29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The Acting Clerk- 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 Keeffe.
-The Minister for Police and Customs will recall that yesterday I asked him a question concerning the superphosphate bounty. I now ask him: Has he yet had time to check with his Department to see whether the Department of the Capital Territory should have been included in the list of beneficiaries?
-Yes, I have had time to check with my Department. The Department of the Capital Territory should not have been included in this list. My information is that the list states that the details were provided by suppliers. I am informed that the Department of the Capital Territory, whilst it is a substantial purchaser of fertiliser, buys by tender and that no purchase in excess of 400 tons was made by the Department from any one supplier.
– Did it buy any more than 400 tons in any one year?
-It may have bought much more. The list stated that it included suppliers who provided in excess of 400 tons and no one supplier supplied the Department of the Capital Territory with 400 tons or more.
– My question follows on from a question I asked of the PostmasterGeneral yesterday. I direct my question now to the Acting Attorney-General. In view of the fact that recording devices are attached to telephones in the Western Australia Police Department, and I daresay other departments, what protection has an individual caller, or for that matter an officer, when such officers have no power to control devices installed by their superiors? Does this constitute a breach of civil liberties? If so, what is the Attorney-General prepared to do to rectify the situation?
-The information that emerged yesterday about the right to record telephone conversations was news to me, even though I concede that an item bearing on that matter does appear in the front of the telephone directory, which also was a discovery for me yesterday. I must confess that, even though the recording of telephone calls would appear on the face of it to be relatively harmless seeing that anybody using the telephone gets some warning in the form of a beep that his telephone conversation is being recorded, there are some disquieting features about it. For instance, there is the aspect adverted to by Senator Mcintosh, namely, that in the case of the police it does not necessarily rest within the competence of the person recording the conversation to cease recording it because such a decision could be within the authority of a higher officer. That is one aspect that gives me some uneasiness. Without overstating the matter, I think this is something that should be investigated more closely from the point of view of civil liberties. I certainly undertake to draw this aspect of the matter to the attention of the Attorney-General when he returns.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture: In view of the Treasury statement which has now shown a continuing over expenditure by the Government in July and August of this year, what stage has the Government reached in its consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission recommendations for increased assistance in the campaigns to eradicate bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. Could it be construed that the Government’s attitude towards brucellosis and the superphosphate recommendations will be determined to a great extent by the decline in the Australian economy? Would it be a fact that the longer the delay by the Government in announcing a decision in relation to these recommendations of the IAC the less the chance the recommendations have of being accepted?
-Senator Webster would do well to do his homework a little more thoroughly. The initial part of his question concerning over expenditure by this Government in July and August has been adequately answered in material that has been incorporated in Hansard. If he were to read the material that has been provided to explain the position he would not open his question with such a fatuous introduction. So far as brucellosis is concerned, this year the Government has made the largest appropriation to the States for the elimination of brucellosis and tuberculosis in cattle in the history of the whole of the campaign. The amount is nearly $9m. I quoted figures here some 2 weeks ago illustrating the tremendous increase in Australian Government contributions to the campaign, particularly in New South Wales. Before we came to office the Federal Government of the day was providing only matching grants to the
New South Wales Government. We are providing more than double the amount that is provided by the New South Wales Government itself to assist that Government in its eradication campaign. So much for any suggestion that this Government is not accepting its responsibilities towards this very important matter.
The Industries Assistance Commission’s report is currently being studied by the Government but it has not been possible to make a quick decision because of discussions that have been taking place in the Australian Agricultural Council with the State Ministers for Agriculture -
– And the industry has been invited to submit its views.
-That is quite right. As my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland reminds me, the industry has been invited to submit its views on that report. But the very fact that we have made the appropriation in the Budget this year- I repeat, the largest appropriation for the campaign- should dispel any thought that this Government is not mindful of the need to keep the campaign going at maximum capacity.
– Order! I invite the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation of members of Parliament from Canada, from both the provincial and national parliaments, led by. a most distinguished person- Madame Speaker, Louise Lapointe, Speaker of the Canadian Senate. We extend to the delegation a very warm welcome to this country and to this Parliament. We hope that their visit here will be fruitful and that they will find it a very rewarding visit to our country. We have been looking forward to the visit for a long time and are very pleased to see them here.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to new reports which claim that the people of East Timor strongly favour a merger with Indonesia. I ask: Does the Minister remember that a party of 6 Government supporters visited Portuguese East Timor in March this year and that their experience has confirmed the reports of reputable journalists that the overwhelming sentiment in the former Portuguese colony is for selfdetermination and against merging with Indonesia. Therefore cannot the current reports emanating from Indonesian ‘official sources’ be regarded as nothing more than propaganda and intimidatory? Will the Minister assure the Senate that Australia will support any Portuguese initiative and request which would assist in the decolonisation of East Timor based on the principle of self-determination and free from Indonesian intervention?
– The situation in Timor is somewhat clouded. There have been many reports coming out about support for the 3 contending factions in that country. I could not give an assurance that we would support any initiative taken by the Portuguese. The Australian Government’s attitude is quite clear. We will support any proposals which we consider will lead towards decolonisation of Timor and the right to self-determination of the Timorese people. That is our fundamental position. Naturally, we could not be expected to support any proposition which happened to come along. We are hopeful that the talks which are commencing today in Jakarta between Dr Santos, the Portuguese envoy, and the Indonesian Government may bring about some basic plan whereby we could support moves to ensure that the Timorese people have the unquestioned right to selfdetermination. It is very difficult to know precisely the truth of reports which are coming out of Timor. The Australian Government’s position is quite clear inasmuch as it would wish to see the Timorese people determine their own political future without interference by anybody.
-My question is directed to the Acting Attorney-General. I refer again to the report of the working party suggesting a criminal law ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory. I ask the Minister: In the light of his statement yesterday that the Government had not formed any conclusions and in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government does not propose to make any ordinance or to introduce any Bill, will the Minister clarify the inconsistency? Who is correct- the Minister and Mr Enderby, or the Prime Minister? If it is not proposed to make any criminal law ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory, why was the report commissioned in the first place? What are the reasons for the Government’s deciding to abandon the project?
-To suggest that there is any discrepancy between what I said yesterday and what the Prime Minister said is, in my view, a pettifogging, nitpicking objection. If there is any doubt in Senator Greenwood’s mind, I point out that the Australian Government does not propose to take any action in respect of the report of the working party. It does not intend to introduce an ordinance in respect of criminal law in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I have a supplementary question. In the light of the fact that the Government commissioned the report with the intention that some ordinance should be introduced, will the Minister explain why the Government has decided not to take any action?
-The Australian Government commissioned the report in an attempt to throw some light in dark places. In commissioning the report it did not commit itself to any action on the report. It is very heartening to find that the report has provoked debate and has stirred up Senator Greenwood so much.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I ask this question because it has particular relevance to the situation of the Australian Army Reserve in Tasmania. Following the implementation by the Government of the recommendations made in the Millar report on the Citizen Military Forces, will the Minister inform the Senate whether there has been any positive reaction by way of recruitment into the Army Reserve?
– It is pleasing to report that for the first time in many years the rate of recruitment into the Army Reserve is at a higher level than the wastage. As honourable senators will know, in 1972 the Government found that the Citizen Military Forces were badly run down and a committee headed by Dr Millar was commissioned to investigate the situation. As a result of the recommendations of that committee, the name was changed to the Army Reserve, pay rates were increased, the tax free aspects were retained and a major initiative was commenced to improve the effective strength of that force. In a number of parts of Australia presently recruiting drives are planned. There is a general confidence that as a result of those drives there will be an increasing number of volunteers to join the Reserve.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the question I asked him yesterday on his prediction of a level of 400 000 unemployed in 1976 and the efficacy or otherwise of the Budget to meet that disastrous situation. I refer also to the Minister’s response that ‘we see no need to recast the Budget’ and ‘time will prove that it is the best Budget possible in the present economic circumstances’. I ask the Minister: Is that not a flat admission of total defeatism and demoralisation and an abject acceptance that a level of 400 000 unemployed is inevitable and that nothing beyond the Budget is going to be done to alleviate it? Alternatively, what positive steps in addition to the Budget are proposed by the Government to prevent this disaster?
– I suppose that when an assertion is made, such as the one I made yesterday that this was the best possible Budget in the circumstances, the truth or otherwise of such an assertion is to be judged against the background of what possible alternative has been suggested. An alternative has been suggested by the would-be leader of this country, Mr Fraser, and an examination of that suggestion reinforces what I said about our Budget being the best possible in the circumstances. Specifically on the question of a budgetary answer to the problem of unemployment, Mr Fraser ‘s answer is to lop off government expenditure $1 billion more than is suggested in our Budget. How it can conceivably be suggested that that would provide a better answer to the question of unemployment than that attempted by this Government passes my comprehension.
– That is the trouble.
– It must be clear, even to the dim resources of a Senator Webster, that the lopping-off of another $1 billion of government expenditure must have a further deflationary effect and must expand the numbers of the unemployed. I reiterate what I said yesterday: The option chosen by the Government was a middle course between extravagant deflation, which would produce the sort of unemployment figures so eagerly espoused by Senator Carrick in espousing the alternative of his Leader, and a responsible approach to inflation. The Government believes that time will prove that this is the best answer to our economic ills that is available at the present moment.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. The Minister did not answer the question. I ask the Minister. Does he intend to rest upon the Budget, or is it intended that additional measures will be taken to relieve the unemployment? Is he accepting the 400 000 as inevitable?
-The Budget was carefully thought out, and it was not the Government’s intention to resile from it after it had been brought down. Yes, we intend to rest upon the Budget.
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State. He will know that local governments in Queensland recently received substantial allocations of funds from the Grants Commission. Can the Minister give any breakdown of the Queensland allocations? Further, is it true that local governments in Queensland, particularly those councils in rural areas, received the highest per capita grants in Australia in this year’s allocation? Finally, how do these substantial untied grants to rural areas in Queensland compare with the previous Liberal-Country Party Government’s assistance to rural areas in that State?
-The honourable senator will know that early last month I spent some 8 days in the Gulf country of north Queensland and part of the north-west of that State with our colleague Senator Keeffe. Everywhere we went we received gratitude from shire councils and shire councillors throughout those far-flung regions of Australia for the Government’s appreciation of the work load of local government, of the financial responsibility of local government and for the direct assistance that the Australian Government was giving through the Grants Commission recommendations to local government. It is fair to say that since coming to office the Australian Government has vigorously pursued its commitment to strengthening the status of local government right throughout Australia.
During the 2 years of the scheme’s operation local government in Queensland in particular has benefited notably and for this financial year the Australian Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendations in totality in making some $79.9m available to local government throughout Australia. So far as Queensland is concerned, an amount of $13. 8m is to be paid to 126 councils in that State. When the legislation is enacted in this budgetary session, this will mean a 54 per cent increase for Queensland on the $8. 9m that was paid to 122 councils in Queensland last year. This year the Queensland allocation on a percentage basis is the highest increase to any State. The Brisbane City Council alone is to receive some $2.5m. On a per capita basis the rural areas in Queensland have benefited most of all from the Grants Commission recommendations. Overall, Queensland received the highest per capita figure of all States in that it amounted to about $7 compared with about $6. 1 in New South Wales and about $5.5 in Victoria. Certainly I agree with my colleague, Senator McAuliffe, that these figures show how false is the campaign that is being waged in Queensland by our opponents who claim that this Government has done nothing for or is not interested in country people.
-I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question concerning air navigation charges and the disastrous position in which general aviation, which involves small aircraft operators, is placed due to the financial impact of the aviation cost recovery policy being pursued by this Government. Has the Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, discussed with him a comprehensive report which was submitted to that Minister by the Cessna Flying Club Inc. of the Parafield airport in South Australia seeking ministerial reconsideration of the cost recovery policy pending a further assessment of its effects on general aviation? What is the present basis for arriving at the proportion of total costs as between RPTthat is, regular public transport- and general aviation? Is it not a fact that the tremendously expensive facilities which have been provided have been built not so much for general aviation but more especially for the large and sophisticated passenger aircraft, and that the incidence of charges on light aircraft could render their use prohibitive?
– I have mentioned before in the Senate in reply to questions on air navigation charges that an examination of the question of the recovery of the costs of aviation services was commenced not by this Government but by previous governments. Our Government, as was indicated in the Budget Papers in 1973-74, proposed to increase the rate of recovery of the costs of providing and operating airport and airway facilities to 80 per cent over a period of 5 years. It was then estimated that a recovery rate of 70 per cent should be reached in 1975-76. Despite increases in the charges very little progress has been made towards this objective and currently about 55 per cent of costs is being recovered. I indicated recently to Senator Sim the gap between the recovery rate and the running costs at Essendon Airport. In reply to the particular point to which Senator Laucke has referred, all I can say is that I am aware that the report has been given to the Minister. I know that he is considering it. I am not in a position at this stage to indicate what consideration has been given to it or to reply to Senator Laucke ‘s final question about the disbursement of costs. I will endeavour to obtain an answer for him from the Minister during the recess.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister give consideration to making a recommendation to the Postal Commission for the replacement of the present postage stamp dispensers with 20c machines which will dispense an 1 8c stamp with 2c change?
– Yes, I certainly will.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the Minister’s reply to my question on Tuesday in relation to care for the aged and the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier in the week concerning the formation of a committee to carry out certain examinations. I ask the Minister: Has he received representations from the Australian Council of Social Service seeking what is described as clarification of this announcement? If so, is the Minister able to give some clarification? If not, when will he be able to do so?
– I have received innumerable communications from the Australian Council of Social Service. Whether that matter was amongst those to which it referred I cannot recollect at the moment. I do see members of the Council frequently; no doubt I shall be seeing them again in the near future. I do not know that I can give any more clarification to the matter than I have already given with regard to the report on care for the aged. A report which I think is very good has been presented. I have announced and I made it clear- and it is in line with Government policy- that there will not be substantial expenditure on new initiatives in this field or in any other field until such time as we can say that we have made some effective impact on inflation in this country. There are, within the report, suggestions as to how there could be improvements in the existing means of caring for the aged, that is, by providing domiciliary rather than institutional care. These matters are at present being examined by my Department. When we are able to make some determinations as to what parts of the report we will be able to implement and when we will be able to implement them, I shall make an announcement.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. In recent newspaper reports attention has been drawn to the fact that funds for the anti-smoking education campaign have been sharply curtailed while the allocation for tobacco leaf research has been maintained. Can the Minister comment on whether there is any inconsistency between these 2 issues?
-This almost sounds like a classical example of that thesis and antithesis to which Marx and Hegel and others used to refer. It is a fact that there is an anti-smoking education campaign being conducted by the Government which is aimed at discouraging adults and younger people from smoking. We are, at the same time, providing money to assist the tobacco farming community to produce a crop which is acceptable to the manufacturers of cigarettes and other tobacco products. This is an unusual situation in which we find ourselves. I think that we are probably not the only government in the world which finds itself in this position. The money distributed from the tobacco industry trust account is used for research and technical advice services but not the promotion of the consumption of tobacco. The main motivation is to see that the industry in which primarily the tobacco farmers are smallholders remains a viable industry for the smallholders. There is no authority under the Tobacco Industry Act of 1955, which was passed by the previous GovernmentI understand from Senator Greenwood that he has given up smoking cigarettes- to authorise promotional expenditure under the tobacco industry trust account. The purpose of this is also to see that the proportion of Australian leaf is maintained. So, let me sum up the existing position of the Government: On the one hand we are spending money to see that people do not smoke and on the other hand we are spending money to see that if people do smoke they will be smoking high quality Australian tobacco produced by yeoman tobacco farmers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property. Is the Minister aware that twice during recent weeks a person claiming to be an officer of the Department of Services and Property telephoned the Burnie Municipal Council offices in Tasmania and inquired, on the first occasion, as to the political affiliation of the
Council Clerk and, on the second occasion, as to the political affiliation of the Warden of the municipality? Was the caller in fact an officer of the Department? If so, why was such a call made? Is this a further example, along with the superphosphate bounty snooping and other examples, of a Big Brother type of surveillance by the Government?
-I hardly imagine that anybody who so blatantly telephoned and sought the political views of municipal officers could be called a snooper. I would not know whether any officer of the Department has been involved in such tactics. I will have to refer the question to the Minister for Services and Property and obtain a reply from him.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Recently he advised the Senate that the Australian Postal Commission was planning to introduce a courier service in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Is any such courier service proposed for Adelaide?
-The Australian Postal Commission is to establish courier services in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Recently I reported that the difficulties concerning the industrial arrangements in this connection have been settled. It is proposed at the same time to establish terminal services in each of the States. Presently the Postal Commission has a program for 3 courier vans to provide those terminal services in Adelaide. A full radio-controlled courier service is planned for all States in the future.
-My question, which is addressed to the Acting Attorney-General, is further to a question that I asked on 28 August 1975 concerning the Australian Legal Aid Office and the services provided to persons seeking advice in connection with the Trade Practices Act. That question is recorded at page 360 of Hansard of that date. Can the Minister inform the Senate as to how many cases have been granted financial assistance towards litigation in respect of actions taken in Tasmania in connection with the Trade Practices Act? Have any persons been refused legal aid in respect of such actions on the ground of means? What criteria exist to determine the means of persons who may be seeking assistance in respect of legal actions? Is the Australian Legal Aid Office still advertising that it offers free legal aid? If so, is that not misleading advertising?
-Senator Marriott was good enough to give me some prior notice of his intention to ask this series of questions. The Attorney-General’s Department has supplied me with certain information, which I will now give to the honourable senator. I think that I should make it clear at the outset that applications for assistance under section 170 of the Trade Practices Act are not matters for approval by the Australian Legal Aid Office. The section provides that assistance may be approved by the Attorney-General or an officer of the Australian Public Service authorised in writing by the Attorney-General. No such authority has been given by the Attorney-General. The matters in relation to which the Office may approve aid arise under Part V of the Act, which contains the consumer protection provisions, and include legal proceedings involving false and misleading advertisements, misleading or deceptive conduct and other consumer protection matters.
The answers to the specific questions raised by the honourable senator are as follows: As to the first 2 questions in relation to section 1 70 of the Trade Practices Act, no applications have been made to the Attorney-General for financial assistance in relation to matters arising under that section in Tasmania. Advice has been given by the Australian Legal Aid Office to several hundred persons throughout the State in regard to matters arising under the consumer protection provisions of the Act. No separate statistical record has been kept of assistance granted or refused in respect of consumer protection matters.
The answer to the third question is that the criteria for applications under section 170 of the Trade Practices Act are set out in that section. Briefly, the Attorney-General has to be satisfied that there is hardship and that in all the circumstances it is reasonable to approve assistance. When legal aid is sought from the Australian Legal Aid Office in a consumer protection action the criteria are the same as for any other action. The means and needs test is inability to afford the cost of legal representation in the particular case. The Office has guidelines for the application of this test which have been made available to all solicitors. I shall be pleased to arrange for a copy of the guidelines to be provided to the honourable senator.
The answer to the fourth question is that advice and assistance from the Australian Legal Aid Office, subject to the means and needs test of the Office, were free until a system of contributions was introduced on 1 August 1975. Under the system applicants who could afford to contribute to the cost of their cases were asked to do so. Consequently, the Office is not advertising that it offers free legal aid.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Media: How many women employed in the Australian Information Service now represent Australia overseas? Is a statement of the previous Minister for the Media that more women will be posted to Australian Information Service posts overseas as soon as they have completed language training in accordance with the policy of the present Minister for the Media? If so, what language courses are being undertaken and when are they expected to be completed?
– When I was Minister for the Media I was commencing to institute a system whereby women journalists in the employ of the Australian Information Service would be posted to Australian Information Service posts abroad. Until that time no female journalist in the employ of the Australian Information Service under the previous Government had been posted abroad. At the time that I vacated the office of the Minister for the Media one woman journalist had been sent to a posting in London. The present Minister for the Media has advised me that he is in complete agreement with the policy of posting overseas women serving in the Australian Information Service but that no women are presently employed in language training courses as a preparation for overseas appointments. However, it is expected that in the near future some women will be posted to English speaking countries where a second language is not required.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the directions which the Minister has given to the various independent statutory commissions in regard to compliance with the Government’s guidelines in relation to wage and salary policies. Specifically I refer to the discussions which the Minister has been having with the PostmasterGeneral in relation to the salary and staff structures of the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. Do the Government’s directions and guidelines to statutory commissions extend to reclassification of positions, to the creation of new positions and to allowances as well as to the ordinary indexation of wages and salaries? How do those directions differ from the control in relation to such commissions which would hitherto have been exercised by the Public Service Board? When does the Minister expect to be in a position to indicate clearly whether the new salary and staffing structures of the postal and telecommunications commissions adhere to the Government’s guidelines?
-The Prime Minister sent a letter on 14 June to all Ministers setting out the Government’s attitude in respect of claims for wages or kindred matters made to departments under the general aegis of the Public Service Board, and also to statutory bodies and institutions which were not subject to the direction of the Public Service Board. In general it instructed all such Government instrumentalities that there should be a coordinated approach to demands or requests for alterations in the salary status or working conditions of the employees of such departments and statutory bodies. The 2 new commissions into which the former Post Office was broken up, the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission, are in a novel and exceptional position vis-a-vis other statutory authorities in this country in that they enjoy a greater measure of independence, in fact almost total independence, as against the relationship of the ordinary statutory authority to the relevant Minister. In fact, it is only in exceptional cases and under a written direction from the Postmaster-General that any interference is possible in determinations as to wages made by either of these commissions. It is a fact that the Government would wish even these independent commissions to follow the general guidelines embraced in our philosophy of wage restraint. Speaking for myself, I was not pleased by what happened in relation to the salaries of the top executives and some of the middle executives of these commissions. This was the subject of some discussions, referred to by the PostmasterGeneral earlier this week, between himself and myself and the Chairman of the Public Service Board and the top officers of these new commissions. The matter is still the subject of some consideration. I cannot say when a final decision will be reached as a result of these discussions but I hope it will be very soon.
-Has the Minister for Social Security seen a report that the Queensland Hibernian Medical and Hospital Benefits Fund has reversed its previous decision not to accept the Medibank statement for payment of gap insurance? Does this now mean that the Medical Benefits Fund in Queensland and New South Wales is the only major fund still not prepared to co-operate with Medibank?
-As a fellow IrishAustralian I am delighted to be able to answer Senator Keeffe ‘s question by saying that he is right. It has been announced that the Hibernian Medical and Hospital Benefits Fund has agreed to accept the Medibank butts as evidence of the fees which have been incurred and will not require the payment of the gap moneys before presenting the accounts to Medibank. In Queensland the Manchester Unity and the Protestant Alliance Friendly Societies already had accepted the Medibank documents. I do not think Senator Keeffe would have been a member of either of those organisations, and neither would I. It does mean that the only organisation in Queensland which is now holding out is the Medical Benefits Fund, the Queensland branch of the New South Wales organisation of the same name. I think the Hibernian Fund is going to make some approaches to me for some amendment to the form of the butt to require some additional information. However, it has accepted the principle. This is further evidence of the fact that despite the opposition of intractable opponents of Medibank it is winning acceptance and every day we find that more people and more organisations have come to the conclusion that national health insurance is here and here to stay.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Northern Australia whether, in view of conflicting reports emanating from Darwin as to very serious delays in providing housing prior to the forthcoming wet season in the Northern Territory, he is aware that the South Australian industries which supply transportable homes are in a position to provide at least 500 additional transportable homes for the Darwin area before Christmas if they are requested to do so?
– I think the Darwin Reconstruction Commission has sought every method to supply homes speedily for that area. Contracts have been let already for the construction of homes. I think transportable homes have been considered also and some have been taken to Darwin. There is the question of meeting the cyclone construction requirements that have been established under the building code of the
Northern Territory. I do not know whether the homes prepared in South Australia meet those requirements.
I believe that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and the Minister for Northern Australia would have knowledge of the availability of these homes. However I am prepared to bring the matter to the attention of the Minister to make sure that he has knowledge of it and to ensure that, if possible, the buildings can be utilised to the benefit of those living in Darwin. I think the Minister would gladly accept the information.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture: In view of the improved prospects for the coming Australian wheat harvest, especially in Western Australia, what is the current marketing forecast and, particularly, what time is likely to be needed to dispose of the crop?
– The current pricing position for wheat is very good. The world market price slumped quite dramatically over the past four or five months but has now gone back to a figure, I understand, of about $140 a tonne, which is a very high price. The prospects for the Australian crop are extremely good mainly, of course, because of the very large purchases by the Soviet Union in the last few weeks. It is always the case that when the Soviet Union becomes a major buyer on the world market it forces the prices up. Notwithstanding the very high American crop this year there will still be a strong demand for Australian wheat. I can only say in a general sense, as I think I have said in the past, that this year will prove to be possibly the best season on record for Australian wheat growers.
– Has the Minister for Labor and Immigration seen a statement that is reported to have been made by the National President of the Communist Party of Australia, Mr Laurie Carmichael, who is also the Assistant Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, to the effect that the Government is applying unworkable guidelines with respect to wage indexation? Can the Minister suggest why Mr Carmichael should have made such a statement? Does the Minister agree with the oil industry observers who say that Mr Carmichael could well determine the future of the Government’s wages policy?
– The Minister could only express an opinion. So he has the option of answering the question or not.
– Yes, Mr President. I have no inhibitions about answering the question. I should like to make it clear from the outset that the fact that Mr Carmichael may be a prominent official of the Communist Party is totally irrelevant to my attitude towards him or his actions. I am interested in Mr Carmichael’s actions only insofar as they affect the wages policy espoused by this Government. It is for that reason that I have recently attacked Mr Carmichael and not because he is a communist. As far as I am concerned he is perfectly free to hold communist views.
– But that may be his real motivation. You have to take it into account.
– I am not concerned about his motivation; I am concerned with his conduct. I will not, at any stage, in espousing the policy for which I am now reasonably well known, lend myself to any Red-baiting in the process. I have met Mr Carmichael and I believe that within his lights he is a sincere man with whom I am in profound disagreement. But I hope that in espousing the policies which this Government has espoused we will not be led down the dangerous path of objecting to ideologies and philosophies which are not our own and will not interfere in- any way with the right of any citizen to hold opinions, no matter how unwelcome to our own. I should like to make it clear that I am fighting Mr Carmichael on the industrial front, that I will continue to do so so long as he attempts to torpedo the Government’s wages policy, which I believe is what he is trying to do. But I will not lend myself to any attack on his or any other man’s political philosophy.
– My question which is directed to the Acting Attorney-General relates to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 September in which a Liberal member of the New South Wales Parliament, Mr Dowd, described the Australian Legal Office lawyers as being inexperienced. He also made some other comments about the staff of the Office. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether Mr Dowd said that the Legal Aid Office was substituting youth and inexperience for sound legal advice? Will the Minister tell the Senate whether these views are justified in view of his own knowledge of that Office?
Senator JAMES MCCLELLAND To start off, some of the brightest lawyers that I have met have been young and some of the worst have been old. But my attention has been drawn to the newspaper report and -
Honourable senators- Ha, ha!
– I hasten to add that I was not referring either directly or obliquely to any of the distinguished lawyers in this chamber. My attention has been drawn to the newspaper report and to the statement attributed to Mr Dowd. The statement is simply untrue. The policy of the Australian Legal Aid Office has been to blend youthful enthusiasm with long experience in the law. Of the 153 fully qualified lawyers of the Office 78 are under the age of 30 but only six of those are under the age of twenty-five. The other 75 lawyers in the Office are age 30 or over and these include 35 lawyers over 40 years of age.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration: Does he agree that if reasonable wage restraint is not achieved in Australia inflation could destroy the Australian economic system?
– Certainly, Mr President. I believe that the present Government has an infinitely better chance of keeping wages within reasonable confines than any alternative government that is on the horizon at the moment.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation whether he would initiate discussions with the United States Government in regard to the position of United States portable pension recipients who take up residence in Australia. For the information of the Senate, I have given the Minister a case history which confirms my concern.
- Senator Mulvihill has been good enough to give me a case history of a person who was suffering some difficulties in this regard. I have had some inquiries made by the Department of Social Security and we are not aware of all of the provisions under which United States pensions may be paid to United States citizens or former residents overseas. But it does seem that the United States Government will pay old age pensions in certain circumstances where there are reciprocal arrangements with other countries. Some 3 years ago the previous Australian Government invited the United States Government to enter into an agreement for reciprocal portability of pensions. However, up to the time of the change of government in 1972 our predecessors had received no response from the United States Government.
– Perhaps it did not like Mr Wentworth.
-That may be true. I forbear to comment on the wisdom or otherwise of its judgment. In any case, after this Government was elected it was decided that it was not necessary for us to pursue this matter because Australian pensions generally became portable from May 1973. We are paying them. I suppose that there is not much we can do to make other countries pay them to their citizens. If Senator Mulvihill would like to take up with me the individual case to which he has referred or other cases if he has knowledge of any other cases, I shall see that the facilities of the Department of Social Security are made available to him to give assistance to any distressed Americans who have come to this country.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, relates to the payment of patients’ accounts by Medibank. The current practice seems to be to notify the patient of the receipt of a claim with a covering note indicating that a cheque in payment of the claim will follow. It is usually three or four days before the cheque arrives. I ask: Will this practice continue, with its greatly increased administrative costs because of the increased postage rates, or will Medibank use a more streamlined approach by making only one postal contact in respect of each claim?
– I, rather than the Minister for Health, am responsible for this matter as Minister for Social Security. Certainly my Department, the Health Insurance Commission and I are trying to economise as far as we can on postage and, indeed, on anything else. An indication of that was the cessation of the practice of posting receipts back to beneficiaries, unless they sent a stamped addressed envelope. I have to confess that I am not completely familiar with the procedure which Senator Bessell has referred to me. In the way in which he describes it, it certainly sounds unnecessarily cumbersome. I shall cause some inquiries to be made into the matter. I undertake to let the honourable senator have an answer as early as possible as to the precise procedures and as to what economies can be made in them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. As he is aware, some sections of rural industry currently are experiencing financial difficulties. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether any investigation has been conducted in order to ascertain whether it is possible to assist farmers who may be without income to obtain unemployment benefit?
-A similar question was asked not so long ago by Senator Bessell. I think he was referring specifically to farmers on King Island. As I think I mentioned at the time, representations had been made to me by an Australian Labor Party member of the New South Wales Parliament. We do have a problem in that a number of farmers are not making an adequate income. In fact, there are some farmers of whom it could be fairly said that they are not making any income at all, particularly in the beef industry in certain areas. This is not only on King Island; it is in northern New South Wales and throughout Australia as far as beef growers are concerned. There are other locally depressed areas, some of which have been depressed for many years.
As I said at the time, a real problem is involved in this matter because it seems that if one were to pay unemployment benefit to farmers who are in possession of quite substantial assets- I do not mean farmers who have actually left their farms because they cannot carry on; they are in a quite different situation as they clearly are unemployed- this would be a departure from the normal procedures in the payment of unemployment benefit. It could be suggested that we were engaging in the payment of some sort of an agricultural subsidy in an industry which may be economic but which it may not be in the best interests of Australia as a whole to maintain. It would open something of a Pandora’s box, I would think, with regard to people in all sorts of other occupations who may well own plant, equipment or buildings. People who own a shop or a factory which has become unprofitable and from which they are making no income possibly also could obtain some sort of unemployment benefit on this basis. I have written to the Minister for Agriculture, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, and the Special Minister of State as Minister responsible for the Industries Assistance Commission, with a proposal that the four of us or our officers should set up a joint committee to study the problem of farmers who are in this situation. There is no doubt that many of them have a desperate problem and that something ought to be done. Whether the correct way to do it is by the payment of social security unemployment benefit to the farmers I think does have some difficulties which would need to be looked at very carefully indeed before a decision were made.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. It has reference to the Senate resolution for the disallowance of the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination for a 3.6 per cent or 3.8 per cent increment to salaries. Do I understand that it is the Government’s interpretation of the legal position that salary increases according to that determination accrue and are payable from 15 May up to the date of disallowance, which was Tuesday of this week? If that is the Government’s interpretation, I ask the Minister to have it subjected to close and deliberate consideration. If that has been done, I ask the Minister whether the Government will introduce a Bill to negative that increase. I put to the Minister the point of view that it is wholly unreasonable and illogical to allow the determination to have effect so far as it is retrospective and disallow it as from the date of disallowance.
– I think I mentioned to Senator Wright the other day in my response to his remarks when I moved for disallowance of the determinations of the tribunal that section 7(8) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act, which is an Act of this Parliament, makes provision that a determination shall apply from the date on which that determination is made until the date of disallowance. That is an Act which was agreed to by this Parliament. Therefore, under the existing Act, the determinations having been made as from 15 May and having been disallowed last Tuesday, those determinations will apply for those dates. I have been asked by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to give consideration to certain other aspects of the legislation. I have been asked to give consideration to whether or not disallowance be a provision of the legislation. In giving consideration to that aspect as well as to other aspects, certainly I will give consideration also to the aspect raised by Senator Wright. I must point out, however, that the matter raised by him would be a matter of Government policy and therefore I cannot give him any further information.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. I raise it now because the Senate will be adjourning at a special hour today and I do not want to have to speak on the adjournment at that hour. This is a matter that ought to be dealt with today, before anything is done by way of payment under this silly 4-month increment. I ask the Minister to accept the point of view that the determination had effect only at the date of its determination and its retrospective operation, as well as its prospective operation, should be invalidated by the disallowance. If that is not the position, I ask the Minister to make a Government announcement today that a Bill will be introduced to give effect to that proposal so as to prevent a complete shemozzle in the form of temporary payments being made in the meantime which will be seized on as an excuse for not taking action?
– I am given to understand that what Senator Wright is suggesting is that there is another interpretation to be placed on the section of the Act to which I have referred other than the interpretation which is the interpretation understood by my advisers and by the Government’s advisers. I will certainly have the matter that has been referred to by Senator Wright or his suggested interpretation looked at by my advisers.
– Pursuant to the provisions of section 53 (1) of the Audit Act 1901-1975 I present the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1975, accompanied by the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of senators I present the reports by the Priorities Review Staff on housing and on assistance for structural adjustment, income maintenance, etc. Due to the limited numbers of the Priorities Review Staff Report on assistance for structural adjustment, income maintenance, etc., available at this time reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1975, I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) Pursuant to section 1 47 of the Defence Act 1903-1970 I present the annual report on the Royal Military College of Australia for the period 1 February 1974 to 31 January 1975.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report dated April 1975 by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled ‘A Review of Public Transport Investment Proposals for Australian Capital Cities, 1974-75’. Due to the limited numbers available reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1 974 1 present 2 agreements in relation to the provision of financial assistance to New South Wales and South Australia made in relation to that Act.
Senator DONALD CAMERON (South Australia) I present the report and transcript of evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on the annual report for the year 1972-73 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
This is the first report to the Senate by a standing committee in accordance with the Senate resolution of 7 November 1973 that all annual reports of Government departments and authorities including statutory corporations tabled in the
Senate stand automatically referred to the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee for consideration.
Remarks in the annual report for the year 1972-73 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission indicated that the Commission was concerned about certain aspects of its operations, and the Committee sought further information from CSL and the Department of Health. The CSL indicated a number of problems which we considered were peripheral to the major problem of having to pursue conflicting interests. On the one hand CSL has to operate as a commercial enterprise.
On the other hand it has to undertake essential public health activities and, in addition, it is confined to the purely biological sphere which, because of its sensitivity, is the least commercially viable. CSL has been charged with the responsibility of running the laboratories as a business undertaking. In line with this responsibility CSL has sought to operate as a viable financially selfsufficient entity. We believe that there is doubt whether this is possible under the present Act.
The Committee was conscious of the Government’s intention not to give CSL a broader charter but to establish a pharmaceutical corporation into which CSL would ultimately be integrated. The Committee also had regard to the Government’s recent purchase of a pharmaceutical company whose non-biological products would complement the range of biological products manufactured by CSL. In view of these developments the Committee has decided not to pursue the issue any further. However, we believe that if the pharmaceutical corporation is not to be established, then the present Act under which CSL operates should be amended. If the pharmaceutical corporation is to be established, then we recommend that the Government take into consideration the views and comments of CSL.
Finally, the Committee noted that the practice of automatically referring annual reports to the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees lapsed when the Parliament was prorogued in February 1974. This practice enabled the committees to scrutinise a particular area of governmental administration without a separate and specific reference from the Senate. We believe that such examination by the committees is desirable and recommend that the Senate give consideration to resuming the practice.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 30 September 1975, at 2.30 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to seek approval of the Senate for the establishment of an Australian Overseas Trading Corporation to engage in overseas trade subject to prescribed conditions. The economic growth and well-being of the Australian economy are directly linked to its ability to sustain continued development of its overseas trade- two-way trade, both imports and exports. Last financial year, 1974-75, the total value of Australia’s trade- imports and exports- was almost $ 17,000m. The international trade scene, however, undergoes a continual process of evolution, a process which was accelerated late in 1973 by the four-fold increase in oil prices. This radically altered the economic and trading situation of the northern hemisphere industrialised countries and the oil producing nations. Industrialised countries are now experiencing reduced, or even negative rates of growth, and the world is witnessing an unprecedented shift of monetary reserves to the oil-producing nations. Meanwhile the centrally planned economies, comprising one-third of the world’s population, and the world’s largest economic area outside of the European Economic Community and the United States, have been largely unaffected by such events.
The growing complexities of international trade in such an evolutionary environment have either demanded or resulted in more and more government involvement. All major world trading nations now have a large degree of government involvement- both direct and indirect- in its overseas trade. The time is most opportune to re-appraise what now appear to be gaps in Australia’s overseas trading machinery. Clearly, we must be better equipped to expand our trade with areas we have not traded with before in any volume. Our three largest markets- Japan, the United States of America and the EEC- remain of the utmost significance. Together they account for about 65 per cent of our trade, but they no longer represent the predictable, expanding and buoyant markets for our exports that they did in the 1960s and early 1970s. Without in any way detracting from the predominant importance to Australia’s overseas trade of these three key markets there is both a scope and a need for the development of other markets and for the further diversification of our trade.
The significant areas for such development and diversification are the centrally planned economies and the Middle East oil exporting countries. In the conduct of trade with these areas demands for government-to-government involvement in commercial transactions are becoming much more prevalent. Against this background the lack of an effective central and coordinating instrument of trading activity seems to represent a clear gap in Australia’s overseas trading machinery. It would also seem that this gap extends to a majority of Australian manufacturing establishments which are too small to benefit from the economies of scale derived from engaging in overseas trade. What seems necessary is a clearing-house type organisation which could act as a principal to aggregate small lots for export and bulk purchase import requirements on behalf of the small manufacturers. These seemingly obvious gaps in our existing trading machinery could be filled by the proposed new Trading Corporation. This Corporation could assist two-way trading development in 3 important areas; firstly, trade with the centrally planned economies; secondly, trade arrangements with the Middle East oil-exporting countries; and, thirdly, assisting small Australian manufacturers and processors into overseas trade.
Trade with the Centrally Planned Economies
The centrally planned economies conduct a very substantial volume of world trade estimated to be worth around $ 100,000m annually. Australia’s trade with them in 1973-74 was less than $530m. That is, about 4 per cent of our total trade. Furthermore, almost 80 per cent of our exports to this area in 1973-74 was confined to wool and wheat. The different economic systems of the centrally planned economies and their lack of understanding of free enterprise market structures make it difficult for trade growth to occur and difficult for trade to be developed or promoted in the same way as with the Western countries. These countries also have evolved special methods of trading such as contracts to balance imports and exports and switch trading which, though unsuited to Western trading methods, have sometimes to be employed if trading opportunities with the centrally planned economies are to be developed seriously. Australian traders, generally, are inexperienced in dealing with the centrally planned economies and have difficulty with their trading methods and thus, understandably, have been reluctant to seek to tackle and exploit opportunities offered in trading with them. The proposed Trading Corporation could help overcome this problem by providing a selling-purchasing agency with more direct contact between the Australian trading community and the state trading corporations of the centrally planned economies.
Trade with Middle East Oil Exporting Countries
One clear consequence of the energy crisis has been the growing trend of the now enormously affluent Middle East oil exporting countries to seek comprehensive, long-term, governmenttogovernment arrangements on agricultural development, foodstuffs, capital equipment and technology. At the moment there is no central government agency equipped or empowered to undertake this role. A government trading corporation by acting as a central prime contractor, sub-contracting to private enterprise, could act as a catalyst and provide a co-ordinating instrument for the consummation of diverse multi-million dollar trade arrangements and projects which seem to be well beyond the capacity of individual Australian private firms.
Assisting Small Australian Manufacturers and Processors into Overseas Trade
It is intended that the Corporation would encourage and assist the smaller and lesser experienced Australian manufacturers and processors into overseas trading. Some 93 per cent of Australian manufacturing establishments have fewer than 100 employees but they produce 34 per cent of the value added by the manufacturing sector. However, their contribution to Australian export earnings, though potentially large, is very limited proportionally. This is mainly attributable to such factors as an insufficient volume of production to export as single units and an inability to afford expenditure on export expertise and overseas market research. An Australian Overseas Trading Corporation could tender for small lots, with quality and standards specifications, and aggregate them into viable export orders backed with the necessary marketing research and skills. It could also act as an import agent to assist small firms with their requirements of imported materials and components. Small firms cannot order small lots direct from overseas and therefore are subject to higher cost inputs and suffer shortages to a greater degree than larger firms when essential items are in short supply. An Australian Overseas Trading Corporation could aggregate small import lots into viable orders to purchase in bulk, and after a commercial commission, pass on the savings to the small firm concerned.
Consultations with State Governments and Business Organisations
Prior to the detailed formulation of the Bill, consultations were held with most State Ministers responsible for development and all relevant State government departments. Their reaction was one of general support for the need for the objectives of the Trading Corporation. Some, however, stressed the need for effective safeguards to ensure the private trading sector was in no way disadvantaged. The proposal was also discussed with the Trade Development Council, major proposal houses, the Australian Manufacturers Export Council, the Australian Chambers of Commerce and the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association. In these consultations it was emphasised that the Trading Corporation would seek to fully co-operate with and complement the activities of the private sector. It would seek to generate new business- business that might otherwise be lost to Australia. It would not impinge in any way on the functions of the statutory marketing boards. Its facilities would be available to them only if the board in question requested it. It would be excluded from retailing and would have to market its goods through existing distributive channels. The Corporation would be operated on commercial lines and be subject to the same taxes and benefits as private trading houses.
The safeguards written into the Bill for the private sector are quite explicit. The Corporation would not be empowered to export goods to a market where commercial trading houses had an established and continuing trade in those goods to that market, except with the consent of the trading house concerned or the importer. It is not intended that the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation would enjoy, as a Government agency, any exclusive or preferred position in trading nor would it seek to cut across or interfere with existing trade patterns or associations developed by Australian trading houses. It would concentrate on the generation of new business. Traders concerned in these matters have the right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. These safeguards are a guarantee that no one in Australia will be deprived of any business in which he is engaged at present or need fear that his activities will be curtailed by the advent of the Overseas Trading Corporation.
The Corporation is to be conducted as a commercial undertaking, aiming at making a reasonable return on its capital, which will be $ 1 m advanced by the Government. It will not be subject to the direction of the Minister in its ordinary business dealings. If it considers a transaction to be in the national interest by reason of its size or potential, but not commercially attractive, it may request the government to permit it to undertake the deal. If the government agrees, it will reimburse the Corporation for any losses that may be sustained. The Bill provides for a corporate body with 10 directors, two of whom will be full time. The 2 full time directors, the Managing Director and the Deputy Managing Director, will run the day to day business of the Corporation. They will be paid salaries commensurate with the importance of the position, as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. As public money is being provided for the capital of the Corporation, the Government will be represented on the Board, but otherwise the members will be drawn from outside the government sector.
The Australian Overseas Trading Corporation will use the administrative facilities of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, which would include office space, accounting and communications. Otherwise the businesses will be entirely separate. This will enable a quick and inexpensive start to be made to the Trading Corporation’s operations. The Corporation will appoint its own staff, to meet its requirements. It is expected that only a small number of marketing specialists will be required initially, but this number could be increased, if the expansion of business justified this. Persons with special qualifications may also be appointed to undertake specified projects, e.g. for helping to open up a market about which they had specialist knowledge. Salaries will be laid down by the
Public Service Board in consultation with the Corporation, to ensure that specialists of the required qualifications will be obtained. The Corporation will be able to borrow money from banks or other lenders, with the approval of the Treasurer, who may also make advances to it from moneys appropriated by Parliament. The Treasurer may guarantee any amounts borrowed. The Corporation is not permitted to have outstanding trading commitments in excess of $50m. The Corporation is required to keep accounts in accordance with commercial practice and to have them audited by the AuditorGeneral. It will also present an annual report to Parliament, containing an audited financial statement and an account of operations.
In these times of rapid change and evolution in overseas trade it is imperative that Australia have the machinery necessary to adapt to changed circumstances and continue to expand and diversify our export outlets. I believe that the proposed Trading Corporation, with the support of Australian producers, manufacturers and traders, can be an effective catalyst and coordinator in enabling Australia to do this. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to make a brief statement about the speculation concerning the possibility of an election. I do so as a non-Labor politician who was happy enough this week to support an amendment which was put forward by the Opposition and which was critical of this Government’s handling of its Budget and of its general approach to economic affairs in Australia. Having said that I want to say that I am concerned, as so many people are concerned, about what is so obvious. None of us and none of those who are so closely associated with this place can be so innocent as not to be able to recognise the momentum that is running within the Opposition parties for an election. The content of various speeches of members of the Opposition in the Senate can leave one with no other impression than that the Opposition is looking for the first spark that it can find to ignite the procedures that will lead to an election. I believe that this is something that is dangerous for Australia, dangerous for the institution of Parliament itself and, as I will point out directly, possibly very dangerous indeed for the Opposition itself. I therefore take the opportunity to protest at what is obviously recognisable, to say that I do not support it and to appeal to those members of the Opposition who have previously- privately or publicly- expressed their view that it is wrong for the Senate to deny the right of a government to exist except under quite extraordinary circumstances.
The choice in these matters is as always. It is the matter of the survival of the institution versus the purposes of a party, its ideology and the short term considerations as to whether a government is performing properly. There has been a great deal of comment in the last few months in particular and over the last few years in general concerning the propriety of an Upper House such as the Senate, that is not properly based on the electors of Australia but based for its elective purposes on the population of States, which has no regard to any particular weight and value of votes, taking certain action. A great deal has been said about this matter. I remind the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) of the remarks of his own people in this regard. I say directly to the Leader of the Opposition in this House that I hope for his own party’s sake as well as for the sake of the institution that he will not be able to marshal the numbers in this House to reject this Budget. I will not join him in helping in that rejection.
A well known member of the Liberal Party of Australia made some significant comments about this matter last year when it was controversial. I refer to the Honourable Mr Killen, who has been quite outspoken about the rejection of Supply in the Senate. On 1 1 April 1 974 he said:
The Senate has the power to force the House of Representatives to the people but the House of Representatives cannot force the Senate to the people.
I will go on directly and say how the situation is the reverse now.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. This speech is developing into an address as to the proper vote to be given on legislation that is to come before the chamber. We have had an extensive Budget debate of an indicative nature; that is to say, that note be taken of the Budget Papers. It is the height of presumption and completely inappropriate for us to be treated, in a debate on a motion for the special adjournment of the Senate before midday so that Estimates Committees can sit, to an introductory speech as to the proper vote to be given on any Bill that may be coming forward in the next day or the next three or four weeks. I regard it as complete impertinence. I want you to rule, Mr President, that this sort of debate is creating a travesty of the Senate.
– You do not like to hear it; that is why you are objecting.
– It has been said that I do not like to hear such things being said. At the proper time I will join in the debate and give the answer to what has been said if the debate is allowed to go on. I have no doubt that every other honourable senator will also consider his proper situation. I have my views with regard to this matter.
– Order! I cannot allow the subject matter of the debate to be debated in the raising of a point of order. You have made your point, Senator Wright.
– Yes. I was - quite improperly- answering an interruption and I beg your pardon, Mr President I point out the consequences of allowing debate upon this matter to proceed at this juncture. We will be here, I hope, until 5 o’clock with everybody offering his or her views.
– On the point of order, I wish to say that I fully support Senator Wright. I object to any member of this chamber bringing into debate contemplation of how I will vote on some unknown measure at some time in the future. I also support Senator Wright when he says that unless there are some means under the Standing Orders of bringing to a stop this speech of Senator Hall, we will be here until 10 o’clock tonight.
– I wish to speak on the point of order. I realise that having to listen to Senator Wright and Senator Marriott is a pretty forbidding prospect and would be enough to deter most people from wanting to prolong the proceedings; but I do not think that has any bearing on the point of order. Senator Hall has raised a question of the proper procedures which ought to be adopted within the Parliament with regard to the rejection of Budgets in general and with regard to the relationship between the Upper House and the Lower House of the Federal Parliament. I believe this is quite an appropriate matter to be raised on the adjournment and there is nothing in the Standing Orders which says that it may not be raised on the adjournment. The fact that we have to listen to Senator Wright and Senator Marriott is a cross which we often have to bear, but I do not think it is a reason for using the Standing Orders to prevent it from taking place. It is not forbidden under any Standing Order whatsoever.
– The relevant Standing Order is standing order 63 which states:
The adjournment of the Senate may be moved at any time by or on behalf of a Minister of the Crown and on such a motion matters irrelevant thereto may be debated.
I have here a note of a precedent which says that the speaker must not anticipate or canvass a Bill before the Senate. I was under the impression that Senator Steele Hall was speaking on the way that he intended to vote. I ask him not to canvass any Bill that is before the Senate, which would transgress the Standing Orders, and to be brief and to the point in clarifying the point he wishes to make.
-Thank you, Mr President. As I said earlier, no one in this place can be so innocent as not to recognise the momentum which is gathering within the Opposition towards an election. I am unaware what device or what Bill the Opposition has its eyes on. Therefore, far from being in contravention of a standing order, I am unable to pinpoint any piece of legislation which the Opposition might choose. As I understand it, there would be several opportunities. The Opposition is obviously gearing itself internally and in the speeches which have been made here in general terms to causing an election before Christmas. That is an obvious matter which one can recognise from one’s study of the Opposition’s behaviour. I am appealing today to those members of the Opposition who have previously spoken out publicly to take some action within their own circles to prevent what seems at the moment to be an obvious -
– Do not accept anything you read in the newspapers.
– All I can say about the newspapers is that recently they have been filled quite consistently by members of the Opposition. Whilst I know that mistakes can be made in the transmission of information and in a precis of reports, the Opposition itself has been very ardent in its approach to the Press and, I would think, could not claim that it is ignorant of its own preparations. Notable members of the Opposition have opposed the procedures that caused an election last year and, I think, will oppose the procedures which are evidently working before us today. I refer to the statement which Mr Fraser made on 22 March this year:
I generally believe if a government is elected to power in the Lower House, it has the numbers and can maintain the numbers in the Lower House, it is entitled to expect that it will govern for the 3-year term unless quite extraordinary events intervene. I want to get talk about elections out of the air so the Government can get on with the job and make quite certain that it is not unduly distressed in these particular matters.
The Leader of the Opposition made subsequent statements on a particular program about his Party’s attitude to the life of the Government in general. One excerpt from what he said is as follows:
At this stage with the knowledge available to us now, today, it is our intention to allow the Budget passage through the Senate.
He went on to add to that view in other parts of the discussion with that interviewer.
A great deal of harm can accrue to individuals and organisations in this community if they are uncertain for the next 6 months or 12 months about the life of the Government. We have very real examples before us. The medical profession was caught up in the events which surrounded the double dissolution last year. The medical profession in general said in its remarks to members of Parliament that it believed that there would be a change of government and that it would be saved from the implementation of Medibank. The organisation of that profession and the individuals in it were greatly harmed in their own eyes by the procrastination of the Opposition and the failure of the Opposition to carry Australia with it in the election following the double dissolution it caused. Therefore, on that basis I appeal to the Opposition to create certainty, at least until the supplementary estimates of next May or June, as to who will govern Australia, for the sake of the people they represent as much as for the’ preservation of the institution of Parliament.
The grounds on which the Opposition can claim that the Government ought to be turned out of office need to be examined. I would say that most people would agree that had Dr Cairns and Mr Cameron continued in their respective portfolios, with their particular outlook on policy and their intention to develop that policy, the extraordinary grounds which Mr Fraser mentioned, and which I support as a term, probably would have arrived in the life of this Government; we would have seen a completely uncontrolled economic circumstance in Australia. But it must now be said that the Government has taken certain action which must be recognised, and Mr Fraser has recognised it. I refer to the fact that the two most notable people involved with the economic freewheeling of the Government have been removed from their portfolios. One has been removed from the Ministry completely and the other, Mr Cameron, has been shifted to another far less significant portfolio associated with the management of the Government’s policy. That in itself is a recognition by the Government that it had to take certain action. Secondly, there sits in this chamber a Minister who is fighting, and fighting hard- I do not know whether he will win- for the suppression of unwarranted over-award wages in Australia.
The Government has adopted a deficit policy in its budgeting, and the amount involved was agreed to in the Opposition’s alternative Budget. Therefore, the grounds for saying that this Budget is the extraordinary circumstances do not exist. They may exist next May or June, but we do not know. An examination of the Budget Papers and the first 2 months of the running of the Government’s program gives no confidence to the Government or to anyone in Australia; but those things do not provide, nor does the 5 weeks old letter produced yesterday in the House of Representatives provide, the extraordinary circumstances for a rejection of this Government this year.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. This speaker apparently does not realise what was raised in the previous point of order. He is now directly discussing the vote that should be given on the Budget, which he is prohibited from referring to by the previous ruling of the President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- As I see the situation, Senator Hall is in order in pursuing his remarks.
-I hope not to annoy Senator Wright further on that point, because I have finished referring to it. I come now to the electoral possibilities if, for some reason or another, on some issue or another, the Opposition forces the Government’s hand on financial matters. There are a number of alternatives. There could be a double dissolution, reminiscent of last year, with its consequent all-out to face the Australian community. No doubt that is a distinct possibility. I assume there could be a House of Representatives election plus an election for half of the Senate. The normal Senate contest which we are facing could be allied with an election for the House of Representatives. It seems to me that we could also arrive at the most unlikely circumstance. Technically, we could arrive at what the Honourable Jim Killen complained about so vigorously last year and that is a House of Representatives election alone. That is most unlikely at this stage, but it is a possibility.
What I am suggesting is that we might arrive at quite the opposite to what the Honourable Jim Killen was complaining about last year and that is a half Senate election alone. It is not the case, as it was last year, that the Senate could force out only the House of Representatives, if the Government so chose. The Government has the authority to call an election for half the Senate when it desires. It could well be that the normal machinery for an election in November, or whenever is necessary, could be set in motion for half the Senate. The Opposition could find itself in the very undesirable circumstance of having to come back, with whatever component it received after an election, to face the Budget or- in deference to Senator Wright’s complaint- whatever the individual measures were. It would face those measures again without any reference to the people on the composition of the House of Representatives. That would be a most harmful exercise to everyone concerned, particularly to those on this side of politics. Obviously the Budget has it defects. I would like to see this Government properly out of office, but I do not believe that what might be a useful political tactic would be a wise parliamentary tactic.
– Does the honourable senator like the horse to bolt first?
-Senator Marriott will have his say, as a representative for his State, when these issues come before the Senate. He can then stand up and be counted. All I say is that I hope the Opposition will consider its tactics far more carefully in the future than it did in the past. I remember how the Opposition scorned the advice that it should support a surtax for Medibank and how it regrets doing that now. I suggest that the Opposition considers its future moves in this chamber a little more carefully than it has done in the past. It will be not only a test of character for the Opposition as to how it handles the next few months, but also it will be a test of its commonsense. I hope we see a little bit more of the latter than we have seen in the last 1 8 months.
-We have listened to Senator Steele Hall who has experience of very short duration in this place and the most unique experience in his previous activity of any political expert who presumes to lecture this Senate. He comes here laying down propositions on constitutional and parliamentary practice with the air, urgency and assertion that we should take notice. Of course the position is that the honourable senator has seen that the newspapers this morning are flying kites arising out of a transaction yesterday. Senator Hall wants to be in the black print tomorrow. He is so concerned about the future of the country that yesterday he voted to condemn this Government.
He voted for an amendment which this odious Opposition put before him after he had had weeks and weeks to deliberate upon it. He voted for the condemnation of the Government. But the newspapers come out this morning enlarging it, and he thinks that this is a case to strip the new Senator Field of a little notoriety and Mr Senator Hall can get back into the newspapers. Let us examine the propositions that have been put before us as if they were loaded with prudence. When did any British Parliament or any parliament that has copied the British parliamentary system establish a proposition that the lower House of the Parliament is entitled to run its term unless it is defeated in the lower House? What constitutional authority is there, other than yesterday’s newspapers or the newspapers that repeat themselves and grow within themselves, as does Senator Hall, on constitutional matters, for an idea that a parliament elected by the people is entitled to run its term? I suppose that Senator Hall, if he were to remind himself calmly and simply that there has been constitutional practice in this country even within his memory and a little before his short experience beganbut no doubt he has had the opportunity to acquaint himself with it- would know that Prime Ministers have regarded themselves as entitled to advise the Crown to dissolve a parliament of which they may have a control by majority. Secondly, this newfound expert puts before us the proposition that the Government is entitled to run its term.
– So does Mr Fraser.
-Let that be so. I am not necessarily agreeing with Mr Fraser, but I am taking advantage of the opportunity that the Senate has provided, very conveniently for Senator Hall, to correct some of the nonsense, even at the inconvenience of the Senate. I was about to say when I was interrupted that apparently the new expert would give the right to a fragment of a party in the lower House, by withdrawing 4 or 5 votes to a junta or a party, to cross the benches today and to establish a new party and so constitutionally cause the Government to go to the people. That is to say, if the Government so misbehaves as to cause on the floor of the House a disintegration of its own support, then even on a procedural vote, according to the practice, if it fails by one vote to get a judgment of the House on a mere matter of procedure- which may be completely irrelevant to confidence, as in the Beasley case in 1 930- it is proper to have an election. How stupid and nonsensical and completely ignorant it is to accept that situation and to deny to a properly constituted second chamber of the Parliament a right to review, in accordance with the express terms of the Constitution, written as recently as 1900, limiting our powers of amendment so as to give to the lower House primacy in responsibility for financial matters relating to ordinary annual services, appropriation and taxation Bills, and Bills that might increase the charge upon the people, but giving us the right to amend all other financial matters and to reject all Bills. It has been suggested that a fragmentation of the government party in the lower House is constitutional justification for destroying a government but that this House is denied the right to reject any measure such as I have described. We have been elected on a democratic basis and on a franchise no different from that which applies in the Lower House.
– Some of us have.
– Some of us; yes, I agree. Now that the Minister has made that interjection I will use it in my next point, when I make the next substantial step in my argument. Just imagine the proposition that a fragmentation of the lower House will constitutionally send the Government to the people.
The next point I raise is not the one with which Senator Douglas McClelland has assisted me by interjection. I will come to that in a minute. What about the complete scatteration of the Cabinet in the interval when Parliament was not sitting? Without any Cabinet vote, the Prime Minister took it unto himself to nominate his 27 myrmidons for new stalls. Cairns was dismissed at long last, after several attempts had been made to get rid of him by his arch opponent the Prime Minister, and there was Cameron’s fall from the Cabinet. He screamed like a boy being taken from a tart shop. This is the reconstituted Cabinet that attracts the confidence of Senator Hall. In my political experience, if that had occurred to any government with a resolute parliament in previous days the party that had been so scattered to the 4 winds would have demanded a reconstitution of the Prime Ministership and therefore an election. Today, though, we have such abysmal ignorance of the true basis of responsibility on the part of the Party to which the majority in the lower House is justified in according its confidence that we have it suggested that, far from that reconstruction being a matter for an election, it is a matter for guaranteeing the new outfit the full term of office.
Now I come to the next point. We have a government which has a program and in respect of that program I think 12 or 13 Bills have been denied passage through this chamber twice, each one with an interval complying with the requirements of section 57 of the Constitution. This is a government that puts its policies into Bills. When they are defeated by this HouseSenator Hall played a part in the defeat of some of them- the Government goes on pretending to govern according to its policy and leaves those twice rejected measures in the discard. What sort of responsible government have we got in these circumstances? The Government is prepared to lie doggo on its policy hoping that favourable incidents will turn up and hoping that with the aid of a few adventitious eccentric interventions by Senator Hall and his ilk the Press will drum up temporary support and it will be opportune for Mr Whitlam to take a dive to the country to see whether he can escape the fire and come back.
That is the sort of politics Senator Hall is playing. Mr Whitlam can have the choice as to when he goes to the country. He can take the challenge to go to the country and has been given the opportunity by the Senate to do so a dozen times by proper constitutional means. But no, this has not been done. The Senate is to be intimidated, advised and lectured by a new eccentric excursionist from South Australia. We have been lectured by Senator Hall in his new found knowledge, but not surfacing above knowledge. He is never conscious of any fundamental constitutional knowledge. We exist in this chamber- a completely democratically elected chamberwith 2 adjuncts of appointees which add to the reason, in the proper political democratic sense, for the Parliament to face the people. We go in any double dissolution situation and in this other contingency that the genius of Senator Hall has found, namely, a half Senate election alone. I thought that that was inevitable according to the Constitution unless we can get a double dissolution or unless the House of Representatives will go to the people. I thought it was elementary and routine.
We have 2 appointees in this chamber. In Queensland and New South Wales is not Labor anxious that the people should have the opportunity to determine who will be appointed to the Senate? But no, this has not happened. The Government funks it. Senator Hall has taken the opportunity to make a speech, hoping that he will be given headlines in the Press. This superficial stuff is the stuff of which headlines are made. Senator Hall, a gentleman of such logic, yesterday voted in terms which condemned the Budget. He was twice reminded by the Chair that it is an impertinence, except after proper debate when the Bill is before us, to anticipate what the debate on any Bill may be. Yet despite that he took this opportunity, thinking that there is a straw in the wind or a feather floating for publicity, to give us a lecture as to what should be done on any of the measures that come before us before Christmas.
I rise only because I am tired and impatient at the ignorance that is paraded uncontradicted too often that this House has not the constitutional authority to reject any Bill. Of course we apply special considerations to a Budget.
Senator Steele Hall has said that the one possible consideration would be if there were to be completely uncontrolled economic circumstances. For the purpose of today’s address Senator Steele Hall forgot to mention that it was announced today that we have a deficit of $2.7 billion. It is almost equal to what it was last year, which was five times the deficit that the same outfit was predicting at this time last year. One cannot rely upon the deficit figure of $2.7 billion announced today being a reasonable prediction of our financial predicament 12 months hence. Even on the test of this new found expert, I ask: Are we in a situation of completely uncontrolled economic circumstances? I offer no judgment. I am just testing the absolute flimsiness and putting into perspective the inalienable constitutional position of this chamber. It has the authority and therefore the duty, according to the circumstances and according to balanced judgment, to reject or pass any measure that comes before it as is appropriate in the circumstances.
– I have risen more particularly in the light of Senator Wright’s comments concerning my appointment to this chamber. Let me inform Senator Wright in particular and the chamber in general that my appointment was fully in accordance with the Constitution and I took my seat here on that basis. Having said that, might I also say that I appreciate the fact that Senator Hall has made the reference to this matter that he has at this time. There is definitely a cloud hanging over this Parliament at the moment, which is a time when we are considering whether we are going to pass or reject high rating legislation. It is as well that members of the Senate should know the position as to what is likely to happen when we are dealing with the Budget Bills. If we are to have a set Parliament and if we are prepared to accept that the Government should remain in office for the term that it was appointed at the last election we can deal with the matter in a much more favourable manner than otherwise would be the case.
I can see nothing wrong with what Senator Hall has done. The corridors of this building have been crammed full with all sorts of innuendoes. Hardly a person who spoke to the Budget on behalf of the Opposition did not say: ‘We will throw it out and automatically throw out the Government’.
– That is not correct.
-There was hardly a speaker who did not make some such comment. The motion that the Senate take note of the Budget Papers was not passed unamended; it was passed with an addendum to it. The Opposition saw fit to move an amendment to the original motion. Let us analyse what the Opposition’s amendment stated and then draw our own conclusions as to what could be expected to be done in view of the discussion that has been taking place around this place during the last two or three days. It is very evident that there is more than meets the eye in relation to the speculation in the Press. Let us analyse the terms of the amendment. The amendment states that the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis because it does not provide an adequate program to defeat inflationwhich is a statement that I doubt- and because it does not relieve unemployment, it does not restore confidence in the private sector of the economy, it does not provide real tax relief to provide a proper basis for wage and salary restraint and it fails to restrain government spending.
Unlike Senator Hall, I supported the motion and I wholeheartedly opposed the amendment. Why did I do that? I did it for the simple reason that I reckoned that the Budget was an honest attempt by the Government to rectify a very difficult position at a very difficult time. I think the Government should be complimented on the Budget by the Opposition in the same way as it was complimented by the only fair dinkum independent in this chamber. I represent New South Wales; I am very proud to have been appointed to represent that State. I know that the people of my State are anxious that the level of unemployment should be lowered. I know that they are anxious to have indexation. I feel that the people of my State would not be any happier if there were a change of government in light of the avowed policies which the Opposition has said it would implement if it were elected to power. We will not see a different state of affairs. Expenditure will be reduced further, which will not create a favourable position with regard to unemployment or inflation. The Government has given as much relief as the present economic climate could allow it to give.
What do we find? Much has been said concerning the constitutional position. I am not going to match my wits with those of Senator Wright. I am a newcomer here; he is an old hand. I am just a plain public accountant; he is a lawyer. But I will say to him that on the records there are many instances of eminent authorities pointing out the dilemma in which this chamber could find itself if such rumours are continued and if we find that there is a to be a double dissolution. I have just pulled out of my drawer a statement in that connection by Sir Robert Menzies which appeared in the Daily Telegraph of 11 March 1968. He stated that in the end result the Senate has a full power to reject any Bill, but he argues that the exercise of that power would create an impossible situation and would make popular government unworkable. He restates the principle that whoever commands a majority in the House of Representatives forms a government and has the right, with his colleagues, to govern. It follows from that principle that it would be a falsification of democracy if, on any matter of Government policy approved by the House of Representatives, the Senate representing the States and not the people could reverse the decision.
I am prepared to listen to what Sir Robert Menzies said. I have a great admiration for him as a statesman and no doubt members of his Party would agree with that statement. We should be informed very quickly whether there is the possibility of a double dissolution because if there is such a possibility those of us in the opposition forces should have ample time to reinforce ourselves so that we can provide opposition to any double dissolution proposals. There is no doubting that the refusal of supply- that is what is hinted; do not let us hide our lights under a bushel- breaches the parliamentary system about which Senator Wright has so much to say and is contrary to the principles of democracy.
I should like to say to Senator Wright that democracy is the opposite of tyranny and oppression and to give way in this instance would be tyranny in its worst form. I have said that only in the light of what has been said by Senator Wright. I should have thought that he would have learnt the lesson. The ingredients at this time are exactly the same as the ingredients in, I think, April last year when the Government went back to the people. The people returned the Government that the Opposition proposed should be got rid of. Surely, with a double mandate the Opposition parties do not want a triple mandate.
I commend the Budget and can see no reason why Supply should not be granted as a result of it. I will fight to the last ditch. I speak as an independent. I speak as a person with no party claim upon me. I venture the opinion that in respect of many matters that come before the Parliament if members were not forced to vote with the machine many would vote in a different way. You would be amazed, Mr Deputy President, if I told you the number of people on both sides of the House who have come to me in recent weeks and said that they wholeheartedly agreed with what I said but they had to vote in the way they did. I speak as an independent and as a person prepared to uphold the principles of legislation and the principles of government. Senator Hall came forth today and suggested to the Senate that there is a cloud hanging over the Parliament. It is going to be a frustrating period unless the position is defined very soon. Personally I do not think that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has been caught with his pants down; I think he has been caught with his pants well and truly up. The Opposition may not think so but let it come out right here and say now that it is not going to grant Supply. Its members have made up their minds about what they are going to do. The bringing forth of the Bills is only a formality. Let the Opposition come out now and say that it is not going to grant Supply so that the people will know where they stand.
I think we would have a much better state of affairs if people were more honest with each other instead of resorting to innuendoes. The amendment moved to the normal formal motion relating to the Budget was the beginning of the end. That was the start of this situation. Then there was talk in the corridors and members of the Press were very active in trying to find out what was what. I have had representatives of the Press running after me all day long because they see that there is something in the offing. I commend Senator Hall for having brought this matter forward although perhaps he did so at an inappropriate time.
– I am amazed that this debate is taking place this morning. It is news to me, a member of the Opposition, that the Opposition is working at the moment to reject any particular piece of legislation in order to cause a double dissolution.
– But you could be on the outer with the higher ups. You are always a maverick.
– No. I have sufficient political nouse to be able to smell what is going on. The Press has created a certain atmosphere but that does not mean that it is talking with an authoritative voice. I noticed that one member of the Press was in the Press gallery while Senator Hall spoke but dashed off when Senator Wright spoke. He is the journalist who wrote in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph that over a period of years I had bullied the Liberal Party into re-endorsing me. When I spoke to him and said that it was untrue he said that others had said it. I think he is the man who writes under the name Cassandra.
– He is a good journalist.
– Yes. It was untrue. I always have put my case clearly before the Liberal Party selection committee and have always won. The newspapers print things that create an atmosphere and they try to find out what is going on. I know of no move at the present time to knock back any legislation. All this talk is a lot of theory and nonsense at the moment. These situations take place suddenly. If something happens and there is a feeling that there has to be an election, that is when an election comes about. Generally it happens suddenly. I know of no moves in my Party at the present time to bring about such a result.
The other matter with which I want to deal was dealt with by Senator Wright. The Constitution gives us a right. The fact that that right has not been exercised during the life of a Parliament does not take away the right of that Parliament. What was written into the Constitution remains as long as that clause or right is in the Constitution. No one can claim that a Senate or a Parliament is acting undemocratically if it carries out the rights the Constitution gives it. Senator Bunton referred to Sir Robert Menzies. I notice that all leaders, when they attain leadership, like to be in authority. They never like anyone to stop them in their tracks. I know that I have had that trouble even in my own Party. I can recall the days when Sir Robert Menzies did not like my opposing some individual measure. Unfortunately, in human nature there is the characteristic that when people come into a top position they like to feel very powerful; they do not like anyone to stand in their way. I think it can be said that the present Prime Minister is such a person. He likes to think that he is a bit above even the supreme power. Some of the members of his own Party have said to me at times: ‘Of course, he can walk on water’. When people have such lofty ideas of power, one realises that they do not like being frustrated. When all is said and done, the working of the Parliament comes back to the basis of democracy, which is the people. If the people have the right to express themselves at any time when the Parliament feels that things have got to a certain state, I do not think anyone can really talk about the Parliament not acting in a democratic way. I feel that this whole matter is a mountain which has been blown up. At the present time it has no basis in fact. I think that all we can do is wait and see how things go.
If the Parliament feels that the country is in such a state that the people should again have the right of decision, then constitutionally and democratically I cannot see anything wrong with that. As one who has sat in this chamber now for nearly 26 years, I can recall that when this side was in government year after year the Australian Labor Party moved amendments to relation to the Budget. As an individual I can never remember members of our Parties taking umbrage and saying that it was wrong for the then Opposition to move such amendments. The fact that the amendments were defeated did not make any difference to the fact that the then Opposition moved those amendments. I can recall the then Senator Murphy- a distinguished legal man and Queen’s Council- as Leader of the Opposition having some amendments to the postal regulations thrown out. If I recall clearly, at that time he said that the Senate had the right to reject any Bill whatever. Now the position has been reversed. If what was said then was correct, it remains correct. As far as I am concerned, he was correct. I stand here and say that under the Constitution the Senate has the right to do whatever it thinks is best for this country in the acceptance or rejection of any legislation.
– in reply- This debate has proceeded for the best part of an hour. Its subject revolves around the passage or otherwise of the Appropriation Bills. The Senate was to adjourn at about 12 o’clock for the purpose of forming itself into Estimates committees to consider those Bills. I suggest that we should get on with the consideration of the Estimates which are the subject of the Appropriation Bills.
– You are almost saying that Senator Hall wasted our time.
-Not at all. I advise all honourable senators that, after discussion with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers)- and in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition on this occasion- it has been arranged that Senate Estimates Committees A, D and F will commence their sittings at 2. 15 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Before putting the question that the Senate do now adjourn, I advise honourable senators that Estimates Committees will sit at 2.15 p.m. The bells will be rung for 3 minutes prior to the Committees’ sitting. Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber, Estimates Committee D will meet in Committee Room No. 1, and Estimates Committee F will meet in Committee Room No. 3. The Senate will adjourn until Tuesday, 30 September at 2.30 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As the Minister responsible for the provision of Australian Government car transport in the States I have prepared the following co-ordinated answer for all Departments, including details for the Department of the Capital Territory.
In some instances where the actual cost of the cars is not readily available the cost is based on estimates.
Aboriginal Affairs- Permanent Head; Regional Director, W.A.
Agriculture- Permanent Head; Director BAE; DirectorGeneral F & TB; Director of FRI; Dairy Export Standard Officer; Egg/Dairy Inspector; 6 Fruit Inspectors; S Meat Inspectors; Veterinary Officer.
Attorney-General’s- Permanent Head; First Parliamentary Counsel; Director of Law, Darwin; Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, Darwin; Stipendiary Magistrate, Alice Springs; Crown Prosecutor, Alice Springs.
Capital Territory- Permanent Head; City Manager; Assistant Secretary, Land; 1 Branch Director; 1 Director; 1 Engineer, Class 3; 1 Foreman, Grade 3; 1 Administrative Officer, Jervis Bay; 1 Supervisor, Plant Pool; 14 Building Inspectors; 9 Technical Inspectors; 4 Rent/Account Collectors; 6 Aborculturists; 6 Technical Officers.
Defence- Secretary; Permanent Head Assisting the Secretary; Special Deputy, Navy and Air Offices; Defence Ombudsman; Australian Defence Representative, Pine Gap; Australian Defence Representative, Nurrungar.
Education- Permanent Head; 2 Maintenance Inspectors; 3 Apprenticeship Inspectors; 2 Teachers; Principal Education Adviser, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek (3).
Environment- Permanent Head.
Foreign Affairs- Permanent Head.
Health- Permanent Head; 10 Couriers; 14 Inspectors; Director of Health, Darwin; 44 Marketing Officers. Capital Territory Health Commission- Commissioner; 16 Medical Practitioners; Ambulance Superintendent; Director, Health Education; 2 Veterinary Officers; Commissioner, Hospitals and Health Services.
Housing and Construction- Permanent Head. Commonwealth Hostels Limited- Fire Officer, Canberra; 2 Field Officers, N.S.W.; 1 Housing Officer, N.S.W.; 1 Housing Officer, Qld. Snowy Mountains Engineering CorporationDirector.
Labor and Immigration- Permanent Head; 23 Vocational Officers; 7 Field Officers; 6 Arbitration Officers.
Manufacturing Industry- Permanent Head; Inspecting Officer and Manager, Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong (2); Manager, Munitions Filling Factory, St Marys; Area Manager, Avalon.
Minerals and Energy- Permanent Head. Atomic Energy Commission- Director. Snowy Mountains Authority- Commissioner; Operations Engineer; 3 Regional Engineers: Fire Control Officer. Pipeline Authority- Executive Member; General Manager (Technical).
Northern Australia- Nil.
Overseas Trade- Permanent Head.
Police and Customs- Permanent Head; Commissioner, Australia Police ( A.C.T. Region).
Prime Minister and Cabinet- Permanent Head; Director, Priorities Review Staff; Chairman, Public Service Board; Auditor-General.
Repatriation and Compensation- Permanent Head; Regional Officer, Newcastle.
Science and Consumer Affairs- Permanent Head; Officer in Charge, Inospheric Prediction Stations, Vanimo (PNG), Norfolk Island, Mildura and Canberra (4). CSIROChairman; Anglo Australian Telescope Board- Director.
Services and Property- Permanent Head; Chief Australian Electoral Officer; 20 Inspectors; 4 Traffic Officers; Senior Stores Supervisor. Purchasing Commission- ChairmanDesignate.
Social Security- Permanent Head; Chairman, Social Welfare Commission; General Manager, Health Insurance Commission.
Special Minister of State- Commission of Enquiry into Transport Charges to and from Tasmania- Commissioner. Maritime Industry Commission of Enquiry- Commissioner.
Tourism and Recreation- Permanent Head. Australian Tourist Commission- General Manager; 2 Assistant General Managers; Manager, New York; Manager, Los Angeles: Manager, Auckland; Manager, Frankfurt.
Treasury- Australian Taxation Office- Commissioner of Taxation. Reserve Bank- Secretary; 2 Chief Managers; 4 Senior Managers; 3 Branch Managers; 4 Advisers; 17 Senior Representatives.
Urban and Regional Development- Permanent Head; Chairman, Cities Commission; Commissioner, National Capital Development Commission.
Some examples of the bases used for the allocation of drive-yourself cars are as follows:
A need exists for a high level officer to be on call after normal working hours, e.g. Permanent Heads and Commissioners.
There is a requirement for an officer to undertake extensive travel during the course of his duties, e.g. field officers, and building inspectors.
There is a requirement for an officer to carry out duties of an urgent nature at short notice, e.g. medical practitioners.
There exists a requirement for some travel by an officer who is stationed in a remote area where public transport is unavailable.
The current total annual cost of all such cars for all Australian Government Departments is approximately $388,306.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many prescriptions for rauwolfia drugs have been written as pharmaceutical benefits for each of the months available since those for which information was given in reply to Senate Question No. 453.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Legal Actions Against the Hospital Employees Federation (Question No. 679) Senator Greenwood asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Deputy Industrial Registrar in accordance with the authorisation dated 26 November 1973. No other amount has been paid or agreed to be paid to Mr Brian William McClure or Mrs K. Gordon in relation to matter B No. 36 of 1973.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
What progress is being made towards the achievement of a constitutional settlement in Southern Rhodesia?
– The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There has been some progress in recent weeks in regard to negotiations for a constitutional settlement in Southern Rhodesia. However, it is still not possible to be optimistic about the outcome.
Following preliminary negotiations in Pretoria on 9-10 August, a meeting was arranged between representatives of the respective parties, on the one side Mr Smith, and on the other members of the African National Council of Rhodesia under the leadership of Bishop Muzorewa. This meeting took place on 25 August in a South African railway coach on the Victoria River bridge linking Zambia and Southern Rhodesia.
Meetings also took place at the same time between President Kaunda of Zambia and Prime Minister Vorster of South Africa, both of whom have been seeking to assist in bringing about a negotiated settlement in Southern Rhodesia.
The meeting between Mr Smith and members of the African National Council failed to reach agreement on the holding of further detailed constitutional negotiations in Salisbury. It is reported that the deadlock arose largely from the refusal of Mr Smith to guarantee immunity from arrest for African National Council representatives presently in exile, on the one hand, and, on the other, from demands by Bishop Muzorewa that immediate majority rule be accepted as the basis of settlement.
We are not aware of any immediate plans for resumption of the talks, but continue to hope that early substantive negotiations will take place, directed towards a settlement on the basis of majority rule.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) Department of Minerals and Energy
b) Australian Atomic Energy Commission
Defence Service Homes
– On 28 May 1975, Senator Baume asked the following question without notice:
Does the Defence Service Homes Act require that the applicant for a loan under this Act must be in occupation of the home in question at the time of settlement? Do some churches require their ministers to reside on church property? If so, does this mean that ministers of religion who are veterans are thus excluded during the period of their ministry from acquiring homes under the Act? In the light of assurances given earlier today to Senator Drake-Brockman, will the Minister undertake to include this anomaly with that raised by Senator Drake-Brockman for the Minister’s attention?
The answer to Senator Baume ‘s question is as follows:
On 28 May 1 975, in a question without notice, you asked whether the Defence Service Homes Act requires the recipient of a loan under the Act to be in occupation of the home at the time of settlement. You also asked whether this meant that a minister of religion who is required to occupy a home provided by his church is thus excluded from obtaining a Defence Service home.
The provisions of the Defence Service Homes Act specifically preclude the granting of assistance under the Act unless the Australian Housing Corporation is satisfied that the dwelling-house, the subject of the application, is intended to be used as a home for the applicant and his dependants. In conformity with the legislative requirements it is not possible for Defence Service Homes assistance to be approved unless the Corporation is satisfied that the applicant will occupy the home at the time of settlement or shortly thereafter.
Although you referred only to church ministers in your question there are others, such as bank managers, caretakers, and some serving members of the Forces, who also are required to live in premises provided by their employers and who wish to build or purchase a home in anticipation of their retirement. While, in view of the statutory requirements, it is not possible to assist persons in this position until they are in a position to take occupation of the nome, arrangements are in operation under which, subject to certain conditions, approval may be given for them to complete the purchase or erection of a home with bridging finance.
Approval to proceed with the acquisition of a home with temporary finance in the circumstances mentioned is subject to settlement within 5 years and to the condition that a Defence Service Homes loan to discharge the bridging finance will not be available until the applicant takes permanent occupation of the home, and then only if the policy in operation at the time permits such assistance to be granted.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750911_senate_29_s65/>.