minister- I hope I did not mishear him- said that this note was for Sir
Lenox Hewitt. If that is so, why is the First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury preparing a note concerning his departmental head for the head of another department? I ask that simple question. I accept the Minister’s statement that the minute paper to the Executive Council is the correct copy. As my colleague, Senator Wright, points out it is not the final document because it does not bear the Governor-General’s signature. But this appears to be sent from the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department. This was crossed out and Department of Minerals and Energy’ written over the top. That is by the way. When the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) answered a question in the Senate this morning I thought that the burden of his speech was that the most anybody had been authorised- that was the Minister for Minerals and Energy- to do was to investigate whether there were some funds available abroad.
Let us read what the Minister tables as authentic documents. I will leave out all the stuff at the top of the document about $4,000m. I am not taking things out of context; I am just getting down to the heart of the document. It reads:
Now it is recommended for the approval of His Excellency the Governor-General, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, that, in pursuance of section 61 of the Constitution-
And this is the important paragraph-
Now that is hardly an authority to go off and investigate the availability of funds. The document continues:
Senator Wriedt was saying that the only authority ever granted was to investigate whether or not funds were available.
-That does not give anybody authority.
-It does not give anybody authority? The document continues:
The final paragraph, which is shown also as paragraph (c)- it should be (d)- reads: the Minister for Minerals and Energy, and such other person or persons as he appoints in writing, be authorised for and on behalf of Australia to take any other action and execute any other documents required or permitted to be taken or executed for the purpose of making the said borrowing.
Some names are then listed. They are E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.; J. F. Cairns, M.P.; L. Murphy, Q. C; and R. F. X. Connor, M.P. Mr Connor has the title under his name ‘Minister for Minerals and Energy’. The others must have been well known to somebody. Attached to the document is an explanatory memorandum.
– This is a document prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Treasury.
-That is right.
– What is sinister about it?
-Were the recommendations in this document never implemented?
– Nobody got the authority that is mentioned in that document.
– Well, what is the purpose of tabling it? The document came from the Attorney-General’s Department and was converted to the Department of Minerals and Energy.
– It is crossed out.
– Yes, but who did that? Who crossed out ‘Attorney-General’s Department’ and put in ‘Department of Minerals and Energy’?
– I would think there is a simple explanation for that. The document first went to the Attorney-General’s Department and then a copy went to the Department of Minerals and Energy. There is a plot in everything, is there?
– It strikes me as more than interesting. I ask the Senate: What is the Minister up to? This is a gorgeous red herring. The Minister comes in and says he has a minute paper from the Executive Council. He tables it with a great flourish and says: ‘We have got nothing to hide’. He now admits that it is not the real minute paper, that it is only a draft. Does the Minister not agree with that? That is what he is saying.
– It is a copy; it is not the original. On the face of it it is a copy.
-Of course it is a copy. It is a counterpart- call it any of the other things you like. What ever happened to it? Was it approved? Was it destroyed? Was it not gone on with? It is not signed. I pointed earlier that it is not signed by the Governor-General. Why produce a document that the Minister says is of no force and effect?
– Because you asked me to table it.
-Why did the Minister quote from it? We now have an admission, as I said before, that Senator James McClelland is using this exercise to indulge, as the hatchet man for the Prime Minister, in trying to savage and destroy Sir Frederick Wheeler. What is the purpose of producing this ‘note for file’ written on 23 May by one J. T. Larkin? Is it for the purpose of providing the Senate with information?
– Yes, of established Treasury procedure.
-It was not to provide the Senate with information. It was an attempt to destroy a very distinguished Australian public servant. That is the only reason it was produced. I think that the Government has been exposed sufficiently in this whole sorry, sordid mess. Everybody knows that. All that is now required is finally to ascertain the facts.
– Where have all the Ministers gone?
– Yes, where have they all gone? Who will reply to me in this debate? Will it be one of the boys from Queensland? Why do the Ministers not get up and defend the Government? Where have all the front bench tall poppies gone? Are they rushing off to see the Strangler to get further instructions? Is that where they have gone? I know that suggestions have been made about what further action the Opposition might take. Let my put some things on the record quite plainly. In no circumstances does the Opposition intend to let the matter rest when this debate is concluded. Some time this afternoon the Manager pf Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) will move the motion which is normally moved at the end of each period of sitting, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to a date to be fixed, when the President shall summon honourable senators back. That date is expected to be about 19 August. I give notice now to the Government that I will move an amendment to that motion which I trust the Senate will carry, and that is that an absolute majority of the Senate will have the capacity to recall the Senate should circumstances require it in the meantime. We know very well that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), by the use of his numbers in the other place- and I do not object to that -
– Which you do not use here?
-I do not object to his using the numbers.
– Why did you use that expression?
-Because I knew that you would interject and so I thought that I would say it. The Prime Minister has sent the House of Representatives off into legislative limbo until 19 August. It is well for Australia that he cannot do that to this place. Therefore I give notice that the Opposition will attempt and hope to convince the Senate that the Senate ought to be recalled if something further arises. It has been suggested that committees should perhaps be set up. That is still a matter for consideration. I note that this morning Senator Hall gave notice that he may seek to have people called before the Bar of the Senate. This matter also has been within the consideration of the Opposition and will remain within its consideration.
– It is a holding motion only.
-I realise that, but Senator Hall has given notice of an intention, as he is entitled to do. I mention these things because the Government may think that it can come into this chamber today and bandy around documents and notes for the file, trail red herrings across the place and attack people who are not here. That is a very simple thing to do. The Government hopes that the problem will go away when the Senate rises tonight. For what it is worth, let me assure the Government that the problem will not go away. These sorts of things have a habit of staying around and becoming worse. If as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) said earlier this morning, this is nothing but a storm in a teacup, why does he not get rid of the storm in the teacup by tabling every document concerned with this episode from its commencement some time prior to 13 December 1974. Let him put all the documents on the table. If he does not put them on the table -
– Like Senator Wood did?
-That is a typical irrelevant red herring which the honourable senator is very adept at drawing across the Senate chamber.
– We should table documents; you should not. Is that the proposition?
-I am talking about the Government tabling documents.
– And I am talking about you tabling documents.
– I have no documents to table.
- Senator Wood had some.
-Senator Wood speaks for himself, and he speaks far better for himself than Senator James McClelland speaks for the Government. All I can say to the Government is this: ‘If you are not prepared to put the documents on the table they will just eventually have to be put on the table as a result of other action which we will not be afraid to resort to if need be’.
– Before addressing myself to the debate I should like to say that I do not think the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) enhanced his reputation in this place by snidery asking where were the Ministers in this chamber and saying that he would be followed by the boy from Queensland. Does he deny Queensland senators the right to participate in this debate? After all, Queensland is a State that has given to this Parliament 3 eminent Treasurers- E. G. Theodore, Fadden and the present Treasurer, Bill Hayden. But I do not know that the State that the Leader of the Opposition represents, Western Australia, has a record to equal that. However, I am not going to be too sensitive about the matter, but it is typical of the criticisms that the honourable senator makes of people on the Government side when he has no evidence to support the claims that his colleagues have been making.
Ever since the December 1972 election when the Liberal-Country Parties were thrown out of power, and now that they are the Opposition, they seem to have flatly refused to accept the verdict of the people; they do not seem to realise and appreciate that they are no longer the Government; that they are the Opposition. They beieve that, like the Stuarts’ divine right of kings, they have the divine right and duty to occupy the Treasury benches. We have seen that they will come at anything to achieve these ends. We have seen them in operation as the Opposition for 3 years now. The pattern of their strategy is falling into place. When the Government introduces measures on matters such as health, welfare and education it receives tardy and qualified censure from the Opposition members. They use every pretence and pretext to delay the measures. But any attempt to discredit the credibility of the Government is trumpeted with the loudest blast throughout the nation.
Let us examine the urgency motion that is before the Senate today and see what all the fuss is about. The motion is very broad indeed; it covers a wide spectrum. But is there any charge of dishonesty or improper practice contained in the motion? Of course there is not. Let us put the situation under calm and careful consideration. With regard to overseas loan raisings, the availability of funds today is quite different from what it was, say, 2 or 3 years ago. However, we hope that one practice still remains, and that is the practice that when governments, irrespective of their political persuasion, have been successful in raising a loan their success has been welcomed by the nation because loans have been required for national purposes. They were even hailed by the State governments because the States would have benefited from the transactions also. That is how it should be, and let us hope that it will continue to be that way.
Since 1973, with the increase in the price of oil, an amount of some $60,000m has changed direction; it has come under control of different people. A large amount of that money was being invested in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe for wealthy individuals in various financial circles. The competition to lend is keen. We heard Senator Wood say here this morning that he was approached by an intermediary. I was approached by an intermediary who said he was representing Denis Lee, the Chairman of the Moscow Norodny Bank in Singapore, and the brother of Lee Kuan Yew. He claimed he could get the money. So there are intermediaries all around the place. One wonders now whether, because the Singapore Branch of the Moscow Norodny Bank did not get the lending authority it might be trying to discredit the Government. One wonders what is happening in these things when one sees letters floating around and being bandied around throughout the community by the Opposition. This Government has, as any other government has, a responsibility to ascertain the circumstances with respect to the availability of these funds. Other governments took similar steps to explore new areas for available funds and available investment. Their steps were justified. If we had not done so we would have been vulnerable to criticism for failing to do so. That would have been the cry of the Opposition. It would have told us: ‘There is an abundance of petro-dollars available. What are you doing about it?’
Let us turn our attention to Mr Phillip Lynch. Just how reliable is he? He has engaged in a smear campaign against Mr Khemlani in order to discredit the Government. He has implied that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), a most highly respected member of this Parliament for a long period of years, has been dealing with people of no repute in arranging funds for the Australian Government. Mr Lynch has claimed that Mr Khemlani has a criminal record and was engaged by the Government to do the rounds of overseas financial institutions. What are the facts? Mr Lynch has again been played as a sucker. He has been misinformed about or has made up these accusations against Mr Khemlani. Mr Khemlani has been cleared by the Treasury and by Scotland Yard. My colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, earlier gave complete and adequate answers to Mr Lynch ‘s false claims regarding Mr Khemlani. This is only another occasion on which Mr Lynch has been proven to be the carrier of false information.
Sure we remember his stance when he denied the water torture incidents in Vietnam. He later capitulated and admitted certain water torture incidents. What about his denials of a man called O’Neill being chained in the trenches in Vietnam? He capitulated again and admitted he was wrong. There is no doubt that Mr Lynch will be proven wrong again, just as he was proven wrong on the 2 Vietnam issues and on his denial of a claim of bastardisation in the Army at Duntroon. Since I have been a member of the Senate
I have seen Mr Lynch conceive many things. He has conceived on many occasions, and nothing has happened. I submit to the Senate that Mr Lynch must be barren. Whether or not he is barren, he is certainly acrobatic. When Mr Malcolm Fraser was making his run against Mr Snedden, Mr Lynch ‘s footwork was so complete that everyone knew that he had a foot in each camp. The only reason he did not have a foot in the third camp, Mr Peacock’s, was that he had only 2 feet. So much for Mr Lynch.
Let us turn our attention to the self-appointed representative in the Senate of Mr Lynch. I refer to Senator Greenwood. Senator Greenwood has repeated all the charges made by Mr Lynch and has attempted to make out that in the Government’s negotiating overseas loans, in petrodollars, for $4,000m somebody was doing something improper, that as a result of the one per cent which was mentioned as brokerage somebody stood to make $40m and that somewhere, somehow the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), Dr J. F. Cairns and Mr Connor were connected. I think Senator Greenwood also included his old friend, the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, ex-Senator Murphy. What a contemptible state of affairs. Being a member of a ministry and a former Attorney-General, the senator should know that all governments, whether they are Labor or Liberal-National Country Party governments, traditionally deal with brokers such as Morgan Stanley and Co. Inc. of New York. It has been traditional for expenses, fees and brokerages to be paid.
Earlier today, at question time, my Leader had permission from the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard a list of loan raisings by the LiberalCountry Party Government, together with the percentage of fees and expenses paid, between 1967 and 1972. So the electors of Australia can be informed and can judge for themselves whether this Government is acting illegally or improperly, as claimed by Senator Greenwood and the Opposition, I will read out the loan borrowings by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and the amount of fees and expenses that were paid for the period 1967-72. In 1972 there was a Japanese loan for $9. 8m. The expenses were 1.93 per cent. In January 1972 there was a German loan for DM 100m. The expenses were 3.09 per cent. In 1971 there was a loan from the Netherlands for f60m. The expenses were 1.55 per cent. I can give further examples. There was a Swiss loan for SwF60m and the expenses were 5.06 per cent. There was a German loan in July 1968 and the expenses were 3.15 per cent. There was a Swiss loan in April 1967 for SwF50m and the expenses were 5.16 per cent. In 1967 there was a German loan and the expenses were 3.20 per cent. The average percentage of expenses and brokerage paid on loans arranged by the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government during the period 1 967 to 1 972 was 2.97 per cent.
This is the traditional procedure followed by Liberal-National Country Party Governments. It is the traditional procedure that has been followed by this Government and, no doubt, will be followed by governments in the future. This whole affair has been a despicable attempt to discredit this Government. The charges made by the Opposition have not been supported. As I said earlier, Mr Lynch has been played for a sucker. The Opposition, particularly Senator Greenwood in his demeanour and his stance in these matters, is like the old Irish policeman who, having apprehended the prisoner and having questioned him, said: ‘You might be right; you might be wrong; but I do not think so’. That is the attitude of the Opposition in this matter.
- Senator McAuliffe read to us a list of loans arranged by the previous Government so, he informed the Senate, that the people of Australia could learn. Contrary to that, I do not think the people of Australia learned anything from listening to the honourable senator because his whole speech was a great tirade directed at Mr Lynch and Senator Greenwood. Apparently the honourable senator, in going back to 1972 and saying that this Opposition still thought that it was in Government, had forgotten entirely the actions of members of the Australian Labor Party when it was in Opposition. I remember many occasions in those days when the then Opposition took the business out of the hands of the then Government and defeated and amended legislation. Yet, they claimed this was all in the interests of the country at that time. They claimed this had nothing to do with denigrating the Government in those times; far from it. They claimed they were looking at the legislation and trying to improve it. Now when the Opposition, which sometimes has the numbers, tries to amend legislation it is acting despicably, according to Senator McAuliffe.
Let me remind honourable senators of a motion that was moved by the previous Opposition in this Senate in which it said that the handling of the Department of Repatriation by the late Senator McKellar was far from the way in which the Labor Party would handle it. Acting on very little information, day after day Labor Party senators in this place asked questions of Senator McKellar. Finally, they introduced a motion of no confidence in that senator. Was that motion done on facts? Of course it was not.
– Of course it was.
– It was done purely on hearsay. Then we have the situation in 1 969 when a Swedish film was to be shown to the Sydney Film Festival. Senator Malcolm Scott, the Minister at that time, wanted to have an immoral scene taken out of the film.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting, we were discussing an urgency motion which had been moved earlier in the morning by Senator Cotton from the Opposition side of the chamber. He had used the forms of the Senate to seek further information about overseas loan transactions carried out by the Government. This action was necessary because for some time Opposition senators had been seeking information without success. I believe that the motion is perfectly justified despite the criticism of Government senators. Immediately before the luncheon adjournment I was reminding Government senators of some of their actions in the past when they were in Opposition in this chamber. Without any factual information and a great deal of innuendo, they had brought motions of no confidence against two of my colleagues- without success, I might add. But those motions had very little fact about them.
This morning we elicited only a small amount of information, despite the number of speakers from the Government side. We know that there are Treasury officials stationed overseas who negotiate Government loans in those areas. We know that in the past the Government has dealt with or raised loans overseas through many reputable and well established financial institutions. On this occasion we are sure that Government loans could be handled by these institutions or by the Treasury officials stationed overseas with professional competence. We do not see why the Ministers of the Government should authorise their own nominees or acquaintances to seek out funds abroad- something which I believe has made Australia the laughing stock in the financial circles of the world.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, when making his contribution to this debate talked about petrodollars and said that there were new areas of money available to the world. I ask Senator McClelland: ls he saying that this money is available on black market lines, or is it available and known to the established institutions and to the Treasury officials of this country? I should like him or some of the Government speakers who will come forward, to tell us the reason why the Government should seek out this money from the areas from which it is seeking it. Why not go to those people who have handled loans in the past?
I was greatly interested in Senator McClelland ‘s submission when he tabled a memo dated 23 May 1975 which detailed a private conversation held some 6 months before. I should like to ask the question- and I hope that Government speakers will be able to inform the Senate- why a Mr Larkin should write a memo to the Head of the Department of Minerals and Energy about his own permanent head? Is the action of the Secretary of the Treasury in investigating Mr Khemlani ‘s background without telling the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) such a crime? I should like to know the answer to that. After all, the Secretary is the head of the Treasury and the matter did involve many thousands of dollars. I ask the question: Who else could do it? Why should Senator James McClelland table the memo and then make the statement that the Head of the Treasury had gone behind the Prime Minister’s back in investigating this man? This is the reason why this motion was brought before the Senate.
We have had 3 question time periods- if today is included- in which matters arising out of loan borrowings overseas have been raised by a great number of senators. On every occasion- perhaps there is some reservation about today- the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) has fobbed off the questions. I know, as all honourable senators know, that the Leader of the Government is a man who generally does his homework. Generally he gives a pretty good answer to the questions he is asked, and no matter how many times he is asked a question he gives an answer and explains the situation. He has done that time and time again on questions that have been asked in this Senate relating to wool and meat; yet he has sidestepped the issues that have been raised during every question time this week. Why did he do that? Is it because he has something to hide? Is it because the Government does not want the Senate, and particularly the Opposition, to know what is going on? Or is it because the Government does not want the people of this country to know what is going on?
Every time a question has been asked on this matter the Leader of the Government has said that he is not compelled to answer because the Opposition has not produced any information. If we abided by that ruling, there would not be any questions asked in this place, particularly from the Government side. Quite often I have seen Government senators handed pieces of paper by Ministers and, knowing nothing about what they are asking about, they get up and ask Dorothy Dix questions. At other times they have asked questions based on headlines in newspapers. Government senators particularly did this when they were in Opposition; they came along and asked questions based purely on the headlines without reading the following letterpress. Information has been provided today by Senator James McClelland, but nothing was said by the other Government speaker, Senator McAuliffe, about what Senator McClelland had said. All Senator McClelland did was to pose a great number of questions that he suggested have to be explained in this place. I hope that the next speaker for the Government will provide some further information. I believe that the Opposition has done a great service to the people of this country in bringing forward this urgency motion.
-As has happened on, I think, every occasion since I came into the Senate on which the Opposition has launched an urgency motion, frequently in a very aggressive and confident manner, today the course of the debate has turned right around and the Opposition is trying desperately to defend its effrontery in launching the motion in the first place. That happened in relation to the Ermolenko affair, the South Vietnamese orphans and the South Vietnamese refugees, and the pattern seems to be repeating itself today. Just as an aside, I was interested to hear Senator Drake-Brockman complain about the pre- 1972 Opposition having the audacity to take the business of the Senate out of the hands of the then Government. The irony of that is that such action could not have been taken before the 1 972 election without the support of Democratic Labor Party, the Party that endorsed Senator Drake-Brockman and helped elect him to this Senate at the 1974 elections. Senator DrakeBrockman was the Democratic Labor Party candidate, No. 1 on the Democratic Labor Party ticket, for the 1974 Senate election. So I find it ironic, to say the least, that Senator DrakeBrockman should see fit to chastise the Party which endorsed him, an endorsement which he accepted and under which he sits today in this Senate. However, that is an aside.
As to the debate proper, once again we are being subjected to the spectacle of the Opposition wasting the time of the Senate, wasting the time of every member of the Senate in a sordid attempt to gain some political mileage from a non-issue. As has happened previously, the attempt has backfired on the Opposition. The one substantial point which has emerged from this debate today, the one piece of evidence which has been adduced to corroborate the fantastic charges which members of the Opposition have made in this chamber and in the other place, is that at some time in the past the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) wrote a letter to a Mr Khemlani, a representative of a firm of London merchants and traders. The letter, of course, was a letter of introduction. It was not a commission or a contract to write loans on behalf of the Australian Government. That, of course, is not news. It was acknowledged in the other place by the Minister for Minerals and Energy himself some weeks ago. The rest of the falsehoods which Opposition members have presented here have been fabricated by either the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) or the people who fed the information to him, including the honourable member’s own allegation in the House of Representatives when this matter first arose or his own inference that Mr Khemlani was some sort of crook who was under investigation by Scotland Yard. That story, of course, was blown. Mr Khemlani had been investigated by Scotland Yard- which is another story- and Scotland Yard had given him a clean reference.
The other major falsehood or fabrication which had been fed to the Press by the honourable member for Flinders was that the Australian Government had authorised the firm known as Dolmac Consultants as sole agents- I think that was the term which was used- for raising a substantial loan for the Australian Government. That allegation blew up in the face of the honourable member for Flinders, as had his previous fabrications and falsehoods. It was unequivocally denied by the general manager of the firm concerned in a statement last night on the television program ‘This Day Tonight’. I will quote what was said and I will table the transcript of what was said if the Opposition would like me to do so. It reads:
The General Manager, Mr MacDonald, confirms that he was indeed an international financier involved in raising money overseas but he told us he had been given no authority by the Australian Government to negotiate or raise loans.
So that blew up on the honourable member for Flinders.
The other possible justification for the Opposition moving this motion is that it believes that such matters should be handled only in accordance with established Treasury procedures, that I think being the term which was used. I do not know why the Opposition insists on this rigid adherence to the pattern of orthodoxy especially in a changing world. It could, I suppose, be because of the Opposition’s innate conservatism. It could possibly be that some powerful friends of the Opposition were in the habit of obtaining commissions on loans previously raised. Senator McAuliffe, who spoke earlier in this debate, has already given some indication of the very substantial commissions which were available on loans which were raised by the previous Government in accordance with these established Treasury procedures. It may possibly be that there were some kickbacks like the alleged kickback from the Dillingham mining company to the Queensland Government. It was alleged that $100,000 was paid into the funds of the National Country Party in Queensland by this company in return for favours from the Queensland Government. I dare say those diligent members of the
National Country Party who represent Queensland in this Senate will insist with the same tenacity and the same aggression they have displayed today that the Government of Queensland should conduct a royal commission into that allegation to establish whether the Dillingham company did pay $100,000 into the slush funds of the Queensland National Country Party, or perhaps the Opposition was just outraged at the thought of any deviance from the line of orthodoxy.
Apparently the Opposition thinks it quite intolerable that the Government, any government, should object to a situation wherein the Permanent Head of the Department of the Treasury castigates a subordinate for transmitting a message in such a manner that the Prime Minister could have discovered what the Treasury was up to. Apparently it is incomprehensible to the members of the Opposition that any government should object or should have any reservations whatsoever when one of its major departments behaves in that manner, or when the head of one of its major departments sees fit to castigate one of his subordinates because his security has been so slack that the Prime Minister might discover what the Treasury has been up to.
Given the weakness of the argument which the Opposition has attempted to present, it is not surprising that it should have drifted into an indefensible position. When the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) was speaking, Senator Carrick had the effrontery to raise a point of order because the Minister had referred to certain disclosures concerning the Department of the Treasury, and particularly the head of that Department. Senator Carrick raised a point of order on the ground that it was quite improper that the Minister should canvass these matters since they were already the subject of an inquiry ordered by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It is interesting that Senator Carrick should have taken that view. I presume that he approved of the Opposition’s raising this matter of urgency today to canvass those very matters which already are the subject of an inquiry ordered by the Prime Minister. Senator Carrick in that instance has applied a double standard. Senator Carrick is the representative of the antediluvian wing of the Liberal Party- the personification of the antediluvian wing of the Liberal Party. That is the sort of double standard for which the Liberal Party has become infamous. It is the sort of double standard which enabled it to posture and pose as the champion of the liberty of the individual against the tyranny of the State while at the same time it was sending out press gangs to dragoon Australian youths into fighting a war in IndoChina, a war in which Australia had become involved on the basis of a tissue of lies circulated by Senator Carrick ‘s party and the Government formed by his party.
The other major distortion came from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), who seized upon the Executive Council minute and attempted to distort it. In fact he did distort that minute in a fruitless endeavour to prove that it established that the Australian Government had authorised an agent, be it Mr Khemlani or someone else, to negotiate loans on its behalf. I am sure that Senator Withers, who is a lawyer and to the best of my knowledge a lawyer at least of medium competence, would know very well that that minute authorised the Minister for Minerals and Energy to negotiate loans on behalf of the Australian Government. It did not authorise any other person who may be delegated by the Minister for Minerals and Energy to raise loans on behalf of the Australian Government.
It seems that the Opposition in a sense has been the victim of a self-promotion exercise by one of its members, that synthetic man, that habitual headline snatcher, the honourable member for Flinders, who has been building up his image, no doubt in anticipation of the next Liberal Party blood bath. I daresay that the honourable member for Flinders could anticipate, perhaps with considerable glee, another meeting at the godfather’s flat at Toorak when the jackals of the Liberal Party prepare to pick the bones of the Leader that they appointed in the godfather’s flat on the ides of March last. Maybe, about next March, after the Liberal Party fails to win the by-election in Bass, its members will be asking what is wrong with their present Leader and beginning to look for another one.
The honourable member for Flinders, whose political ambition is well known and is without bounds, will be very anxious to promote his image in such a way that he will be favourably considered. Of course he has some handicaps to overcome. He has probably an innate and, some would even be uncharitable enough to say, a well deserved, inferiority complex. But above all, he has the tremendous handicap of being a Roman Catholic and trying to reach the top in a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Party. I suggest that the members of the Opposition should seriously examine the proposition that they have been used in this instance by the habitual headline grabbing honourable member for Flinders in pursuance of his own personal political ambitions.
In the couple of minutes that remain to me I should like to say something about the ethics of stealing. Clearly the one substantial piece of evidence which the Opposition has managed to present in this debate, namely, the Khemlani letter, was stolen by, or stolen on behalf of, a member of the Opposition, presumably for the honourable member for Flinders. It is interesting to note what the Premier of Queensland had to say when some documents fell into the hands of the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland. He said:
I am not concerned with the Opposition’s attempts to use stolen information to try to embarrass the Queensland Government … the Opposition is deserving of the severest censure for its lack of ethics in this affair.
– Tell us what the Leader of the Opposition said about this.
-I shall tell the honourable senator what his former leader, Sir Robert Menzies, said when the Pentagon papers were first published by the ‘New York Times’. Of course the Pentagon papers, as we all recall, established that the Government which was headed by Sir Robert Menzies- and which included as backbenchers or Ministers the following people who are still members of the Senate, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, Senator Drake-Brockman, Senator Marriott, Senator Sim, Senator Webster and Senator Wright- had lied consistently from 1962 onwards regarding the nature of Australia’s military involvement in Vietnam and of course the rationale, the excuse for sending troops in large numbers to Vietnam in May 1 965. An editorial in the ‘Australian Financial Review ‘ of 18 June 1971, in referring to Sir Robert Menzies ‘ attitude following these disclosures, stated:
Loftily, righteously, legalistically, Sir Robert Menzies has refused to comment on the revelations on Vietnam policy published by the ‘New York Times’ on the grounds that he does ‘ not read stolen goods ‘.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– When Senator James McClelland spoke this morning on the matter of urgency that is before the Senate he said that no theme is alleged against the Government. I wish to state that the theme as we see it and as it is unfolding is the pursuit of facts and truth with regard to overseas borrowings on behalf of the Australian Government. It is a matter of pursuing from a point which is as yet obscure to us. We would like to have started at the beginning and to have worked through this thing to a conclusion. It seems to me that we are starting somewhere in the middle and we do not know whether we are going forwards or backwards. But we intend to use the theme of the pursuit of truth and facts so that they may be placed on the record and we may get an understanding of the matters which we are pursuing.
I think what has been developing in the Senate today is evidence of a breakdown of government. It is evidence which indicates that the opportunity is being taken to denigrate the head of the Department of the Treasury. Also, I believe that the Department of the Treasury in its entirety is being denigrated by the Government, in the contributions which Government senators are making today. In asking a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate this morning I referred to the established procedures of the Treasury. His answer to me with regard to bypassing established Treasury procedures was that he had referred to the matter earlier in his reply to Senator Georges. He indicated that the Government was at liberty to use whatever channels were available to it if it sought information concerning the source of funds in world money markets. He said that there was nothing improper or illegal about that. If we analyse that statement we have to ask the question: Is the Minister talking about bypassing the established offices of the Australian Treasury as they are situated in the world money markets? Is he talking about using those offices or is he talking about using some other source of which we have seen evidence in the procedures about which we have been talking for the past few days.
Let me refer to the breakdown of government. Those of us who represent the Parliament on the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts know that that Committee has investigated the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. We saw there evidence of a breakdown in communication and relationship between the head of the Department and the then Minister of the Department. I do not in any way want to develop what has been an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee. If members of the Government Party in the Senate do not understand that there has been a breakdown of government when there is no relationship between the head of a Department and his Minister then they do not understand the functions of the Australian Administration. We have seen this sort of development. I think the opportunity that is being taken today to denigrate the Department of the Treasury is evidence of this breakdown of government. It is not a breakdown between the head of a department and some Minister because they may not be able to work together. We have an assertion by honourable senators on the Government side that there is no need to work through established government procedures or departments.
Since this Government has been in office we have seen an unprecedented increase in public administrators in Australia. Yet it is being asserted that the Government can use other means to do the things which have to be done on behalf of the Australian people. The way in which a note was written by Mr J. T. Larkin on 23 May relating to matters which occurred in December is evidence of the way in which we will use any means to denigrate an individual or a department. Again this is evidence of the breakdown of the relationship which ought to be part of a cohesive government. It is the Treasury through which we deal throughout the world, as was said this morning. It is the Treasury which is denigrated in this Parliament. If the Treasury is to deal on behalf of the Australian people on markets throughout the world, I think it goes into those markets in the future with less credibility than it had in the past.
– What do you do when this breakdown happens, as it does at times?
– I think that is the matter which is really before the Senate at the moment. It is a breakdown of government. Somewhere along the line one does not run around denigrating personalities. There is a Prime Minister at the head of government and he has the responsibility to see that government works as a cohesive whole.
– You have to rectify the position by dismissing the guilty or denigrating the guilty, do you not?
– I think that is what the Government is attempting to do. But what the Minister is talking about is a breakdown in the procedures of government. This is not a matter of removing an individual. The need is to have an operation which hangs together as an administration. Parliamentary Ministers are responsible for the administration and the relationship with the Australian people.
– What if the whole department is so corrupt?
- Mr Minister, let me continue. We are talking about loan borrowings overseas on behalf of the Australian people. We come to a minute of the Executive Council. It was agreed to by the members who were mentioned earlier today. There was the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Treasurer at that time, Dr J. F. Cairns, Senator Lionel Murphy and Mr Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy. This is a minute which gives the widest possible powers to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. If we are talking about established procedures of government we have to ask why the Minister for Minerals and Energy was given this wide authority to borrow on behalf of the Australian Government.
– Because it was thought -
– I suggest the Minister let me make my point. What was not read out earlier was the explanatory memorandum which accompanied the minute. It reads:
The Australian Government needs immediate access to substantial sums on non-equity capital from abroad for temporary purposes, amongst other things to deal with exigencies arising out of the current world situation and the international energy crisis, to strengthen Australia’s external financial position, to provide immediate protection for Australia in regard to supplies of minerals and energy and to deal with current and immediately foreseeable unemployment in Australia.
Are the functions that are set out in that memorandum the exclusive responsibility of the Minister for Minerals and Energy? I suggest to the Senate that they are the responsibility of the Australian Treasury. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has had placed in his hands wide powers, including authority to borrow $4,000m for temporary purposes; authority to borrow and to determine on behalf of Australia the terms and conditions of the borrowing; authority to authorise any other person to enter into an arrangement and to sign the necessary document; authority for and on behalf of Australia to issue any promissory notes; and authority to take any other action and execute any other documents required or permitted to be taken or executed for the purpose of making the borrowing. Such wide powers should not be placed in the hands of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Those powers are the widest powers that could be given to an Australian Treasurer to work through the established Treasury procedures. That is the point I am making.
I am not at this stage interested in who has the letters, who has developed the letters or whether Mr Lynch ‘s credibility is better than that of any other person. I thing we are examining the foundation of government and fundamentals of government administration in Australia. That matter has developed, perhaps unexpectedly, from this debate today. There has been the revelation through this minute of the wide powers that were given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy, which have been referred to by Senator Wriedt as being powers to investigate. These are not powers to investigate and report back, as was said by Senator Wriedt. They are not powers to investigate and report back and then for the Reserve Bank to act as principals. That is what was said this morning and yet the minute of authority from the Executive Council is so wide ranging that it does not relate to the Minister for Minerals and Energy at all. It relates to the Treasurer of Australia. I think we need to ask why this has developed from the pursuit of facts that we started because people were running around the world with letters and pieces of paper that purported to be some sort of authority to borrow on behalf of Australia.
Senator James McClelland suggested that the onus of proof was on us. This matter could have been skillfully dealt with by the Government and should have been dealt with by the Government before we reached this point. We have been seeking the facts. The Government is in possession of the facts and it has knowledge of the sequence of events. It could table an official Government statement, which is what we have been pursuing since we started to investigate this matter. If we are talking about borrowing $4,000m, it seems to me to be somewhat absurd that we are asked to take some comfort from the fact that we have nearly been able to borrow $100m. Why was authority given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy to borrow $4,000m, for matters such as unemployment?
That takes us back to the questions that were posed by Senator Cotton when he spoke to the motion. How are we to finance the Budget deficit in the economic situation in which we find ourselves this year? How are we to find the rest of the money that will be required for such purposes as the expected increase in unemployment, that were apparently authentic so far as the Government was concerned? Was the $4,000m required for some purpose of Government? Did the need for it arise from the fact that the Senate refused to pass the National Investment Fund Bill because we felt there was no protection for the savings of the Australian people in that Bill and in the purposes for which the Government wished to apply the money in the so-called national interest? Did these matters arise from that sequence of events? Has it been decided now by the Government that it would have been better to continue printing money than to have stumbled into this excursion into the international loan market which has revealed the Government’s ineptitude? These things are the collective responsibility of government and should have been dealt with in that way.
We have heard in the past few hours something of Mr MacDonald and what he was reported to have said on television last night. Published in the ‘Australian’ yesterday was the damaging document to the Government signed by Mr MacDonald in which he quoted many of the facts that are in the Executive Council Minute tabled in the Senate today. Mr MacDonald has been said to deny that he has an agency relationship with the Australian Government. It has not been answered yet whether Mr MacDonald denies that he wrote the letter which bears his signature over his company name, and whether he is purporting to be someone who is a representative of the Australian Government in the pursuit of loan moneys.
Why did the Minister refer to the incidents relating to the loan borrowings as a storm in a teacup? If that is an example of the value judgment of this Government of this incident involving the breakdown between a departmental head and the ministry, and between government and public administration, it seems to me that the Government’s relativities are somewhat awry. Do the Minister and the Government seriously suggest that there is no basis for the concern which has developed with regard to letters and documents which are in circulation? They are running around the world, and it is inescapable that they are running around the world, yet a simple assertion by this Government in a public announcement would destroy any letters which have no basis in fact and which are not the basis of some agency or commission relationship which may have been negotiated by Mr Connor.
It seems to me that the unanswered questions are still the subject of concern, and the Opposition felt it was its responsibility to bring them before the Senate by way of a motion to debate a matter of urgency. Does the Government believe that attempts to borrow large sums of money outside Australia and outside established Treasury procedures will remain secret from the Australian people? Is it not understood that a simple telephone call on the international money market reveals what is happening all around the world on a particular day? Those honourable senators who sat on the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control would have understood from the financial intermediaries who appeared before that Committee how sensitive the international money market is. Is it to be regarded as responsible that we bypass those parts of Government administration which have developed expertise in dealing on the international loan market? Why does the Government not make an official statement to refute the claims that have been emerging daily? Perhaps they are becoming distorted because there is no concrete statement in specific terms from the Australian Government. Until we get this sort of information, I believe it is despicable to use a Senate debate on a matter of urgency to set the stage to remove the head of the most important department in this country.
– Order! The honourable senator ‘s time has expired.
-The Senate is debating a motion to debate a matter of urgency which was moved by Senator Cotton in the following terms:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The failure, of the Government, when questioned, to make full disclosure to Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions.
I was interested to hear my fellow member on the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Guilfoyle, drawing an analogy between this matter and the matter involving the Department of Aboriginal Affairs with which that Committee is dealing. It may well be, as she says, that there are similarities, although I do not believe there is yet much evidence of any, and that there has been a breakdown in Treasury-Government relationships of the type that the Committee thinks may have happened with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I hoped that the honourable senator also would have pointed out that on the Public Accounts Committee we take great pride in taking a non-partisan cool look at the problem, at looking at the evidence, at times in camera where appropriate and in public where appropriate, and investigating the matter before the Committee and looking calmly and coolly at the facts. This is not what we are doing today. We are indulging in a traditional sordid political argument with adversaries on both sides and with people trying to win political points. This is not the way to look at this problem. The appropriate way to look at this problem is through an investigation by a committee, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has promised, and then for the Government to look at the findings of that committee and at the evidence that was produced to that committee to give those findings. There is a world of difference between what happens on the Public Accounts Committee and what is happening in this place today.
Other members of the Government Party and I have awaited this debate with some interest.
Most of us have been surprised that it has taken so long to come on because of the claims and the posturings of members of the Opposition, particularly Mr Lynch, about the mysterious things going on in the money market around the world, especially in the mysterious East, and mysterious eastern gentlemen involved in all sorts of shady deals. The first accusation that I came across seemed to be that the Government had some sort of agency arrangement with a Mr Khemlani. Mr Lynch asserted that Mr Khemlani had a criminal background. When it was shown that neither Scotland Yard nor the Treasury, nor, I understand, a leading New York bank, could find any evidence to support this assertion there was no back-down from Mr Lynch. To my knowledge, Mr Lynch has not apologised to the gentleman for the assertions he made. I must say that in view of Mr Lynch ‘s record the fact that the assertion is wrong and that Mr Lynch will not back down and will not apologise to someone about whom he has made accusations in this way does not surprise anybody on the Government side.
When Mr Lynch found he was getting nowhere with this accusation he started to produce mysterious pieces of paper. They came from sources that he would not reveal. He would not submit them to authentication, and he would not guarantee himself that they were authentic. One of the documents claiming that the Government had an agency arrangement with Mr MacDonald of a company called Dolmac Consultants has since been denied. From the Government side of the House it is really difficult to understand what are the motives behind the Opposition ‘s campaign- this campaign that has consisted of unsubstantiated statements of denigration and innuendo. It is difficult to know what it is all about, unless it is just for sordid political gain. There are always people who will produce pieces of paper and push selective facts or selective tracts out to people for their own gain or for their own notoriety, and unfortunately there are always people in this place who will take them and use them for their own gain. They will always accept them. We have to five with this.
I had hoped with other members on the Government side of the House that today we would have had some indications of the reasons for this episode from the arguments that were put forward by the Opposition. As with other urgency motions we have had in this place, we have had very little indication. Senator James McClelland and Senator Wriedt have pointed out to members of the Opposition and to members on the Government side the obvious fact that the world has changed and that there has been a great capital flow from the traditional money markets of the world to the Middle East oil producers. I think the figure of $700,000m was quoted. It is obvious that many of the oil producing countries, many of which previously were unsophisticated in money matters, would use people from their own area, their own racial groups and their own religions to develop methods of handling this money and investing it. For example, I can remember that Saudi Arabia hired a Pakistani gentleman- a banker and a distinguished economist- to develop its treasury procedures and to develop its economy.
It seems to me that it is also sensible that someone seeking funds from these areas should look to people who have had long experience in the area and who may even be of the same racial group as the people in the area or even sometimes of the same religion, to seek funds, to find out where these funds come from and to investigate whether arrangements can be made to borrow some of these funds- not to borrow the money for us but to investigate the sources of the funds. I can see nothing unusual in that and I can see nothing sinister in that. It was on that theme that Senator Cotton started the argument which I think has been the one consistent argument used by the Opposition all afternoon. We have had all sorts of diversions. We have even had an interjection of a racial nature. But the basic argument that has run right through the speeches of members of the Opposition this afternoon has been that the Government has not used the traditional methods of seeking finance, that we have not used the Morgan Stanley group in New York, that we have had the temerity to change the practices of the past. I suppose some members of the Opposition will object to that merely from the approach of blind conservatism -
– Whom have you used?
– … of the type Senator Carrick demonstrates- a suspicion of change. Others, however, in the vehemence of their arguments have raised doubts even as to that motive. It is sometimes very difficult to understand what is going on in the Opposition’s mind. It is sometimes difficult for members of the Opposition to know what is going on and the debate peters out as this one is petering out.
If the furtive little epistles produced on television by Mr Lynch and followed up by claims such as ‘I cannot authenticate them. It is up to someone else to authenticate them’, is the sort of evidence the Opposition is using to question the Government’s motives, I would suggest that we could probably question the Opposition’s motives. I think that the time has just about come in this debate when certain questions should be asked of the Opposition. What are the Opposition’s motives in raising this matter? I am not referring to the high flown nonsense we heard from Senator Greenwood. Are they based on some desire to hang on to the traditional methods of dealing with traditional people in traditional ways- in other words, the traditional political conservatism?
Is this matter just a political stunt? Mr Lynch has been involved in enough of those. Is this being done to protect the people who supply the sordid material that Mr Lynch so frequently uses around the country? The Opposition has to answer these questions. It is not for me to suggest that the Opposition is just protecting its traditional friends or that it is even protecting its traditional sources of income for itself. The questions have been asked of the Opposition. It now has to explain why it has indulged in this little episode and why it has gone along with Mr Lynch and his little tricks, because the nature of the debate has changed. The Opposition has received answers to its questions from this side of the chamber. It now has to produce some answers to the questions as to why it has indulged in this sort of nonsense.
– The picture is now quite clear. The Whitlam Government, faced with a major political scandal as a result of its carpetbagging around the world in search of loans, is seeking to create a whitewash for itself and a major diversion. It is quite clear that what is to happen is that the Treasury is to become a scapegoat and that the Secretary of the Treasury is to become the major scapegoat. It is well that the Senate and the people of Australia should understand and have clearly recorded the interjection by the Minister for Police and Customs, Senator Cavanagh, during Senator Guilfoyle ‘s speech when he said: ‘What if the whole Department is corrupt? ‘ The implication is there.
– He did not say that.
– Those were his words. He said before that, in effect: ‘If the house is wrong don’t you pull down the whole house?’. He implied that the Treasury is in fact corrupt. Indeed the only case that has been put forward today by the Government was put forward by Senator James McClelland in what I regard as being one of the most despicable interventions I have seen. He brought forward a memorandum the author of which, in my view, will regret that he ever wrote it in a tittle, tattle way. The bringing forward of that document was a complete diversion and, in itself, a petty diversion at that. If that is the best argument that the Government can have in facing up to the charges laid against it, it will not get far.
Let me crystallise this matter. These are the questions that the Government must answer: Why, in the first place, did it decide to raise $4,000m, a figure quite unprecedented not only in Australian terms but in world terms? The total borrowings from overseas at any one time over the years collectively and current in Australia are of the order of about $ 1,000m to $ 1,500m. It is suggested that we were going to put on top of that amount $4,000m, a kind of figure which would have been grossly inflationary had it been achieved. We have been given no explanation, except a conflicting one- a clear statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in Hansard that the loan was purely for energy purposes and a statement attached to the Executive Council minute to say that it was for far more general purposes. The reason for this conflict is not answered.
Secondly, I ask: Why was not it a Cabinet decision? Why did it not emerge through Cabinet, as it was of major importance, absolutely major importance, and something that had never been done before in Australia. Why did it creep through into the Executive Council where it was considered by a handful of Ministers, including the Prime Minister? That question has not been answered. Why did it not go before the Australian Loan Council and get Loan Council approval, as has been the practice with all previous loans? That question has not been answered. Above everything, why was it decided for the first time in history to bypass the Treasury, to bypass all of the Treasury outlets around the world, and use those outlets, the proper authoritative outlets that are recognised for the raising of loans. Why was Mr Connor given the job of raising the loan when the loan was to be used for general purposes? Why was he given an open book? None of these questions have been answered.
The Government has said that the onus of proof is on us. Let me put this to honourable senators opposite: A series of letters and a series of telexes have now been published throughout the world. A number of people when approached have confirmed that. Let us now put the onus back on the Government. The simple fact is that Mr Giok, a Belgian financier, has said that he had been offered a 1 per cent commission in connection with the proposed $4,000m loan to the Australian Government.
– One per cent of what?
-On $4,000m. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a photostat of the alleged letter to Mr Giok from the Moscow Narodny Bank Limited together with a photostat of a letter from Dolmac Consultants.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! Senator Carrick has sought leave to incorporate documents in Hansard. Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Moscow Narodny Bank Limited 24/32 King William Street, London, E.C.4 Tel: 01-623 2066 29th January, 1975
Mr Go Oen Giok Managing Director,
N.V. Intercontinental Suppliers Import-Export, 16, HofTer Schriechlaan,
Ref. DIKS/MAC/AUS/C20/AK- 1
We confirm and undertake to pay from loan funds exchanged against the necessary Promissory Note/Notes in the above transaction to your order a sum equivalent to one per cent of the funds delivered by your group to our Bank.
This letter is not assignable or transferable and is valid for 5 days from the above date.
Yours faithfully, C. O. Dicks
DOLMAC CONSULTANTS Registered under No. 15374 From: 33, Draycott Place, London, SW3 2SA. 28 January, 1975.
Dr M.G. Ako, Economic Adviser, P.O.Box 1441227, Carouge, Geneva, Switzerland
We confirm the discussions of today’s date held with you at the Moscow Narodny Bank and at our offices in London in which the following points were agreed:
1 ) We hereby confirm that we are the holders of an exclusive mandate from the Government of Australia, represented by the Minister of Mines & Energy; confirmed by E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., Prime Minister; J. F. Cairns, Deputy Prime Minister; L. Murphy, Q.C, Attorney-General; R. F. X. Connor, M.P., Minister for Minerals and Energy; approved in Council by J. Kerr; Governor General.
In this mandate we are authorised to negotiate a loan of U.S. Dollar funds totalling 4,000 million.
The loan must be for a period of 20 years from the date of receiving funds and we agree to accept the funds confirmed at the Moscow Narodny Bank under our reference DIKS/MAC/AUS/C20/AK-1 on the following terms:
Period of loan 20 years.
Initial contract for U.S. Dollars 543,395,350 to be taken down against a Promissory Note having a total value of U.S. Dollars 2,486,250,000 payable 20 years from receipt of funds.
The Promissory Note will be issued and signed by the duly authorised signatories of the Reserve Bank of Australia and guaranteed by the Government of Australia.
The text of the Promissory Note will be in accordance with the recommendations of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris, Brochure 222.
The lenders represented by Dr M. G. Ako undertake within 5 working days of receipt of this letter to confirm availability of the first Tranche of funds, amounting to U.S. Dollars 108,679,000 confirmed by a Prime European or United States Bank. The confirmation should be made to the Moscow Narodny Bank, London, under the reference DIKS/MAC/AUS/C20/AK-1.
In event that we, after acceptance of confirmed funds, do not produce the required Promissory Note detailed above within 4 banking days, we accept to pay a penalty equivalent to one per cent of the loan funds confirmed, to the order of the lenders.
When funds have been delivered and the above agreement is fully executed, the transaction may be continued by mutual agreement of the Parties for a further sum on the same conditions by exchange of letters, but the initial engagement of both Parties is limited to the amount of the contract above.
In case of any dispute arising from this contract, the contract will be deemed to be governed by the laws of Switzerland.
Signed on behalf of the lenders who confirm their agreement to the above conditions:
Dr M.G. Ako
Signed on behalf of the borrowers:
The effective date of this contract with reference to clause (3) is hereby extended to and including 7th February, 1975.
I hereby confirm irrevocably that in line with the prolongation of the validity date of my letter of contract dated 27th January, 1975 for the operation Reference DIKS/MAC/AUS/C20/AK- 1 , and as the title holder of the funds during exchange through the Moscow Narodny Bank, I undertake to instruct the Bank to extend the validity of this letter to be effective in line with the performance date of the letter exchanged within the contract (i.e. 7th February, 1975 and until funds are exchanged within the contract period).
– The onus now shifts to the Government because Mr Giok, when approached, said: ‘I have received such a letter and in such terms’. The purported letter contains the normal letterhead of the Moscow Narodny
Bank. So the onus shifts to the Government. Two more telexes appeared this morning and perhaps the Government would like to respond to what I have to say. The spokesman for the Minister for Minerals and Energy when approached about the telexes said that they were probably genuine. He went on to say: ‘But there was no backing or authority for them from the Australian Government’. If it is said by the Government that they were probably genuine we have the circumstance that I raised with the Leader of the Government in the Senate this morning: The letters from Dolmac and from the Moscow Narodny Bank and the telexes are genuine or they are a fraud, or they are fraudulently uttered by the person who wrote them. They are genuine, they are a forgery or they are fraudulently uttered. We have in the case of the telexes- and the Leader of the Government smiles- a statement reported and not denied from the Department that they are probably genuine. We have a statement from Mr Giok to the effect that he had such a letter.
Now we come to Dolmac. The onus is on the Government to tell the financial circles of this world whether or not the Dolmac Consultants’ letter now circulating throughout the world as an alleged letter is a forgery or a fraud, or is authentic. That clearly is the onus which is on the Government. The onus goes far wider than this Parliament. All the financial houses of the world are interested to know whether in fact this particular financial house has the authority from this Government. Indeed, the Government must respond. Is it possible to believe that a responsible government would allow a whole host of people to run around the world alleging that they have mandates and letters of authority, or alleging that they are agents and have a commission, and not deny those claims?
The most significant thing in this debate is that the Government has made no statement to the effect either that the Dolmac Consultants’ letter is a forgery or that it is fraudulently uttered. If it is fraudulently uttered, the signatory to that letter is in for serious legal trouble. It would be a gross uttered fraud if that letter is in fact a fraud. Of course, if the letter were forged, it would be equally so. But the real onus shifts to the Government for the very simple reason that the Government is saying here that nobody has such authority, yet it is not saying to the world that these letters are spurious. When I asked a question about this matter this morning the Minister ran away from it. It is utterly clear that the Government has a major case to answer. I come back to it: Why this enormous sum of $4,000m? Of all the Arab currency available in the world at any one time this loan is in the order of 8 per cent of the whole, which is quite impossible to chase, anyhow.
This morning the Government admitted this gross disparity by claiming some credit for the fact that tomorrow it intends to announce that it has secured $ 100m worth of loans from America. Does it really believe that by securing a relatively modest amount of money- it is something which has been done many times before- that in any way proves anything about the security of a loan of $4,000m in a completely unorthodox, carpetbagging way. The Government has been very vocal in demanding that the letters and the facts be produced. But the Government will not do one thing; it will not produce the letter of accreditation to Mr Khemlani. Therefore it must be entirely suspect and remain so unless and until that letter comes forward. Why will the Government not produce that letter? I pressed the Minister this morning about this matter and he ran away from it again. He is very willing to bring forward and to table a snivelling little memo, a pimping little memo, because it suits his despicable purpose of trying to pin the blame on some departmental head who has rendered magnificent service to Australia and on a body, the Treasury, whose only sin in its eyes is that it has had the integrity to stand up to the Government and remind the Government that what it was doing was unorthodox and wrong. Because the Treasury has had the integrity and the courage to come forward and stand up to the Government, it is now to be punished. Now we are to have the most un-Australian and miserable sort of thing that you can have- the use of sneaking little memos to try to dob in somebody.
– Ha, ha!
-I thought that the Senator Poysers of this world would never have taken part in the most totally un-Australian of all activities, and that is dobbing in the other fellow, putting in your mate. What kind of mateship is that? The Government is building up a memo which it purports to be authoritative. Half of it is concerned with a formal meeting and the other half is concerned with informal asides, if in fact they are true. The best that the Government can do in the face of this situation is to come forward with what I regard to be something which is completely contemptible and completely unAustralian. The simple fact is that throughout the whole of Australia more and more people are coming forward and saying: ‘We have such letters. They contain a mandate for action and for commission’. The Government itself has not said that the letters are fraudulent or forgeries.
Indeed, the Department has said today that it believes that the telex is genuine. It has stated that it believes there are a couple more pieces of correspondence floating around the world which state that certain people act for the Australian Government, that those people are authorised to raise $3, 000m. Yet the Government itself says that it has no responsibility to respond to this. Of course, this is completely nonsensical.
I have already received permission to have incorporated in Hansard copies of the 2 alleged letters. Indeed, one of those letters is now claimed to be true by the man to whom it was addressed. One of the letters is claimed to be true by Mr Giok. Mr Giok has said that he had correspondence and instructions from a Mr Macdonald. Mr MacDonald is the purported signatory of the other letter. I understand that Dr Ako in Switzerland, acting for the Moscow Narodny Bank, has also indicated this. So we have a fair authentication of one letter. It states that a loan of $4,000m was to be raised with a one per cent commission, that the man concerned was dealing with a Mr MacDonald who is the purported signatory of the second letter and Dr Ako who is the addressee of the first letter, has also given verification. The authenticity of the letters themselves has been strengthened, plus the fact that it was agreed today that the telex is genuine.
Now, what do we have? What we have now is quite clearly a picture of a series of documents circulating throughout this world and a number of people going around now saying that they represent the Australian Government and have authority to raise $4,000m and to receive one per cent commission. That is what is happening now. In reply, the Government says that nobody has such authority. The Government says: ‘We appointed one man, Mr Khemlani, but we did not give him any authority; we just gave him a letter of accreditation. He was not an agent and he was not getting a commission ‘.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am amazed at the attitude that has been adopted by the Opposition on the last day of this sessional period. At the request of the Opposition, for a period of 3 hours we have been debating a so-called motion of urgency, really whether the Government has answered questions in this present sessional period of Parliament. Opposition members have done this behind the weapon of an alleged failure of Ministers to answer their questions. Opposition senators have said: ‘We have documents. They are behind our backs’. Senator Carrick used the phrase ‘I have here 2 alleged letters. You are in the dock. You prove that you are innocent’. That is the attitude that is being adopted by the Opposition.
If one had listened, as we have on the Government side, to the case that has been put forward by speaker after speaker from the Opposition, one would have realised that the Opposition’s whole case has been based on hyperbole and hypothesis. Practically every sentence in Senator Carrick ‘s speech commenced with the preposition ‘if. He said: ‘If this letter is true’ or ‘if this letter has been written’. But not once did any member of the Opposition come forward with any document of any evidentiary value. I remind honourable senators that the motion to debate a matter of urgency is not a motion of lack of confidence in the Government; it is not a motion of censure of any Minister of the Crown; it is not a request for a commission of inquiry or anything of that nature; it is a motion to debate a matter of urgency which has been moved by Senator .Cotton on behalf of the Liberal Party. When the President asked whether the motion was seconded every member of the Liberal Party in the chamber rose in his place to second the motion.
What is the motion? This motion to debate a matter of urgency is brought on on the last day of this sessional period, and when a number of Bills have to be dealt with and debated constructively and at length in this chamber we are expected to discuss the failure of the Government, when questioned, to make full disclosure to Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions. The House of Representatives sat until this time last week. From, I suppose, March to the end of last week, question after question was asked by Opposition spokesmen of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). No motion of lack of confidence in the Government has been moved in the House of Representatives as a result of any answer given by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister or the Minister for Minerals and Energy. No motion of censure of any Minister has been moved as a result of any answer given in the House of Representatives. The House of
Representatives has adjourned, and so the battle has transferred to the Senate this week.
Senator Wriedt as Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the Minister representing the Treasurer in the Senate, as the Minister representing the Prime Minister in the Senate, and as the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy in the Senate, has had to run the gauntlet of the whole of the Opposition’s attack on this question this week. All questions asked have been qualified with an ‘if. If the total time that was devoted by Senator Wriedt to answering questions on this matter this week were added up it would be at least an hour. Quite clearly on Tuesday, Wednesday and today Senator Wriedt opened up everything that he had on behalf of the Government.
– Why did he not file the minute?
-My friend Senator Durack asks: ‘Why did he not file the letters?’ Honourable senators opposite have made the accusation. They should produce the letters and then we will prove our innocence. The Leader of the Government already has described this debate that was brought on as a matter of urgency as a mere storm in a teacup and, frankly, having listened to the case this morning, so far as this Government is concerned, that storm has very much abated, if ever there was a storm. On the evidence that has been adduced from both sides in this debate today it appears that the stormclouds now are blowing very much towards the Opposition. The evidence that has come out in this debate, which now has taken nearly 3 hours, quite clearly is that in typical fashion the Opposition members- as has been proved over and over again in the 2Vi years they have been in Opposition- have acted on half-baked information and furphies, and by keeping on as they have on this occasion they have blown their gaff once again.
These constant allegations now have been floating around for three or four months. There has been furphy after furphy. Because the Government has followed the normal arrangement of governments in seeking overseas borrowings, but perhaps because we have explored areas additional to the ordinary areas that are explored, the Opposition draws sinister inferences and makes smear attacks on people. I think it was Senator Carrick who said something about Australia’s lack of credit rating in the United States of America at present. The information now provided to me by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, on advice from
Treasury officials, is that Australia’s credit rating in the United States is at an all time high. Both rating agencies rate Australia as a ‘triple A’ borrower, which is the highest rating obtainable. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is guided in its assessment of the rating of nations by these agencies. So another furphy is exploded. Despite what the Opposition has said, on the record of evidence available to the whole world, Australia’s credit rating in the United States is at an all time high.
Let us come back to this urgency motion. The Opposition says that there has been a failure on the part of the Government when questioned to make full disclosure in Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions. As I have said, the Government has supplied all the answers, the Opposition has supplied all the accusations, but it has supplied nothing with which to back up its accusations. Despite all that honourable senators opposite have said, they have not produced one tittle of evidence against any single person either in government or acting for or on behalf of government. All that they have done is prove to themselves that they are getting unsure, uncertain and poor information from one or twoperhaps three or four- people in the Public Service, people who try to make out to the Opposition that they know everything. All that really has come out is that Mr Lynch is literally roaming the world, to use Senator Walsh’s phrase, in an endeavour to find something that he can use as another smear weapon against people.
Only last Tuesday night- 2 nights ago- the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr Lynch, appeared on the national television program ‘This Day Tonight’ and said on that program, which has a very high national rating, that he had letters proving a relationship between intermediaries nominated by the Australian Government, on the one hand, and a London based Iranian firm called Dolmac Consultants, on the other hand. Nothing was produced by Mr Lynch except words, hyperbole, hypothesis and accusation. No document was shown. There was merely a bald statement that he had letters- not one letter, not a document, but that he had letters- two or more of them, to prove a relationship between intermediaries nominated by the Australian Government and a London based Iranian firm, Dolmac Consultants. Last night TDT came on the air and again started to discuss the question that has been roaming around this Parliament and through the pages of the newspapers over the last 4 or 5 months- the question of the way the Australian Government was involving itself in international borrowings on the overseas loan markets. TDT came back to Mr Lynch ‘s accusations made the previous night. Mr Finlay, the compere of the show, said amongst other things:
Well, we’ve just been talking to the managing director of that firm -
Dolmac Consultants- by phone, to London and the conversation finished only a few moments ago.
Mr Finlay went on to say:
The General Manager, Mr MacDonald, confirmed that he was indeed an international financier involved in raising money overseas but he told us -
He told ‘This Day Tonight’ and the Australian Broadcasting Commission told Australians nationally - he had been given no authority by the Australian Government to negotiate or raise loans. In fact, he said he had no talks with any Australian Government Minister, nor had he spoken to any member of the Federal Cabinet.
Mr Lynch having made that accusation, the next night Mr Finlay queried the accusation and went on the air and made the statement which I have quoted, not under the privilege of Parliament. If Mr Lynch wants to query Mr Finlay I suggest that he can do so by either going on Mr Finlay ‘s program or taking action against him in the courts of this country. Yet we have heard nothing more from Mr Lynch. Opposition members continually make the charges. They are the accusers. They have produced no evidence. They drop phrases in now and again, such as someone having- and I use the phrase that they have used- ‘a criminal record’. To add to the element of drama that they have tried to build up over four, five or six months, they add an additional phrase and state that advice to this effect- that is, about a person having a criminal record- ‘was given to the Government by Scotland Yard’. I think my colleague, the Leader of the Government, Senator Withers, already has exploded that myth.
As I have said, all of this mud-slinging has been going on for three or four months. It was first raised in the Melbourne ‘Age ‘, I think, in the middle of February of this year- 5 months ago. Now, 5 months after it first broke, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) produces 2 alleged letters written as long ago as, I think he said, 28 or 29 January. No one will know whether they are genuine letters until Mr Lynch produces the letters, and no one can confirm or deny that they are genuine until he produces them. One must ask, if they are genuine letters, who extracted them from which files?
I remind the Senate that we are not discussing a motion of lack of confidence in the Government; we are not discussing a motion of censure against any Minister; we are not discussing a motion calling for a committee or a commission of inquiry into the matter. We are merely discussing the failure- and I say the alleged failure, and wrongly alleged failure- of the Government, when questioned, to make full disclosure to Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions. I say that every answer that has been given by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and by the Minister for Minerals and Energy in another place and by the Leader of the Government in the Senate on behalf of the Government has been satisfactorily given.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland) has referred once again to the terms of the motion which has been brought before the Senate today by the Opposition. I refer to it once again. The Opposition has raised here for debate a very vital question; namely, the failure of the Government, when questioned, to make full disclosure to Parliament regarding overseas loan transactions. I probably do not need to remind the Senate that this matter involves attempts by this Government over the past 6 months to raise something of the order of 4,000m on the overseas money market. The Special Minister of State has said the Opposition, in raising this matter, is creating a storm in a teacup. That is a fairly good indication of the attitude this Government has taken all along to efforts made by the Opposition to find out what has been going on in this matter.
The first question on this matter was asked on 13 February this year- 4 months ago. I think it is perfectly obvious from today’s debate that it is only as a result of questioning over that period and as a result of this matter having been raised for debate in the Senate today that we have been able to obtain some glimmer of the facts in relation to this vitally important matter. I am not satisfied- I am sure honourable senators on this side of the chamber are not satisfied- with the information which we have been given so far. To explain why we moved this motion I would like to read some of the early answers given by Ministers in relation to this matter. On 1 3 February the matter was first raised in another place. Mr Connor was asked this very simple question:
Is the Government engaged in seeking massive overseas loan funds from the Middle East? If so, will he make a full explanation to the House?
Mr Connor replied:
I noticed a report concerning this matter in one metropolitan journal. Matters relating to the currency, loans and the commercial credit of the nation should be handled with the utmost discretion. I am acting accordingly.
That was the answer. On 23 April Mr Lynch asked Mr Connor
Did the Minister for Minerals and Energy receive authority from the Executive Council to borrow up to $4,000m overseas?
A number of other matters were raised. They related to the fact that the amount was reduced to $2,000m. This answer was given on 23 April:
The statement as to the amounts is correct. As I indicated to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on a former occasion, borrowing transactions are a matter of confidentiality and responsibility and will continue to be so treated.
He simply said that the statement as to the amounts was correct, not whether there was or was not an authority. I turn to the first answer given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in relation to this matter. That was on 20 May this year. Mr Malcolm Fraser asked the Prime Minister:
Can he inform the House whether the proposed $2 billion borrowing by the Minister for Minerals and Energy has the approval of the Australian Loan Counicl? If not, when will the Government seek approval of the Loan Council? What is the purpose of the loan?
The Prime Minister replied:
The answer to the first question is no; to the second, if and when the loan is made; to the third, for matters related to energy.
After all the efforts which have been made by the Opposition in another place and here over this period of 4 months, finally today we have, as a result of this motion being moved in the Senate, had tabled in the Senate, not by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), as one might have expected, but by his colleague Senator James McClelland, the actual Executive Council minute of 13 December 1974. For the whole period of 4 months the Government has been refusing to give details of it to the Parliament or to the public. When it is tabled, as Senator Guilfoyle has very carefully and skilfully analysed, it is quite clear that this authority was a very much wider authority than had ever been suggested by the Government. It was for purposes very much wider and very much more detailed than that which the Prime Minister indicated on 20 May- for purposes relating to energy. It was a very wider purpose. I will refer to that again because I think the Prime Minister’s credibility is now very gravely in question as a result of these proceedings.
The explanatory memorandum attached to that Executive Council minute indicates that the Government needs immediate access to substantial sums of non-equity capital. It wanted immediate access for temporary purposes. Is the borrowing of money for matters related to energy projects- projects which would have lead times of years and which would have a life of decades- a temporary purpose? The Government stated it wanted such money for temporary purposes. The explanatory memorandum of the Executive Council minute states in part: . . amongst other things to deal with exigencies arising out of the current world situation and the international energy crisis, to strengthen Australia’s external financial position, to provide immediate protection for Australia in regard to supplies of minerals and energy and to deal with current and immediately foreseeable unemployment in Australia.
We have, 1 believe, as a result of the debate today finally extracted from the Government some very important information about this matter. The only way in which we were able to extract such information was by raising this matter of public importance today. We attempted to extract this information over months by questions, asked of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the previous Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). As Senator Douglas McClelland stated, we have attempted during this week to extract this information by directing questions to Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Government in this place. Until today we have been continually fobbed off and misled in one form or another, over a period of 4 months, by this Government. We have finally, as I have said, as a result of the pressure of this debate some glimmer of the Government’s activities in this matter.
As Senator Withers made quite clear, the Opposition is by no means satisfied with the answers we have had either at question time today or in this debate and it is the intention of the Opposition to continue to pursue this matter until we get the whole truth from the Government. It has been a story of cover-up- a story of one cover-up after another, not only by Ministers including the Minister for Minerals and Energy, but also by the Prime Minister himself. Not only has there been a cover-up but there has been grave misleading of the Parliament- of the House of Representatives and the Senate- during this period. We intend to pursue this matter to the bitter end. We will continue to maintain that stance. The Opposition will use a number of tactics which Senator Withers has already indicated. The Government need not think that it will be let off the string by the Opposition in relation to this vital matter, the importance of which has been clearly indicated time and time again by the Opposition and which is well understood by the electorate. The issues in this debate, I think, are now exhausted. I move:
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Cotton’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the Final Declaration of the Review Conference of Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. I ask for leave to make a brief statement in connection with the paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-The Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty entered into force on 5 March 1970 and has now been in force for 5 years. In accordance with the provisions of Article 8(3) of the Treaty, a conference of parties and signatories to the Treaty was held in Geneva for 4 weeks during May to review the operation of the Treaty. The declaration adopted by the conference in its final session on 30 May and upon which a consensus of all those present was achieved is tabled herewith for the information of honourable senators. The conference considered a wide range of issues relating to the role of this Treaty in encouraging the peaceful application of nuclear energy as well as its contribution to peace and security throughout the world. The declaration testifies to the comprehensive nature of the discussions, to which the Australian delegation made a significant contribution. A number of important initiatives for further enhancing this Treaty were suggested at the conference. These will require the careful consideration of the Government and will provide a firm basis for further consultations between States to ensure the continued success of the Treaty and the further reinforcement of the international non-proliferation regime.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a paper prepared for the Government by the Department of Foreign Affairs entitled ‘Australia’s Military Commitment to Vietnam ‘.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Cattle Tick Control Commission on cattle tick in Australia.
– I move:
That the Senate affirms the decision taken by resolution of the Senate on 31 May 1973 that the Australian Parliament join with the Parliaments of the States in the Constitutional Convention to be convened to review the Australian Constitution in September of that year, and at such subsequent times as the Convention from time to time determined, and agrees:
1 ) That, for the purposes of the Convention-
a Delegation from the Australian Parliament consisting of sixteen members of the Parliament take part in the deliberations of the Convention of whom six shall be members of the Senate and ten shall be members of the House of Representatives;
the six members of the Senate comprise three members of the Australian Labor Party, one member of the Liberal Party of Australia, one member of the National Country Party of Australia and the Leader of the Liberal Movement:
three Senators, being members of the Australian Labor Party, nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;
b) one Senator, being a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;
one Senator, being a member of the National Country Party of Australia, nominated by the Leader of that Party in the Senate; and
the Leader of the Liberal Movement, be members of the Delegation;
That the Prime Minister be the Leader of the Delegation, and the Leader of the Opposition be the Deputy Leader
That a member of the Delegation cease to be such a member if-
he ceases to be a member of the Australian Parliament;
b) the House of the Parliament of which he is a member terminates his appointment; or
he resigns as a member of the Delegation by writing addressed to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case requires:
That where, because of illness or other cause, a member of the Delegation is not available to attend a meeting, or part of a meeting, of the Convention, the Leader or senior available member of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate an alternate member (being a member of the House of which the first-mentioned member is a member) and the member so nominated shall be a member of the Delegation for that meeting, or that pan of that meeting:
That, in the event of a member of the Delegation ceasing to be such a member, the Leader of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate another member (being a member of the House of which the first-mentioned member is or was a member) to replace the first-mentioned member;
That the Leader of the Delegation from time to time make a report for presentation to each House of the Parliament on matters arising out of the Convention, and that the Deputy Leader of the Delegation may make an accompanying report.
On 1 August 1974 the House of Representatives affirmed the decision taken by that House on 31 May 1973 that the Australian Parliament join with the parliaments of the States in the Constitutional Convention that has been established to review the Australian Constitution. It further determined that of the delegation from the Australian Parliament of 16 members, ten should be members of the House of Representatives, comprising 5 members of the Australian Labor Party, 3 members of the Liberal Party of Australia and 2 members of the then Australian
Country Party. A similar motion was moved in the Senate on the same day by the then AttorneyGeneral which proposed that 6 members of the Senate should be members of the delegation, being 3 members of the Australian Labor Party, one member of the Liberal Party of Australia, one member of the then Australian Country Party, and the Leader of the Liberal Movement. That resolution was similar to the one passed by the Senate on 31 May 1973, which determined that the 6 members of the Senate comprise 3 members of the Australian Labor Party, one member of the Liberal Party of Australia, one member of the Australian Country Party and one member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. On 15 August 1974 the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate moved a new resolution, the effect of which was to delete from the delegation the Leader of the Liberal Movement and substitute a second member of the Liberal Party. Both the motion of the Attorney-General and that of the Leader of the Opposition were negatived on tied votes on 2 1 September 1 974.
Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), together with the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) and the Honourable Ian Sinclair, attended a meeting of the executive committee of the Australian Constitutional Convention that had been called to consider an agenda for the next full meeting of the Convention and to establish a date and place for the holding of that meeting. As a result of yesterday’s discussions the basis of a draft agenda was determined. This is to include a constitutional amendment for the interchange of powers between the Australian and State parliaments- a much needed constitutional amendment; consideration of the constitutional position of local government; several important references of power to the Australian Parliament, and a number of matters of importance to the Territories. It was further determined that the next meeting of the Convention should be held in Melbourne, commencing on 24 September 1975. It is therefore important that the Australian Parliament’s delegation to the Convention should be determined without further delay.
In submitting this motion there are 2 particular points that I wish to emphasise. Firstly, the motion now before the Senate is on all fours with that passed by the Senate on 31 May 1973. It simply substitutes the Leader of the Liberal Movement for a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, a Party that is no longer represented in this chamber. The representation of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia and the National
Country Party is unchanged. Secondly, the Leader of the Liberal Movement, Senator Steele Hall, is recognised by this Senate as the leader of a party. This was accepted by the Senate when the senator took his seat following the election in May 1 974. Indeed, a glance at our list of senators and the daily Hansard of the Senate, for example, will show honourable senators that he is the Leader of the Liberal Movement. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– I do not dispute the accuracy of the dates and the terms of the motions referred to by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), but I would dispute some of the other things which he has said. He said that this motion is on all fours with the one which was carried by the Senate in 1 973. It is really not on all fours because at that time the Australian Democratic Labor Party was represented in this place by 5 senators. At that time the Australian Labor Party had 26 senators and the Liberal-Country Party had, I think, 26 senators. There were 3 independent senators, namely, Senator Negus, Senator Turnbull and Senator Townley. The composition of the Senate at that time was totally different from the present composition. Therefore, any attempt to draw any sort of a comparison betwen those 2 situations is, I think, wrong.
When this matter was last before the Senate the Opposition asked: Why should the Labor Party with 29 senators have 3 representatives on the delegation and the Liberal-Country Party with 29 senators have only 2 representatives. We thought that if the Government was so anxious to have Senator Hall, as the Leader of his Party, as a member of the delegation it should reduce by one the number of its own representatives, not the number of the Opposition’s representatives. Since that time the numbers in this place have changed. The Government has but 28 senators; the Liberal-Country Party has 30 senators; Senator Hall sits as Leader of his Party, as he did before; and Senator Bunton has become a member of this place, as an Independent. Yet the Government still thinks that with 28 senators it should have 3 representatives on the delegation and that the Liberal-Country Party with 30 senators should have 2 representatives. Again I say to the Government: If it is genuine about this matter it should make provision for Senator Hall in its own numbers on the delegation. I say this not in any personal sense; I do not bear any personal animosity. It is a matter of equity between the parties.
On Thursday of last week, the last day on which the House of Representatives sat, there was moved in this place a motion which was designed to set up a Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. In many ways that was an unusual motion as to determining the composition of the proposed Committee. I suppose it was promoted on the basis that this was something which affected the Parliament. Honourable senators will recall that the composition there set out was a committee of twelve, six from each House. Leaving aside the equality between the Houses, how the six from each House was to be determined was very interesting. In that motion it was said that three were to be nominated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and three by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Malcolm Fraser). As to the senators, three were to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) and three by me, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. That proposition, which was to reflect the will of the Parliament, took no account of the National Country Party. It gave it no representation.
– Unless the Leader of the Opposition nominated them.
-Do not jump too quickly. It made no provision for direct representation of the National Country Party, as does this motion, either here or in the House of Representatives. It certainly made no direct representation available either to independent senators or Senator Hall, Leader of the Liberal Movement. Why the difference? Perhaps I have a suspicious mind, although I try not to have one. I try to think that people are as good as I am.
– It would be easy to think that.
-I try to think that people ought not to be any worse than I am. I will put it that way. Is that kinder? We must look at the whole history of this Constitutional Convention. It was quite obvious from the day it started that the Prime Minister intended to make certain that it did not work. I do not think he was ever particularly enamoured of the whole idea. It is well known- nobody is under any illusion- that the Prime Minister would not care if the Constitutional Convention died and disappeared. Again it is no secret that he has been under a great deal of pressure from his colleagues of the Labor Party in State parliaments in the postTerrigal atmosphere for the Labor Party to be taking a little more interest in this situation and as a result I understand that a delegation saw him recently.
The Senate well knows that last night the Leader of the Government in the Senate asked for leave to give notice of this motion. That leave was readily granted by the Opposition on the simple basis that if the Leader of the Government wants leave it always ought to be given, other than in exceptional circumstances which I cannot contemplate happening. I know that basically the same courtesy has been extended to me. I had a suspicion that the Prime Minister would not have minded if we had refused leave last night so that notice would have had to be given today and then there would have been no opportunity for this matter to come on for discussion. I also have not much doubt that the matter having come on the Prime Minister would not be terribly upset if the result was the same as last time. Then the Prime Minister would be able to say to the Premiers Conference next week: ‘I wanted to go to the Constitutional Convention but those old dinosaurs in the Senate who are supposed to represent the States prevented the national Parliament from being represented ‘. I do not think that anybody in State politics would be fooled by that operation.
In any event, the amendments I propose to move will have the same result although they are different in form because of the way this motion has come before the Senate. I would hope that this time I will have more success than I had last time. I do not know whether I can move the amendments in one motion, by leave, rather than to have two, three or four divisions about whether certain words should be left out and whether certain other words should be inserted, as well as all the other things.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to move the amendments together?
– Yes, Mr Acting Deputy President. I ask leave of the Senate for them to be dealt with together.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the Senate. The amendment is quite simple. It does not quarrel with the composition as between the 2 Houses. All it states is that the 6 members of the Senate comprise 3 Government supporters, 2 senators from my Party and one from the National Country Party of Australia. We propose this merely as a matter of equity as between the parties. If Senator Hall feels that he is being disadvantaged I suggest that he ask the Government to make one of its positions available to him. I do not think we need to go into the statistics of the percentage of votes polled by each of the parties at the last election. After all, I thought this was supposed to be a parliamentary delegation to the Constitutional Convention. I would have thought that we would have followed the precedent established in relation to the committee that inquired into the new and permanent parliament house- equal numbers a side, nominated by the Leaders.
– But do you not see the Liberal Movement as a new facet in the national scene?
– I have great difficulty in seeing Senator Mulvihill as even an old facet in the political scene. Let us not get too involved in that question.
– He knows very well that the Liberal Movement will be back in the Liberal Party at the first opportunity that comes along. It is just waiting an opportune time, just the same as Senator Townley.
-Senator McLaren evidently has knowledge that neither I nor Senator Hall have. I imagine we would both be grateful -
– You want to confer with Mr Fraser on what happened in Goyder last week. You will find out.
-I have no doubt that Senator Hall will be grateful for your advice as to what he is going to do. I do not think I need to say more than I have said already. The motion is quite simple. I think the facts of the situation as we understand them are well known. I move:
Paragraph (1), sub-paragraph (b), leave out the subparagraph, insert the following sub-paragraph:
Paragraph (2), sub-paragraphs (b), (c) and (d), leave out the sub-paragraphs, insert the following sub-paragraphs:
– I thank Senator McLaren for his stirring remarks, but they are nothing more than that. The gulf between Senator Withers, Senator Greenwood and their colleagues and me is far too great ever to bridge. I can assure Senator McLaren that the very differences on electoral matters in my State preclude us from coming together. I should not like to say that I would be personally disappointed if the vote on this motion went against my inclusion in the delegation. That of course would relieve me from a great deal of study and application to the subject matter. But I know that the 23 per cent of the non-Labor voters in South Australia who voted for me at the Senate elections would be disappointed. They would feel that some unfair -
– Was it 23 per cent?
-The 23 per cent of the non-Labor voters who voted for my Party at the Senate election- that is the statistic if Senator Young would like to do his homework- would be very disappointed if I were excluded. I think that is the basis of the matter. Why has Senator Withers proposed the motion? He said that he has done it on a non-personal basis and I hope that is the case. But I feel that he thinks there is some political question in South Australia attached to this matter. He may attribute motives to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), but I think it is fair enough to say that he sees some political result in South Australia. I wonder whether Senator Withers is mistaken, that the people who think about politics in South Australia would feel that he is taking some unfair advantage of this corner of the chamber which includes 2 people who are not members of the National Country Party of Australia or the Liberal Party of Australia, especially as Senator Wriedt has pointed out that his Party did not have any additional representation because of the previous motion on this matter that went through the House. Senator Withers is now looking to use brute force in this House to alter the position dramatically in his Party’s favour, in fact to double- to put up by 100 per cent- the representation of his Party from this Senate at the Constitutional Convention.
– South Australia has not taken away your Liberal Movement representation, has it?
-That is a pretty fair increase. Senator Missen has referred to electors. I think that electors in South Australia will take note of what they will think is a fairly small minded move.
– He would have a job to reduce the percentage, though, would he not?
– I think that is another matter. Electorally, it may well be that he is doing me a favour by pointing out that he will take his opposition, politically, to any lengths to try to make an impact. I believe that will rebound in South Australia despite Senator McLaren’s hopeful stirring interjection which is without foundation. If Senator Withers’ view prevails there will be a significant independent and small party viewpoint which will be unrepresented at the Constitutional Convention. I do not think it is represented in any way from the lower House. It could not be. There is no nonmajor party representation from the lower House. Therefore all minor parties, smaller partieshowever they are measured- and independents will be excluded. So as far as the Federal Parliament is concerned the Constitutional Convention will be a big party machine deal.
– South Australia has not taken away the Liberal Movement representation, has it?
– I do not know the answer to that question. The South Australian House is sitting at the moment. I do not know whether it has made any fresh arrangement. I quite honestly cannot answer Senator Greenwood. I hope they have not made any changes in South Australia because my colleague and State leader, Mr Robin Millhouse, is recognised as a very keen and able constitutional student and lawyer who applies himself well to matters relating to the Federal Constitution. I think that despite the problem in the upper House with the party to which Senator Withers belongs and, of course, the opposition of the Liberal Party in the lower House, the South Australian Parliament is likely to retain the position of Mr Millhouse because of the value he contributes to the Convention. Without in any way arguing this in a personal way, I think it is wrong for Senator Withers to try to use brute force to double his party’s involvement from the Senate at the Constitutional Convention and to exclude all federal non-major party representation at that Convention.
– in replyThe proposition which is now before the Senate on behalf of the Government is simply to ensure that what can be fairly described as a new political party, namely, the Liberal Movement, should be represented at the Constitutional Convention.
– Equally with other parties?
-I think it is a fair point that any political party ought to be represented there if it is represented in the Parliament. Previously the Australian Democratic Labor Party was to be included as part of the representation, but as it no longer exists in the Parliament it is fitting that the Liberal Movement should be represented. It is not so much a question of equity as Senator Withers has suggested. The Liberal Party is represented and in the House of Representatives where the numbers position is the opposite to what it is here, the Government did not take advantage of those numbers to give itself undue or unequal representation. It could have done so had it wanted to use its numbers which appears to be the intention of the Opposition in this place. It will simply use its numbers without concern for the justice of what it is doing. I believe that if the motion which has been put forward by the Government is accepted, then we will have proper representation by all political parties which are represented here. I feel it would be wrong and not in the spirit of being represented at that Convention if one of the smaller parties was to be deliberately excluded. The Democratic Labor Party at one stage certainly had 5 honourable senators sitting here. But the fact that it was five in number is not the important point. The important point is that it existed in the Parliament. The Liberal Movement as a party, much to the regret, I know, of the Liberal Party exists here and there is a possibility that it will exist for quite some time.
– I think the Government will regret it more.
-That will be a matter of judgment. Considering the sorts of problems which the Liberal Movement has created for the honourable senator’s party in South Australia, I think the honourable senator will have a greater desire than the Labor Party to see the destruction of the Liberal Movement, certainly in that State. It is suggested that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has not been greatly interested in the Constitutional Convention, but it is interesting to note that only this week he attended the meeting of the Executive Committee of that Convention which I think was held in Brisbane. He is the first Prime Minister ever to attend the Executive Committee of the Convention. That hardly suggests that he is antagonistic to or is not greatly interested in the working of the Convention. The proper course is to carry the motion. I hope that the Senate, in particular the Independent senators, will recognise the rights of the smaller political Party and will support the Government motion. The acceptance of the motion would give us the fairest and most equitable representation at the Convention.
- Mr Acting Deputy President -
– The debate is closed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I call Senator Bunton.
– I rise to a point of order.
- Senator Wriedt spoke to my amendment. Therefore he did not close the debate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, I rule that Senator Wriedt was speaking to the amendment. Therefore I call Senator Bunton.
-I shall support the amendment. I think it is somewhat unfortunate that the motion is worded as it is and does not provide that there shall be 3 members from the Government and 3 members from the Opposition. The Government is in power and the Liberal Party, the National Country Party, Senator Steele Hall ‘s Party and I, as an Independent, are on the Opposition benches. That position can be altered at any time. If there is an alteration I am certain that we would find the Government advancing a different viewpoint. If the LiberalCountry Party Opposition were in government we would find that the Australian Labor Party- I think rightly- would require to have the same number of representatives. In the other place the numbers are not so very different and there is equal representation from that place on the Convention.
As was mentioned by Senator Withers, the matter which came down in respect of the new parliament house made provision for the Opposition and the Government to have equal representation. I would like to think that if this amendment were carried it would be carried in a different form so as to make provision for representation by 3 members from the Government and 3 members from the Opposition. If the motion were carried in that form I would like to think that the Opposition would give consideration to accepting the outstanding qualifications of Senator Steele Hall and perhaps including him amongst its representatives. It has been mentioned that this splinter Party as far as this Senate is concerned -
– I will not accept that.
-Perhaps I have used the wrong word. It has been mentioned that Senator Steele Hall is in exactly the same position as my one-man Party. Where is the difference between Senator Steele Hall and me? I am a one-man Party in the Senate just as Senator Steele Hall is a one-man Party in the Senate. In view of those circumstances, and to maintain the equity which I think should be applied, I intend to vote for the amendment.
– I rise simply to give an explanation of the words splinter Party’. I believe Senator Bunton inadvertently used that phrase. With all deference to Senator Bunton ‘s removal, perhaps, from the power base of the Liberal Movement, a splinter party is what we are not. The electoral results in South Australia do not support that contention in any way because at the last test we were the major non-Labor Party in South Australia.
– I agree with the Opposition’s attitude in respect of this amendment. In doing so I certainly cast no reflection on Senator Steele Hall, whom I regard quite highly. I think he is a competent member of the Senate. He exerts his influence here in no uncertain manner. He very fairly condemns the Government on many issues which I support. Occasionally I have some doubts about the way he castigates the Opposition but nevertheless I have some regard for his competence. What I am going to say is in no way a reflection on him as a senator but I do -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Senator this is not a time for confessions; it is a time for debate of the amendment.
– I just want to remind the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) of what he said. He said that the Liberal Movement should have representation on the delegation. However, the Liberal Movement already has representation at the Convention in the person of Mr Millhouse, the leader of that relatively minor Party in South Australia. I dare not use the word ‘splinter’ because I know how offensive it would be to Senator Steele Hall. However, I do remind Senator Hall that 33 and one-third per cent of his Party’s parliamentary representation will be in attendance at the Convention. If we give him a place it will mean that 50 per cent of his Party’s parliamentary representation will be at the Convention.
I want to indicate to the Senate and to the South Australian electorate that in no way are we denigrating Senator Hall by moving this amendment. We think it is fair to insist that the Liberal and National Country parties have a greater voice on this delegation. The Leader of the Government in the Senate referred to the Democratic Labor Party. The Democratic Labor Party is a Party of a quite different character to that of the Liberal Movement and it did contest elections in every State. As such it had some claim to be represented on the delegation from this Parliament. Not only that, it had four or five members in the Senate which is quite different from the single voice from the Liberal Movement we have bleating here occasionally. I repeat that this is not an action by the Opposition in denigration of Senator Hall; it is merely a fair request and I believe we ought to insist on it.
That the amendment (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 1 June on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I believe that the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, the Customs Bill and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill terminated last evening with Senator Sim’s speech. I am now replying to the comments made in that debate. I have very little to say. In his contribution to the debate Senator Drake-Brockman asked for some assurance from me. I thought that his speech was a most peculiar one to be made by a member of the National Country Party of Australia, in that he expressed concern about the protection of secondary industries. The Minister for Police and Customs still has the right to prevent dumping.
He has that right under the existing legislation. I can give Senator Drake-Brockman the assurance that he sought from me. Such powers exist already and it is not the intention of the Government to permit the dumping of goods in Australia to the detriment of Australian industry.
Senator Sim likewise made a good contribution to the debate. It was the sort of contribution that we have heard for the last 20 years from every free protectionist in Australia. I believe that it would have done justice to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), from whom we have heard so often. The only difference on this occasion is that there was some criticism of the Government’s 25 per cent across-the-board tariff reduction. Senator James McClelland explained the situation in that respect yesterday. The desired result in this respect has failed to be achieved because instead of a cheaper commodity being available to the consumer, the situation has developed in which the sale price of a commodity has been determined by what the market will bear, and the market has been able to bear imported goods at the same price as Australian goods, which has permitted a profit of up to 400 per cent to be made by the distributors in Australia of imported goods. Of course the distributors did not reduce the price. Although they made profits they did not make any reduction in the price of their goods. I thank the Opposition for supporting the 3 Bills and for the expedition with which it has allowed them to pass through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 13 May on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from the Committee without amendment or debate.
– I move:
We seem to be bound up with procedures. Although everyone agrees to the 3 Bills we have debated, we still have to go through all the procedure, including the Committee stage. I think that the Standing Orders Committee could well look into this stupid parade of people moving in and out of the Chair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 4 June on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Ship Construction Bounty Bill 1975 gives effect to measures announced by the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply on 18 December 1973. The Bill aims to provide assistance for continuing development of a rational and efficient ship building industry in Australia. Protection against prospective import competition is therefore built into it, while providing purchasers with opportunities to source their requirements overseas under certain conditions. Current assistance is provided for under section 47 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956, as amended. Under that Act Australia agrees to purchase a vessel from the shipowner on completion and sell it back at the same price, less the amount of subsidy to be provided. The level and mode of assistance have been reviewed by the Tariff Board from time to time, and the last dme it was reviewed was in June 1971. Annual payments in this area of expenditure have risen from about $2m in 1947 to $3Om in 1974.
The Bounty provided for under this legislation is calculated in a manner similar to that in other bounty legislation. The Bill brings the method of calculation into Une with that used in regard to other bounty assistance to manufacturers in other areas. The bounty is payable on vessels constructed in Australia, in registered shipyards. It is payable on vessels of 150 gross construction tons or more and on fishing vessels 2 1 metres or more in length, where these vessels are to be used in Australian waters or for use by Australian flag operators in international trade. The bounty is also payable on modifications carried out in Australia on existing vessels where the cost involved in the modification exceeds $500,000. There is provision for a pro rata recapture bounty arrangement which is spelt out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), but I do not feel I need once more to spell that out. The cost of certain items, such as the purchase of designs and miscellaneous stores, may be excluded. The Bill also provided for registration of premises, and those provisions are similar to those in the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1972 and the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act 1973.
The Opposition did not oppose this Bill in the House of Representatives and it does not oppose it in this chamber. During the intervening period between the Bill being considered in the House of Representatives and being considered by ourselves, I have received a long representation by way of telex from a Mr Butler of the State Dockyard who was acting, I believe, on behalf of a number of shipbuilders. They have raised various areas of difficulty and probable concern that they feel might perhaps arise. I have been through the points they raise in some detail. The Opposition does not propose to move any amendments at this stage because we did not take that course in the House of Representatives. I have conferred with the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I understand that he has the same information that I have. It is my intention to check that with him. I ask him to give an undertaking in his reply to take care of those various areas of concern. If it is shown in due course that these areas of concern need rectification or change, I ask him to give an undertaking also that he will bring the matter forward. I ask the Minister to be so kind as to discuss the matter with me in order that I may perhaps facilitate the process.
– The Senate is discussing the Ship Construction Bounty Bill 1975 which authorises the payment of a bounty to shipbuilders who are engaged in the construction or modification, at registered premises, of vessels for use in Australian waters or for use in the overseas trade as vessels registered in Australia. This Bill is of particular interest to me, as it is to the Australian shipbuilding industry as a whole. I have a particular interest in it because it affects, of course, the shipbuilding activities of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd at Whyalla, upon which that community depends very much for its economic well being. There are a number of aspects of this Bill which perhaps ought to be discussed in fairly great detail.
I think that Senator Cotton who led for the Opposition in the debate on this Bill has indicated that he has had representations from shipbuilders and has taken note of their concern, so I will not elaborate to any great extent in that respect. The matter of the date of the keel laying or the date of the beginning of construction which is mentioned in the Bill has apparently been dealt with fairly adequately in the legislation. The Bill, as tabled in the Senate, really makes no specific mention of a keel laying date but refers to the commencement of construction. This seems to overcome some difficulties which have worried shipbuilders.
Another point which is not mentioned in the representations that were made to Senator Cotton but which has come to mind following a study of this Bill relates to clause 6 of the Bill. This clause confers wide discretionary powers on the Minister whereby he may disregard any part of a vessel price for the purpose of determining bounty. The original policy statement of December 1973 enumerated several specific items. For example, it mentioned that insurance would be excluded from price for determination of the bounty. However, the last paragraph of clause 6(1) is not specific and could be interpreted to mean that the Minister may adjust the bounty on the basis of factors such as the vessel design features or selection of particular items of machinery or equipment. For example, the Minister may consider that a vessel needs only 6 hatches instead of 7 hatches or that the speed of 16 knots for the vessel is unnecessary and that 15 knots would be sufficient. On the basis of such judgments it seems that the Minister would have the power to reduce the bounty price and hence the bounty itself. If the discretionary powers are likely to be used in this way it will add to the uncertainty already existing in the minds of owners and builders in the whole matter of bounty determination.
I think that the shipbuilders misgivings about the policy and the legislation may be summarised by saying that there is nothing to encourage capital investment in new facilities. Such investment is badly needed if the industry is to achieve the efficiencies needed to offset the effects of reducing bounty in the face of world competition. Inducements to shipowners in the form of credit facilities and accelerated depreciation have been suggested but apparently the Government has rejected these proposals. Incentives to the shipbuilders themselves could be in the form of an investment allowance for taxation purposes, or perhaps special loans. But again, these proposals have not been favourably considered by the Government. I think the Government has rebutted this with the argument that the shipbuilding industry should receive no concessions that are not available to manufacturing industry generally.
Another matter on which I would like the Minister’s comment is the case of a shipbuilder in Australia who may build a vessel for an Australian enterprise. What would happen if that enterprise, through unforeseen circumstances, no longer required such a vessel? I understand that there is a problem here if the shipbuilder sells the vessel at a loss. I believe that the recapture of the bounty in such a case should be waived. I support the Bill.
-The Ship Construction Bounty Bill has been framed after close co-operation with the industry. Various suggestions have been put which have been embodied in the legislation. The doubts that have been expressed in the telex from Mr Butler of the State Dockyard to which Senator Cotton adverted have also been conveyed to me. I took the trouble to discuss them with the Department of Manufacturing Industry. They were actually forwarded to me by Mr Henderson, who is the Executive Director of the Australian Shipbuilders Association. The Department discussed these points in detail with Mr Henderson and he said that he would be satisfied and the industry would be satisfied if the points were answered in a letter from the Department, and the Department has undertaken to do that.
I do not think the points that are raised are matters of great substance. Rather they are administrative matters. For example doubt is expressed as to the specific action of the bounty. I assure the Senate that the Minister would not act capriciously in a way that is feared by Mr Butler. There is also a comment on the variation of the bounty price. As this refers to clause 13 subclause 2 I assure the Senate that the working of that sub-clause will be examined in the light of experience. It does not seem to raise any immediate problem. The intention is that the existing procedures covering variation of the bounty, taking account of cost escalation will continue to apply, but if it turns out by experience that some amendment is necessary I will give an undertaking that the matter will be considered as indeed will any other amendments needed in the light of experience. This goes also to the matter raised by Senator Jessop. If it turns out that the fear he has of what might happen in the event of unforeseeable circumstances is well founded we will be ready to consider any necessary amendments to the Bill. We do not claim that it is a perfect Bill. We see that it is naturally a Bill which will require to be tested by trial and error. We are not inflexible about the Bill. Our attitude is: Let us see how it works, and if it turns out to have flaws we will be open to suggestions for improvement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-I tried to get the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) by way of interjection earlier so as to save time. Earlier I raised the question of some incentives for the shipbuilding industry. I specified these in my previous speech. I should like the Minister to have a look at that question and see whether he can reconsider these matters in the interests of the shipbuilding industry.
– Yes, I will undertake to do that. If it is considered that there should be some amendment to the Bill we will be open to suggestion.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 June on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
– The Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Bill 1975 is a composite measure with two main sets of proposals. One set of proposals relates to an adjustment of the terms of loans made under clause 12 (4) of the AlburyWodonga Area Development Agreement and enables the deferment of repayment by New South Wales and Victoria of loans made to the growth areas where the growth centre program is generating insufficient income to cover repayments. The Opposition appreciates the legal doubts that arose as to whether or not the arrangements infringed the provisions of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act. We appreciate the need for that part of this particular Bill. We also appreciate the provisions in the Bill to adjust other terms and conditions of loans made to the States. We are interested that the opportunity now exists for loans of longer than the previous maximum period to become available- longer than 40 years for sewerage works and longer than 30 years for other kinds of work. I reiterate the interest of the shadow Minister in the House of Representatives who said that the Senate should be kept fully informed of the conditions of these loans as and when they are made.
The second part of this measure, however, provides’- I use the inverted commas because we are not quite sure whether it is in the form of loans or grants- funds for instance for flood mitigation works in Brisbane. I would like to address just a few remarks to that subject. I remind the Senate that, following the floods which occured on Australia Day 1974, a decision was reached that flood mitigation works were necessary in Brisbane. According to the ‘Courier Mail’ of 6 December 1974, the Government intimated that it would give up to $lm to help with these flood mitigation works. I further remind the Senate that the project in question is one to raise the level of a dam on Breakfast Creek by some 20 feet to provide some flood mitigation for Breakfast Creek and Enoggera Creek. The cost of this project, which has been let to Thiess Brothers Pty Ltd, is $2,812,000. I simply remind the Senate that on other flood mitigation projects- for example, the one relating to Seymour- the Federal Government has generally taken up to 40 per cent of the cost. Forty per cent of the cost of this project would be $1,250,000. I will be interested to know whether the grant of $450,000 provided for in this Bill represents the entire contribution of the Australian Government or whether it is the first of several contributions to bring its total contribution up to 40 percent of$2.8m
From reading the second reading speech of the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) at no stage was it clear whether the assistance was to be a loan or a grant. There is a very big difference. For example, when we discussed the sewerage grants program last year we were talking about money being available at the long term bond rate which, according to the latest figures I have, is 9.5 per cent. It would be gratifying to know that this money is being given to Queensland as a grant. I hope that the Minister will advise us of that. My understanding is that no final agreement has yet been signed with the Queensland Government. That Government is very concerned that there should be an agreement. It is possible that this will be in the form of a grant. Opposition Senators have no desire to hold up this legislation. We wish the Bill a speedy passage. We hope that the Minister can fill us in on the very few details which we have requested.
– There are more than legal doubts now about the growth centres which are the subject of this Bill. On 10 June there appeared in the ‘Australian’ newspaper a Press report of a departmental inquiry commissioned by the Federal Department of Urban and Regional Development. I have not yet had time to read the report of that inquiry, if one is available and I suppose it is available. But one cannot doubt the validity of the newspaper report, on a general scan of it. It raises tremendous questions as to the propriety of having these growth centres at all. It raises the question of whether there is room in Australia for more than one growth centre. The article says:
The Federal Government may be pursuing the wrong policies on growth centres, according to an Australia-wide survey commissioned by the Federal department of Urban and Regional Development.
The Government could not claim that that report was ill-founded or that it was someone else’s criticisms. It is the Department in effect talking to itself. The report continues:
Headed by Professor M. Logan, deputy chairman of the Department of geography at Monash University and a past adviser to the department, the four-man team covered Australia region by region and the six capital cities suburb by suburb.
The researchers suggest the Government reappraise its policy on growth centres like Albury-Wodonga, BathurstOrange and Geelong in the light of future resources, including population.
The viability of more than one such centre in Australia must be seriously questioned. One of the first questions is where are the people going to come from?’ Professor Logan asks.
With the ink hardly dry on this report we are discussing adding to the figure of $258m by $450,000- a minute sum, of course, considering the total advance payment which we are making on these growth centres. But the fact is that since the Government launched its great policy initiatives in growth centres the population development and the expected growth in Australian population have altered altogether.
– That amount of money was not for growth centres; it was for sewerage works and the whole lot.
– Well, it impinges on growth centres in the sense that it is very closely allied with them. It is part of the sense of widening development of population centres in which the Government is involved. Before the Government gets too deeply involved in spreading its money widely in spheres which are being greatly questioned by independent advisers I suggest it should look carefully at its programs. It should look particularly carefully at Monarto, which is not concerned with this Bill I admit but is subject to very severe questioning by authorities who are advising the South Australian Government. The Government should look at its wide range of expenditures in the general spreading of Australia’s population to make sure that it is not making the vast mistakes there that it is making in other directions.
– I thank the Opposition for its support of this measure. On the questions that need a reply, firstly I can tell Senator Baume that the State Government of Queensland and the Australian Government have prepared an agreement which they are on the point of signing but cannot sign until they have the necessary legislation. They have reached agreement. The agreement is that, as with similar grants, the Australian Government will pay 40 per cent of the cost of the flooding mitigation in Queensland. As it stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren):
The Bill makes provision for $450,000 to be spent on flood mitigation works in Brisbane this financial year.
That is only this financial year. The second reading speech further states:
Subject to parliamentary approval, further funds will be made available as work proceeds in future years.
It is hoped, with the addition of a new clause, that we shall be able to make these funds available out of appropriations each year when they come before the Parliament. Therefore, it will be a 40 per cent interest free, non-repayable grant.
Senator Steele Hall again raised his vendetta against Monarto. The question of whether Monarto is a going thing, whether it should go or should not go should not, I think, condemn other growth centres. Senator Steele Hall brings up the question of support for Professor Logan, who wrote a book which contains words to the effect that it was commissioned by the Federal Government. It was not. That is a mistatement in the book. Professor Logan worked for a short time with the Department of Urban and Regional Development, left the Department then went out and wrote a book on his views, which he had published by a printing company in Melbourne. So it is not an official departmental document. While Professor Logan is entitled to his views and Senator Steele Hall is entitled to his views, the Government policy is- and it was a promise in two policy speeches- that we will develop those centres in Australia to erase the intolerable situation that exists in the outer metropolitan and inner metropolitan areas of the big capital dues. I thank the Opposition for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Income Tax Assessment Bill 1975 attends to various matters in the Income Tax Assessment Act. It was not objected to in the House of Representatives and it is not objected to here. It seeks to amend the tax law so that after independence Papua New Guinea will be treated as a separate country for Australian tax purposes. The Bill ends the operation of special provisions applying to Papua New Guinea. Income that is derived from Papua New Guinea by Australian residents will be treated as income from a source outside Australia. Exception to this case is in the form of double tax relief to apply after independence. Salary or wages of Australians working in Papua New Guinea under various attachments or contracts to that Government will be exempt from Australian tax where the Papua New Guinea Government taxes the income. The rate of withholding tax on dividends paid to Papua New Guinea residents will remain at half the general rate of 30 per cent, despite the fact that there is no comprehensive double tax agreement with Papua New Guinea. That is a concession by Australia to the emerging independent nation. It is normal to have double tax agreements in those cases. I think the Government is correct in making that concession because no doubt such an agreement will come to pass.
We have a very special relationship with that nation which we have brought to a state of adulthood, if I might use that term. The changes are to be synchronised with the independence of Papua New Guinea, whenever that comes about. There are problems in that regard, as we know, but they are foreign affairs problems, not problems with the taxation law. People in receipt of pensions from Australia or Papua New Guinea will be taxed only in the country of residence. Exemptions from Australian tax on compensation and allowances paid under the employment security scheme are only to the extent that the amount is of a kind prescribed by the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) (Termination of Employment) Regulations. They are the amounts which are paid to expatriate officers of the Public Service of Papua New Guinea at the end of their service there. That seems to be a fairly tidy and sensible arrangement and one which is consistent with our relationship with that nation.
Another clause provides exemption from withholding tax for interest paid by the Australian Industry Development Corporation in respect of loans raised overseas. A very good explanatory memorandum has been circulated with the Bill, which is the normal practice with the Treasury and the Taxation Office. This matter is referred to at page 33 of the explanatory memorandum. It is one to which we do not take exception. It is a straightforward operation. Therefore I think we would find ourselves quite able to agree with it, as we were in the House of Representatives. The Bill provides also for accelerated income tax deductions for depreciation, as announced on 9 December 1974. It is designed to stimulate investment in manufacturing and primary production plant. It is a measure with which we find ourselves in agreement. Taxpayers will be entitled to claim depreciation deductions on eligible plant at twice the rate normally applied. The increased rates so taken up will apply until the cost of the eligible plant is written off. Plant which was previously eligible for the now abolished investment allowances and is first installed and ready for use during the 12 months ending June 1975 is eligible for that concession. Taxpayers may elect to forego accelerated depreciation allowances if they so wish. This is referred to in the explanatory memorandum, in reference to clause 20, and, in more detail, in reference to clauses 23 and 24.
I should like to say that obviously this concession, under this legislation, expires in June 1975. Expenditure that is contemplated by manufacturers or primary producers on and after 1 July 1975 will not be eligible for this concession, as I read it, unless the Government in its wisdom decides, in its next Budget, to extend the concession in the future to cover new plant and equipment purchased by manufacturers and primary producers. I think that it is a wise provision. I think that the comments we have been making here about the need for investment in Australia and the need for people to obtain new plant and equipment are completely correct. This may, perhaps, facilitate the process. Indeed, one certainly hopes it will do so.
The Bill also provides for the previous decision to dispense with the collection of the instalment of company tax in February 1975 to be set aside for the present. It was proposed that companies would pay tax quarterly. At the same time that that legislation was introduced there was a fairly massive credit squeeze, a drop in profitability and the problem of inflation. Many companies found themselves so short of cash because of inflation, low profitability and difficulties in obtaining credit that they were unable to pay their income tax bills as the Government thought they would be able to do. That position has been moderated to some extent. I imagine that it is only a temporary moderation. Perhaps it will emerge again at some future time. When it does emerge again- if it does- we will consider it on its merits or demerits. It will be the subject of substantial argument at that time.
This Bill also repeals the provisions contained in the 1974-75 Budget to ascribe minimum values for income tax purposes to cars available for private use of employees. This repeal was part of a general package announced by the Government on 28 January this year to try to stimulate employment in the motor car manufacturing industry by getting people, once again, to start buying motor cars. There was the great problem of accumulated stocks. This created the further problem of a great number of people being put out of work because manufacturers could no longer continue to finance expansion of the industry. As I said at that time, this relief, plus the temporary reductions in sales tax and a few other measures, produced a temporary relief in the situation. Whilst we agreed with this proposal and thought that it was a wise step to take, because at the time it was introduced it stopped many companies from buying motor cars for their employees, it depressed the market very substantially. It also made it very difficult for many individuals in their own personal financial situations to calculate their income tax. The Opposition believes that before very long the motor car industry, as such, will be heading for trouble. It believes that the number of new motor car purchases will diminish once again, and the problem of unemployment will arise.
As the Opposition has stated, if these problems are going to arise in the motor car industry the Opposition hopes that the Government will come along early with ideas to try to improve the situation so that we can have time to consider our position in relation to this question.
The Bill also amends the income tax law to ensure that the allowances that are paid under the National Employment and Training scheme will be taxable. This is referred to on page 38 of the explanatory memorandum. It refers to clause 50 and states:
There is more than that but I do not need to refer to it at greater length. As honourable senators will see, the Opposition does not oppose these measures, and in some cases regards them as both wise and sensible.
– I am pleased to see that this Bill is finally being passed, because in my State several tax consultants have advised their customers that they could not expect to receive the depreciation benefits which were announced by, I think, the previous Treasurer late last year.
– In December last year.
– In December last year. I made urgent inquiries about this matter last week. I found, of course, what I ought to have known, that the benefits were tied up in this major Bill affecting the situation in Papua New Guinea. This matter has caused some concern among people who had been encouraged to buy large amounts of farm machinery. Of course, the policies which were announced in December were designed to give this encouragement. It seems to me, from the experience of these 2 taxation consultants who had advised their customers of their belief that the depreciation allowance would not apply, that some publicity will need to be given to the passage of this Bill. Not, of course, that the matter would not be fixed eventually. I am sure that in the end, after some confusion in accounting procedures, the position would be clarified. But it might save inefficiency and some doubt in the minds of some people who have bought machinery on the strength of the earlier announcement, if the Department could perhaps make known to all consultants that the changes are now in effect and are law. .
– in reply- I had not intended to reply until Senator Hall spoke. There was really no need, and Senator Cotton has indicated the Opposition’s support for this legislation. But with respect to the matter raised by Senator Hall, I shall refer the matter to the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) for consideration, and I anticipate that he would reply to Senator Hall direct by letter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to make a brief statement to correct a misstatement which I made in a debate earlier today.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In the debate this morning, I tabled a document attributed to a Mr J. T. Larkin, First Assistant Secretary. I mistakenly stated during the debate that he was a First Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Treasury. In fact, he is a First Assisant Secretary in the Department of Minerals and Energy.
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill before the Senate is the States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill 1975. On behalf of the Opposition, I indicate that we are in full support of this Bill which proposes an additional loan to the industry of some $ 19.6m to be matched by the States on a dollar for dollar basis, and fortunately, on this occasion, at a much lower rate of interest than the previous loan to the beef industry. The States will receive these moneys in the proportions of $10m to Queensland, $5m to New South Wales, $2m to Victoria, $1,500,000 to South Australia, $800,000 to Western Australia and $300,000 to Tasmania. We support this Bill for the obvious reason that this extremely great primary industry is in dire straits at this time and indeed it is regrettably in a deteriorating condition still in the Australian scene. We believe that the Government must show the responsibility that it is now showing with respect to the beef industry in Australia, because that industry surely, amongst all the industries in this country, has in fact a great potential. There can be little doubt that in the ultimate and we hope in the not too far distant future, the industry will round the corner and once again become as significant in the economy of this country as it has been in the past. Consequently, I believe it is an industry which investment by the Government is not only proper but is certainly necessary.
I believe that in the course of this debate I should make one or two brief references to the industry. I think it proper that the Senate should be aware of the extreme circumstances that exist and why they exist. There is in this industry a circumstance in which the price of the product has fallen by some 60 per cent to 80 per cent in 12 months. Regrettably, in that same industry the cost structure has increased by somewhere in the vicinity of 25 per cent. Those 2 elements of a lowering and still lowering price factor and a spiralling cost factor have contributed most significantly to the circumstances in which the industry finds itself.
There are one or two areas to which I believe the Government quite properly should turn its attention. Unemployment in the beef producing industry is such that money should be made available in order to keep employees of that industry operating on the properties on which they have been living and operating over the years. There are 2 very good reasons to provide that money. In the first place, not only would it prevent their impending unemployment but it would maintain within the industry the skill and knowledge that is represented by those employees, and it would retain them in the communitiesin many cases in far flung areas of Australia- of which they and their families are significant members. The other reason for the provision of assistance obviously is that by making it possible to retain these people in the beef producing area of the industry, the capacity of the industry to keep and develop its assets at this particularly dangerous period of its existence would be maintained. Indeed, that asset is a great asset of the Australian people and the Australian economy. By retaining these skilled people in the industry, at least in a depressed period, it becomes possible to keep and develop that asset.
Perhaps greater attention could have been paid in the industry to the programs for eradication of disease, and I believe that here in particular there arises the question of tuberculosis and brucellosis, which campaigns are running down at a time when, hopefully, they should have been increased. An increase in the campaigns at this stage could have been done quite obviously at lesser cost to the Government because of the unfortunately low price of the animals concerned. Secondly, it would have been of great value to take advantage of these campaigns at this time because as the industry climbs out of its trough it would have found itself with a much healthier and much better herd than otherwise may have been the case. I believe also that the Government should consider most seriously the question of suspending the 1.6c per lb export tax on beef. While that obviously would not alter the price of beef, it would in real terms change the net return to the grower. Export incentives in this industry have been curtailed; transport charges, fuel bunkering charges, freight and so forth have all risen dramatically, and unfortunately these are in the main a product of this Government’s economic policies across a very wide field.
Briefly, then, I indicate that the Opposition supports this Bill. The money is very necessary for the industry. It is an industry with a tremendous significance to the Australian economy and ultimately it will climb out of the trough it is in. But the Opposition does insist that there are positive measures that could and should be taken in addition to the provision of these loan moneys. So we would urge the Government to look at all these other possibilities of improving an industry which is in dire straits at the moment and which unquestionably will ultimately fulfil its potential in this economy.
– I would not anticipate that the Opposition would oppose this legislation because it is the result of deliberations between the Australian Government and the State governments. In fact the amounts sought by all the States are being provided on a matching basis by the Australian Government at 4 per cent interest. I am sure that no other industry in Australia, possibly with the exception of the dairying industry, is receiving such favourable consideration as the beef industry is getting at the present time. It is all very well to nominate a string of other measures that the Government ought to take but there is a limit to what any government can do or should be expected to do. I know that there are such things as meat inspection levies that the industry is paying and there is also the brucellosis eradication campaign, but I do hope that the measures that are being taken by the Government are recognised and not drowned in suggestions of what else might be done. This arrangement, as I said, is a joint arrangement with the States and I believe the industry generally is quite satisfied with the performance of all the governments, both State and Federal, in respect of the assistance being given. The future for the beef industry in the long term remains good and I have no doubt that despite the downturn in this industry at the present time those producers who are properly established in the industry will again see a return to the buoyant conditions that we have witnessed over the last four or five years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
WOOL TAX BILLS (Nos 1 to 5) 1975
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bills be now read a second dme.
– Again on behalf of the Opposition I indicate our firm support for these Wool Tax Bills. These Bills implement the proposal for a 250c per kilo reserve price for the coming 1975-76 season. They refer to the 5 per cent levy paid by producers to the market support fund and to the 2% per cent levy imposed for promotion and research purposes. The Bills also refer to the collection of those levies from all the sellers and handlers of wool whether they are inside or outside the auction system. It is most important that this legislation should come through this Parliament because the wool industry is of great significance in the Australian scene. The industry incidentally has been climbing out of one of its worst troughs. In this industry we have seen the base price for wool move from the 250c limit to 275c a few weeks ago. We have seen the trade purchasing 98 per cent and 99 per cent of the wool coming before it. These are superb signs of an industry, which probably more than any other is basic to the total balance of the rural economy, climbing out of yet another of its troughs.
I believe that all people involved in this industry, all Australians, and certainly the Government, should be aware of the dangers of floating uncertainties in the context of an industry which is so basic and which, in all probability, is once again reaching a level of security, certainty and stability. Only a few weeks ago a kite was floated suggesting that the base price might be 200c.
This followed long delay in announcing the base price. The consternation of the producer through to the processor, the manufacturer and the retailer was intense all around the world. It was fortunate that that circumstance was not allowed to continue and that Caucus was able on that occasion to over-rule the Cabinet decision. If there is one thing that this industry must have in order to achieve and retain stability it is confidence. That confidence was severely shaken on that occasion. What a situation we would have had in this country if by such an action we literally had sold out to the eastern and western European users of wool by writing down the base price by some 50c a kilo.
I do not want to delay the Senate’s discussion of this Bill because we of the Opposition support it for excellent reasons. However I want to make one or two references to matters in the industry. The people of Australia, the taxpayers, from time to time hear stories of handouts to the great wool industry and of how the taxpayers are carrying it. I believe we should look at the industry very briefly in that context. People should be aware that in the last 12 months this industry, although not in as dire straits as the beef industry perhaps, has suffered a pretty serious crisis. In a period of 12 months it had seen the price of its product fall by some 65c a kilo while at the same time it was faced with an increase in its cost structure of not less than 37 per cent due to various economic policies that bear extremely heavily on the Australian wool industry.
I want to refer once again to the necessity to erase the view that this great industry is heavily dependent on the Austraiian taxpayers. On the contrary, the moneys that support this industry are in the nature of loan moneys. They are provided as a commercial venture and carry an 1 1 per cent interest rate. As security for those moneys there is a substantial stockpile of wool in the hands of the Australian Wool Corporation. Those moneys are not subject to any great risk. More importantly still, people should realise that the producers themselves contribute 5 per cent to a market support fund of some $50m in round figures. This fund provides the moneys necessary for interest payments and handling charges. Indeed, it can be called on in the first instance to recover any losses by the Corporation. Moreover, by means of a direct *2V** per cent levy on gross return the industry contributes money for promotion and research within the wool trade. These moneys, the 7% per cent of gross takings, as was indicated as a result of a question in this place by Senator Laucke recently, are moneys which are never received by the Australian wool producer, yet on which he pays commission. That is a question at which in the future some real inquiry will be directed.
We support these Bills fully because we are aware of the absolute necessity for a basic stability in this industry which is more referable to the total balance of the rural scene than probably any other industry. It is in the wool industry that Australia produces the most and the best. Indeed, to quote the words of Dr Patterson back in the days when the Australian Wool Commission was being formed to give an indication of his view of the wool industry:
The wool industry, without a shadow of doubt, is the most efficient export industry Australia has had since it was settled by white men.
That is a remarkably fine credential coming from a spokesman from the Australian Labor Party. We support this legislation and we trust that the dismay and uncertainty that has come across, and hopefully drifted away from, this great industry will never be allowed to arise again.
– I do not intend to occupy very much time. We have just heard another fairly dismal dirge from Senator Scott on the last 2 Bills regarding the economic conditions of agriculture in Australia. While it is certainly true that there has been a significant fall -
– How would you describe it?
– I am going to. I shall make a comparison which may interest Senator Scott quite considerably. In fact I shall make it a little sooner than I had intended. It is interesting to see that Senator Scott is substantially blaming the Government for what he alleges to be a significant depression in Australian agriculture. As a couple of very well known agricultural economists remarked in a book which they published recently- the economists being Doctors Schapper and Mauldon- many of the beliefs pertaining to agriculture are often flatly contradicted by the facts, and the apparent belief of Senator Scott is one of those beliefs. The facts are that the anticipated net farm income, estimated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in real terms for the financial year 1974-75 is 20 per cent higher than it was in 1971-72. The significance of those years, of course, is that 1 97 1 -72 was the last full year of Liberal-Country Party Government. If Senator Scott wishes to suggest that the Labor Government is totally or substantially responsible for what he sees as a significant depression in agriculture today perhaps he might have some explanation to offer as to why this income was 20 per cent less in real terms in the last year that his Party was in government?
The purpose of this Bill Senator Scott has explained accurately, the major feature of course being to continue a 5 per cent levy on gross wool proceeds to provide a capital fund in association with the maintenance of a fixed seasonal floor price. A couple of weeks ago this reserve price issue provided the setting for a most reprehensible exhibition of synthetic indignity or hypocrisy by the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) and the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who are the Leader and Deputy Leader respectively of the National Country Party of Australia in the other place. These 2 great poseurs who lead a Party which was in Government for more than 20 years, for much of which time they were senior Ministers in the coalition government and during which time they consistently refused to hold any seasonal floor price, have the audacity to castigate this Government which has the courage to do what they failed to do for 23 years. These honourable members pose and posture about the damage which they allege would be done to the wool industry if this Government failed to maintain a marketing policy which they for more than 2 decades refused to implement. The villainy and infamy was compounded by a most vicious, unfounded and typically inaccurate personal attack on the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) launched by the greatest of all poseurs in the National Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) while on This Day Tonight’ on the evening of 26 May. On this program Mr Sinclair stated among many other things:
It’s said on the assessment of those who are expert in the field that next year $ 177m will be the cost to the Australian community of the decision reportedly taken by . . .
The honourable member was cut off by an interjection. Of course the decision to which he referred was clearly the then prevailing belief that the floor price of wool would be reduced to 200c per kilo.
One could quibble about the accuracy of that $177m assessment which seems to be a fairly precise figure when we are dealing with such a nebulous concept. Far more importantly, if we accept at face value that, as the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party said, it would cost the community $177m if price support were withdrawn from the wool market, I wonder what was the cost to the community of the 20-odd years which Mr Sinclair’s Party was in government and during which time it provided no price support at all. I would love to have Mr Sinclair sitting opposite me so that I could put that question to him. As he is not here I would welcome an answer from some of his colleagues in his Party or in the other coalition Party. It seems to me that if it cost $177m in one year then a fairly reasonable assessment of the total cost to the community of the 20-odd years of inertia of Mr Sinclair’s Party would be in the vicinity of 4 billion dollars. The Opposition may not accept that estimate. I accept that it is fallible. It seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion from the assumptions and assertions which Mr Sinclair has presented.
The reason why the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) and the honourable member for New England have lately taken to launching most vicious and unfounded attacks on the Minister for Agriculture is that they are beginning to realise that their credibility in the farming community is being eroded. They are terrified that the present Minister for Agriculture is being regarded, even by farmers, as a better Minister for Agriculture than either of those 2 honourable members was. Nearly everyone outside farming has always known that Senator Wriedt is a better Minister for Agriculture than either of them. With regard to the wool industry decision of a couple of weeks ago, I came across an article in the ‘Chronicle’ which is a rural weekly publication in South Australia. From my reading of it and from information supplied to me by South Australian colleagues I understand it is far removed from being a radical left-wing journal. In fact, it is a typically conservative rural weekly paper. It contains a column which is written by a person who I understand is an active farmer. Certainly he is not a member of my Party nor, I believe, does he support it at election times. He writes under the pen name Victoria. In the issue of 6 June Victoria wrote an article describing the scenes on 26 May following the Caucus decision on the reserve price. He stated:
Immediately after the memorable Caucus decision to leave the reserve price for wool at 250c a clean kg.
Doug Anthony, leader of the National Country Party posturing on the back of a utility, actually having the hide to announce the Caucus decision as if he himself had caused the overturning of a Cabinet decision.
With all due respect for his hard work and rousing efforts on behalf of farmers, but not for his bad manners in upstaging Bob Whan, the pressure for change of Cabinet decision quite obviously came from WITHIN -
The emphasis is added by Victoria-
The Government party.
Then Victoria concluded with what should be self evident to anyone who has achieved minimal level of political literacy. Victoria said:
Otherwise the vote would not have been almost 2-1 in favour . . .
I do not suppose that anyone needs any great political literacy to realise that there will not be a 2- 1 vote in the Labor Party Caucus or in a caucus or equivalent meeting of any political party unless a very great number of people who represent capital city electorates vote for the decision.
The chronology of this matter begins, of course, with the Cabinet decision being made on 23 May. Having due regard for the size of this year’s deficit, for worries about next year’s deficit and for the uncertainty of the wool market- no doubt spurred on by the continuous campaign and the righteous exhortations of members of the Opposition in this chamber and in the other place to reduce Government spending and to cut the size of the Government deficit- the Cabinet made a decision to reduce the floor price. As anyone who has a minimum level of political literacy knows, in the Labor Party all Cabinet decisions must be referred to Caucus. Finally, the decison was due to have been made by Caucus on the following Tuesday.
The House of Representatives sat on the Monday. We witnessed the disgusting spectacle of these two great poseurs, the honourable member for Richmond and the honourable member for New England, who claim to have been overwhelmingly concerned with the welfare of wool growers and the wool market, attempting to make the Government, and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in particular, commit themselves to an irrevocable statement that the reserve price would not be set at 250c and that the Caucus would not amend the Cabinet’s original decision. In the hope of getting a bit of cheap political mileage these poseurs did everything they possibly could to prevent an amendment to .the Cabinet decision with regard to the maintenance of the reserve price at 250c. On 27 May the Caucus meeting was held and the decision was taken to maintain the reserve price. I shall not keep the Senate much longer, but it is worth noting -
– I have no doubt whatsoever that the members of the Opposition would like to get me off the air because the truth will be seeping back to the back blocks and the people will know that, on Mr Sinclair’s own reckoning, 20-odd years of inertia from the previous Liberal-Country Party Government cost the wool industry, and what Mr Sinclair charmingly calls the community, about $4,000m. The people will know this and I have no doubt whatsoever that the members of the Opposition would like me to get off the air and not repeat that statement. Equally I have no doubt that the Opposition does not want to be circulated among the people who are most particularly interested in this matter the information that the honourable member for Richmond and the honourable member for New England did everything they possibly could to stop the reserve price from being held at 250c in the hope of scoring a few cheap political points in the House of Representatives on 26 May.
Let us go back 4 years. In May 1 97 1 , ironically enough the same month as the decision was made this year, the Wool Corporation, as it was then known- its name was changed later- was operating what was euphemistically described by the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, as a potholing operation. It was not holding a fixed seasonal reserve price, of course, because the Country Party used to say that above all we must not interfere with the free flow of wool on to the market. The Corporation was performing this potholing operation, following the market all over the place and doing all the things which the National Country Party now says is quite intolerable for us to contemplate doing. It was following the market all around the place, buying a bit of wool. At that time I think that the Government had outlaid $30m in advances or had guaranteed advances of $30m from private banks, as against the $3 50m which this Government has provided by direct appropriation.
The then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, was interviewed about this matter and, amongst other things, he said that the Government would have to review the finances of the Wool Corporation in that coming season. He did not say what he meant by ‘review’ but the inference was quite clear- the Government would have to see whether it could responsibly continue to guarantee moneys to the Wool Corporation for the purchase of wool in a very depressed market, a much more depressed market than it is now. In May 1971, at one sale greasy wool was sold for an average price of 23c a lb, which is about 40 per cent of the current level. Despite what Mr McMahon said I do not recall the Leader or the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, who have been posing and posturing on this issue over the last couple of weeks, then demanding that Mr McMahon make a firm and unequivocal statement that the Government would stand behind the Corporation for a full 12 months and maintain a seasonal price, as they were demanding that the Prime Minister should do a couple of weeks ago.
In conclusion, the attempts by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Country Party to undermine and destabilise the wool market did not cease even with the Caucus decision and the Press statement by the Minister for Agriculture. They kept up this campaign for a full week, demanding that the Prime Minister make an unequivocal statement that the further reserve price would be held. Never mind how unnecessary that was, never mind that the responsible Minister had made such a statement on behalf the Government, they said that the Prime Minister had to say so and that until he did no one could be sure that the Government really meant what it said. What possible reason could there have been for attempting to continually destabilise the market, other than their long-standing and permanent ambition to gain a bit of cheap political mileage? Anyway, they finally got what they demanded, and it should satisfy even the National Country Party. On ‘National Farming News’ on Thursday, 5 June, John Parker asked the Prime Minister this question:
Prime Minister, will the Government definitely stand behind the reserve price of 250c in the wool market?
The Prime Minister replied:
Certainly it will do so, and it will do so throughout the 1 975-76 wool selling season.
I hope that that will satisfy even the Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Country Party.
– in reply- The Opposition is not opposing this legislation. It is enthusiastically supporting it, as it did the previous Bill which came before the Senate, and for that reason I do not wish to elaborate any of the aspects of the Bill. However, I wish to compliment Senator Walsh for highlighting a very important point, that is, that it was the previous Government with a then Country Party Minister for Primary Industry that refused to take the steps that this Government was prepared to take to support the wool industry. Senator Withers, who appears to be trying to interrupt me, would know nothing about this matter. He would know no more about it than I did when I started as Minister for Agriculture. I admit that, but at least I know something about it now.
Mr Sinclair commented about what it cost the wool industry when the Government allegedly decided to reduce the floor price. Senator Walsh is quite right. If that argument is used let us try to calculate what it cost the wool industry in all the years that the Country Party and its friends in the
Liberal Party refused to put in a floor price for wool. Senator Walsh quite rightly says that it would involve thousands of millions of dollars worth of Australian wool that was sent overseas at give away prices by the Liberal-Country Party Government. That is all history now.
I take up the point made by Senator Scott. I shall make my point as strongly as I possibly can. He said that we must do nothing to shake the confidence of the world buying trade. How true that is. But who are the guilty people? Only last week Messrs Fraser, Sinclair and Anthony were doing their best to undermine the confidence of the wool trade and the wool buyers overseas by their continual spurious remarks about the Government’s decision, even after the Government had clearly made a decision that the floor price would be 250c. They continually harped on the proposition that the Government did not really mean what it decided because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had said nothing. These are the guilty men. If any confidence has been taken away from the wool trade it has been taken away by people like Fraser, Sinclair and Anthony and nobody else. I am sure that the wool growers realise the extent to which this Government is prepared to stand behind them, and this legislation does exactly that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended front 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, I assume that the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) is quite happy to have this Bill and the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Bill taken together as they are cognate measures.
– The Government is agreeable to that.
-The Opposition welcomes the introduction of the Dairy Produce Bill, basically for the reason that the reconstitution of the Dairy Produce Board was something that the Opposition had in mind when there was a change of Government. I must say that I and, I think, most of the dairy industry welcome the reconstitution. I think it will give additional emphasis and additional strength in a number of ways to the Board as it will be reconstituted in a way that will make it more effective and provide it with an opportunity to grapple with the problems that are now facing the industry and that have been facing the industry for a long time.
Just before I move on to the reconstitution of the Board as a Corporation and one or two of the matters associated with that, I think it would be appropriate if I were to pay a tribute at this point to the Various people who have constituted the former Dairy Produce Board over the last 50 years or so for the work they have done. They have gone through some periods of extreme difficulty. I think that they have produced a particularly fine record for the industry. They, together with the industry. have realised for a long time that there have been certain drawbacks and there still are certain drawbacks within the powers that they have had. Hence they have been willing to see a reconstituted body. The former Board is now to be called the Australian Dairy Corporation. The reconstitution will in fact result in a reduction in the number of members of the organisation from thirteen to eleven.
As pointed out by the Minister for Agriculture in his second reading speech, the Corporation will consist of 3 members who will be representing the dairy farmers, 3 members who will be representing the manufacturers, 2 members who will have special qualifications, one representative of the employees and a Government nominee. It will have an independent chairman. I think the only part of that aspect that has been the subject of any debate or discussion is the view in some sections of the industry that perhaps there may have been some case for a greater representation from the primary industry side- in other words, the dairy industry. But I suppose one can quite logically argue mathematically that three-elevenths is better than the previous position of three-thirteenths. I assume from the reaction by the Minister that he is quite happy with that mathematical calculation.
There are some problems that the industry will have to look at in the future. Some of them have been with us for a long time; some of them are still arising in different ways. But perhaps we should look for a few minutes at the intention concerning what the Corporation is to do. We may realise from doing that that the Corporation, as it will be known, will be more effective. The first power that will be given to the Corporation is one of a regulatory nature. It will enable the Corporation to make assessments on the amount of the product from the industry that is needed for Australian consumption and the amount that is needed for sale overseas. We do not see any great difference in this respect, except that there will be a strengthening of the powers available to the Corporation.
The second and probably most important power is the monopoly trading power. In other words the Corporation will be given the right to trade exclusively in the products of the dairy industry. Changes have taken place in the world demand for the products of the dairy industry, particularly with the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. Of course, only last week there was a reaffirmation of that fact. That very large market used to be available to the dairy farmers and dairy industry of Australia but it is no longer available except in exceptional circumstances. Those circumstances probably are not foreseeable at this point. So I think there is a need in this area. I believe that these trading powers will help to strengthen the Australian Dairy Corporation to achieve what it is hoped will be achieved. The other purpose of the Bill, of course, is purely one that concerns the borrowing powers of the Corporation. We can see that there is a dramatic need for this.
I mentioned that there are a number of problems still associated with the industry at which the industry and the Corporation, which will be at the head or the board of control of the industry, will have to look. I shall take a moment or two to enumerate them for the sake of record. As I have just indicated, there are many problems awaiting the new body. One is the increase in margarine quotas which perhaps is predictable in view of what has been happening in this field for many years. This is a problem that will increasingly worry the dairy industry. Although I do not say that I personally accept the argument that the margarine industry is or can be basically an Australian industry, I believe that we have to learn to live with it. In fact, one dairy factory in my own area is currently working on a blend of margarine and butter. Therefore I think that factory and a number of other people in the industry are accepting margarine, reluctantly though this may be.
Perhaps one of the other problems that has been associated with the industry for a long time is getting what the industry accepts or thinks is a realistic price for its product. On two or three occasions in recent months a case has been put to the Prices Justification Tribunal for an increase in price. On one occasion the application was withdrawn. Subsequently there have been 2 very small increases in the price of basic dairy products, namely, butter and cheese. But I believe that the big problem, if we look at this matter objectively, is that of price. We have to realise that if the price of butter over the last 10 years had kept pace with rises in the average weekly wage its present price on the retail market would be something in the vicinity of $ 1.30 per lb. This, of course, is a very high price and is probably unrealistic in today’s economic situation. But it is not a price that is unrealistic when one considers whether people were eating more or less butter 10, 12 or 15 years ago. In fact, butter consumption has dropped during that period up to 1975. As I have said, if the price of butter had kept pace with the average weekly wage it would now sell at $1.30 per lb. While this is a mathematical calculation, I believe that the industry will not push for such an increase. But I also believe that people have to realise that the time of cheap food has passed. They can no longer expect people in the dairy industry, particularly at the production level, to work very long hours, 7 days a week for 8, 9 or 10 months of the year for something less than actual wages.
We have only to look through some of the numerous statistical records to see that dairy farmers in the main have had a pretty difficult time. Admittedly the dairy industry is the most effective, I suppose one could say, in this field in regard to stability of income. But it is not of much comfort for the people in the industry if the stable income is to be at a level that is too low to provide sufficient for them to live on and to pay their way. This problem was discussed on Tuesday of this week when the Senate was debating war service land settlement legislation. Many people have had to deal with this problem for a long time. Because things move so quickly it is not always possible for the individual, the Government or anyone else who wishes to do something to help or to correct the situation, to catch up in the short term.
Another problem which is with us all the time- it is one I mentioned a few moments ago- is related to the sale of the product on the overseas market. In general terms the Australian dairying industry sells about 60 per cent of its total product on the overseas market. I refer to the manufactured side. Of course, the general narrowing of market availability is making it increasingly difficult for the new Corporation to find the conditions in which we can work and show a profit, and thus be of encouragement to the industry so that industry will be maintained at a viable and active level. The problem of viability today is one which is concerned not only with the question of price but also with the question of the availability of market so that there can be within the industry the diversification that is so sorely needed and, unfortunately, which is so terribly costly at the capital level on the manufacturing side.
I think we all agree that the Dairy Adjustment Bill which was passed by the Parliament last year proved of tremendous assistance to the people who could take advantage of it. I do not think anybody would say that that is not so. But the big advantage of the legislation is that it is not as effective as it could be. It is a very effective piece of legislation and it provides for a very effective plan for those people who can make use of it, but the assistance which it provided was not as widespread as were previous forms of assistance- and does not necessarily mean that I am of the opinion that they were the answer, either. The legislation is not as effective as it should be, and for obvious reasons it is not possible to make it as effective as it should be. At the time when the legislation was introduced a tremendous evolution had taken place in the industry and a very large percentage of the dairying industry at that time had changed over from the production of cream to milk production. Most, although certainly not all, also changed over to refrigerated storage.
Another thing that has had a marked effect on the dairying industry was mentioned earlier by Senator Scott in another debate when we were talking about assistance to the beef industry. I refer to the unfortunate fall in the demand for this type of beef- it is usually referred to in the industry as chopper cow meat- on the world market. It took a very severe pounding when prices fell. Because its price was the lowest in the original schedule of prices, it still has the lowest price and it took the greatest beating. It was, and has been for many years, particularly during the time when prices improved to a reasonably high level, a very valuable extra source of income to the dairying industry. The unwanted cows from the dairy herd, the cattle that were sometimes reared in conjunction with the dairy herd, all helped to augment and improve the income of the industry. Admittedly an income is still available, but at a very much reduced level. It does not now provide the advantage of increasing the overall income to any great or marked extent. So we see that there are still some problems in the industry.
Another problem which I think is going to create a tremendous amount of work for the industry in the not too distant future is concerned with the situation which will arise in relation to the equalisation of prices for dairying industry products. Last year equalisation support dropped to 80 per cent of what it had been. As we look around the various States we see that some States now no longer wish to be involved in this particular aspect of pricing. I think the reason for that is fairly obvious. Three or four of the States of Australia are now consuming States and produce only enough of the product for their own needs. That does not help the 2 major producing States of Tasmania and Victoria. I think that anything that is done to destroy equalisation as we know it is going to be to the eventual detriment of the industry and possibly of Australia. The industry must be kept, as far as is possible by encouragement, by means of assistance from corporate boards and by means of other help, in as viable and healthy a state as is possible.
I know that during the last few months thousands of words have been spoken on many occasions about the problems associated with rural industry. It is a soundly based industry. It is an industry in which for a long time a lot of people have been able to make a reasonable living. However, there are not very many rich dairy farmers, particularly at the ordinary or average level.
The other aspect of the dairy industry that is constantly causing trouble and probably will remain with us is the tremendous capital cost in the manufacturing side. We must realise that because of market demands there is a need for very heavy capitalisation of costs in that side of the industry. The capability to diversify on the manufacturing side of the industry is a matter that increasingly creates a problem for the cooperatives and the various other manufacturing sides of the industry that are privately owned. This was one of the problems associated, as we saw a few months ago, with the Murray Goulburn Co-operative and the Kraft organisation in regard to equalisation.
I turn to the Bill itself. There is only one clause in the Bill to which I do not necessarily object but which causes me a little concern. I refer to clause 6 of the Dairy Produce Bill which proposes to insert a new section 13A, paragraph (c) of which reads:
. the Corporation may-
I think we can assume from the attitude that has been taken by boards, etc., in the past that an objective and reasonable attitude will be taken by this Corporation towards the problems associated with the industry.
A subject that is increasingly causing concern to the industry both at the manufacturing and at the producing level is the increased use of pesticides and weedicides. So I would think that one of the problems that will have to be watched by the Corporation in the interpretation of that clause is that no overt action is taken which will be detrimental to the industry, at least at the production level. We know from past experience what careless use of either pesticides or weedicides can have at the manufacturing level when very large quantities of the finished product can be returned or rejected by the country in which the produce is to be sold or, alternatively, at the point at which the manufacture takes place. With these thoughts, as I indicated before, the Opposition accepts these Bills. We welcome them. We congratulate the Government for bringing to fruition thoughts that were in the mind of the Opposition prior to 1 972. We wish the Bills a speedy passage.
-To speak at any length in this debate at this hour of the night so late in what has been a rather heavy session of the Parliament would be almost akin to a dairy farmer being pulled away from his evening meal after a hard day’s work to go to assist a cow that is calving, to help a cow that has milk fever or something like that. Therefore, it is not my intention to speak at any length. As has been said already, the proposals before the Senate tonight will set up an Australian Dairy Corporation to replace what has been for many years the old Dairy Produce Board.
As Senator Bessell mentioned, the new Corporation will have a membership of eleven. I think that the industry must surely be very pleased with the attitude that the Government has taken in regard to representation on the new Corporation of dairy farmers themselves. Whereas in the past the producers were entitled to only 3 representatives on a board of thirteen, on the new Corporation the dairy farmers have an entitlement to 3 members out of eleven which, in effect, increases the dairy farmer representation on the Corporation. As I have said, I think the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) is to be congratulated for his endeavours in that field. I have no doubt that he was under a great deal of pressure from the industry, as he would be from all other industries at the time of revamping any statutory body, to place more people from all camps on that body. In this instance however he has, I think, been very wise and, because of the diversification of the industry in Australia, has retained the dairy farmers’ strength on the proposed Corporation at three, which is, as I have said, a greater proportion than it was under the previous Act.
The Bill also increases the trading powers of the Corporation. Within the industry over the last decade both at farmer level and at farmer body level the question of marketing has become a rather topical issue. Perhaps it may be said belatedly that the industry is moving into this field; and thanks be to the Minister that that is the case. It is an area, I believe, where to a large extent the industry has fallen by the wayside. Let us hope that with the appointment of specialist people to the proposed Corporation the Corporation can now catch up with what it may have been lacking in the past.
I noticed in one of this morning’s newspapers that the Board had moved into the Middle East and obtained a market in Iran. On a visit that I was privileged to make into that area some 18 months ago I was informed by the Iranian Minister for Trade that dairy produce was one commodity that the Iranian Government was in search of. We were told that the Iranian Government was prepared to do deals on a long term basis- 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years- and money was no object. To me this type of deal is the ideal situation ibr all primary produce boards or corporations, provided we can guarantee some form of supply over periods and have an assured market when the goods are produced. This is certainly much better than the old catchascatchcan situation which prevailed with a great deal of our produce in times past.
The proposals we are debating tonight are the second major effort by the Labor Governmentwhich is so often described as being antiruralsince it came to office to revamp the dairy industry. Previous proposals allowed for the broadening of the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme and granted interest free loans to dairy farmers to assist in the switch-over from water cooled or canned milk to refrigerated bulk milk vats. I know that there has been a great demand for this money right across Australia and even in my own State where, I believed, demand would not be as great as it would be in some of the warmer climates. However, in my own region alone it is anticipated that perhaps some 1 700 to 2000 dairy farmers will be applying for funds to switch over. I think that endeavours like this by the Government and by the Minister must surely lay somewhat to rest the hoary claim of the Labor Party’s being anti-rural. If we have a look at other aspects of our policy in the cold, hard realities of daylight and see the money that this Government has been prepared to spend in regard to the wool industry and the money that it has poured into the beef industry, surely such claims fall flat on their face.
The dairy industry has changed, is changing and of course must continue to change. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of dairy farmers have gone out of the occupation over the last 1 5 or 20 years. The industry is tending to settle itself into what one might describe as the traditional dairy farming areas rather than in the marginal land as was sometimes the case in the past. This has been done not out of desire but out of necessity, as we see if we trace the history of the dairy industry in this country since the settlement by white Anglo-Saxons some 200 years ago.
– Settlement or invasion?
– I take Senator Bonner’s point, it was probably an invasion. As Senator Bessell has mentioned, the dairy industry requires people to work long hours- in many areas, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For that reason it has become exceedingly difficult in that industry to obtain labour, particularly youthful labour. One cannot blame young people for wanting to work a 40-hour, 5-day week so that they can go and play football or drink beer on a Saturday or Sunday or do things that their mates in town want to do. Because of this the industry has tended to become more capital intensive, and this in turn has created a problem for young people to be able to establish themselves on a dairy farm. A dairy farm is probably no worse than a sheep farm or a beef farm but because the industry is capital intensive it is creating problems for the young people who wish to enter into it. The figures that have been taken out over recent years show that the average dairy farmer in Australia is of my age group and older. I know jolly well that if I tried to go back and milk 85 cows right now I would not be able to manage it.
As I mentioned before, in the past the industry has been fragmented into 2 sections. This has created deep divisions within the industry. We find that one section of the industry has had access to the liquid milk market, which is a reasonably lucrative market, and the other section has had access only to the manufacturing section. As a result of situations that have evolved and as a result of agitation, moves are being made in the dairy industry. At least in Victoria the situation is being reached where every dairy farmer in that State will have access to both markets. That in turn will create much less friction and will lead to a greater degree of unity in the industry there. In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister for Agriculture for his endeavours in this field. Since he took up his portfolio he has done a magnificent job, despite what our political opponents and many conservative farmers outside have said. At least the dairy farmers, the beef farmers, the wheat farmers and the other farmers who have had the honour to sit down and discuss matters with the Minister have all gone away agreeing that he is a man who will sit and discuss matters with them and that he is one of the best Ministers, if not the best Minister, in charge of primary industry that this country has ever seen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Senator James McClelland :
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is nearing the end of this sitting and of course the Bill to amend the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, not being an important Bill, but still being a Bill which must be resolved, finds its place towards the end of the list of business. The Bill is one which the Opposition does not oppose; the Opposition recognises the purposes which the amendments contained in the Bill are designed to serve. I recall that some three or four years ago the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act was amended by provisions of a comparable character to the ones which are now proposed for the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act. As the jurisdiction of the Territory supreme courts grows then provision must be made so that particular matters can be dealt with by courts which consist of more than the traditional one judge, the system which has characterised the development of superior court jurisdictions in the Territories.
This Bill does 4 separate and significant things. In the first place it provides that the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is to be constituted of not fewer than 3 judges when it is dealing with matters relating to the professional behaviour and conduct of a legal practitioner. I think that there is a need for recognition of the fact that the conduct of barristers and solicitors being subject to the jurisdiction of the supreme court is one of the safeguards that the community has that barristers and solicitors will behave with propriety. I think it is known throughout the Commonwealth that there are very stringent powers, including the ultimate power of taking away a man’s livelihood, which supreme courts can exercise over barristers and solicitors. The Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory had until 1971, and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory has at the present time, the power which the State Supreme Courts have to exercise virtually, in terms of professional livelihood, a power of life and death over practitioners. I can agree with the Government that it is desirable that that power should be exercised by a court comprised of more than one judge. The principle which was applicable to the Australian Capital Territory in 1971 is a principle which can readily be accepted as now applying to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The Opposition finds itself in accord with the Government on that proposal.
The second step which the Bill proposes is that the Supreme Court be constituted of not fewer than 3 judges if a matter arises which in the opinion of the judge who is presiding over the case ought to be decided by a court comprised of not less than 3 judges. This step was taken in regard to the Australian Capital Territory in 1 97 1 . I know that there is no discretion or no test laid down as to the circumstances in which a judge may make this decision. It is left to the judge to decide which case is a proper case. As I understand it, it has worked without great criticism, if any criticism at all, in the Australian Capital Territory. I expect it will work in the same way in the Northern Territory. The right on occasions when there is a difference of opinion between individual judges, when considering past decisions, to decide what should be the law or what is the law in an area in which there are apparently diverging decisions, is a desirable power which a judge should have. In circumstances such as that he can refer the matter to a court consisting of 3 judges.
It need not be supposed that there will be an increase in the number of judges in the Northern Territory. I think at the moment there are 2 resident judges of the Northern Territory and a number of other judges who hold commissions in other jurisdictions are available to attend in the Northern Territory as the occasion requires. It is a logical and progressive development.
– There are 3 resident judges at the moment.
– I am indebted to Senator James McClelland for that information.
– I wonder whether you would be interested in any vacancy.
-There are attractions, but I feel that I should not be diverted from the urgent matters at hand which have commanded the attention of the Senate so much in recent days. I think it is part of the normal progression and development that the Supreme Court should have the power to constitute a court of three when particular issues require it. There is no need for there to be additional judges because there is an adequate number of judges to comprise a court of three as the occasion arises.
The third thing which the Bill does is to clarify in a manner which accords with judicial interpretation of similar words contained in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act certain words which appear in the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act. The words ‘convicted on indictment before the Supreme Court’ were subjected to judicial interpretation ten or eleven years ago. Following that interpretation an amendment was made to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act. It is appropriate that a comparable amendment be made to the Northern Territory legislation, and that is one of the objectives of this Bill. The fourth matter which is dealt with is a procedural matter. The amendment ensures that if the venue of a trial is to be determined by a court the power of the court to determine that venue is laid down so that there can be no challenge to that power. The Northern Territory Supreme Court legislation has been before this parliament on a number of occasions during recent years. When the LiberalCountry Party Government was in power discussions took place with the representatives of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. I well remember that one of the matters which the Liberal-Country Party Government proposed should be entirely within the competence of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory was the administration of the law- the control of the police forces, and the control of the courts, including the control of the Supreme Court.
I think one of the initial steps which ought to be seen in the development of self-government in any territory is the handing over to the local people of the power generally to maintain law and order in their territory. That involves the ability to maintain the police forces and- putting it briefly- to establish and to run the courts in which the law is enforced. I would have thought that this is one matter which could well be handed over to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I hope it will not be long before this power is conferred upon the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. In recent times the people of the Northern Territory elected a Legislative Assembly in accordance with legislation which was enacted by this present Government. I think this present Government has been slothful because it has not yet given to the Legislative Assembly any executive powers. I pose the question: What is the value of having a representative assembly which does not have any powers to excercise? I think the advances which were made up until we went out of government were taking the people of the Northern Territory along a quite clear course which was leading to selfgovernment, which was in accord with the wishes of the elected Legislative Councillors and the national Government and which, if oppurtunity had been allowed to develop, would have provided a tremendous satisfying form of selfgovernment.
The course of conduct of 1 972 was brought to an abrupt end with the change of government and a different approach to self-government was adopted, including this concept of an elected Legislative Assembly. All I say is that I hope some substantive area of control will be given to this Legislative Assembly instead of the area of simply discussion and talking, which apparently is its present role. It seems to be relevant to raise this matter in this debate because amendments to the Northern Territory Supreme Court legislation, I think, are properly matters which ought to be able to be dealt with by the Northern Territory people themselves. This is possibly an aspect which looks to the future of the Supreme Court rather than to the text of the Bill. We recognise the need for the amendments. We support them.
– The Government is grateful to the Opposition for its constructive attitude towards this Bill. It is gratifying to learn that a Party which does not believe that the Northern Territory should have any representation in the Senate at least believes it should have an efficient functioning Supreme Court. There is only one matter which has not been adverted to in the debate but which has been drawn to my attention by our alert and percipient wit- Whip -
– The first one was right.
-Both are correct. I am referring to a matter which is in the Bill but which has not been noticed by other honourable senators. I am referring to clause 3 of the Bill which refers to the Bill extending not only to the Northern Territory but also to the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands. Senator Poyser has directed a question to me as to the exact geographical location, the ecological idiosyncrasies and the ethnic peculiarities of these territories- Ashmore and Cartier Islands. I must confess, to adopt the language of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in another place, that Senator Poyser caught me with my pants down. But Senator Poyser, in a spirit of co-operation and anxiety to ensure that the program is not delayed in this place, has assured me that he will not hold this legislation, up until the questions that he raised are answered to his satisfaction. Therefore I propose that I be authorised to make inquiries into the matters that he has raised and that the Bill proceed pending satisfaction of his understandable curiosity about this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-I draw the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) to clause 6 of the Bill which deals with the exercise of jurisdiction in relation to legal practitioners and the power of a judge to order that jurisdiction in a matter be exercised by not less than 3 judges. It also refers to certain consequential provisions if that power is exercised. I adverted to this in passing during the second reading debate. But I raise the matter as to whether or not the Government considers that the provisions of this clause are adequate.
– Which subsections, senator?
– I think they are probably sections 13a and 13b. They raise an issue which will probably become an issue of greater importance in the future than it has been in the past. That is the actual composition of the bench of the court which is to determine matters, including particularly matters relating to the professional behaviour or conduct of a legal practitioner.
For example, it is beyond dispute, as a recent article in the ‘Australian Law Journal’ declared, that a judge cannot take part in the decision of a matter in respect of which he has already appeared as counsel to argue one side of the case- a view which I think Senator McClelland might well remember that Mr Justice Murphy accepted when he declined to sit on the case in which it was argued whether or not the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill was a valid exercise of power by the Commonwealth Parliament. I think Mr Justice Murphy’s reasoning was that because of his earlier association with the subject matter of the proceeding, he should not sit. This, I think, is likely to become a matter of some consequence because of the growing number of appointments to judicial office of persons who have had some involvement with issues which are to be litigated.
I mentioned Mr Justice Murphy in regard to the particular case which he raised, because more recently there was a case in which he did sit. That was the case as to whether the Senate should have representation from the Territories. That of course was a matter upon which Mr Justice Murphy had given advice. Why he sat on that case and not on earlier cases has never been satisfactorily explained. I hope it will do nothing to imperil the integrity of the courts of this country. I raise this because nothing is said about the composition of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in matters in which the Supreme Court may be called upon to adjudicate and some of the judges may have been involved in the issues which are to be litigated. I raise it because I am interested to know whether the Government feels that this is a matter at any stage for legislative prohibition or restraint, or whether it is a matter which ought to be left to the persons who are appointed to a bench to decide for themselves or for parties to the litigation to raise by way of protest in the litigation. It is not a matter of no consequence. It is a matter which I think strikes at the very integrity and public acceptance of our judicial system. Recent events to which I have adverted in passing I think highlight the point, and I should be grateful for the Minister’s response.
– This is a matter of great importance and of special interest to lawyers. I can recall an occasion in the Australian Industrial Court- the Commonwealth Industrial Court as it was known before that word was ostracisedwhen a challenge was made to the propriety of His Honour Mr Justice Dunphy sitting in a matter involving the Australian Workers Union, the objection being based on the fact that a firm of lawyers with whom His Honour had been associated before he was elevated to the bench had acted for the union. I was in court at the time and His Honour rejected with great indignation the idea that his mind would be affected in any way by the fact that he or his firm had had a previous professional association with one of the parties to the litigation. I think Senator Greenwood will agree that there is a remarkable capacity in lawyers, once they have been elevated to the bench, to dissociate themselves from the sympathies or prejudices which they appeared to have when they were in the jungle of legal practice.
– You will have to convince me of that.
– I would rather not. The fact is that it has never been considered that legislatures should write into the statutes of any country the type of prohibition which Senator Greenwood is suggesting. I do not think he went any further than to suggest that the problem should be adverted to. I did not understand him to be saying that an inflexible prohibition should be put into this statute or any statute on legal practitioners who had been elevated to the bench declining to sit in matters which might involve clients whom they had had when they were out in the jungle of legal practice. Nothing is included in any of the statutes over which the Liberal-Country Party Coalition had control in a long period of 23 years. It must have been apparent during that long dark period that this was an ever-present danger. In fact, the matter to which I have adverted involving Mr Justice Dunphy arose during the life of the previous coalition Government.
– No, he was appointed before we ever came to office, but I should have thought he held his office well.
-The possible evil to which Senator Greenwood adverted was one which must have existed before the Labor Party came to power. As I said in an earlier debate today, it is not quite convincing to blame this Government for bad weather, marital disagreements, the Hobart bridge tragedy and cyclone Tracy.
– It is at least arguable.
– It is arguable. The fact is, however, there was abundant opportunity for the Liberal-Country Party coalition in its 23 years in office, a rather long period, to cure this evil and to cure various other evils. However, these evils subsisted and landed on our plate and even though we have not been able to cure them I do not think it is quite fair that we should be blamed for them. I assure the honourable senator that I will ponder the proposition that he has put, as I ponder every proposition that he puts, and that in the higher councils of our Party I will make those who make the decisions conscious of the suggestion he has made for improving the statutory framework of our country. I will be happy to report to him at some future time as to whether I have been able to persuade the Government of the merits of his suggestion.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 June on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a most important Bill. The object of it is to establish the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The long term objective of this legislation is to permit this Parliament to take such steps as may be within its power to preserve for posterity the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and, as has been said in debate in another place, to preserve not only a major part of Australia’s heritage but also to preserve an important and valuable part of the heritage of the world. This legislation sets up an authority to manage the Marine Park and provides it with very wide powers. The area that is covered by the legislation is vast. It extends along virtually the whole length of the Pacific coast of Queensland from Cape York in the north to a point somewhere adjacent to Fraser Island, I think, in the south, and a great distance out into the Pacific Ocean. The boundaries of the Marine Park have been drawn to encompass the whole area of the Great Barrier Reef. This area is to be known as the Great Barrier Reef region.
A marine park for the whole region will not be created under this Bill. It simply will give the Governor-General power to declare areas of the region to be a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This in itself is rather surprising. One would have thought that if powers are to be given to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, if there is to be a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, those controlling powers should cover the whole of the Great Barrier Reef. I presume it is the intention that at least some powers should be exercised in respect of the whole of this region; but it does seem as though it is intended that the legislation will have a more restrictive effect and that only portions of this great region will be controlled and become a marine park. I think the Senate would welcome some elaboration by the Government of its intentions. I notice that this matter was raised in the debate in another place but no indication was given as to what portions of the Great Barrier Reef would be declared to be a marine park.
– What about the islands?
– I noticed in the second reading speech made by the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) that there is no further elaboration of that point. Senator Wood asked a question about the islands. That is a matter which is of considerable concern when dealing with the control of this region. This Bill does not cover islands in the ordinary sense. It is designed to cover the reefs and cays throughout the region but islands throughout the region will still be part of the State of Queensland. There is no power in this Parliament to disturb the powers of the Queensland Government in relation to the islands within the region any more than there is to establish parks in a State unless the Government resumes areas of the State or the areas are conferred on it by the State. Throughout the region covered by this Bill there are a vast number of islands which will not come within the jurisdiction of the Authority which is to be established. Although that matter represents problems for the administration of the region it does not detract from the importance of this Bill, the object of which is to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, or the reefs and cays themselves.
I hasten to say that the Opposition supports the Bill. We welcome the initiatives taken to ensure that there are proper methods of protecting this priceless heritage. However we are concerned about some of the steps which will be taken under this Bill and the manner in which this Government has gone about the establishment of this Authority to cover this area. The point of major concern is the relations between this Government and the Queensland Government and indeed the relations between the proposed Authority and the Queensland Government. I do not think there is any doubt that if we of the Opposition had- been responsible for establishing this Authority we would have done so as a joint co-operative exercise with the Queensland Government. In the first place it is not yet established that this Parliament indeed has the powers which are necessary to give proper effect to the legislation.
As the Senate would be very well aware from the debates which have taken place here, the sovereignty over the off-shore areas of Australia has not yet been determined. Although legislation on this subject has been passed through this Parliament it is still a subject of consideration by the High Court of Australia and no decision has yet been made by the High Court which will clarify the nature of the powers of the respective parliaments of the Commonwealth and of Queensland. Therefore, before this Bill can really be known to be effective we will have to await the decision of the High Court. Nevertheless, if the High Court’s decision is that the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has the power beyond low water mark this Bill will have validity, of course, insofar as we can as a national parliament exercise jurisdiction out into the Pacific Ocean to the extent of sixty or seventy miles of the ocean itself. If we are to exercise these powers effectively there will arise not only the questions of the control of the reefs themselves and of the subsoil of the sea bed but there will also be questions arising as to jurisdiction over the waters themselves, as to the fisheries within them, as to navigation rights and so forth. So it is quite clear that the exercise of powers under this Bill raises and will raise a vast number of very difficult questions not only of Australian constitutional law but also of international law.
However, I do not propose to canvass those here. They are not really particularly questions for us as members of the Senate; they are matters, of course, for determination by judicial authorities in due course. However, I think it would be fair to say that it is our responsibility as legislators to consider the Bill. I think the
Government is to be applauded for having exercised responsibility in bringing forward legislation which will do what can be done by this Parliament and by the Government of this country fully to preserve, to protect and to advance the protection of this whole area known as the Great Barrier Reef region.
The Bill establishes, as I have already indicated, an authority which will be responsible for the administration of the region, but in particular of course, the marine parks that are established within it. There is a further complication in the legislation. I hope that some clarification will be given to it. It involves a power to establish special zones within the region where a park is established. This power to establish special zones within that park will be administered not by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority but by the national parks and wildlife authority. That is a further complication in the administration of the area. I do not understand why it is particularly necessary.
– It is necessary.
– Perhaps Senator Georges or somebody else will be able to explain just why it is necessary to have both a marine park authority and also the intrusion of the national parks and wildlife authority.
– I, too, shall elaborate on that, senator.
-I shall look forward indeed to Senator Mulvihill ‘s further elaboration of this matter. Hopefully, though, we will be able to get home tonight and we will not have to spend another day debating this question, no matter how interesting it may be. As I have already said the matter which really concerns the Opposition is the composition of the Authority and the relations which it will have with the Queensland Government. It is perfectly obvious that it is not a practical proposition for the Commonwealth Government or an authority of that Government to exercise powers within an area of this kind without having to co-operate at almost every point with the Government of the State which is adjacent to the area and which controls a large number of islands which are within the area. If we in the Opposition were responsible for bringing forward this legislation and establishing this Authority we would do so entirely in cooperation with and as a joint exercise with the Government of Queensland or the government of the State which was vitally concerned with the area.
When this Bill was first introduced, no real authority was conceded to the Queensland
Government. As a result of representations which were made by the Opposition and by Mr Hunt, the shadow Minister responsible for these matters- and I must admit with the co-operation of the then Minister for Environment, Dr Cassrecognition has been given to this problem and to the necessity to co-operate with the Queensland Government. In another place 2 very important matters were inserted into the Bill. One related to the composition of the Authority, which will consist of 3 persons, that is the chairman and 2 others. One of the members of the Authority will be appointed by the Queensland Government. We welcome that, although we do not think that it goes far enough. As I have said, if we had been responsible for this legislation we would have provided for equal representation on this Authority between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government.
The second matter related to the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee which is an important part of the legislation and of the administration of this area. It will draw upon a large number of experts, not necessarily with academic expertise but with practical expertise and knowledge of the Reef and of the region. This Consultative Committee will consist of a member of the Authority and of not less than 12 other persons determined by the Minister. We are very pleased to find that as a result of representations made by our shadow Minister in another place not less than one-third of the members of the Committee will also be appointed by the Queensland Government. However, again in relation to this matter the Opposition would have provided for equal representation on this Committee between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. I think an important matter to be stated by the Opposition is that when we are returned to Government, which may well be at an early date and perhaps before this Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority legislation is well advanced, we will certainly renegotiate with the Queensland Government this question concerning the administration of this legislation. We will be bringing forward early legislation to give effect to such renegotiation. We will give full and adequate representation to the interests of the Queensland Government in this important matter.
– It has neglected its responsibilities for the last 20 years.
- Senator Georges makes allegations against the Queensland Government, as he always does, because he is politically opposed to that Government. But I am sure that
Queensland senators on this side of the chamber, particularly Senator Wood who will be speaking later, will have a good deal of knowledge of what steps have been taken in the past to protect the environment in this region. The situation is a bit like the situation we had a week or two ago in relation to the Australian Heritage Commission Bill. The Labor Government is trying to suggest that it discovered our heritage and that it was discovered only in 1972. We have seen that those claims are very dubious indeed. I think it is probably true that that sort of claim is just as dubious in relation to this matter as it was in relation to the other matter.
That is not to say that these matters do not demand and deserve greater attention than they have received in the past by all levels of government in Australia- the Commonwealth Government or the State governments. It is recognised by all sides of political life in this country that these matters deserve and demand greater attention and greater financial assistance than has been given by governments in the past. We are the first to acknowledge that fact, to welcome this legislation and to express our high hopes that is shall be effective. I have already made some mention of the powers that can be exercised by the Authority, for example, the establishment of marine parks and of special zones within the region. There are very wide powers of regulation in relation to the whole of the region. I am pleased to see that the Bill requires that any plans for the management of marine parks will be laid on the table of both Houses of Parliament and the Parliament itself will have the opportunity of debating them and, if necessary, disallowing them. This is a very welcome initiative. A similar provision is contained in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill which we passed a few months ago. I hope that in the future this Parliament will take a good deal of interest in debating these questions when they come before it from time to time.
However, powers will be exercised also in relation to a great many commercial activities in the region. There are very major commercial activities in the region, particularly tourism and fisheries. It will be most important that those very significant interests- not only the commercial interests but also the interests of people who in the past have moved around the region fishing for pleasure as well as commercially- should be fully protected and recognised, subject to the interests of preservation which is the object of this Bill. The Senate and the Parliament itself will have to be prepared to scrutinise the regulations as they come forward because they could have very serious effects on those most important interests. The Bill contains very wide powers. It contains powers which I think will create legal problems as well as problems concerning the preservation of the area, the ecology and so on. There will be political as well as legal problems. It will be a continuing and important role of this Parliament to maintain an interest in those problems. I hope that as a parliament and as representatives of the national heritage we will in the future take a very close and abiding interest in those most important questions.
– I think it would be difficult to measure the pleasure, if I can use that word directly after a speech by Senator Durack, that many people, including myself, will have from the passage of this Bill. For many years now conservationists in Queensland, in particular a group called the Save the Reef Committee and another called the Great Barrier Reef Committee, have fought for the establishment of such an Authority. It has been a difficult struggle because of the many vested interests that sought to exploit the Reef. I do not wish to go right over that ground now but it was difficult to have established even a royal commission into oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef which took so long- some 5 years- to make a determination and recommendations, which were not unanimous. The only Australian on that commission, the chairman, came down for protection of this great area until much more research was done.
I do not doubt that the establishment of this Authority will lead to increased research. Those of us who watched the commission operate were perhaps silently critical or critical in private of the time that the commission was taking, but we did not really object, although it was a rather expensive operation in view of the time it was taking, because the royal commission established a moratorium on the Reef for some 5 years. It enabled public opinion to develop which, on the completion of its report, led to the establishment of the Authority.
I inform Senator Durack that not all people who have been critical of the Queensland Government have been members of the Australian Labor Party. In fact the most vocal people have been from opposing parties in Queensland. I refer to people like David Magnus, chairman of the Save the Reef Committee in Queensland, who is a member of a party opposed to my Party in Queensland but who took a very active part in the establishment of the royal commission into oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. John Greenwood, who is now the Liberal member for
Ashgrove, also was very vocal. He took the same stand as I took, that is, that the Queensland Government does not deserve the consideration that has been extended to it in this Bill and does not deserve the representation which this Bill gives to it both on the Authority and the supporting Committee.
– You are a bit prejudiced.
– My prejudice is not a Party prejudice. There happens to be a nonparty prejudice on the part of those people who for so long have endeavoured to stimulate the Queensland Government into doing something which would allow the Reef to combat and protect itself against many threats, both natural and man-made.
I must express some concern about the Authority. As Senator Durack pointed out, we are not establishing a national park, we are not establishing a wilderness area and we are not establishing by this Bill what we hope will be achieved eventually. Instead we are giving a very wide power to an authority to determine what should be done, and for that reason I think the vigilance of this Parliament and all parliamentarians must be exercised. As Senator Durack mentioned, the Authority could make certain decisions which would be contrary to the wishes of the people of this country. It might make certain decisions on exploitation of certain areas of the Reef. It might fragment this great eco-system if we are not careful. It is for this reason that we must still exercise care. This is a great step forward. I make the point to those who will be responsible for making the appointments to the Authority that their first choice will be the important choice. The appointment of the Chairman of this Authority will be the most important decision made in this direction.
The Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee which is also provided for in this Bill must be viewed more importantly because appointments to the Consultative Committee will determine the nature of decisions made by the Authority. I trust that in appointing people to this Committee consideration will be given to the many organisations in Queensland and other places which have sought to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Previously I gave credit to David Magnus and John Greenwood. I would also like to give some credit to the Secretary of the Save the Reef Committee, Freda McLennan, who worked over the years with little administrative support to maintain the level of public opinion which was necessary to get the general acceptance of this legislation. Of course the work of these people and many other people has been considerable. Without it we would not have been able to have this bi-partisan debate here in support of the Bill.
I am under some criticism for speaking on this Bill tonight but I think I should be given at least a little time, after so many years of struggle in this direction, to express my point of view. I do not think I should be denied that right tonight. I do not intend to speak for much longer, but I must make the point clear that the Great Barrier Reef, which consists of many islands which may have to be considered differently or which may have to come under a different responsibility, is one delicate eco-system and we must be careful in the decisions which we must make for its protection. Nevertheless we must have the courage to make those decisions which are necessary but which may not be popular or which may be unacceptable even to those people who live close to the Reef, who should know better; decisions which may be unacceptable to them because in the short term they may disadvantage them economically. We must disregard those attitudes, and the decisions which must be made to protect the Reef must be courageous and determined.
I commend all those who have been responsible for the Bill. I commend the shadow Minister for Environment, Mr Hunt, for his cooperation. I congratulate Dr Cass and the members of his former Department for bringing forward such excellent legislation which will well serve us and generations to come. It will serve not only Australia but the whole world, and particularly the nations that surround us.
Listening to the debate, I heard Senator Georges speak in disparaging terms about the Queensland Government and in praiseworthy terms about the present Australian Government for introducing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Bill. I remind him that the previous LiberalCountry Party Government was responsible for the creation of the Australian Institute of Marine Science at Townsville for the purpose of propagating a thorough knowledge of the Great Barrier Reef. I want to speak on this wonderful piece of nature as one who knows the Reef and who has been associated with it in its development from the tourist side and looking at it from other aspects for over 40 years. A lot of airy fairy talk goes on about the Reef. Personally I do not see the necessity for this legislation. Despite what has been said by Senator Georges the Queensland Government has been alert to the value of this wonderful asset and, in the main, has exercised control over it.
– My foot!
– It might interest Senator Georges to learn that many years ago when men like Mr Romeo Lahey was the President and Mr Groom was the Secretary of the National Parks Association of Queensland I co-operated with them and had discussions with them as to which Queensland islands should be made national parks. As a result many of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef area and the inner reef area are today national parks. I think that the State governments over those years, irrespective of their political colour, have done a good job in looking after this very valuable asset. When people speak of the Great Barrier Reef they have different views about it. It always amazes me when people who live in the southern regions profess to know more about the Great Barrier Reef than we who live in the region of the Great Barrier Reef. The people Senator Georges mentioned are mostly Brisbane people. They are mostly people who come from outside the Great Barrier Reef area.
– It is a national asset.
– Of course it is a national asset, but it happens to be within the area of the State of Queensland. One would think that the people of Queensland are a group of people who have not got very much regard for the beautiful things of nature. The Queensland Government and the people of Queensland are conscious of this very great asset.
Let me talk about the area of the Great Barrier Reef. Senator Durack spoke about the length of the Great Barrier Reef and said that it extended southwards towards the Brisbane area. The Great Barrier Reef area does not go that far south.
– He did not say that.
– Wait a minute. There is much difference of opinion about the area covered by the Great Barrier Reef. Where does the Great Barrier Reef really end?
– In the Swains.
– The southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef is in the Swain Reef area, but there is even a Great Barrier Reef institute in the Heron Island area. The island groups in that area are known as the Bunker and Capricorn groups. So there are distinct reef areas that are outside the range of the Great Barrier Reef area. What does the Great Barrier Reef area consist of, to most people? They mostly think of the mainland islands. It is reckoned that many years ago the islands, which are mountainous in character, were part of the mainland and became submerged. The hills and mountains of those areas are the peaks of what are today termed the mainland islands. Then one gets the other aspects of the Reef.
What is the Reef? The Reef has several features. First there is the main Barrier Reef structure. The reason it was named the Great Barrier Reef is because it is the greatest barrier type of reef in the world. It is a barrier-like structure. It is not solid all the way down. There are breaks in it. There are reefs that are probably one mile, 5 miles, 10 miles or 15 miles long and that might be one mile or 2 miles deep; then it dips again and then comes up in another area before going further back in another direction. Sometimes there can be a series of reefs 40 or 50 miles across that come up and dip down and come up again and dip down again. They are not always parallel with each other. Sometimes they edge beyond the points of the different reefs. That, of course, is the true structure of the Great Barrier Reef.
Within the confines of the Reef there are also what are termed coral cay. The coral cay is really that part of the coral that has broken up into a sandy mass and, swirling around the Reef and catching in certain places, with the swirling of the tides there is developed over probably a matter of centuries what is called a coral cay. It might be 100 acres or something of that nature in size. It is just a sandy base on top of dead coral. Then there are the coral atolls. They are similar to the cay insofar as they have coral around them but the sand has not yet swirled in and settled down. So there is a lagoon in the area. That is what is a coral atoll. Then there are what are termed the mainland islands. Around these mainland islands are very beautiful fringing coral reefs. So far as the people are concerned, those are probably the 4 components of the Great Barrier Reef. There is a lot of silly talk about the destruction of the Reef. I know that Senator Georges talked about drilling for oil on the Reef. Of course it sounds a very dangerous thing. But how many oil wells really blow out?
– Go on, Senator.
– What has been the record over the years?
– We need legislation because of people like you.
– No one is keener on preservation than myself. I was a preservationist not for display and publicity but because I believed in preservation. The national park at the back of
Mackay stands today as a monument to the work that I did despite the fact that I was decried and ridiculed.
Let us be practical and factual in regard to drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. If drilling does take place on the Reef, how many oil wells, if ever any are sunk, are likely to blow out? What has been the record of blow-outs throughout the world? People talk about the risk of oil drilling on the Reef but there is one chance probably in thousands that an oil well will blow out.
– That is one too many.
– That is one too many.
– That is the southern preservationists’ view of the Reef. I am trying to illustrate to honourable senators how you can go off your rocker when you are not arguing on a sound basis. What do the people who talk about the possibility of one well in thousands blowing out say about the oil tankers that go up and down the Great Barrier Reef day after day, year in year out?
– I have objected to it.
-Where will the tankers be sent if they are not permitted to travel near the Reef? It needs only one tanker to get holed on the Great Barrier Reef to create a problem that would far transcend any oil well blow-out.
– Your Queensland Government will not even stop them cleaning their tanks out in the Barrier Reef area. That is how concerned it is about the Reef.
– A lot of silly nonsense is talked about destruction of the Reef, and that is just one illustration. I want to talk about another aspect of the Reef. The Reef is one of nature’s great creations. But just as nature builds, so does nature destroy and rebuild. As I have said before, I can still remember the most beautiful area of coral that I have ever seen, with the greatest variety of form and the greatest variety of beautiful coral. This was around Tern Island and Bushy Island about 60 to 70 miles east of the city of Mackay. The corals which I saw there over 30 years ago are still as beautiful in my mind today as they were when I first saw them. When one stood on the Great Barrier Reef structure a few miles beyond the islands the corals were of such surpassing beauty that one could never forget them. I speak not only of the beauty of the corals, the colours and the form, but also of the glory of the fish that swam between the different crevasses in the Reef.
The main structure of the Great Barrier Reef is very much like a sunken range of mountains with ravines and gorges on a small scale. It is in those that one can see the beauty of the coral and the marine life, such as the fish which really give the Great Barrier Reef something that one never forgets. I thought that this area was magnificent. Some years later I took to this area the late Mr A. E. Cole, the Director-General of the Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, who unfortunately was killed in a plane crash at Mackay while performing island and Reef business. But what had happened? You talk about destruction. All that beautiful coral looked like a heap of stones on a creek frontage. There was nothing of the coral left. Do you know why?
– It had rained. The Coral was exposed.
– Nature had destroyed it. It was destroyed completely when the tide was out in a period when 55 inches of rain fell in 3 days. That was a tragedy, but I believe that today the reef is as beautiful as ever it was. Nature builds; nature destroys; and nature rebuilds. A short time ago there was a great old pandemonium about the Crown of Thorns starfish. There is no doubt that it was eating and killing the coral. But once again, was it an act of nature? The infestation of the Crown of Thorns took place not only on the Great Barrier Reef but also in places like Fiji and in other coral reefs.
– But they are doing something about it and we are not.
– We may not be doing something but nature is. Today the coral reefs which were once so thickly infested with the Crown of Thorns are recovering from that visitation. It is very nice to say that one must not cut off a piece of coral or one must not do something else, but from talks which I have had with people who have taken coral for certain reasons- they have pruned the coral in the right place and looked after it in the proper manner- I believe that the pruning of the coral reef can have the same effect as pruning in the garden. We may find in the ultimate that some of these practices will really improve the situation. So I think we have to be a bit sensible about this preservation business. I am one who stands very strongly for the preservation of beautiful things. I have, always appreciated the attitude taken by Senator Mulvihill in his fight for the preservation of our fauna. No one stands more than I do for the preservation of beautiful things.
I feel that in the Great Barrier Reef we have possibly one of the very greatest of nature’s attractions. It is of such infinite variety and of such dimension that I believe that, in spite of the damage that might be done here and there, in the overall, the Great Barrier Reef cannot be so very greatly destroyed. I believe that over the years the people of the State of Queensland have become conscious of the need to preserve the Reef. It is a lot of silly nonsense for the Australian Government to think that all knowledge about our assets in Queensland lies in Canberra and it should at least give us the benefit of realising that in Queensland, too, we have got sensible people.
The Great Barrier Reef is a great asset with a great variety of features. I believe that its possibilities are immense. Properly handled and directed it has possibilities not only from the point of view of fishermen and collectors who want to treat what they collect in the proper way but also from the point of view of the tourist. When more modern methods of transportation are available- of course, that can be very costlypeople will realise what a wonderful place it is and more people will go to see the Great Barrier Reef, which, so far as I am concerned, is the greatest natural masterpiece in this country. It is known as the Great Barrier Reef because it is the biggest and the greatest barrier reef in the world. I am very keen on preservation but I want to be known that all the forces of preservation are not to be found in Canberra and in States other than Queensland. The Queensland Government is conscious of the need to look after this very great natural attraction.
– I want to keep faith with my Whip, and I simply intervene in the debate to seek some information from the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) when he replies to the debate. I illustrate my point by referring to the protection of the dolphin. I want to know what is indicated in this legislation in relation to the future phasing out of the authority of the Department of Transport as it affects lighthouses and beacons which have a role to play on the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere. Secondly, I ask how will the existing powers of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and his control over fisheries be phased out? I would like some clarification in those areas.
I conclude my remarks by pointing out to honourable senators that the need for regulations was exemplified in the reasonably successful control of drilling on Barrow Island and in the Gulf of Mexico. When one reads magazines such as ‘Lamp’ and ‘Petroleum News’ one sees the eulogistic references to how the industry has lived up to its obligations. But if those regulations did not exist the oil drilling companies may not be so conscious of what they should be doing. I leave it at that.
– Like my colleague, Senator Durack, I rise not to oppose the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Bill but to welcome its introduction. I believe that it is high time that legislation of this kind was introduced into the Parliament. The Great Barrier Reef, running from the Cape York Peninsula to well down the Queensland coast, is one of the great wonders of the world. I believe that if we can do anything to preserve this great reef and this great wonder of the world we should be doing it, and that we all should be united in our attitude towards achieving that end. As a Queenslander I am very proud- I know that all Queenslanders are proud- of our Great Barrier Reef. We realise that it must be preserved as part of our national heritage. But unlike other States which have national heritages which are part of the State and which lie within the State, the Great Barrier Reef is adjacent to the coast of Queensland and probably falls into a different category to other areas of this nature. As I have said, as Queenslanders we are very proud of the Barrier Reef. I must say on behalf of the Queensland Government that over a number of years it has done a lot towards protecting this great wonder of the world. It is not a great wonder only for Australians. It is something of which all mankind should be proud, and it should be preserved for all mankind and not just Queenslanders and Australians.
The reef itself covers a vast area. In some places along the coast of Queensland it may be only 5 or 6 miles from the shore. In other areas it can run up to 60 miles out from the shore. Unfortunately, many people do not have a complete understanding or appreciation of the Great Barrier Reef. There are people who think that the Great Barrier Reef is the part of the reef which is exposed at low tide and which people can view, to see the beauty and the wonderful colours to which my colleague Senator Wood has referred, together with the marine life, the fish and the other forms of life on the reef. Unfortunately, what people do not seem to realise is that a great amount of this Great Barrier Reef is not exposed and is not even visible to people who may travel over it by boat or by any other means. A vast amount of the reef is submerged under water. Whilst I believe it is good that we are able to introduce legislation to protect the reef, I am a little concerned at some points which were made in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Wheeldon). I hope that the Minister will be able to give me at least some assurance, because I have some apprehension about certain points. The Minister stated:
Once the legislation is passed, the Government will be able to declare and protect zones of the Reef as national parks or nature reserves, which will then be managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
I have no argument with that part of his speech. But he went on to say:
Other zones will be set aside for tourist development, for shipping, fishing and other appropriate uses.
The last part of that sentence gives me some concern. I hope the Minister will be able to give me some clarification with regard to ‘other appropriate uses’. As my colleague Senator Wood saidthough I do not agree with all he said- for a number of years there has been talk of the possibility that oil can be found on the Great Barrier Reef. That is one reason I am concerned at the words ‘other appropriate uses’. I hope that that does not mean that the Government or the people who will be responsible for the preservation of the Reef will not be too hasty if ever they are contemplating giving permission for drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. The words other appropriate uses’ in the Minister’s second reading speech do concern me because the meaning is not spelt out.
I do not agree with my colleague Senator Wood who says that it does not matter if drilling takes place on the Barrier Reef because only one in every 1000 oil wells has blown out and caused any problems. Just a few years ago we had a classic example of what can happen to the wondrous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland. An oil tanker went aground there and the oil from it spilled and was drifting around the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Much of the reef was destroyed and also the culture pearl industry, which was of great value to Queensland, was destroyed. Many of the farms that were established in the northern part of Queensland were completely wiped out. The occurrence could have had great effect on the Reef itself. Last year I visited Bamaga, an Aboriginal community on the Cape York Peninsula. I was up there to open the Bamaga show. I was taken to the furthermost point of the Cape York Pen.sinsula and evidence of the oil spill was still there. It is still there today. Great blobs of this oil are on the rocks all around the edge of the Cape York Peninsula showing what can happen when there is an oil spillage.
Until a complete investigation, an environmental study and scientific research is made to find out whether drilling can be undertaken on the Reef with safety I hope that this legislation will afford protection to the Reef. I hope that drilling will not be permitted on the Great Barrier Reef or, for that matter, off the Great Barrier Reef. It does not matter whether drilling is undertaken on the Reef, off it or over the edge because if there is an oil blowout the Reef can be destroyed. As I said earlier this is not just a matter for the people of Queensland or even for the people of Australia. I believe that this Reef and its wonders must be preserved for the whole of mankind. As I said earlier we in Queensland are conscious of this and have been conscious of it for a long time. Apart from everything else we have had an opportunity over a number of years to see millions of people- not only Australians but also people from overseas- flocking to Queensland to view the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. The tourist industry contributes greatly to the economy of Queensland. The Reef is there and it must be preserved for all of mankind.
I spent many years living on an island off the coast of Queensland. I had the opportunity to swim on many parts of the Reef looking for trochus shell. At times the Aboriginal community on Palm Island were able to make some money from the gathering of trochus shell. The Torres Strait Islanders conducted this kind of business for many years. The Great Barrier Reef has an abundance of wealth to offer, not only to the people of Queenland but also to all mankind. So I am very happy this evening to support this measure. I am also very happy to note that the Queensland Government will be represented in this endeavour to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps one could express some disappointment that there is not more representation from the Queensland Government and the Queensland people. I am a firm believer in the federal system, but I am also a firm believer in a co-operative federal system, not a centralist system where all power is vested in Canberra. I hope that some time in the very near future when the Opposition Parties regain the Government benches we will be able to review this legislation and ensure that the people of Queensland have greater representation on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
– Firstly I would like to thank honourable senators who took part in this debate for their very co-operative attitude. It is clear to me and, I think, to everybody that this legislation represents a great advance. It parallels the work done in this area by other countries. Australia has been behind in this activity. The discussions that have occurred in the other place and here tonight indicate that almost everybody is in favour of the legislation. As honourable senators know, the former Minister for Environment (Dr Cass) in the other place was helpfulthe Opposition was helpful also- when a number of the clauses were considered in accepting a number of amendments to satisfy the Opposition. Apart from one or two luke warm comments in the debate it is obvious that everybody here welcomes this great new move by the Government. Apart from the comments about the co-operation with Queensland, it is clear that everybody agrees that the Government is taking a new initiative and it is clear that that initiative was possible because many people contributed to the development of the scheme which is before the Senate.
I want to mention particularly my colleague, Senator Georges. As everybody knows, he has played quite a role in this scheme. But he was good enough to mention those on the other side who also made a contribution to it. Senator Durack raised a number of queries. The first and most important one is why the scheme does not embrace the whole of the Reef. The purpose of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will be to examine the entire Barrier Reef area and then to determine which sections of the region should be proclaimed as part of the park. The Bill makes provision for the way in which it shall be zoned. It states the criteria upon which that zoning will be made. So it may be that the whole of the Reef will not be zoned. Some areas could be undisturbed if by the process of examination the Authority so determines. For example, as everybody knows, the Authority initially will determine by examination the priority for zoning and then it must advertise the fact that certain areas will be zoned in a certain way. Representations may be made from the public as a result of that publicity. After decisions have been reached about the zoning and the general purposes of the area the matter will be considered by the consultative committee.
Let me illustrate the way in which the Government has tried to respond to the Queensland Government’s point of view. In the first instance it was proposed that the Australian Government would share the authority with the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government then came back and said that it would prefer to have one nominee on the Authority. State representation was, I think, in the first instance based on one-fifth but has now been expanded so that Queensland now has about a one-third representation. That consultative committee will consist of members of all of the most important and representational groups- the specialists. The committee having decided on the zoning that zoning will then be subject to the Minister’s examination and the matter must then be placed before the Parliament. Parliament has to see what is done in respect of zoning. It will not be a quick process but a process which will take time. It is subject to a lot of pushes and pulls. There are certainly a number of safeguards against any arbitrary action. There will be some areas, of course- perhaps shipping lanes, recreational areas and fishing areas- which may not be disturbed. But the guidelines have to be developed over a number of months and the sooner the Authority sets about getting experience the better it will be.
Another related question was why have these 2 authorities- that is, the Wildlife Service and the Marine Park Service. In relation to the Wildlife Service I think the answer must be that in some cases where there are national parks or where an area is finally decided to be a national park the expertise in that category of activities would be best vested in the Wildlife Service. Otherwise we could have 2 authorities operating in the one area. The Wildlife Service would be more concerned with the activities as set out in the Bill. As I think everybody now realises, there will be some areas- those not included in special zones- which will need a different type of management; that is, the fishing, tourist and shipping areas, where different sorts of management will be required to operate them properly.
In addition, it must be said that it is possibleand it will be done in many cases- that the Authority will hand over to a State Government department or a local authority the operation and control of certain special areas. So there is a general program for the whole Barrier Reef region of step by step zoning and control and of sharing that control with appropriate bodies. There is also a consultative process which, it seems to me, is not only very necessary but is very democratic and an essential way to proceed.
I know there are a lot of complexities and I think the Government is aware of them; Senator Durack referred to many of them. I think those complexities will probably become more amenable to scrutiny, discussion and change when the Authority sets to work. I hope the comment of Senator Durack and, more latterly, the comment of Senator Bonner that honourable senators opposite will go over the Act again when they come to power will not inhibit the activities of the Authority because all of us should be aware of the need to get going with the Authority, get it established and let it go unhampered by any act of obstruction in the future. I take it that when the honourable senators mentioned that, they had no intention of throwing spanners in the works. Most honourable senators have accepted the measure with great pleasure and I thank them for their co-operation.
It is left to me to reply to the matters raised by Senator Mulvihill. He raised the question, firstly, of the lighthouses. There will not be any phasing out of lighthouse control or taking it over from the Transport Department because, if there is any special Australian Government service or any property owned by the Australian Government for lighthouse purposes there is no reason why that should not continue. There is no such intention. In relation to dolphins my advice is that dolphins are currently protected under the laws of most, if not all, of the States. However, this protection would extend only to the limit of State jurisdiction- generally a 3-mile limit. To ensure that dolphins in Australian waters are protected the Department of Agriculture is currently considering action under the Whaling Act which would have the effect of protecting them against any form of exploitation. The recently passed National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act extends also to marine mammals such as dolphins. Additional protection under that Act could be given when the regulations have been established. With those comments I thank the Senate for its contribution to this very important piece of legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sittings this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- proposed:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 19 August 1 975, at 2.30 p.m., or such other day and hour to be fixed by the President, and in the event of such other day and hour being fixed that the hour and day of meeting so determined be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
– I move an amendment, copies of which have been circulated to all honourable senators, in the following terms:
At end of motion add ‘: Provided that the President, upon a request or requests by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators that the Senate meet at a certain time, shall fix a day and hour of meeting in accordance with such request or requests and such time of meeting shall be notified to each Senator by telegram or letter.
For these purposes a request by the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition shall be deemed to be a request by every member of the Opposition and a request by the Leader or Whip of the National Country Party of Australia shall be deemed to be a request by members of the Party.
Provided further that the request or requests may be made to the President by leaving the same with, or delivering the same to, the Clerk of the Senate, who shall immediately notify the President.
In the event of the President being unavailable, the Clerk shall without delay notify the Deputy-President, or, should he be unavailable, any one of the Temporary Chairman of Committees, who shall be deemed to be required by the Senate to summon the Senate on behalf of the President, in accordance with the terms of this resolution’.
This kind of amendment is not new in the Senate. A similar one was moved, I think in 1968 or thereabouts, by the then Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy.
– It was on 19 May 1967.
-Thank you. It was opposed by the then Government but was carried because the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party voted with the Opposition. As I recall it, it was moved at that stage because of a controversy concerning postal charges. Since the present Government came to power the Opposition moved a similar motion during the Autumn session in 1 973. It was never acted upon. There was no opportunity for one at this stage last year because we had a double dissolution, which rather obviated the need.
Mr President, the simple proposition is that the Government has moved that the Senate be adjourned until 1 9 August unless it is summoned earlier by yourself. Mr President, it is well known that Presidents- I use the word in its plural sense- normally would call back the Senate at the request of the Executive Government. So one can say clearly that while the Senate stands adjourned upon the carriage of this motion until 19 August, the Government really has the capacity to recall the Senate at any time prior to that date.
– That is questionable though, is it not?
– That is right. Senator Cavanagh, I know there are certain procedures to follow but one doubts very much whether a President, whether affiliated with your Party or our Parties, would refuse such a request. The stark reality of it is that the Government basically has the capacity to recall the Senate prior to 19 August. I do not think anybody would quarrel with that.
– I seriously doubt it.
-We had an example of one of your doubts this morning, and I had better not go further into that I would be most surprised if the Governor-General- I do not know whether he is the source of your authority, Mr President- acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Executive Council, requested the President to recall the Senate prior to that date and the President refused such a request.
– That is a shocking statement because the Parliament -
-Senator Cavanagh obviously has not listened to the motion moved by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland). Under the terms of the motion the President has the capacity to recall the Senate prior to 1 9 August.
– That is in the motion.
-The President would not act upon his own volition. The Opposition, however, does not have the capacity to have the Senate recalled. That is the purpose of the amendment which I have moved. I think it is important to remember something about this amendment. The Opposition senators- I include my National Country Party colleagues in thatacting alone would not have the capacity to provide an absolute number of senators. Should my colleague Senator Drake-Brockman, his Party and my Party, conclude that the Senate ought to be recalled- it is unlikely that either I or Senator Drake-Brockman would do it off the tops of our heads- there will be no capacity for us to recall it unless we can convince either Senator Hall or Senator Bunton, or both preferably, that the Senate ought to be called together again. One would imagine that we would have to convince them of the validity of the reasons why we wanted the Senate called back again. They are the simple facts as outlined in my amendment.
I think it might make the matter clearer if I were to allude at this stage to the amendment which has been circulated by Senator Hall. As I read the proposed amendment of Senator Hall, if it is carried, the only purpose for which the Senate could be called together again would be for the purpose of summoning certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate.
– That is not so. It says for purposes which include that.
– I agree with the Leader.
-I have asked about 6 people about this matter. The best advice I can get, and the advice which I have received from my advisers, is that it could be read in that narrow sense.
– That is a bit restricted.
-Senator Wright, when I first read it I thought it was a ridiculous interpretation to put upon it.
– Your first impression was right. You can have as much argument as you want.
-It is far too late tonight. I put it in this way: Should Senator Hall’s amendment to my amendment be carried, it could be read as restricting the purpose for which the Senate could be called together again to the summoning of certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate. I put it to honourable senators that that is far too restrictive. There may well be other purposes for which the Senate ought to be called together again. I cannot elaborate on them because we do not know what circumstances may intervene. I could suggest to Senator Hall that if he did not intend to be so restrictive after the word ‘which’ he could insert the word ‘may’. But I do not think that that would give expression to the purpose of his amendment.
-Not at all.
-Senator Hall’s purpose is to make provision for the reassembly of the Senate for the purpose which he has already stated and for that purpose only. But I put to Senator Hall and Senator Bunton the quite simple argument that neither the Liberal Party senators nor the Country Party senators on their own can muster the 3 1 senators to provide the absolute majority. Added to the 30 Liberal-National Country Party senators would have to be the name of either Senator Hall or Senator Bunton. I am certain that they would have to be satisfied as to why we wish the Senate to reassemble.
Therefore I put to the Senate, particularly to Senator Hall and Senator Bunton, that the purpose of Senator Hall’s amendment is not real. To restrict the meeting of the Senate in this way, as he attempts to do, I think shuts off too many options- not too many options just for the Opposition in which I include the Liberal and National Country Parties- but his own and Senator Bunton ‘s options. That is what he would be doing. He would shut off the options of the 32 people who sit on this side of the House. As I said, one of those two senators- either Senator Hall or Senator Bunton- must agree with the other 30 of us who sit on this side before the Senate can reassemble. I put to them that they ought not to close off their options but should support the amendment which I have moved without any further amendment thereto. Mr President, I commend my amendment to the Senate.
– I move:
I have moved my amendment for a very definite purpose. Firstly, I say that it is acknowledged that it is normal for a Government to be in control of the business of the House. That is certainly the normal procedure of a House’s operation, whether the Government has a majority in that House or not. That is the procedure which was adopted certainly in the place where I have come from, in South Australia. I must admit, however, that there could be circumstances of a very serious nature in which the Opposition might have a legitimate interest in reassembling the Senate. But I have deliberately framed my amendment to prevent another abject failure such as the Opposition suffered today in trying to attack the Government. I will not support the reassembling of the Senate before the time that the Government has set for it for another debacle by the Opposition.
Everyone knows that today the Government really won the debate. I will explain why. Since 23 April when the Opposition first started to ask questions about the overseas loan affair, it has gained a certain amount of information concerning names from the Government. It has had those names for a considerable amount of time. The Opposition now relies heavily on the journey to come, I believe, of Mr Lynch overseas to see the gnomes of Zurich and other mysterious people of Asian origin in mysterious places to confirm the evidence which so far is totally unconfirmed. Of course the problem with the Opposition is that it has totally misdirected its quest and totally misdirected its attack if that is what one could call the urgency motion today.
– What did you do about it?
– What could I do about it? I could not get on the speaking list. I do not blame the Government or the Opposition for that. There is a tightly held time-table in an urgency motion and, as I said to you privately, Mr President, I make no complaint that I could not get on that list.
– I bet you didn’t.
– Whether Senator Sim believes it or not worries me not at all. The situation is- and it must be said- that the secrets and the information which the Opposition desires are held by Anglo-Saxons who live in Canberra. That is where the information resides that the Opposition has said it wants, the Opposition which has become so adept at asking questions but not wanting the answers. Therefore, I will not be one to agree to the reassembly of the Senate so that the Opposition can again embarrass itself. There would have to be very good reasons indeed to take the situation one step further, and the only way in which the situation can be taken further is for the Senate itself to inquire into it.
Anyone would know that, unless the Opposition has the information, Ministers in this style of government can avoid answering questions, and they are avoiding answering. The Government is hiding important information which is relevant to the Opposition’s questions. It is because the Opposition cannot or will not produce the evidence behind its charges that the Government can sit there free of any real embarrassment. Today’s debate simply has provided no answers and has greatly deepened the mystery and the implications for the Government and for the Senate. Yet the Senate is about to go home, and there is going to be some great play by the Opposition about recalling the Senate. I venture to say that the Opposition has no intention of recalling the Senate. It is a play on words, and it is a sop to the public by an Opposition that has failed to do a job. The Senate goes home on the very day that the mystery has grown to the extent that it has today following the disclosures made by Senator James McClelland in his speech when he tabled the various documents. At the very peak of the question, the Senate goes home.
– Why did you not do something about it?
– I wish Senator Sim would keep quiet or interject sensibly.
– Order! I request everyone to keep quiet.
– I do not mind a certain amount of help, Mr President, but I should like it to be coherent. Why is it that the Opposition fears the information? It knows where it can get it. Tonight Senator Cotton said on television that it was facile for the Senate to call witnesses from departments because the Government might direct that they could not attend. Who is he protecting in this case? What could be more embarrassing for the Government than to deny its public servants permission to attend a request by the Senate? I would love to have the Government in that situation. It would be an admission of guilt. And yet Senator Cotton does not want that to happen. Who is he protecting? The Government, apparently. The Opposition has been badly led during this session in this chamber, and the issues have been neglected today. The issues are pretty clear. The Opposition has completely refused to investigate the situation concerning Harris and the deposed Treasurer. There lies one of the greatest mysterieswhy a man can go on the media last night and say: ‘I have today consulted with the exTreasurer and he has arranged to put a proposition to the new Treasurer’. Yet that exTreasurer lost his job last week because of communications with Mr Harris and this Opposition is to have a look in Zurich.
What has emerged from the information which has been tabled today is- and this is a scene which cannot be denied, if it cannot be confirmed- that this is one of the greatest interdepartmental battles that the Public Service of the Commonwealth has ever seen. Look at the situation. We have the head of the Treasury who has had 3 different Ministers in six or eight months and the Minister has just been deposed. Who protects him against Mr Connor. Who protects him against the man who stamps on all opposition- the juggernaut of the Government? Who has denied the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Who stood in his way in his plans to borrow overseas? The Treasury. Who is suffering today? The Treasury. That is the scene that Opposition members cannot even see, yet it is in front of their very eyes. It is one of the greatest interdepartmental conflicts with the Department of Minerals and Energy which has grown at a fantastically compounded rate in the last several years, headed by a Minister who is known to crush all opposition. So Mr Connor is even more firmly entrenched in his Department; with an ambitious head of Department. There is the head of Treasury without a Minister in the sense that there have been 3 Ministers in the last 6 or 8 months and there is now a new Minister to deal with. The Minister who has just been deposed broke off, in practical terms, relationships with the Treasury. The Treasury is vulnerable and it is vulnerable to the strongest man in the entire Government.
What do we find? A minute was tabled today. One thing I would agree with in Senator Withers ‘ statement is the strangeness of getting together in words this conversation 5 months after it was made. Who signed it? It was Mr Larkin who, the Minister has to explain later in the House- I give him credit for so explaining- is not of the
Treasury; he is of the Department of Minerals and Energy. What sort of plot this could be. No one could deny that it does not exist in that way. It certainly seems on the evidence that the Department of Minerals and Energy would be quite happy to see Sir Frederick Wheeler lose his job?
– So would everybody else.
– I hear that remark but I will not bother to repeat it. I hope that Hansard got it. This is the strangest of all minutes I have ever seen. It was brought into the Senate by a Minister who practically said that the Government is going to sack Sir Frederick Wheeler. One could not take any other meaning from the words he used in the House, and this minute came from the Department of Minerals and Energy. This is where the real conflict lies. Yet the Opposition deals, as I said, with Europe. Why will it not agree to call to the Bar of the House- if we want to use dramatic terms- the people who could give the evidence to sort out whether or not Mr Connor put any of the Executive Council minute in the letter that he sent to Mr Khemlani? Did he or did he not? Is there any portin of this minute in the letter to Mr Khemlani? What has it to do with the Treasury that Mr Connor could not proceed with his loan raisings. What we can deduce is that the Treasury is being ransacked by Mr Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy. That is the scene, the most likely scene that presents itself to the Senate, and the members of the Senate are going home. I notice that there is quite a silent attitude displayed by members on the Government side. They know the conflicts that exist between those 2 Departments. They know the ambitions of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. My remarks are well founded on those ambitions. The person who is most vulnerable, the least protected, is under attack.
There are 3 issues, as I see the situation. There is the overseas matter- the establishment of the Government’s veracity. But this leads back, of course, to the Harris-Cairns communication. Does not the Senate think it serious that a Minister was demoted for making a communication to a man who lives in Melbourne, Australia. That does not seem to interest the Opposition very much. Surely that is the second issue. The third and most important issue of all is the relationship of the Department of Minerals and Energy to the Treasury. What is the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, doing to the Treasury, and how deeply are his departmental officers implicated in that attack on Treasury? How many more people have taken other parallel actions to put down a conversation 5 months old, a conversation which is so damaging to the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury?
Honourable senators ought not go home until they know these things. Yet, as I have said, the Opposition presented itself here today and the Government laughed and considered itself free of any effective criticism. The Opposition simply threw small stones from a very great distance and every one of them dropped short. That is what has happened today.
– How did you lose your Premiership in South Australia, with your sheer brilliance?
-Senator Young is going home. He is not willing to come back here next week and question the people concerned. He cannot deny that what I have said is a plausible thing. Does he support Mr Connor? Does he say that this is not so? Does he contend that it cannot be?
– I will stay here, ex-Premier. You did not do very well in South Australia. You lost government for us.
– In the face of a crisis and of inaction by the Senate all that Senator Young can do is sling personal abuse. He has no other justification for the fact that he is packing his bags and going back to South Australia. Whether my amendment is agreed to or not is a footling issue because the Senate is washing its hands of this affair. The Opposition, for some unknown reason, does not want the information. The Government is escaping what I am sure would be very severe censure if its manipulations and plans were open to the public scrutiny.
– Who is your informer? Is he the same as Mr Lynch ‘s informer?
– I do not know who Mr Lynch ‘s informer is. If Senator McLaren would like to know he should vote for a procedure which is designed to have the witnesses attend this Senate. Then he could ask them. That is his business. As far as I am concerned, I am not going to be a party to reassembling the Senate for a lot of phantom fights to be staged by the Opposition and for a lot of phantom questions to be asked about the unfound financiers.
– The answers were excellent, though.
– I do not give the Government much credit for its answers because it was never extended in answering the questions today. It was never hard-pressed at any time during the day. The issue will have gone by the time the Senate reassembles. I wish to say to Senator Withers that I am disappointed that he has not pressed the Government. I am not willing to have another talk-fest in this chamber or some jolly phantom fight again simply to get the Senate reassembled. If we reassembled we have to do so for some serious reason. According to the amendment I moved that reason will include the arraigning of witnesses to attend the Senate. At least that is a reason. The reassembly would not be simply to have a propaganda fight and, as I say, it would save the Opposition embarrassment.
– Who have you got in mind?
-That is a good question. I have at least 4 people in mind.
– Tell us who they are, just as a matter of interest.
– I certainly believe that Mr Harris should be invited to attend the Senate, to tell us the full ramificatons of his dealings with the ex-Treasurer. He could be asked to supply us with information as to his subsequent dealings with the ex-Treasurer.
– That is No. 1. Who are the rest?
– I would like to see Sir Lennox Hewitt enlighten us. I think he could help us in our inquiries. I am sure that Sir Frederick Wheeler could help us in our inquiries in the Senate. I would like the Senate also to have the opportunity of asking -
– What about Mr McMahon after his remarks on television? He could give a lot of information.
– . . . why Mr Larkin took so much trouble in remembering so accurately his conversation that was so many months old. As far as Mr McMahon is concerned, I believe he deserves very serious censure for tonight once again blaming the officers of his former departments for the mistakes of his own creation. That is never to be approved by any government or any individual. The Senate, therefore, is evading its responsibilities. Its members are going home without doing their job. I believe that the most embarrassing issue that has confronted the Government since it took office will not be pursued. I therefore, really in a moment of despair, have moved an amendment which will have no influence on the issues which I have mentioned but at least if it is carried will not see this Senate reassembled for a phantom fight of no substance.
-ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and I shall speak to it now. The purpose of the Opposition, which can on proper judgment control the course of this Senate’s power, should be to keep this Senate vigilant during the period until the Parliament reassembles and to observe the quite obvious intention of this dictatorial Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to dismiss the Secretary of the Treasury. We should have before us the results of the inquiry that is now said to be under way so that we can inform ourselves of the extent to which the Prime Minister has been able to inform himself of matters which affect loan raisings by this Government to the extent of $4,000m.
Contrary to the assertion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) that the only authority given was to investigate, the minute of the Government today revealed that there was an absolute authority given to a Minister to arrange that loan on such terms and conditions as he thought fit and to appoint any deputy that he thought fit to execute such documents in the name of Australia and to bind and oblige Australia to that huge debt. In those circumstances, with a prescience that the immediate period before us will reveal further interesting information, I believe that the Senate should keep open the option to meet at the behest of an absolute majority represented by the leaders of the Parties and the independents if in their judgment it is thought that the national interest requires it. That is the paramount consideration. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has put forward a motion to preserve that right without specification. Senator Hall has introduced an amendment proposing that, upon such a request for reassembly, the Senate should reassemble for purposes which include the summoning of certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate. Senator Withers puts forward the view upon some advice, which I completely reject, that that amendment would restrict the reassembly of the Senate to that purpose alone. Nothing could be more contradictory to the terms of the amendment. The advice must be based upon a completely erroneous premise. One has only to read the language of the amendment which states:
Provided that the President, upon a request or requests by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators that the Senate meet at a certain time . . .
The amendment then sets out purposes which include the summoning of certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate. Anybody who knows that the Senate can only summon witnesses by a resolution of the Senate when assembled knows that there is no mandatory effect in that amendment. That purpose would be included in our reassembly. On reassembly it would be for the Senate to decide whether it took that course. For us on this side to exclude that possibility from our capacity at that time is not the necessary result of rejecting Senator Hall’s amendment, but it would be contended that it was. For us now to deny the assistance of Senator Hall to get a reassembly by denying his amendment would be foolish in the extreme. Therefore I make it my paramount purpose to retain a capacity in the majority of the Senate to require a reassembly during the vacation to supervise these emergent events and I shall support Senator Hall’s amendment. I shall support Senator Withers’ amendment. I shall support any other amendment which is designed to secure to this side of the chamber the capacity to reassemble. It is the Senate ‘s public duty to reassemble if events develop so that a majority of the Senate, expressed through the leaders of the Parties, convey a request to the President that we should meet, lt is as simple as that.
I am dismayed to think that our capacity to supervise those events could be prejudiced by a division of opinion on this side of the House as to an amendment which is facultative and not in any way mandatory as to whether we assemble and call witnesses. That is a course which has great merit and great potency. The quiet of the Government senators through all this debate as they see a division on this side betokens that they are hoping that our divisions will destroy us and so enable them to escape the scrutiny of the Senate on reassembly. I appeal to this side of the chamber either to adopt the language of Senator Hall’s amendment in simpliciter, or in debate and discussion evolve other language which will make it clear that it is an option for the Senate when we reassemble to decide by resolution whether we summon witnesses and secure on this side the capacity to require the Senate to reassemble before 19 August. I think Senator Hall’s language is quite sufficient for the purpose and is in no way restrictive of us when we reassemble. In default of better language I would consider myself as following a completely inexcusable course by not adopting that amendment, and so I will support it.
– Could you make it clear why you think that if Senator Withers’ amendment were carried it would not be open, on reassembly, for the Senate to summon witnesses?
– I am asked to explain why I think that if Senator Withers’ amendment were carried simpliciter it would not be competent on reassembly for the Senate to summon witnesses. I have never suggested that it would not be competent to do so. But why is anybody on this side of the chamber of the view that we should not specifically refer to that as one of our options, especially when Senator Steele Hall places such emphasis upon it? He is a requisite of the 31 here whose requests would enable the reassembly. That is why I will support both amendments. I only appeal to this side of the chamber to exorcise the internal division of mind and to concentrate upon retaining the capacity to reassemble the Senate. The adoption of words, whether they advantage one side or the other, is immaterial to me.
– I do not really want to discuss the merit of the matters which are before the Senate at present. The only thing I would like to do is to make an appeal to the members of the Liberal Party to try to resolve their differences. There are many years of Labor Government facing the people of Australia and the people of Australia are pleased by that prospect. But in the interests of good government it is necessary for there to be some sort of effective Opposition. I say that as a Minister in the Government.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. As I understand it, the Minister is taking a point of order. He is really making a political speech.
– No point of order is involved. I call Senator Wheeldon.
– I can understand Senator Chaney ‘s bewilderment, but in fact Senator Wright had stopped talking. I would appeal to the members of the Opposition to try to get together and to have some unity. The whole future of parliamentary government depends on having some sort of united Opposition. To have them fragmented before us when they cannot even agree on a simple matter, such as a question relating to the reassembly of the Senate, when we have seen sharp personal exchanges between prominent members of the Liberal Party, is something which I believe is distressing to those of us who believe in the democratic system and in the 2 party system. As a Government we believe that there should be an Opposition which can express to us a coherent point of view on the issues which come before us.
When we find that the Opposition is incapable of even expressing a coherent point of view on the question of the reassembly of the Senate, we believe that democracy is in a very parlous condition. Although naturally such a disorganised rabble is unlikely ever to be elected to office, at the same time the Government believes that in the interests of constructive debate in this chamber there ought to be some sort of unity within the Liberal Party. I appeal to the members of the Liberal Party in the recess to resolve their differences, to get together to try to sort out what their common policy is, and that Senator Withers, Senator Wright and Senator Cotton should shake hands, let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet. I make that appeal to them in the name of the whole of the Australian people.
– I am only sorry that Senator Wheeldon has made his plea this Thursday instead of last Thursday. I am quite sure that a plea for unity would have been very acceptable in the Government last week. I do not rise to make a statement in this place which I might have issued to the media a couple of hours ago. Nor do I rise to say something on the urgency motion which was moved earlier in the day about which I might have had something to say. I am rather intrigued by Senator Hall saying that he was not able to get on the list of speakers today because this would be the first occasion of which I have known since he has been in the chamber that he has not been able to get on the list of speakers when he desired to do so. If Senator Hall thinks that the Opposition fell down on its motion to debate a matter of urgency today and that we should sit on tomorrow or come back next week I believe that he should get up and move a motion to the effect that the Senate reconvene tomorrow morning or next Tuesday. I notice that he has not done so.
All I want to do is support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). Under the motion moved by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) the Government can recall the Senate before the date on which we are due to meet again, 19 August, but the Opposition can bring back the Senate only if it has the support of 2 senators, Senator Hall and Senator Bunton. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the amendment that he has moved is not new. It was moved in this place in 1967 by the then Opposition, the present Government, in respect of what I believe was a postal matter, and the then Opposition with the support of the Democratic
Labor Party had the Senate reconvened and the Senate sat for two or three days. So the Leader of the Opposition has taken the opportunity of moving an amendment to the motion of the Manager of Government Business in the Senate so that the Senate may be recalled should this foreshadowed situation arise. I fully support that amendment.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Withers and to move an amendment to Senator Hall’s amendment. We are indebted to Senator Wheeldon for coming in here tonight and giving us one of the speeches from the Party room in the last few weeks. I am sure that it has been delivered many times and it is nice for us to know what he has been saying. As for Senator Hall, one can hardly say that the speech we heard from him tonight had any air of novelty. Many of us who sit here quietly in the Opposition and have heard from time to time the bucketing that he chooses to give, no doubt for the purposes of the Press which gives it remarkable coverage, will not be impressed very much by the hindsight which he normally shows as the end of debates. We have now heard the speech which he was going to deliver today and I suppose we should be thankful, but it was an indication in itself that he did not have very much to contribute. He gave us a list of persons he wants to call before the Senate. He talked about the ‘likely scene’. He does not know what the situation is but the likely scene’ is all that he can talk about.
– Are you defending Mr Connor?
– I am not defending him. I have been attacking Mr Connor for the last 2 days over his activities in regard to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and Senator Hall knows it. Senator Hall wants to call a number of witnesses, who, he thinks, might be helpful. It is probably in his mind to create the most interesting scene in the Parliament since King Charles came in to arrest a few members. It might be interesting, but what he ought to realise is that the Opposition in this chamber has had long discussions about and had given consideration to this matter. His are not the first and last thoughts on this matter which will be very much in the mind of the Opposition so that it can act properly and sensibly whenever the situation demands it. I heartily support the flexibility which is inherent in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The problem with Senator Hall’s amendment, and I am afraid this is where he has hoodwinked Senator Wright, is that it suggests that he wants to include the words -
- Senator Wright is not even here.
– We can overcome that. I am sure that Senator Wright will be happy with the amendment when he hears it but I am not sure that Senator Hall will be because the proposal contained in my amendment was suggested to him and he would not have a bar of it. The amendment which Senator Hall has moved seeks to insert the words ‘for purposes which include the summoning of certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate’. I propose the insertion of the word ‘may’ so that the words in the amendment will then read ‘for purposes which may include the summoning of certain persons to attend as witnesses before the Senate’. If that is accepted, should the Senate be recalled it would be no longer essential to summon witnesses as proposed by Senator Hall.
Senator Wright expressed the view that Senator Hall’s amendment did not restrict the recalling of the Senate to that purpose alone. That is quite so. It could be for other purposes. One thing that would have to be included in the purposes’ as Senator Hall’s amendment stands is the summoning of certain witnesses. Because that is the only purpose Senator Hall can see in recalling the Senate, he wants to include that and make it a compulsory part of the recalling process of the Senate.
I move as an amendment to Senator Hall’s amendment:
After the word ‘ which ‘ insert the word ‘ may ‘.
My amendment will put Senator Hall to the test. If he really meant to have the purpose mentioned in his amendment as one of the optional extras and one of the possibilities then he will accept my amendment. If on the other hand he chooses to want to confuse the Senate by hoping that the meaning that must be read into his amendment makes it a compulsory prerequisite to summon people before the Senate then he will reject my amendment. So I propose that we put him to the test. That test will be by inserting after the word which’ the word ‘may’. I hope then that Senator Hall’s amendment will have no fears for the Opposition and will be a satisfactory amendment to Senator Withers’ amendment.
– Is this amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. In rising to support Senator Missen ‘s amendment I would like to remind the Senate that we are considering a motion which would allow the reassembly of the Senate before the normal time and which would allow the Senate to do any or all of the things within its power, including the summoning of persons. Senator Hall is aware of that. We have been and we are aware of that option and that possibility. We have neither discarded nor accepted the use of that very grave power by the Senate.
Before Senator Hall seeks to impress us all with his usual sanctimonious righteousness I would like to mention that some of us have some very real reservations about the use of the power which he is saying should be brought in. I would remind honourable senators of the BrowneFitzpatrick case, and I would remind them of the very real disquiet which many Australians hadand I was one of them- at that time. I do not deny and have never denied the right of the Parliament to bring people before the Bar of the House. I do not deny the right now, but I would say that at that time I was worried and I was concerned. I have no desire now or ever to give anyone cause to say that the Senate is acting in a way which is abrogating the rights of any citizen. It may be that in calling people before the Bar of the Senate that would not happen, but many people may see that as happening. I would be very upset if in causing the Senate to reassemble we were obliged to use that power. There are some doubts about whether such a move could be guaranteed to be as effective as we would want. I will not canvass that issue, but past experience shows that it is a practice that governments might refuse to allow certain people to reassemble.
Senator Withers’ amendment is reasonable and broad in its scope. Senator Missen ‘s amendment keeps that breadth. If Senator Hall is sincere he cannot object to what Senator Missen proposes. Senator Missen ‘s amendment will maintain the right to call people before the Bar of the Senate and it will maintain the kind of flexibility which we are seeking. We are as concerned as Senator Hall is about the issue raised by the Government’s efforts to raise overseas loans. We are concerned to retain the power to get the Senate to reassemble and we are not prepared to have ourselves limited in the way Senator Hall wants, with his usual assumption that he is the only person who knows how things can be done or what is best for the country.
– The discussion today and again tonight has reached remarkable proportions. It is very evident, judging from what has been said today and tonight, that the calling of an extraordinary meeting may be necessary. This afternoon we had the spectacle of the Opposition making accusations against the Government and, in turn, the Government making accusations against the Opposition. After a debate lasting 3 hours no solution was arrived at.
– Are you not in a beautiful position?
– I am in a beautiful position. This is just the occasion when an Independent is wanted.
– With allegiance to nobody or nothing. I would rather be as I am than be a neuter.
-When my friends opposite finish I will be prepared to continue my remarks, Mr President. After the Senate rises the President can call an extraordinary meeting only if he sees fit. Provision is made in the law for that. The motion before the House tonight makes provision for a certain number of members of the Opposition to have the same privilege, if they think it necessary, as the President has in ordinary circumstances. In my humble opinion the request of the Opposition should not be denied. The events of today make it very apparent to me that the amendment before the House is a very necessary one. But if an extraordinary meeting were convened I would not like to see a repetition of today’s events. It is very important to realise that the convening of the Senate in extraordinary circumstances must be warranted. The Opposition went off half-cocked today. I would not like to see an extraordinary meeting called just to allow the Opposition again to go off in that way. If we are to be reconvened for an extraordinary meeting it is necessary that the conditions be such as fully to warrant the holding of that extraordinary meeting.
– Did you support our motion today?
-When the Opposition is finished I am prepared to go on, Mr President.
– Order! Senator Bunton must not be interrupted.
– Before an extraordinary meeting is convened it should be necessary for sufficient evidence to be available and for people to be available to give that evidence personally before the House.
– Order! It being after 1 1 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 negative.
- Senator Hall ‘s statement tonight must be cause for some disquiet. I think that that statement makes it more necessary to have an extraordinary meeting convened than does anything else we have heard either earlier today or prior to Senator Hall’s address tonight. This is the Australian Parliament. We should set the lead in seeing to it that justice is not only done but also appears to be done. Accusations have been made by each side of the House against the other. Senator Hall’s statement tonight makes it very apparent to me that in the course of a day or two there will be such conditions available as fully to justify the calling of an extraordinary meeting. I would not like to be called to an extraordinary meeting for no good purpose, such as the 3-hour debate we had today. Senator Hall has suggested that there is evidence to be produced; the Opposition suggested this morning that there is evidence to be produced; and the Government has accused the Opposition of not doing its part. Taking those 3 things into account, I think it is very necessary to have a close look at what is happening. For that reason I am going to support the amendment.
– I wish to speak to Senator Missen ‘s amendment. Senator Missen ‘s amendment introduces the word may’, which more explicitly expresses the interpretation that I gave the amendment of Senator Hall which does not contain that word. I think that the inclusion of the word is of great advantage. I do not think there should be anybody on this side of the chamber who would deny the substance of Senator Missen ‘s amendment. It would retain to this side of the House the capacity in the national interest to supervise the events of the Government’s emergency in the next few days. For that reason I will support Senator Missen ‘s amendment.
– You have already supported Senator Steele Hall’s amendment.
-I shall support any amendment that will give control to this Senate over the Whitlam Government in all its rascality.
It has already dismissed one Treasurer and relegated a Minister for Labor and Immigration to the Ministry of Science. Do honourable senators opposite think that we will allow that fiasco -
– I rise on a point of order. It relates to the charge that the Prime Minister has already dismissed one Treasurer. I can recall a previous Prime Minister dismissing Mr Bury.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– I rise on a point of order. I suggest that Senator Wright was quite in order. However, the honourable senator made one mistake, and that is he should have said that the Prime Minister has dismissed two Treasurers.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– The whole purpose of the amendment is to give to this House of Parliament, where there is a majority by proper confluence of opinion, the capacity to exercise a restraining influence upon the degree of misgovernment that can take place under the authorisation of one Minister, through an Arab deputy, to commit the country to $4,000m on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit. I will support any amendment that will retain that capacity on this side of the Senate.
I plead with every honourable senator on this side of the chamber to support Senator Missen ‘s amendment which gives a proper interpretation to Senator Hall ‘s amendment. Then we can support Senator Hall’s amendment and Senator Withers’ amendment and get on with the business. We are determined that we will in the public interest maintain a supervision over the Whitlam Government.
– I wish to speak to the amendment. 1 am sorry if Senator Wright felt that he was hoodwinked. I do not think that he used that word but someone else did on his behalf. I must say to Senator Wright and to the Senate that I had not the slightest intention of obscuring the meaning of my amendment. If I did not explain the meaning fully when I spoke to my amendment I take full blame for that, but I meant the amendment to stand exactly as it is. I thought that I had explained the meaning of my amendment by saying that I could not see the merit in again assembling the Senate for a propaganda effort without content.
– Which amendment are you speaking to now?
-Senator Missen ‘s amendment.
– I rise on a point of order. I know that this debate is getting complex, but how is it that Senator Hall is on his feet again?
– Order! He is speaking to the amendment. There is no point of order.
-For Senator George’s benefit, I would like to tell him that Senator Missen has moved an amendment to my amendment. I am speaking to the amendment moved by Senator Missen.
– And your amendment is an amendment to what?
-To Senator Withers’ amendment. I have a second mortgage on these amendments. I say to Senator Wright that I do not believe that the Senate ought to come back unless it has proper work to do, and that is the hearing of evidence.
– Who is to decide that?
-Let me explain again to Senator Wright that I do not believe in taking out of the hands of the Government the arrangements of the sittings of a House. It is a bad principle. I say to Senator Wright that we would be starting with a bad principle. To take arrangements of the sittings of a House out of the hands of the Government between major sessions is not a good thing to do in any British parliamentary system. If honourable senators do not like my saying that and think that I am being sanctimonious, I cannot help that. They say things too. Let them not complain tonight about the criticism as though it is all one-sided. I invite honourable senators to come to South Australia and listen to what is said there. Yesterday Senator Jessop referred to me as Judas. Let us not imagine that the criticism is all one-sided and that I am standing here ladling it out and that none is coming back. I must say that that is a very innocent view that honourable senators from other States have of the politics of honourable senators from South Australia. On that basis, even though I am one against four or five South Australian senators from the Liberal Party, I will have my say and I do not care if honourable senators resent it. That is their business. Now let me get back to the point to which Senator Wright referred.
– Be reasonable.
– I will try to be reasonable. Senator Wright believes in the Westminster system. I put it to him that you do not lightly take the arrangement of the sittings of a House out of the control of a government. I think that Senator Wright would agree with the principle that a Parliament must work and the Government of the day must have control of the sittings. There are exceptional circumstances, however, on which Senator Wright and I agreethe Senate may or may not agree with this- when an Opposition which has the majority of numbers could in some state of very great crisis- I did not want to use the word ‘crisis’ but that is the only word I can think of at the moment- convene the House. I am simply expressing the personal view that I do not think the Opposition has the right capriciously to cause the House to meet again to repeat today’s exercise. It would be fatuous to go through today’s excercise again. Yet I feel that that is all that the Opposition may do without some discipline being applied. It is typical of the Opposition to take out of my amendment the mandatory element- that is, that whatever may be the business of the Senate it must include the calling of witnesses- and to insert the word ‘ may ‘.
– Here we go again; once more with feeling.
-Senator Missen does not like my criticsm of his amendment. I am sorry that he does not like it. What I am saying is that his amendment is less determinate. I do not know whether I can absolve Opposition Senators from being so sensitive that it regards my words as being sandpaper on their sensitive skins, but I shall use the politest of terms and say that it is much less determinate. It is less definite. It is not definite enough, in my view. Therefore I intend to vote against Senator Missen ‘s amendment. I will vote against the original motion if it includes the word ‘may’ instead of retaining the mandatory element which requires the calling of evidence.
– in reply- I moved my motion at approximately 10.20 p.m. and it is now almost 1 1 . 1 5 p.m. I have listened to discussion on the three or four amendments we have before us; I have lost count of the number. I have listened to the numerous arguments put forward on behalf of the Opposition and particularly the multiplicity of arguments put forward by Senator Wright on a number of the amendments that have been moved. Senator Wheeldon said the other day that he felt with three Permanent
Heads he was entitled to get a job in Wirths Circus. I am beginning to think, after listening to the rabble of the Opposition tonight, that we are all sitting in Wirths Circus and that it is about time we all left the place for a while. We have been here for 5 weeks in a row. If being here for 5 weeks in a row does what it has done to the Opposition tonight, it is about time we went away for a spell.
Mr President, let me say, notwithstanding anything that might be said by Senator Withers who moved the first amendment, or by Senator Hall who I think moved the next amendment, or by Senator Missen who moved another amendment, or by Senator Wright who I think supported a couple of amendments, that the simple fact of the matter is that the Opposition is again exhibiting or displaying its numbers in this Senate. It is showing that it is deliberately taking the business of the Government out of the hands of the Government.
Opposition members say that this proposal they put forward now is exactly the same as that which was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the then Senator Murphy, when the Labor Party was in opposition in 1967. But there are variations between the proposal now put by Senator Withers and the proposal that was put by the then Senator Murphy. For instance, in 1967the then Senator Murphy said:
For these purposes a request by the Leader of the Opposition shall be deemed to be a request by every member of the Opposition -
So one telegram sent by the Leader of the Opposition represented a telegram on behalf of all members of the Opposition. But in this proposal as put forward by Senator Withers, we have a number of choices. Senator Withers can send a telegram. If he does not want to send a telegram and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition thinks a telegram should be sent, under the Opposition’s proposal he can send a telegram. If the Opposition is not satisfied with that, the Leader of the National Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) can send a telegram. If they are not prepared to agree to that, the Whip of the National Country Party can send a telegram. So the whole thing goes on.
The Senate has been sitting from February until the middle of June. The Senate and the Government can now see the frustrations, day after day, of the legislative programs of a democratically elected and progressive government. All I need to do is to cite the number of divisions that have been called in the Senate in this twenty-ninth Parliament- from July 1974 to June 1975, today- to indicate the frustrations and the show of strength that the Opposition exhibits by sheer weight of numbers in the Parliament. Between July 1974 and 12 June 1975 there have been 236 divisions in the Senate. The Government has won 42 of those divisions and has lost 194 of them. Those divisions do not include the free votes that were taken in relation to the Family Law Bill. The simple fact of the matter is that if telegrams were sent by the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Country Party or the Whip of the National Country Party and we were all called back, we would not be called back for the purpose of discussing Government business. There is no more Government business left on the notice paper to be discussed. We as a Government would not be placing business on a notice paper until 19 August when in normal circumstances the Budget would be introduced. To all intents and purposes, all we would be doing by agreeing to the Opposition’s amendments would be virtually turning the Senate into a star chamber to bring certain unnamed people before the bar of the Senate for the purpose of dragging something out of them. I believe that the Opposition by this series of proposals is again showing its arrogant use of numbers. I believe that the motion put forward by the Government should be supplemented. It is about time we all went home and did not come back to this place until Tuesday, 19 August 1975, at 2.30 p.m.
That Senator Missen’s amendment to Senator Hall’s amendment be agreed to.
The Senate divided (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Senator Steele Hall’s amendment, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Senator Withers’ amendment, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Douglas McClelland’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Postal Services Bill 1975 Telecommunications Bill 197S Postal and Telecommunications sitional Provisions) Bill 1975.
– During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last Tuesday Senator Coleman raised certain questions concerning Parliament House. For the information of honourable senators, I circulate my reply dealing with those matters, particularly the matters specifically concerning the Department of the Senate. With the concurrence of honourable senators I shall have the reply incorporated in Hansard. (The document read as follows)-
Questions raised by Senator Coleman during the Adjournment Debate on 10 June 1975
Current parking arrangements were implemented following the completion of the Senate extensions in 1973. Senators’ areas are delineated by parking signs, ‘Parking Vehicles of Members of Parliament Only’. There are 21 parking bays on the Senate side of Parliament House and these are controlled by Senate Attendants who are empowered to issue parking infringement notices pursuant to the Motor Traffic Ordinance of the A.C.T. It should be noted that Members of the House of Representatives use these spaces as well as Senators. Senators and Members are entitled to use Parliament House car transfers so that their cars may be identified. Senators may obtain these transfers from the Usher of the Black Rod.
Parking has always been limited around Parliament House and has been a continuing problem. Other than those areas set aside for Members of Parliament, much of the remaining area is reserved for Commonwealth cars. The problem was somewhat relieved by the provision of bays at the rear of the Senate and House of Representatives gardens some 4 years ago. However, recent experience shows that many of these bays are now used by officers from East Block and West Block, and this cannot be prevented as the areas are not under parliamentary supervision. In October 1972, the then President of the Senate, Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cormack, had discussions with the Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission with a view to providing a sealed and well lit parking area at the base of Camp Hill at the rear of Parliament House. On 25 October 1972 the Commissioner of the NCDC was advised that the President approved the provision of such parking facilities. This matter was not proceeded with. It is understood that this was because the question of environment was raised. In September 1973, Sir Magnus wrote to the Minister for the Capital Territory complaining of the lack of parking facilities in the vicinity of Parliament. The matter was referred to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development for his consideration. At a later date discussions were held between Mr Bryant, the Minister for the Capital Territory, and officers of Parliament. In the interim, arrangements were made for the area to be patrolled by police officers at night for a half hour after each House rises so that some measure of protection could be afforded to the staff.
One of the major problems relating to parking in the area around Parliament House is caused by the fact that Parliament is a tourist centre. This means that very often parking space in the immediate vicinity of the House is occupied by visitors. In fact special provision, by way of ‘limited time’ parking areas has been set aside for tourists but this also has been found inadequate.
I undertake to again raise the matter with the Ministers concerned so that the problems may be overcome.
Under the Public Service (Parliamentary Officers) Regulations the normal hours worked by Senate staff are hours per week in a week which is not a sessional week and 42 hours per week in a week which is a sessional week. Over a period of twelve months the standard weekly hours of duty of Senate Attendants average not more than 36¾, the weekly requirement of clerical officers in the Public Service generally. During the recess periods of the Senate, Attendants work rotating shifts of 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and 9.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. During a sessional week they work rostered shifts as follows:
(The above hours include 1 hour lunch break and a 30 minute dinner break, for which allowance has been made in the totals).
Overtime is payable for extra duty performed outside the normal hours of duty during recess and session. The above hours, whilst not identical, are very similar to those worked by the remainder of the Senate staff.
Following representations by Unions, consideration was given to reducing the maximum weekly hours for Attendants to 40. Until recently, generally the Attendant staff preferred to remain on the present rostered hours. However, a recent survey indicates that the Attendants’ attitude is now changing.
Action is now being taken to alter the standard hours worked to 34½ hours per week in recess and 40 hours per week in session.
Senator Coleman mentioned clothing allowances available to Attendants in 1973. These were: 3 white shirts of value up to $5.00 1 pair of shoes per annum, purchasable at a Canberra store at a contract price of $8.75.
Since July 1 974, in addition to the normal Senate uniform, each Attendant has been issued with equipment on the following principles:
New attendants receive up to 5 white shirts as an initial issue and thereafter 3 white shirts a year each up to the value of $5.00. 5 pairs socks- initial issue- replacement as required. 1 belt- initial issue, replacement as required. 1 pair of shoes per year based on the contract price of the Julius Marlow shoe, less 12½ per cent discount- current price $29.99.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate adjourned at 1 1.38 p.m. to a day and hour to be fixed by Mr President.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) The Pensioner Medical Service entitlement cards will continue to be used after 1 July 1975 for the following purposes:
In addition Pensioner Medical Service entitlement cards are used as identification to obtain fringe benefits available from State Government Authorities and concessions from private enterprise organisations.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I ) A team of seven flew to Guam on 1 7 May on the RAAF flight to Guam. In a letter to the Prime Minister on 23 May Mr Darby stated that there were 13 personnel in Guam.
In the letter of 23 May Mr Darby inquired about future assistance from the Government. In reply the Prime Minister reiterated the Government’s policy that its assistance should be properly co-ordinated at the international and domestic levels through organisations with the experience and expertise to ensure that help gets to those most in need, that it supports voluntary agencies through its Australian Development Assistance Agency and that approaches for assistance should be made to the agency through the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. which is the recognised co-ordinating body for non-governmental organisations and individuals.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have been informed by the Trade Practices Commission that the information sought by the honourable senator is as follows:
(a) There were four cases arising under the Trade Practices Act 1 965- 1 97 1 , and its predecessor Acts and the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1971 decided by the High Court. These were:
v. Trade Practices Tribunal ex parte Tasmanian Breweries Pty Ltd.
An action in which the validity of the Trade Practices Tribunal was unsuccessfully challenged.
Strickland v. Rocla Concrete Pipes Ltd and Others (the Concrete Pipes’case).
An appeal against a decision of the Commonwealth Industrial Court dismissing a prosecution. Appeal dismissed; much of the Trade Practices Act 1965-1971 held to be invalid, but judgments indicated that trade practices legislation based on the corporations power could validly apply to wholly intrastate business transactions.
Mikasa (N.S.W.) Pty Ltd v. Festival Industries Pty Ltd.
On appeal from the Commonwealth Industrial Court in a private action relating to resale price maintenance, the Court held that s. 92 of the Constitution was not infringed by the relevant provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1965-1971; also that the resale price maintenance provisions in that Act were not invalid as a result of the decision in the ‘Concrete Pipes’case.
v. Trade Practices Tribunal and the Commissioner of Trade Practices ex parte St George County Council
The High Court held that the Council was not a corporation to which section 5 1 (xx) of the Constitution or section 37 of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1 97 1 applied.
Cases decided by the Australian Industrial Court were:
Strickland v. Rocla Concrete Pipes Ltd.
Prosecution dismissed. (Appealed to High Court).
Festival Stores v. Mikasa (N.S.W.) Pty Ltd.
A private action for injunction to restrain resale price maintenance. Injunction granted. Appealed to High Court.
In addition the Commissioner obtained injunctions to restrain resale price maintenance in 10 cases the defendants being:
Amoco Australia Pty Limited
B AS F Australia Ltd ( cattle tickicide- ‘ Nexagan ‘ )
BP Australia Limited
Caltex Oil (Australia) Pty Limited
Cedel Products (Australasia) Proprietary Limited (health and beauty aids)
Dalgety Australia Limited (‘Bonaire’ air conditioners) Holiday Magic Pty Limited (cosmetics and toiletries) Hoover (Australia) Pty Limited (electrical appliances) Laycock, Son & Co. Proprietary Limited (‘Laconia’ blankets)
Matsushita Electric Co. (Australia) Pty Ltd. (‘National’ television sets)
Cases decided by the Trade Practices Tribunal were:
Decided that a price agreement was contrary to the public interest.
Exemption from resale price maintenance provisions refused.
Australian Fibreboard Container Manufacturers Association Agreement
Industry agreement on price and related matters decided to be contrary to the public interest.
Four other cases were brought before the Tribunal by the Commissioner and a lot of interlocutory and pre-trial work was done on them, but the cases were finally disposed of by the Tribunal without hearing on the merits because the parties did not defend their challenged conduct or agreements.
Vitreous China Sanitaryware
A fifth case, the St George County Council case referred to above, also went through interlocutory and pre-trial stages, but did not proceed after the High Court decision referred to above.
In 24 cases formal consultations under section 48 were called and the parties gave up their restrictive agreements or conduct.
In many other cases, of which there is no record in numbers, parties gave up restrictive agreements or conduct after discussions with the Commissoner or his Office which did not reach the stage of formal consultations under section 48.
There is no record of the number of cases where restrictions were lifted after letters or requests from the Commissioner but without discussions. There were numerous fixed price restrictions in agreements given up in 1973-1974 and between July 1974 and September 1974 following letters from the Commissioner to parties. The annual report speaking as at 30 June 1974 generalised in qualitative terms and said that the task of proceeding on a broad front against price agreements appeared to be half over.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have been informed by the Trade Practices Commission that the information sought by the honourable senator is as follows:
10 884 individual applications up to 3 June 1975.
(a) 18; (b) 42.
None. The Commission has scheduled four applications for public hearing with the first hearing commencing on 27 June 1975.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have been informed by the Trade Practices Commission that the information sought by the honourable senator is as follows:
For the grounds provided in section 91 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
None- all interim authorisations have been granted following a preliminary consideration of documents submitted.
It is not known when all such applications will be finalised. The Trade Practices Commission is working expeditiously on these applications on an industry basis and anticipates that applications in respect of the major types of practices will be finalised within a year.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Trade Practices (Question No. 608)
Seanator Greenwood asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
How many notices in writing have been given by a Member of the Commission under section 155 (1) of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
In each such instance who was the Member who gave the notice.
In each such instance was it the Commission, the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman who had the requisite reason to believe.
Did the notice specify on whose belief the notice was issued.
How many authorisations in writing to enter premises have been given by a member of the Commission under section 1 55 ( 1) of the Trade Practices Act 1 974.
In each such instance who was the Member who gave the authorisation in writing.
In each such instance was it the Commission, the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman who had the requisite reason to believe.
Did the authorisation in writing specify on whose belief the authorisation was issued.
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
24 notices have been given, in relation to 1 6 separate matters.
The Chairman of the Commission, Mr R. M. Bannerman.
The Chairman of the Commission.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
-On 27 May 1975, Senator Durack asked me the following question, without notice:
I ask the Postmaster-General whether any licences have been granted by him under the Wireless Telegraphy Act for non-commercial broadcasting to any Government sponsored groups or authorities other than the one that he has in question at the moment. If so, how many such licences have been granted and to whom have they been granted? Have any conditions been laid down as a term of the licence? If such conditions have been laid down will he make details of them available to the Senate?
The following is the answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Apart from the licences which have been prepared for issue to the Chairman, Ethnic Radio Experimental Committee, to establish experimental broadcasting stations in Sydney and Melbourne for the conduct of experiments in ethnic broadcasting there are no Government sponsored groups or authorities licensed under the provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act to operate broadcasting stations in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Trade Practices Commission has informed me that the statistics sought are as set out in the following tables:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 June 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750612_senate_29_s64/>.