29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 1 1.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to make a personal explanation relating to misrepresentation by the media. Last night the media reported that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr Lynch, had forwarded to me some correspondence involving a proposed appearance before the Senate by a Mr Khemlani, and the report went on to say that I was considering the matter. I wish to advise the Senate that I received no correspondence from Mr Lynch last night. At 9 a.m. today my secretary discovered on the table a letter from Mr Lynch enclosing a letter from a Sydney solicitor with reference to Mr Khemlani and his proposed appearance before the Senate. My secretary immediately handed the letter to me. Mr Lynch ‘s letter indicated that he had also sent copies of the solicitor’s letter to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Leader of the National Country Party in the Senate, the Leader of the Liberal Movement and Senator Bunton. I do not know who made the statement that I had received the correspondence last night and was considering it, but I regard it as a serious matter. I strongly object to media publicity involving the President in this way, and I hope that I can expect from those concerned a withdrawal and an apology.
– I present a petition from 10 citizens of Australia praying that the Senate introduce and pass a Bill to replace the Constitution with a new Australian People’s Constitution, the details of which are contained in this petition. As the petition is a very lengthy one, I do not ask that it be read by the Clerk, and, in view of the printing difficulties which would arise, I suggest that it be not incorporated in Hansard.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
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 whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator McAuliffe.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, in the matter of the approval by the Senate of Bills for Supply to the Australian Government, certain decisions and declared intentions of Senators of the parties of the Opposition in Parliament are placing in jeopardy the welfare and basic human rights of those citizens who are aged or disabled and thereby dependent upon pensions payable by the Australian Government.
Your petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon all Honourable Senators to forthwith determine as a matter of urgency that approval of the Bills for Supply be no longer delayed in order that the Government shall continue to adequately provide for the welfare rights of Australian citizens.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Bunton.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs in a position to state the evidence upon which Mr Marko Nazor was convicted in Yugoslavia 3 days ago? Is it true that the evidence upon which he was convicted related wholly to alleged activities in Australia? Is it also true that there is absolutely no evidence available to authorities in Australia, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, of any association by this man with any Croatian nationalist group of any description whatever? Is not the action of the Yugoslav Government an apparent denial of human rights and a ruthless intimidation of a Yugoslav national minority by a calculated injustice to an Australian citizen? Will the Minister make a statement incorporating responses to the questions which I have asked?
-Perhaps if I were to give Senator Greenwood the facts he could then judge whether his allegations are correct. Mr Nazor was charged under Article 1 1 7, paragraph (2) of the Criminal Code with being a member of an illegal organisation, the HRB- that is, the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood- swearing an oath of membership, taking an illegal name and membership number as directed by the HRB, remaining a member after the amnesty law of 23 November 1973, being a current financial member, and being trained for terrorist activities. Nazor pleaded guilty as charged and was found guilty as charged. The President rejected the defence citation of paragraph (4) of Article 1 1 7 on grounds that Nazor remained a member of the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood after 23 November 1973 and continued to work for it. Mr Nazor was sentenced to 3 years’ strict imprisonment at Split on 24 October after conviction under Article 1 17 (2) of the Yugoslav Criminal Code which prescribes the penalty for membership of organisations directed against the Yugoslav State. Mr Nazor, as I said, pleaded guilty to this charge. At the request of the prosecution and defence lawyers, and at the behest of Mr Nazor’s own family, the trial was closed to the Press and public. Nevertheless, the Yugoslav authorities gave permission for the Consul of our embassy in Belgrade to attend the trial throughout, and he also had the opportunity to speak to Mr Nazor.I believe we should welcome this step by the Yugoslav authorities. It is all the more to be welcomed when seen against the fact that although Mr Nazor had an Australian passport he chose to enter Yugoslavia as a Yugoslav national on presentation of a passport issued by that country. Mr Nazor has informed us that he intends to appeal.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is it not a fact that there is absolutely no evidence available to the Australian authorities of any association by that man with any Croatian nationalist group in this country?
– I imagine that the answer to that question would involve the security of this country. As Senator Greenwood knows, we never answer questions on security.
-Has the attention of the Special Minister of State been drawn to a report appearing in the Melbourne Herald of 27
October that a further increase in the price of bread in Victoria is expected? Is it a fact, as alleged by the Managing Director of Tip Top Bakeries Holdings Pty Ltd, that a decision on the application for this increase has been delayed 7 weeks by the Prices Justification Tribunal, thus causing considerable additional costs?
– The Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal, His Honour Mr Justice Williams, has drawn the attention of my Department to that report, and I am given to understand by him that in view of recent movements in bread prices the Tribunal considered that the application made to it by the 2 major Victoria based companies should be looked at in some depth. In the circumstances the time taken for that review does not seem to be in any way unreasonable and certainly was well within the statutory limits applying in the circumstances. There are two other factors, of course, that also should be borne in mind. One is that I am given to understand that the Joint Committee on Prices should soon finish its report following its inquiry on bread. The report will be presented to the Parliament and doubtless will be the subject of debate by the Parliament. The other factor is that I am given to understand that wheat prices are expected to increase again as from 1 December, and this too could have an effect on bread prices.
-My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister refers to the Treasurer’s disclosure on television last night that he leaked Budget details to the President of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, before the Budget became public. Was the Prime Minister aware of the Treasurer’s action and did he approve? If the Prime Minister was not aware, has he reprimanded the Treasurer since the disclosure was made? Finally I ask: Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate himself approve of such leaks being made before the Budget is presented to the Parliament?
– I do not know whether the Prime Minister himself was aware of the fact that not only Mr Hawke but also the State Premiers were advised of details of the Budget before 8 o’clock on 19 August. I assume that the Prime Minister, as well as anybody else, would accept the convention which has obtained over the years whereby certain persons, such as State Premiers and people who would be required to comment on the Budget, are given advance notice, the same as the Press is given advance notice.
– In a locked up position.
– In a locked up position where the same secrecy is observed, as I am sure it is observed by all State Premiers, and as I am sure it was observed by Mr Hawke. If the honourable senator can bring forward some evidence to suggest that there has been any leak in the confidence that has been given to any of those persons I should like to hear it. I am sure that in accepting the responsibility of prior informationwhich is only a matter of hours, anyway- that confidence has been observed by all those persons concerned, including members of the Public Service.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the continuing problems of civil strife in Beirut, can the Minister provide any furtherinformation on the welfare of Australian citizens in Lebanon?
– In the continuing climate of violence in Beirut our Embassy remains in close touch with the British, Americans and Canadians there, as I said in my reply to a question asked by Senator Marriott on 23 October. We have authorised the Ambassador to evacuate our people when he thinks fit, should this be necessary. Because of the unstable situation in the central city area, and especially in the area where our chancery is located, the Australian Embassy moved on 23 October to the Carlton Hotel which is on the far western edge of the city somewhat away from the main fighting. Ambassador Mr Peter Curtis is now resident at the hotel. Under present conditions the Embassy’s capacity to deal with inquiries is still limited. The Ambassador’s advice to Australian nationals is still that they should not go to Beirut unless their business is essential. For the time being we are confident that the Embassy can continue to carry out its functions under as secure a combination of living and working conditions as it is now possible to achieve. It remains the Australian Government’s hope that some arrangements may soon be reached between the conflicting parties which will restore peace in Lebanon.
-Can the Minister representing the Treasurer advise the Senate whether the Reserve Bank is beginning to express any concern to the Government at the rapidly growing size of the overdraft that the
Government has with the Bank which, as far as I can gather from the latest figures, stood at about $2,250m at the end of September?
-No, I would not be in possession of any information that the Reserve Bank has expressed any such point of view. I think it has been said by the Treasurer on many occasions that the relationship between the Reserve Bank and the Treasurer is continually under review, particularly in regard to questions of the money supply. I think it would be advisable if I were to refer the question to the Treasurer. He may wish to comment further.
– Has the Special Minister of State seen statements attributed to various spokesmen of the Opposition which suggest that the Government interfered with the basis of compilation of the consumer price index for the September quarter? Is it a fact that the Statistician and the Bureau of Statistics are responsible for the compilation of the consumer price index? Will the Minister confirm the independence and integrity of the Statistician and assure the Senate that the unfounded statements by Opposition spokesmen on this matter are false?
-As the Minister responsible to the Government and to the Parliament for the Bureau of Statistics, I can say quite emphatically that statements made by members of the Opposition along the lines mentioned by the honourable senator are not correct. There is no truth at all in the suggestions which have been put forward by a number of spokesmen on behalf of the Opposition, that the Government in any way has tampered or interfered with the Statistician in the compilation of the consumer price index. The fact is that the Statistician completes the compilation and publication of statistical series without any reference to the Government and without any direct or indirect attempts by the Government to influence him in the course of his work. As is usual in such matters, the decision on the treatment of Medibank for the purposes of the consumer price index for the September quarter was entirely the responsibility of the Statistician and the Government had no knowledge of that treatment until the day the figures were released. I suggest that for the Leader of the Opposition to say that the consumer price index is a political fraud, for the Leader of the National Country Party to say that it is dishonest for the Government to exclude the costs of medical cover from the index and for the Opposition spokesman on Labor to say that the Government is cheating over the consumer price index figures is to do a great disservice and is an unwarranted and unjustified attack on a very competent Australian public servant.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to the serious situation which has arisen in Kalgoorlie, where it appears that 500 mine workers will be retrenched by the end of the current week. I refer also to a deputation introduced by Mr Collard, which the Minister and I think some of his colleagues have received from citizens of Kalgoorlie. I ask: Is the Government concerned about the situation which apparently is facing Kalgoorlie and the impact on that town of the closure of gold mines? What steps is the Government taking or considering that it might take in regard to the matter?
– I am aware, and the Government certainly is aware, of the problems facing the gold mining industry, and I have had discussions with the local member, Mr Collard, in respect of those problems. There does appear to be a possibility of a considerable lay-off of the people working at the Lake View and Star mines. Of course, an Industries Assistance Commission report was presented to the Government in June of this year and that report is still under consideration by the Government. There have also been discussions with the chairman of Kalgoorlie Lake View Pty Ltd, Mr Brodie Hall, and the company has forwarded a detailed submission to the Government in order to alert the Government to the seriousness of the position as the company sees it. That submission also is receiving urgent consideration. As yet no final decision has been reached on the submission by the company or on the report by the Industries Assistance Commission.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. What are the facts concerning reports that the Australian Meat Board has curtailed approvals to ship meat to the United States of America?
– The Australian Meat Board, which controls the flow of meat onto the American market, has indicated that the rate of shipment has got slightly ahead of schedule, but only slightly. Our market in the United States this year is about 290 000 tonnes, and until the first week in October the amount shipped was about 266 000 tonnes. Australia received a shortfall from the United States of 10 000 tonnes, that is, meat which the United States was unable to get from its other sources of supply, and that has enabled us to export the additional amount of 10 000 tonnes. That means that at the present time about 23 000 to 25 000 tonnes remain of our allocation to the United States market, and I understand that that will be completed by about the third or fourth week in November, which would place us approximately a fortnight ahead of the shipping program. It is not a serious matter, but the Americans prefer to receive the meat on the regular basis for which the schedules provide. I am quite sure that there will be no noticeable detrimental effect on our export trade to the United States as a result of this.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Media been drawn to the behaviour of commentators on radio station 2JJ in Sydney on Saturday 25 October, and specifically to their call for ‘a day of anger’ and for listeners to call in to support the Whitlam Labor Government? Further, did the station advertise on 23 October details of rallies to be held by the Australian Labor Party in Sydney on that weekend and also give incorrect information about a Liberal Party rally to be held the following day? Did the commentators make a series of very specific, personally offensive remarks about the Leader of the Opposition? Were all callers required to notify the switchboard operator of who they were and of what comments they wished to make? Is the Minister aware that several Liberal supporters complained that when they told the switchboard operator they wished to comment in favour of the Liberal position they were not put through to air and were excluded from making any broadcasting comment? Is the Minister also aware that on at least one occasion when a person did manage to make some comment unfavourable to the Government that person was cut off the air in mid-sentence? Does it appear that the staff of radio station 2JJ is using the money of the Australian taxpayers to operate the station as a formal means of broadcasting political advertisements and propaganda for the Australian Labor Party?
-On 25 October- I think last Saturday- I was out addressing rallies in support of the Government’s case for the acceptance of the Appropriation Bills in the Parliament. Therefore, because of my engagements, I was not listening to radio station 2 JJ and I am unaware of what transpired on that day or, indeed, on Thursday 23 October, when this Parliament was sitting and I was also otherwise engaged. Of course, the honourable senator will be aware that this Government, while it has been in office, religiously has adopted a practice of asserting the programming and political independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Radio station 2JJ is a part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasting network. I suggest to the honourable senator that if he has any complaints about radio station 2JJ he should raise them with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Professor Downing, or with the General Manager of the ABC, Mr Duckmanton, or he might like to discuss the matter with Mr Marius Webb who just recently has been appointed a commissioner of the ABC, after being elected by the staff of the Commission and who I understand is an operator of radio station 2JJ.
-I ask the Miniver representing the Minister for the Media a question which is virtually a supplementary question to that just asked by Senator Baume. Is the Minister aware that the first prostitution of relations of ethnic radio in the radio station to which Senator Baume referred came when a Mr Larich, the Liberal Party No. 3 candidate for the Senate, spoke on a Serbian program and espoused his political candidature and the Party of which he is a member. Is the Minister aware that, when a complaint was made to myself and Senator Davidson in regard to ethnic radio, we advocated a code of conduct and that Dr Moss Cass, the Minister for the Media, declined to take action because, as he said, this was the exercise of free speech? I further ask the Minister whether he is aware of another breach by certain Polish right wing groups who eulogised Premier Lewis in regard to the exiled Polish government in London? I simply say that if our Minister for the Media, Dr Cass, is so democratic it may be that if these people give it they have to take it, too.
-Again I emphasise the Government’s policy of political and programming independence for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This Government has provided record amounts of money for the ABC to spend how and as the Commission chooses. Therefore, I suggest that any question that is directed in the Parliament in relation to the programming policies of the Commission should, in fact, be directed to the Chairman of the ABC, Professor Downing. However, Senator
Mulvihill is asking questions about the conduct of certain people in ethnic broadcasting stations which were established by me when I was the Minister for the Media and which, I understand, generally speaking have been an outstanding success. I suggest that because Senator Mulvihill and Senator Davidson are members of the committee that was appointed by the Government to oversee and override the activities of the ethnic broadcasting stations, the matters raised by Senator Mulvihill should be discussed by that committee. However, it does appear from what the honourable senator has said that a lot of people around the place can give it but cannot take it.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that employees of some departments have been told that their salaries will cease after their next pay and that some are in danger of being retrenched? Is it not a fact that he Government is assured of Supply until the ;nd of November and that the amount of money assured for the 5 months period to that date is 49 per cent more for Supply Bill (No. 1) and 1 10 per cent more for Supply Bill (No. 2 ) than for the same period last year?
– The question is somewhat involved but I think one can give a very simple answer and say that Senator Jessop ‘s problems would all be solved if he could persuade his colleagues to pass the Appropriation Bills.
– I asked a specific question, Mr President.
– Order? Does the honourable senator wish to ask a supplementary question?
-Yes, Mr President. I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether or not moneys provided in Supply Bill (No. 1) for this year total 49 per cent more than for the same period to the end of November last year and whether or not Supply Bill (No. 2) provides for 1 10 per cent more than was provided for the same period last year? I suggest that if there is no money about the place it is a demonstration of incompetence on the part of the Government.
– My mental arithmetic is not quick enough to determine whether the figures of 49 per cent and 1 10 per cent are right. Senator Jessop will have to put his question on notice and allow me time to work out the answer.
– Has the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation seen a report in the Sunday Telegraph claiming that the proposed national rehabilitation and compensation scheme will contribute to financial disaster? Does the Minister have any information on the operation of the New Zealand scheme which is given as evidence to support this view? How much study has been made and is being made of the New Zealand scheme?
-Yes, Mr President, I have read a report in the Sunday Telegraph of 19 October in which the finance editor of that publication said that a national compensation scheme in Australia would contribute to financial disaster and in which he quoted what he alleged were the disastrous effects which the Accident Compensation Act had had on New Zealand. I think the information was not very well based and it would seem that he was relying upon the Australian Mutual Provident Society which is not the most unbiased commentator on these affairs. If he were to have read the annual report of the New Zealand Accident Compensation Commission for the year ended 3 1 March last I think he would have formed quite a different picture and would have realised that what the Australian Mutual Provident Society had to say was not based on fact.
There are some differences between the accident compensation scheme in New Zealand and that which has been proposed for Australia. The New Zealand scheme is paid for by a 1 per cent levy on employers. It is in fact a funded scheme which brings with it a number of the problems which the insurance companies who are engaging in workers compensation and third party insurance are at present facing in Australia in having to provide for future payments which may be at greatly inflated rates on premiums which are paid today. Nonetheless the annual report of the Accident Compensation Commission states that the Commission sees no grounds for any immediate change in the rate of levies charged. Nonetheless despite the difficulties which there are in inflation- there is inflation in New Zealand- the financing which has been received from the 1 per cent levy on employers has proved adequate for the quite substantial scheme of accident compensation in New Zealand. Contrary to something else which was said by the Sunday Telegraph, namely, that the estimates in New Zealand had proved to be awry and that they had underestimated the -
- Mr President, I raise a point or order. Too often we see this happening when this Minister answers questions. I request that in fairness to the Senate he make a ministerial statement after question time. So much time is taken up in answers that it prevents many honourable senators from asking questions. I ask the Minister to give consideration to my request.
- Senator Wheeldon knows the convention. I ask him to reply as briefly as possible.
-Yes, Mr President. One practice from which I refrain is giving supplementary answers.
– What stops you?
-Just a sense of restraint which is not shown in the honourable senator’s questions. I am sorry that the Opposition does not want to hear about this matter because the New Zealand accident compensation scheme is relevant. Prior estimates for the first 12 months of the accident compensation scheme in New Zealand were put at between $25m and $30m. In fact, what was paid out by the New Zealand Accident Compensation Commission was $32.8m. This is less than the maximum estimate which was made by the New Zealand Accident Compensation Commission and by the New Zealand Government. The Australian Government constantly watches the operations of the Accident Compensation Commission in New Zealand. In fact, the success of the New Zealand accident compensation scheme was one of the things that encouraged us in pursuing our objectives for a national compensation scheme in Australia, despite the misleading statements made by the Sunday Telegraph on information provided by the Australian Mutual Provident Society.
– The Minister representing the Minister for the Media might recall that on 10 September and again on 1 October I asked him whether journalists employed by the Australian Information Service were to concentrate on publicising Government policies within this country at a cost of some $6m. I ask the Minister whether he has obtained any information from the Minister for the Media. If not, when is he likely to do so?
– I have obtained some information from the Minister for the Media. I was under the impression that I gave the reply in Parliament after question time one day. However, I shall check on the matter and provide the honourable senator with a copy of the answer if I have not already provided him with a copy. I am practically certain that it has been done.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 27 October in which the Opposition ‘s spokesman on social security is reported to have stated that a person approaching Government departments for welfare aid would be, in the words of the article ‘confronted as often as not by a crude, rude, untrained and insensitive person’. Will the Minister comment on that statement?
– It is very easy for people to make slanderous statements about public servants. Apparently they identify public servants with this Government and believe that by slandering them they can in some way slander the Government. I am surprised that if Mr Chipp is aware of such incidents as these involving public servants to whom he has referred as crude, rude people in the Department of Social Security, as shadow spokesman on social security matters he did not take the matter up with me and draw my attention to these instances. I am still waiting to hear from Mr Chipp about any specific instance. I have not heard of any instance from him at all. In fact, it is obvious to anyone who has any knowledge of the operations of the Department of Social Security and of the very difficult field of the payment of unemployment benefits, sickness benefits and age pensions, that the public servants are working under great difficulties. They are carrying out their duties admirably.
There is every indication that public servants in the Department will continue to work, even without pay, if the Opposition denies them their salaries as a result of the actions which it is taking in the Senate. I think it is worth while noting a report by W. D. Scott and Company Pty Ltd, which is certainly not a Labor front organisation, in its review of the Department of Social Security benefits administration in New South Wales and Victoria. The report stated:
Generally speaking we were very impressed by both the quality and job motivations of the staff. They were serious minded career public servants very much aware of their responsibilities to the public and prepared to work very hard. They were not inclined to look for overt recognition or thanks and they were articulate in analysing their functions and responsibilities.
I would be far more prepared to rely on an objective report by a leading firm of management consultants such as W. D. Scott & Co. than on the slanders of anonymous people by Mr Chipp.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration: Is he aware of reports that most of the men employed in the forestry operations of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd of Tasmania are to be stood down for a month. If so, what action is contemplated by the Government to alleviate the problems which are causing this position?
– I was not aware of the matters adduced by the honourable senator and I therefore ask that he put the question on notice.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. In view of media reports that a person named Khemlani entered Australia yesterday without the immigration documentation required by law, will the Minister inform the Senate whether these reports are correct? If so, what are the full facts and to what extent has the Australian Government facilitated Mr Khemlani ‘s entry into Australia yesterday and his existing reported presence in Canberra?
– I assume that honourable senators opposite are aware in minute detail of the recent movements of their client, Mr Khemlani, but for the benefit of honourable senators who may not be aware I would be pleased to give the full facts. Last Friday night -
– He is a man of great integrity!
-Mr Lynch evidently thinks so. I have been awaiting eagerly to get a question on the Opposition’s client. I am glad that at last I have the opportunity to answer one. On Friday night I received a telephone call from my Department and was informed that attorneys in New York had made an inquiry as to whether a visa would be available for a person named Khemlani to visit Australia. I, with the concurrence of the Prime Minister, said that a visa would be available and it was made clear to Mr Khemlani that a visa would be required. On previous occasions Mr Khemlani has come here without a visa and he has been told on the last two or three occasions that in future he would be required to produce a visa. He was told this the last time he visited here and of course it was made clear also to his attorneys in New York.
– Was he told that in December?
-My knowledge does not go back that far, Senator. After all, Mr Khemlani’s position has changed rapidly, has it not? He has become a darling of those who once said that he was a sleazy character and this has become clear, as witnessed by the events of yesterday because it was not a car of ours which met him at the airport. Despite this warning, Mr Khemlani arrived at Sydney airport yesterday without a visa. The Government did not want to stand in the way of any plans which the Opposition may have had for him. We did not want to whisk him out of the country. We wanted every opportunity to be given to the Opposition to see whether he carried anything in his bags which would help to get the Opposition off the hook, so I gave directions that he was to be given the usual transit facilities, that is, he could stay here for another 72 hours. He is obviously taking the fullest advantage of this courtesy which was extended to him by the Australian Government and is using his time to the best advantage. It remains to be seen whether there is any advantage to the Opposition in his stay.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration and follows the answer given by the Special Minister of State in relation to the consumer price index for the September quarter of this year. Is the Minister concerned that the trade union movement is claiming that indexation should show an increase of 2.9 per cent for this quarter? If the judgment of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is against any increase, does he anticipate further union activity in wage demands related to a 2.9 per cent increase?
– I welcome any questions directed to the role of the Government with relation to union demands and suggest that our record in this respect will stand up to anything that we could expect from a Minister for Labor from the other side of the House. We are not, of course, in any position to forbid the unions from suggesting that a 2.9 per cent increase or any other figure should be taken into account as the correct indexation figure in the hearing commencing before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission today, any more than we can forbid an employers federation from claiming that nothing should be passed on. The submission that will be put on behalf of the Australian Government at the present hearing is that the figure of 0.8 per cent, which was the figure for the CPI increase that was released recently by the Statistician, should be added by way of indexation.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the Senate whether he has received any more recent information about the possibility of the release of the Australian Broadcasting Commission journalist Peter Whitlock, who it is understood has been detained by the Provisional Revolutionary Government in Vietnam?
-We have now had confirmation that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has made arrangements with the PRG authorities for a number of foreigners who were caught in South Vietnam during the fighting in March to be flown from Hanoi to Bangkok via Vientiane at the end of this week. The PRG has advised us that Mr Whitlock is in this group. Indeed, that confirms what the Charge a” Affaires for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam told me a few days ago in answer to my inquiry about Mr Whitlock.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the Minister confirm last Friday’s newspaper report that public servants have been required to work overtime recently in order to draw up, as a matter of urgency, a list of Government achievements, apparently in anticipation of a federal election? Would the Minister confirm that, if the information was required merely for the Prime Minister’s end of year statement to the Parliament, overtime would not be necessary for that job at this time of the year? Can the Minister confirm that some departments have been required to draw up the information on a federal electorate basis rather than a regional or national basis, thus providing the details at high public expense for an Australian Labor Party campaign in each electorate? How does the Government justify the authorising of overtime on this nonessential task at the same time as it is threatening to withdraw other clearly necessary public services on the basis of a lack of money?
-No, I cannot confirm it and I certainly would not comment on the basis of a newspaper report that public servants were being paid overtime for such a purpose, but if the honourable senator places the question on the notice paper I will see whether I can get some further information.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the report in the Adelaide Sunday Mail that the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury is developing small airborne vehicles that are fitted with miniature television cameras? Is the Minister able to inform the Senate of the extent of involvement of the Research Establishment in this development?
-The report, which appeared in the Adelaide Sunday Mail over the weekend and which I have been told appeared in one other newspaper, was apparently taken from the annual report of the Weapons Research Establishment. For many years remotely piloted vehicles have been used for a variety of purposes, including weapons and gunnery trials. For example, the Jindivik and the Turana target aircraft are well known examples of work in Australia in the field and have been, of course, an accomplishment of the WRE. Until recently those vehicles have been of a moderate size in order to carry the necessary guidance instrumentation and control systems and, as a result, have been fairly expensive. With the development of miniature components the equipment has been developed to the stage where it can be carried for longer periods in small vehicles. The one that was mentioned in the newspaper report was a model aircraft. Australia has always had a very active program in research developments of this sort. Researches and studies are presently being carried out by the Navy and by a defence group. As a result there will be an evaluation of the use to which Australia might put this vehicle for its own purposes.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the proposed sale, at public auction in Adelaide, of a collection of sacred Aboriginal artefacts formerly the property of the Aranda tribe in the western desert of central Australia. Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs intervened in this matter? Is the Aboriginal Arts Board being encouraged to purchase these artefacts?
-The first I saw of the matter was a reference to it in today’s Press which stated that the relics would be saved by a
Mr Charles Perkins. If he has taken over, I do not know that there is any need for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to intervene. I think it is important for Aboriginal culture that these relics be saved. The article suggested that they were sacred relics which should be shown only to initiated males of the tribe. Therefore, the fact that someone has them would seem to indicate a breach of the cultural requirements of the Aboriginal community. I shall take up the matter with the Minister to see whether the nature of the articles is such that he should take appropriate action.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that telex messages are presently receiving great publicity by the media on behalf of certain Opposition shadow Ministers, can the Minister advise whether tests on a telex service between Australian subscribers and ships at sea have been completed?
– For the last month tests have been conducted on a new maritime telex service which will enable ships at sea to place direct telex calls to subscribers anywhere in Australia or, through the Overseas Telecommunication Commission’s international communication network, to almost anywhere in the world. Some hundreds of ships around the world are equipped to use the system. It will start on 1 November. Australian and overseas telex users will also be able to place calls to suitably equipped ships in contact with OTC’s Sydney radio station. The tests have been successful. We think the service will be welcomed. I am told that in the present circumstances a large container consortium already proposes to use the system and that the early response proves that the advance is necessary in the world-wide application of new techniques.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the statement by Dr Cairns that Mr Whitlam must have known about the negotiations between Mr Connor and Mr Khemlani after 20 May, and also as Mr Khemlani -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. That assertion is blatantly and obviously untrue. There is no evidence to support it. Therefore it is out of order.
– Tut, tut; you are sensitive.
– It was never said, as you will know if you can read.
– Order ! This matter can be raised later and debated at a separate time. At present I ask Senator Maunsell to continue his question.
– And as Mr Khemlani, whose evidence was accepted as sufficient to sack Mr Connor, has also made this claim, I ask: Why did the Prime Minister refuse to answer questions on this matter in the House of Representatives last week -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I rely on standing order 99 which states:
The following rules shall apply to Questions:
Questions shall not contain-
Statements of fact or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated.
I am relying on the words ‘statements of fact or names of persons unless they . . . can be authenticated ‘. In my view and to the best of my knowledge, from the substance of the question which is being asked by the honourable senator, he has not authenticated and will not be able to authenticate the allegations he is making by way of a question in relation to a statement made by Dr Cairns in the first instance.
– I take the point of order, but I must say that question time would be drastically curtailed if this standing order were strictly adhered to. Authentication is one of the great problems we have in this place. I ask the honourable senator to frame his question so that standing order 99 is observed to the fullest extent. I call Senator Maunsell.
– I was asking the question when I was interrupted. I shall ask it again. Why did the Prime Minister refuse to answer questions on this matter in the House of Representatives last week? Why has the previous Minister for Minerals and Energy not made a public statement to clear the Prime Minister?
– I ask that the question go on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs. I read recently that a meeting of the Australian and State Ministers for Police had agreed to develop services for common use by police forces. Is there any connection between this report and previous reports of plans to set up a police computer network throughout Australia?
-Before the commencement of the present session of the Parliament the State Ministers of Police met me in Canberra. Among the matters discussed was the making available of central facilities to police services throughout Australia. The Australian Government offered to establish computer terminals in each State in the Department of Police and Customs so that the police headquarters of each State could be connected to the central facility and be able to use the data available at that facility. As a result of the meeting of the police Ministers a working party was set up for the purpose of analysing the range of police data that could be stored in a central place and made available for the use of police throughout Australia. The computer service will have to take into consideration the report of the Law Reform Commission to ensure that the data which is stored does not contravene our laws on human rights or civil liberties. The establishment of such a central service will not only result in a great financial saving but also we believe it will make available greater areas of advanced police science and technology to forces which at present do not have those facilities.
– My question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy follows a question asked by Senator Maunsell, pointing out that the previous Minister for Minerals and Energy had not felt constrained to make a statement clearing the Prime Minister’s name in the loans affair. I ask the Minister whether he, as the present Minister for Minerals and Energy and now having access to all the files, will make a statement clearing the Prime Minister’s name.
-I ask that the question be placed on the notice paper.
-Has the Special Minister of State been able to ascertain from the Australian Statistician whether, in calculating the consumer price index for the September quarter, he changed either the weighting of medical and hospital services in the index or the method of pricing those services? In view of the general public interest in the September quarter consumer price index figures, particularly as regards the treatment of Medibank and the apparent misrepresentation of the index in a number of quarters, will the Minister consider asking the Statistician to prepare a supplementary paper to assist the users of these figures?
– In response to a question that was directed to me I mentioned earlier that the responsibility for the compilation of the consumer price index is that of the Statistician. When I discussed the matter with the Statistician he advised me that the weights of hospital and medical items in the index are unchanged from those used in the June quarter. As stated in the September quarter 1975 consumer price index bulletin, the method of pricing of these services remains unchanged. The Statistician advises me that these items have always been priced in the index net of Commonwealth reimbursements. Last quarter the price of these items was net of Commonwealth benefits; this quarter they are net of Medibank benefits.
As regards the second aspect of the honourable senator’s question, I am aware that there has been much comment in the Press and elsewhere on the consumer price index as presented by the Statistician. Although I believe that the Statistician ‘s bulletin was entirely clear and quite to the point, I nonetheless concede that a useful purpose might be served if the Statistician circulated supplementary information on the matter. I discussed this matter with the Statistician yesterday and I am given to understand by him that the Australian Bureau of Statistics itself had already considered the preparation of such a paper. The Bureau is now in the course of preparing a supplementary paper for circulation to interested users. I can advise Senator Brown, who has shown quite some interest in this matter, that I understand that the Statistician hopes to have this supplementary paper available today.
-My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the comment that he has made in the Senate this day that Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions was advised of Budget details prior to their announcement in the Parliament. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Were any other members of his Party or of the public generally advised of the details of the Budget prior to its announcement in the Parliament? Does it appear to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that it is a breaking of a very real convention when a director of a retailing establishment- Mr Hawke is a director of the ACTU store in Melbourne and a director of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd- is advised in advance of the details of the Budget? Does it appear that it may be an embarrassment to both Mr Hawke and the Government for this type of convention to be established? In line with the Government’s pronouncement of a desire for open Government and in view of the fact that the Herald of 21 October stated, according to a former member of the Australian Labor Party, that he had the Hayden Budget leak some weeks before the Budget was presented, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate lay before the Senate, in pursuit of open Government, the details of who was alerted to the Budget and on what dates or at what hour they were alerted?
– I am not aware of any persons other than the ones whom I mentioned earlier when I answered the first question on this matter- the State Premiers; the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser and Mr Hawke. All of them were notified some hours before the Treasurer’s speech was made in the Parliament at night. If any other persons are involved, I will have to get the information from the Treasurer, but I do not believe that there are.
-Is the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware that officers of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation have approached insurance companies in South Australia seeking information about methods used by companies to administer workers compensation insurance? Did the Minister initiate or ratify the survey? Is he aware that much of the information sought by the Department is regarded as confidential by the insurance companies? For what purposes would the information be used by the Department and by the Government?
– I was not aware that these approaches had been made. I accept that they have been; I would not be surprised if they had been made. It would be in the normal course of the Department’s business. The Department is involved very substantially in the field of workers compensation, and whatever may be the fate of any proposed national compensation scheme, there is already a very substantial system of compensation in the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act, which is administered by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation, and in the Seamen’s Compensation Act. I assume that if the officers of the Department were seeking any advice it was so that they could obtain information which might help them to administer better the workers compensation activities in which they are involved. No insurance companies are under any obligation to provide this information, and if the information is felt by the companies to be confidential then they are under no obligation to provide it to the Department. There is a quite free exchange of information between my Department and insurance companies on a number of matters. With regard to compensation for the Darwin cyclone, for example, there was quite a lot of exchange from one to the other about how that matter was progressing, and I assume that the same procedure is being adopted here. There is nothing sinister in it, and if the insurance companies do not wish to provide the information they do not have to.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDDuring question time this morning Senator Young directed a question to me relating to a report that he had sought from my colleague in another place, the Minister for the Media, concerning an article that was written in the Daily Telegraph on 10 September about journalists employed in the Australian Information Service. I told Senator Young this morning that I thought I had given him a reply at the end of question time shortly after he had asked the question. I now have ascertained that Senator Young asked me a question on 10 September concerning reports in the Daily Telegraph of that date about journalists employed in the Australian Information Service. I indicated in my reply that Dr Cass would be making a statement on the matter in the near future and I suggested that Senator Young await this reply from Dr Cass. Senator Young, on 1 October, asked a question on the same subject. I undertook at that time to refer the question to the Minister for the Media to obtain a reply. On 7 October Senator Young asked Senator Willesee, the acting Minister representing Dr Cass while I was in Nauru representing the Government on the South Pacific Commission, a further question on the same subject. Senator Willesee said that he would make inquiries from Dr Cass and let Senator Young have a reply as soon as possible.
Dr Cass wrote to Senator Young on 9 October and sent a copy of the letter to me. With the letter he enclosed a statement he had made on the subject of the original Daily Telegraph report. His final paragraph read:
I trust that this letter will also serve as an answer to the questions you asked on the same subject of Senator Douglas McClelland ( 1 October) and Senator Willesee (7 October).
I have a copy of the reply given by Dr Cass to Senator Young. If the honourable senator has not received the reply, he may have a copy.
– I inform honourable senators that I have received the following letter from Senator Greenwood: 27 October 1975.
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 give notice that Tuesday, 28 October, I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for further inquiry into whether
Yours sincerely, Ivor J. Greenwood
The President of the Senate, Parliament House, CANBERRA. 2600
Is the motion supported?
– I rise on a point of order. Last week I raised the point of order that the Senate ought not to proceed with the urgency motion moved by Senator Greenwood on the basis that a royal commission was still inquiring into matters concerned with the oil industry, matters with which this urgency motion is associated. Mr President, you will recall that that point of order was raised by me and as yet I have not had an answer to it. Admittedly, we are now in a new situation and I am raising the point of order again. I believe that the point of order is even more pertinent now because the Royal Commission on Petroleum is meeting today. I cannot see how we can enter into a debate of this sort at this moment, while the Royal Commission is hearing evidence, especially when I suspect, based on statements which have been made by members of the Opposition in the past, that the Commission will come under adverse comment. Therefore, I again raise the point of order that it is not advisable for the Senate to debate a matter which at this very moment is being heard before the Royal Commission in Melbourne. For that reason I am raising with added emphasis the point of order that I raised last week.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. As I understand the position, the subject matter of the motion which Senator Greenwood desires to move is not the same as the subject matter before the Royal Commission on Petroleum this day. The general inquiry is made before the Royal Commission. Senator Greenwood’s letter to you, Mr President, deals with the matter in some particularity. On the general question, I submit that whether there is any substance in the point of order will be decided ultimately by you, Mr President, asking yourself the question: Is parliamentary debate likely to give rise to any real or substantial danger of prejudice to the proceedings before the Royal Commission? If not- I submit that you should rule that it is not- parliamentary debate should not be restrained.
I know that Senator Georges raised this point last week. He has raised it again this week. Whilst not in any way attempting to take away or to deny the right of an individual senator to raise any matter in the Senate chamber- I say this with the utmost respect for my friend, if not, colleague, Senator Georges- I would have imagined that this would have been a point which either the Minister of Minerals and Energy (Senator Wriedt) or the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland), who has within his jurisdiction the oversight of royal commissions, would have raised. I do not know that oversight’ is the right word to use in regard to royal commissions, but they come within his Department. I submit on behalf of the Opposition that this matter does not fall within the normal rules. There are no criminal or civil proceedings pending concerning this matter, so far as anybody in the Senate is aware. In any event, a royal commission is not a court. It is purely an inquiry. It is a commission issued by the Crown to a person, not always necessarily a judge or even a lawyer, to inquire into certain matters. It is well known that a royal commission only brings in findings and recommendations. It has no basic power within itself, apart from the normal powers on controlling its own proceedings. For those reasons, Mr President, I submit that you should rule that this matter can proceed.
– Does any honourable senator wish to submit any further argument on the point of order?
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. The only point I would like to raise is that the Royal Commission reported specifically on this matter as long ago as 19 September. The Royal Commission has reported on this matter.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I suggest that the point of order raised by Senator Georges is not valid. Last week the question was raised of whether there was to be some litigation, some subpoenas issued or some raising of this matter before the Royal Commission. There is no statement today to suggest that that action has been taken any further or to suggest in any way that Senator Georges’ suggestions have been confirmed -
– How do you know?
– I think that Senator Georges would have made inquiries and told us if such a thing existed. I think Senator Georges’ silence is an indication that no such thing has occurred. It is a matter in which, if proceedings of a criminal nature had been raised and if a royal commission went ahead, perhaps it would be prejudiced. That is the opposite situation. But here there are no suggestions that proceedings have been issued or are contemplated and in fact the position remains that if the point of order were upheld then the right of the Senate to inquire into matters that are under constant public discussion and which follow from a report which has long since been issued would be prejudiced. Such a rule would prejudice the right of the Senate to discuss matters of importance in the community. I do urge you, Mr President, to refuse to uphold the point of order.
– There is no standing order directly concerning this particular matter so I must refer to convention. Convention requires that sub judice matters and matters still under adjudication in a court of law cannot be brought forward in a debate. That is to say the Senate will not permit debate in the normal way on any matter which would be regarded, if it occurred outside Parliament, as a contempt of those court proceedings. I am inclined to rule along the lines of a recommendation contained in a submission that was made in a paper on the sub judice rule at the first conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers. The recommendation was as follows:
It is a fundamental right of the House-
Meaning the Senate- to legislate on any matter. It is a fundamental right and duty of the House to consider and discuss any matter if it is thought to be in the public interest. If it is not inconsistent with fundamental rights and duties, the House should avoid setting itself up as an alternative forum or body of inquiry or permit its proceedings to interfere in the course of justice. Apart from particular matters, such as criminal cases, courts martial, civil cases and matters referred by a legislature to a judicial body, the rule has application to other hearings, inquiries or investigations in which the rights of individuals or community groups or the achievement of justice may be prejudiced. It is the obligation of the Chair to hold the balance between the rights and duties of the House on the one hand and the rights and interests of the citizen on the other.
As the point that has been raised by Senator Georges relates to matters which are sub judice, and as this is the ruling that I am inclined to favour, the debate can proceed.
– 1 move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for further inquiry into whether:
There was any agreement between the former Minister for Minerals and Energy and/or the Government and ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd to grant benefits or advantages contrary to the Government’s indigenous crude oil policy to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd.
There was undue benefit, information or advantage given to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd or to any of the directors thereof.
The need for a further inquiry into the matters which have come to light since the report of the royal commission of inquiry into the ACTU-Solo matter is imperative. This motion of urgency provides the vehicle by which some of these matters can be aired and the prima facie case for the further inquiry can be established. Allegations have been made in this chamber during the lifetime of this Government concerning the way in which it uses government power to favour its friends and supporters. I do not elaborate but we have seen promises not to enforce the law and otherwise to give benefits in return for substantial electoral donations. We have seen the rewarding of friends and supporters and, one might say, the curious tax benefits which come to donors to the Australian Labor Party’s huge building complex in Canberra. It is a Government in which patronage and corruption have been rife and the allegations have been documented. But these earlier activities pale into insignificance in the light of what the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum reveals concerning the ACTU-Solo affair. Persons who deal with the Government and who deal with others in the market on the basis of government policy have been required to adhere to that policy. Many people have seen gains and benefits but they have been denied those gains and benefits because government policy prevented them from being realised. But the Australian Council of Trade Unions joined with a group of commercial interests known as the ‘Solo interests’ and have been able to secure what other companies have been denied. Why? What were the benefits? What were the advantages which have come to ACTU-Solo? Why has the Government given these advantages? How was it that the company of which the President of the ACTU is a director- he is also the President of the Australian Labor Party- was able to make a deal with the Minister who has since been discredited and who has resigned? These are facts upon which the public is entitled to more information than has been given. The report indicates, by its terms, a pattern of deceit and misrepresentation for which it holds the directors of ACTU-Solo responsible. When taken with the Minister’s statements in the Parliament there is the strongest suspicion of a secret deal by the Government to help the ACTU and the President of the Australian Labor Party, who is also the President of the ACTU, in the commercial deals in which he is involving himself and the ACTU. This is being done by fraud, concealment and lies.
There is strong evidence of a massive cover-up by the Government, by the directors of ACTUSolo and by others, the full proportions of which have not yet been revealed. Serious questions about these matters have been raised inside and outside the Parliament but they have not been answered. It has been requested that documents be produced in this chamber and tabled. They have not been produced. No response has been given as to why they have not been produced and tabled. One of the significant figures in the whole story, Mr Hawke, has had the finger of involvement clearly laid upon him. He has declined to give evidence to the commission or to answer questions in public about the matter. He has intimidated prospective questioners and commentators, who have asked about his role, by outspoken threats of defamation action. On this issue he has woven around himself an unusual texture of silence of such a character that it is only the free speech which this Parliament affords which will expose to the public the facts which Mr Hawke seems to want to conceal and, equally and fairly, the exposure of these facts will provide material upon which, if Mr Hawke chooses, he can give his explanations.
Very briefly I recall the findings of this commission. It found that there was a purchase of crude oil by ACTU-Solo from Allied Petrochemicals Pty Ltd at $5 per barrel. The commission found that the price of $5 per barrel was well in excess of the approved price of $2. 10 per barrel. The commission found that ACTUSolo split this purchase price or split the consideration into 2 agreements. The first agreement provided that the purchase price was $2.10 per barrel and the second, undisclosed, hidden agreement contained the consideration for the balance of the purchase price. The commission found that only the first agreement was presented to the Minister. The second agreement was regarded as a matter not for government and it was not disclosed to the Government. It is relevant to read what the commission said on this aspect. The commission asked:
Why were 2 documents prepared when the transaction could quite simply have been set forth in one document;
Why does the second document freely refer to the first document while the first document, the one produced to the Minister, never refers to the second;
Why was the purchase price apportioned in this extraordinary way;
For what conceivable purpose were the documents procured in this form if it was not to procure a document which appeared to stand alone as a completed contract to purchase for $2. 10 per barrel?
The answers to those questions were not given to the commission. The answers to those questions have not been given to the Parliament. The answers to those questions have not been given to the public. The answers ought to be given and further inquiries should reveal them. The ultimate result, as the commission found, was that there were misrepresentations made which deceived the Minister as to the price being paid. As the Commission found, and I use its own language, ‘all the directors of ACTU-Solo bear responsibility for’- I underline these next words- ‘the deliberate deception of a Minister of the Australian Government’. There were other incidental findings. APC, an American company and normally the scourge of Mr Hawke, the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party, secured a windfall profit of about $VAm. ACTU-Solo secured its refined motor spirit as a result of this deal at some 5c a gallon cheaper and, as a result of a $2 a barrel levy which the Budget imposed, it received it approximately 11c to 12c cheaper and, as the Commission found, it would be inequitable and unjust to companies which have abided by Government policy for ACTU-Solo as a result of its misrepresentation and deceit to acquire any right to further allocation.
In all this the substantial finding which is incapable of contradiction was that there was an arrangement which contravened the Government’s policy. No one can dispute that. It is as plain as can be. When ACTU-Solo agreed to purchase at $5 a barrel this was a price in excess of the Government’s approved price. As I have stated, governments had previously refused to approve any purchase price which was in excess of its approved price. Other prospective buyers had been prepared to pay the same or more than ACTU-Solo paid but their agreements were blocked. The only one which got through was the ACTU-Solo agreement in circumstances which the Commission said were arrived at by deliberate deception. The Government ought to have been concerned and still ought to be concerned with the report as devastating in its condemnation as this report, but so far it has treated the report as too hot to handle and too dangerous to debate. It has not presented the material for debate in this Parliament. It has declined to answer substantive questions. There has been no prosecution for a breach of provisions of the Crimes Act and apparently there is to be no prosecution. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Mr Lionel Bowen, has said that no further allocation will be granted to ACTU-Solo. Subsequently, of course, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has indicated that provided ACTUSolo acts within the law, any proposition it puts up will be considered. Mr Hawke is publicly stating that he is hopeful, that he is anticipating, that he expects that notwithstanding the Commission’s findings he will still get his allocation of crude oil.
There are implications of Mr Souter’s statement which have not been explained or justified. Mr Souter has said to the Commission and subsequently that the Minister was not deceived and that he, Mr Souter, as Secretary of the ACTU and a director of ACTU-Solo had gained the impression from discussions he held with the Minister earlier in May that the second agreement was something which the Government did not want to see and that he, Mr Souter, was the scapegoat and that the Commission’s report was incorrect and unfair. We have not had any explanation from the Government or the Minister in response to what Mr Souter said. The Commission found that Mr Souter’s statements were false and, following that, 2 questions arise: First, were they false by arrangement with Mr Connor; second, were they false with the knowledge of Mr Hawke? The Opposition, on the material available to it, does not dispute the Commission’s findings. We take them as basic and build on them and use the additional material which was not available to the Commission and which the Commission did not have on which to make its findings.
One of those matters is Mr Connor’s credibility. He was at all times the relevant Minister for Minerals and Energy. The Commission presumed him to be honest and to have been deceived. He is now shown to be a man who has either lied to the Parliament or engaged in a pattern of misrepresentation and concealment which may be said to have amounted to the same thing. He is now no longer the Minister. Mr Connor had knowledge of many matters which ought to have put him on his guard. I shall not reiterate matters which I have already related to the Senate and which will be followed up by succeeding speakers.
Secondly, we have had subsequently the statement of a Mr Woodhouse, who has been a witness before this Commission, who has appeared to argue the case before the Commission, who has cross-examined witnesses and who was responsible because of what he told the Commission for the facts of this ACTU-Solo dealing coming before the Commission. He has written to the Commission, setting out material upon which he urges that there be a further inquiry and, in response to that request, he has received an acknowledgment. He has had no indication that the Commission intends to proceed of its own initiative any further. Mr Woodhouse also made a statement last week to the Melbourne Herald. The article in the Melbourne Herald was headed: ‘I had Hayden Budget leak- Former ALP man ‘. It then goes on to say:
A former Victorian ALP executive member claimed today he knew what was in the Federal Budget three weeks before it was announced in Parliament.
Mr David Woodhouse said: ‘I was told at the end of July that the Budget would introduce a $2 a barrel levy on the production of crude oil ‘.
At the time I didn’t think too much about it- I just thought it was big talk. ‘
Mr Woodhouse, to whom I have spoken since that report- I did not know him beforehand- has forwarded to me a statutory declaration, which I propose to read and then to seek leave to have tabled. It reads:
I David Francis Woodhouse of 19 Mornane Street, Preston Company Director in the State of Victoria sincerely declare
That further to the matter published in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on the 2 1. 10.75 I am prepared to give evidence on oath before any responsible authority of my knowledge of the details of the purchase of crude oil by the ACTU-Solo Oil Company. 1 would testify
. That the plan to deceive the Government was conceived and material steps taken in May, 1975 to implement this plan.
That the option to purchase the crude oil was exercised in May, 1975 as a consequence of the knowledge that approval would be received for the transaction.
The personal interest of the Directors of the ACTU-Solo Company in gaining this approval.
The arrangement made to mislead the Royal Commissioner on Petroleum in respect to the purchase of the crude oil.
AND I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of an Act of the Parliament of Victoria rendering persons making a false declaration punishable for wilful and corrupt perjury.
It is then so declared. I seek leave to table the document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Woodhouse disclosures indicate that a $2 a barrel levy was known to him before the Budget, that the plan was conceived and material steps were taken in May 1975, that the option was taken in consequence of the knowledge that approval would be received for the transaction, that an arrangement was made to mislead the Commission and that directors of ACTU-Solo had a personal interest in the deal.
I have indicated that Mr Woodhouse has been actively concerned in this Commission. He is not a millionaire, as the Federal Treasurer (Mr Hayden) wrongly has alleged. The Treasurer’s assertions were calculated, I believe, to discredit Mr Woodhouse for fear of what he would say. I have been assured by Mr Woodhouse that he is not a wealthy, self interested person- he is a service station proprietor, living in a humble weatherboard house in Melbourne- and that the allegations of the Treasurer are completely unfounded. He has made these allegations in a statutory declaration. He wants to amplify the allegations in evidence. I cannot say that what Mr Woodhouse has alleged must be true or is true, but he is entitled in the light of the allegations he has made, to have them put before a proper inquiry, to be able to make his statements on oath and to have anyone who challenges them or wants to contradict them to put his case also and to test Mr Woodhouse as to his credibility. That is only right and proper when allegations of this serious character are made.
I have asked Mr Woodhouse for, and he has told me, the broad outline of what he would say. He claims he was told there was to be a $2 a barrel levy on the production of crude oil, which was a Budget proposal that generally came as a surprise and which doubled the price. Mr Hayden stated that Mr Hawke knew nothing of it. But on what basis did Mr Woodhouse on 5 August 1975- 14 days before the Budget- ask a question in the Commission which presumed that the crude was to double its price, which in fact it did as a result of the $2 a barrel levy imposed by the Budget.
Sitting suspended from I tol p.m.
-If the source of the information upon which Mr Woodhouse bases his story is claimed to be what Mr Hawke told his fellow director, Mr Wieland, how did Mr Hawke know of a decision which Mr Hayden has said in the Parliament was made, and known to only a few people on 30 July? I make no judgment. The seriousness of the accusation is beyond question. It ought to be tested. Those who would rebut it ought to have their opportunity to put their account. If on 7 May 1975, that early date, Mr Woodhouse was able to ask questions before the Commission, as he was, pointing to a link between the ACTU and the Solo interests which would put the ACTU in an advantageous position, the question must arise as to where he got his information at that stage. If on 28 August he was able to state that the directors of ACTU-Solo would come before- the Commission and claim that there was a profit-sharing agreement between APC and ACTU-Solo, as ultimately proved to be the case, is not this some evidence that Mr Woodhouse had the information which he claimed to have at an early stage? These are matters warranting inquiry.
The position of Mr Hawke no less warrants inquiry. In paragraph 15.4 of the report of the Commission these words appear:
The Commission finds that the directors of ACTU-Solo, other than Mr Hawke, initiated and carried through a course of conduct designed to mislead and deceive the Minister for Minerals and Energy. As to Mr Hawke, the Commission makes no finding.
One needs to look at paragraph 1 5.2 of the report to find out why the Commission made that exception. That paragraph states:
Senior Counsel Assisting . . . proposed to submit that ACTU-Solo through its directors initiated and carried out successfully to its conclusion a course of conduct designed to deceive the Australian Government. Senior Counsel Assisting then made it plain that since these submissions carried serious implications for the persons concerned, the Commission expressly invited anybody who might be encompassed by such findings to appear before the Commission and either dissociate himself from the activities under review or offer any explanation he might have as to those activities. If such persons chose to remain silent they could only expect the ordinary and natural consequences. Neither of the other directors of ACTU-Solo, Mr R. J. L. Hawke or Mr E. C. Whiteford, gave evidence before the Commission.
Mr Whiteford has since resigned as a director, but Mr Hawke continues as a director. It is transparent that Mr Hawke was personally involved in this whole deal. He did not leave Australia until early June 1975. He was party to the decisions taken before he left. A substantial degree of complicity in the design to circumvent the Government’s oil policy is demonstrable. No amount of bluster and threat of defamation actions can conceal the obvious.
Consider in the first place his position: He is President of the Australian Labor Party; President of the ACTU; a highly placed and favourably placed individual; a trade union official committed to involving the ACTU in business enterprises- in retail selling, travel, insurance and other activities; a person who in the past has used industrial muscle or trade union power to advantage the profitability of those ventures and as I have said in this place previously, a true twentieth century robber baron in the style of the commercial and industrial muscelment of nineteenth century United States of America. Morever, he is a man in a position to assert and insist that the ALP government should assist the union movement, just as he has indicated recently that he is prepared to use the union movement to assist an ALP government.
But consider the facts, in addition to his position. He knew the facts of the option arrangement under which the $5 per barrel purchase price was arranged, and that is demonstrable. The commission has demonstrated that there was an option to purchase the crude oil, which was given to Solo Discount Petroleum Pty Ltd. In the negotiations with APC which followed, at all times that company acted as agent for the company which is now known as ACTU-Solo Enterprises. The option agreement was dated 16 May 1975, and by it APC granted to Solo Discount Petroleum Pty Ltd an option for a fee of $100 to purchase the parcel of crude at $5 per barrel. APC twice extended the option, first by letter on 20 May and then by letter dated 21 May. It was on 22 May, according to Mr Souter, that the option was exercised on behalf of ACTU-Solo. The crucial dates when the option was extended and when the option was exercised were the dates of the ACTU Executive meeting held in Perth and presided over by Mr Hawke. It is inconceivable that the ACTU Executive did not give the go-ahead to exercise the option. It is equally inconceivable that Mr Hawke did not know the terms of that option. It is completely inconceivable that the ACTU Executive, which has subsequently unanimously backed Mr Souter, did not know what it was going into. The words used by the commission in its findings are relevant:
The terms of the option are plain. When it exercised the option the grantee agreed to purchase the crude at $5 per barrel. This price is well above the Government approved price of $2. 10.
In other words, the ACTU, when it agreed to purchase the crude, knew it was buying at well above the Government approved price. Consider Mr Hawke ‘s conduct. As early as 6 May, a fortnight before this particular transaction was consummated, Mr Hawke was talking to the Press. As the Adelaide Advertiser said, he revealed ACTU plans to market cut price petrol. The Advertiser went on to say:
The President (Mr Hawke) said last night he would recommend forming the company to the ACTU Executive meeting in Perth next week. The company, to be called ACTU-Solo Enterprises, would be a joint venture with leading independent cut-price service station owners, lt is expected to be operating within three months . . .
According to the Age of the same date Mr Hawke said that he, Bob Hawke, would be putting a positive recommendation to the Executive and that the new company would use industrial muscle to ensure petrol supplies are maintained.
– What is the date of that newspaper?
– The Age of 6 May. On 22 May, of course, Mr Hawke held his Press conference after the ACTU meeting. He said that ACTU officers were authorised to come to a final decision. Of course, he was one of the ACTU officers. Even in the Melbourne Sun-Pictorial of the following day, 23 May, these crucial words appear:
Mr Hawke said the ACTU hoped to gain the rights to an allocation of Australian crude oil.
So he was making some statements about what was happening. The significant thing is what Mr Hawke did not say. He failed to say that an option had been exercised under which at that time, as he must have known, ACTU-Solo was buying from APC at $5 a barrel- in excess of the Government price. Why did Mr Hawke not make mention of that fact? I suggest that the clear conclusion anyone would draw is that if he did make mention of it it might lead to some awkward questions being asked. Indeed, the knowledge of the sale of crude oil seems to have been kept secret or to have been disclosed to few people until the remarkable revelation came before the Royal Commission on 29 August. Mr Leonard of Ampol knew of it, because he made some reference to the possibility, if one can read the Press statements, on 29 May. A journalist who reported what Mr Leonard said did not take up the matter. Mr Murray, who writes in the Australian Financial Review constantly on this ACTU venture, apparently did not know of it. But what has Mr Hawke done? He has said that he was not involved. He is reported as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald of 4 September the following:
I understand it has already been made clear in the Royal Commission and in Federal Parliament that I was not involved in any way in the negotiations.
That is a most ambivalent statement. It was not made clear either in the Parliament or in the Commission, as he alleged, nor is it clear in fact. His own Press statements reveal his knowledge. His position would necessarily involve him. His silence on crucial facts suggests knowledge of the public deception. His failure to give evidence before the Royal Commission stands out. There is a clear need for a further investigation.
The Senate has before it reasoned argument as to the probable involvement of the former Minister for Minerals and Energy in the original arrangement. The former Minister has remained silent. The Senate has before it, as the Commission did, unexplained events concerning a consideration of $5 a barrel being split into 2 agreements. The Senate has before it the Commission’s placing of blame on all directors of ACTU-Solo, and the strong statement, moreover, that Mr Souter was not the architect of the scheme. We are not told who was. The Senate has the unerring pointers to the involvement of the crucial stages of the President of the Australian Labor Party and the ACTU, Mr Hawke, yet he has reiterated denials of involvement. Nevertheless, there is his failure to give evidence.
There ought to be an inquiry. What could an inquiry ascertain? The directors of APC and its officers who were connected with the transaction could give their story; they have not done so. The solicitors who drew up the agreements and who could explain the provision that it was the purchaser, ACTU-Solo, which requested the splitting of the consideration, could give evidence. The ACTU research team and, in particular, Mr Kelty, could give evidence. The officials of the Commonwealth Bank, who must have been given full information to advance ACTU-Solo the purchase price of almost $2m, could give evidence. Finally, Mr Connor, Mr Hayden and Mr Hawke could give evidence. The need for this inquiry is self evident. It would be a disgrace to this country if the Senate did not pursue this matter.
- Mr Deputy President, when this matter first became the subject of public debate I was rather surprised to hear Senator Greenwood in particular and the Opposition generally arguing in defence of a senior member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions- that is the trade union movementnamely, Mr Souter. It seemed to me to be out of character for Senator Greenwood and the Opposition to adopt that attitude because we know of the long antagonism that has existed over the years between the Opposition and the trade union movement. There seemed to me to be a ring of insincerity about the defence of Harold Souter. But after listening to Senator Greenwood today we now can see quite clearly that the object of raising this matter of urgency is not to clear Mr Souter at all but to get at Mr Hawke.
– And the Government.
– Yes, the Government indirectly, but the principal objective is in some way to get at Mr Hawke. Although we know that Senator Greenwood uses some very strong terms in debate, I was surprised to hear him talk of the implications of favours to certain people, for example, under this Government. Not one example, was given; it never is. The same generalisations of patronage and corruption of this Government are made by an Opposition that itself is corrupt. These are the sorts of assertions which we have heard for so long but which have never been substantiated. I deplore the activities of the Opposition in raising this question as a matter of urgency when in fact the whole purpose of the exercise is not to defend what may be thought to be an innocent man but to try to involve somebody and to prove guilt there. I am not going to make the contradictions which Senator Greenwood made, and I will quote his actual words. At one stage he said- these are the words that I took down:
I make no assertions, Mr President.
Shortly afterwards he said:
It is transparent that Mr Hawke was involved.
I am not going to make assertions about the findings of the Royal Commission because I do not feel that I am competent to do that and I would doubt if there is anybody else in this chamber who is competent to do it. I would have hoped that Senator Greenwood would keep to his original statement that he would not make assertions against Mr Hawke or anybody else. But he is determined, of course that Mr Hawke ‘s name be denigrated in some way. However, I am not going to defend Mr Hawke either. I am not going to defend or condemn anyone in my contribution to this debate.
The point I want to emphasise is that the Commission brought down a report based on the evidence that was put before it. As Senator Greenwood correctly pointed out, an invitation was issued by the Commission- in fact a warning was issued by the Commission- at paragraph 1 5.2 on page 20 of the report, about the need for persons who felt that they may have been involved as a result of this inquiry to present themselves to the Commission so that their views could be considered. I want to repeat that paragraph, which states:
Senior Counsel Assisting then made it plain that since these submissions carried serious implications for the persons concerned, the Commission expressly invited anybody who might be encompassed by such findings to appear before the Commission and either disassociated himself from the activities under review or offer any explanation he might have as to those activities. If such persons chose to remain silent they could only expect the ordinary and natural consequences. Neither of the other directors of ACTU-Solo, Mr R. J. L. Hawke or Mr E. C. Whiteford, gave evidence before the Commission.
I should have thought that if there were grounds for believing that there was some error in the Commission’s findings, then other persons also would have undertaken to present a case to the Commission and to appear before it. I am not in a position to judge whether they should or should not have done so, and I do not think it is possible for this Senate to make any judgment outside what the Commission itself has brought down. I should say that it is not impossible that some aspects of the Commission’s report are not as complete as they might be. Perhaps more evidence might have been given or should have been given. I do not know, but it would be wrong for the Senate to interpret the Commission’s findings purely for the purpose of denigrating another individual. It is true that Mr Hawke apparently had the opportunity to give evidence, but I emphasise that he was not called.
During his contribution to the debate, Senator Greenwood read the statutory declaration that I believe was made by Mr Woodhouse to the Commission this morning, but that was no more than a series of assertions. I listened to it being read, and it seemed to me that it contained no fresh evidence which would justify a re-opening of the case on the ground of that statutory declaration. That is a matter for the Commission, but it is not a document, I suggest, which would strengthen in any way the case that Senator Greenwood put. There are one or two aspects of the matter which, I suppose, are interesting and which should be given some consideration in this debate. I refer in particular to one of the documents which were placed before the Royal Commission on Petroleum by my Department, the Department of Minerals and Energy. It was a letter from the then Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, to the Australian Gas Light Co. This document was tabled for the Royal Commission’s purposes.
– What is the date of it?
– It is dated 20 May 1974. In writing to the Secretary of the Australian Gas Light Co., Mr Connellan, the then Minister said:
I refer to your letter of 13 May seeking my approval of a transaction whereby the Australian Gas Light Company would purchase 650 000 barrels of indigenous crude from IOC Australia Pty Ltd at a premium of $1.50 per barrel over the fixed price of $2.09. I do not regard this commercial transaction as a matter for my consideration. However, I observe that the proposed price is in excess of that operating in respect of indigenous crude.
We find the following statement, which makes reference to that letter, in paragraph 16.6 on page 22 of the commission’s report:
APC also sought in this part of the argument to rely upon the terms of a letter of 20 May 1974 from the Minister for Minerals and Energy to AGL dealing with a transaction whereby AGL proposed to purchase 650 000 barrels of indigenous crude from IOC Australia Pty Limited. The commission finds nothing in this letter or the accompanying correspondence tendered to support APC’s contention.
So we have areas of interpretation by the royal commission. I think that the findings of the commission are to be accepted or not accepted on the basis of the interpretation that it has placed on that document, amongst others. We find the following heading for chapter 21 of the royal commission’s report which appears on page 27:
If deceit or misinformation was involved,who was responsible for the government being so deceived or misinformed.
Chapter 2 1 goes on to state: 21.1 The COMMISSION finds with respect to deceit and misinformation that the responsibility lies with:
That is a significant paragraph. We can see from that that assertions that all culpability lay with the Australian Council of Trade Unions or certain individuals in the ACTU could not be reasonably sustained. The only other matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the Senate is assertions that in some way Mr Hawke was given access to information concerning the Government’s decision in respect of the Budget proposal to levy the oil industry. I want to make it quite clear that I believe there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that any leaks of this nature were given. Certainly, nothing consciously would ever have been done.
It is all very well to quote newspaper articles on what happened and to quote what was reported in the Press of 6 May. But I do not think Senator Greenwood as a lawyer would use newspaper articles as evidence in a court to substantiate the argument of his claim. I think he would exercise more care and ensure that material used to substantiate his case would be on safer ground than a newspaper report. But the fact remains that the purpose of the debate is not lost on the Government. Of course it is intended to denigrate Mr Hawke and also to cloud the issues that confront the Australian people at the present time. It aims to draw away, if possible, in the media the real issue of whether or not the Opposition is going to pass the Appropriation Bills. This of course is a mechanism whereby public attention can be diverted by some elements of doubt and assertions being made by the Opposition in order to capture the headlines in tomorrow ‘s Press and in the media generally. But I do not think the Australian people will fall for that sort of argument.
As I have mentioned, the Commission’s report makes it quite clear that fresh evidence may be brought before the Commission at any time. It would then be a matter of judgment for the Commission as to whether that fresh evidence should be heard. That, I suggest, is the essential point of this debate. If in fact fresh evidence is available then anyone is at liberty to place that evidence before the Commission. The Commissioner has made that quite clear. I think that my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, when he speaks as the Minister responsible for royal commissions, will have something to say on this matter. But this is the paramount point: There is no intention or desire I am sure on the part of the Commission to refuse a proper hearing to any person or persons who feel that they have fresh evidence to put before the Commission. That is the position as it exists and as it should exist. This debate in this chamber today in no way will assist in elucidating any further findings by the Commission if that evidence is not put where it should be, and that is before the Commission.
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Senator Wriedt) appears entirely to misconceive the nature and the importance of this debate. The debate concerns a well publicised and notorious parcel of crude oil- 420 000 barrelsthat had been the subject of a law dispute in the Supreme Court of Victoria. The multinational company Allied Petrochemicals Pty Ltd was successful in establishing its title to that crude. Within days of obtaining that title it was offering that crude to the market at $5 a barrel and it sent letters to all the major oil companies making that offer. It was enabled by the fixed price scheme operated by the Australian Government to purchase the crude from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the producer, at $2. 10 a barrel. The crude absorption policy of the Government required that nobody who purchased crude at that fixed price should be in a position to make a windfall profit. Therefore, the approach of APC to the market was quite a blatant attempt to get an illicit profit. BHP’s return on the transaction was about $900,000. APC, on selling to Mr Hawke ‘s company, returned to itself a windfall profit of $1.2m. Mr Hawke ‘s company, by obtaining the crude on the terms it did, was able to get a cost advantage on that purchase, as compared with the very minimum of import prices overseas and other operations in Australia, of between $lm and $ 1.5m.
– That is about 1 3c a gallon of petrol.
– Whatever be the gallonage, I want to put this in simple terms and to keep it in simple terms. It is a $lm to $1.5m advantage which is given to Mr Hawke ‘s company out of this transaction at the expense of the producer through the operation of the Government’s fixed price scheme. The company got that advantage either by the deceit of Mr Souter alone or by a corrupt transaction to which Mr Hawke was privy and of which the Minister was a party. Let us examine the facts with regard to this matter and see whether anybody can resist the inference that Mr Connor well knew at the time this transaction was approved by him that Mr Hawke ‘s company- Mr Hawke being president of the Australian Labor Party- was a recipient of an advantage of the dimensions which I have mentioned. I have prepared a list of dates of the relevant transactions. 1 offer it to those who are following the debate. I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I pass the list to the Deputy President and to honourable senators on the Government side. It will be seen that on 7 May this year Allied Petrochemicals Pty Ltd offered this bulk crude to all the oil companiesfive or six of them. On being offered this oil at $5 a barrel each company replied: ‘That is prohibited by government policy. We cannot purchase’. As counsel before the Royal Commission on Petroleum said: ‘If the companies had been able to purchase lawfully each of them would have loved to have got such a bargain’. So Mr Hawke ‘s company comes on the scene. On 1 6 May the APC company gave the Hawke company the option to purchase at $5 a barrel. A week later, on 23 May, that option was exercised and a contract of sale and purchase was entered into by APC selling and by Mr Hawke ‘s company purchasing at $5 a barrel. This was the very sum which all the companies had said, to their knowledge, was prohibited by the Government edict.
In that week events took place. One event was the negotiation with Mr Leonard of Ampol Petroleum Ltd for the refinement of this crude. The ACTU company had those arrangements sewn up before the option was exercised. In the same week, from 19 to 21 May, the ACTU executive was meeting in Perth. There Mr Hawke was proclaiming that he was getting the approval of the executive to his company going on. On 24 May ACTU-Solo admitted Mr Hawke and Mr Souter to the directorship of that company thereby consummating the amalgamation of ACTU-Solo. All these events took place in the week from 16 to 24 May. Is anybody so gullible in this place to believe that Mr Hawke, the presiding genius over the whole of this enterprise which was publicised in this way, was not conscious of a purchase at $5 a barrel? This would give the vendor a profit of $1.2m, a windfall profit contrary to Government policy. There was no time lost in getting delivery of the oil and we find the refiner, Ampol Petroleum Ltd, through its manager Mr Leonard in Brisbane on 28 May making a public statement that the United States-owned chemical company appears to have made a quick profit of more than $ 1 m by selling its allocation of Australian crude oil to ACTU-Solo, that is, 5 days after the option was exercised. There was a prominent headline about a ‘$ 1 m deal on ACTU-Solo petrol’ on the public pages of the Australian based on the statement by a prominent figure in the oil industry, Mr Leonard, the manager of Ampol. We then get letters from Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd asking ‘Are we authorised to deliver’.
On a memo of 13 June we find one of the officers of Mr Connor’s Department in manuscript writing: ‘The question is whether APC is receiving a windfall premium’. On 14 June Mr Souter wrote a letter headed ‘Private and Confidential’ to Mr Connor sending him a copy of an agreement showing the price to be in accordance with Government policy at $2.10 a barrel. On 18 June Mr Connor sent fraternal greetings and in a letter marked ‘Personal and Confidential’ acknowledged Mr Souter ‘s letter. He then sent Mr Souter’s letter to Melbourne for consideration by his officers for urgent advice on a confidential basis. On 24 June the officer in Melbourne returned a memorandum- and Mr Connor having proclaimed himself before the Parliament as not being a fool would hardly need to be alerted in these terms by his officer- in which he made it clear that there was something to be sniffed about this letter. He said that APC was selling at the same price as it purchased. Then he pointed out that there was no windfall profit to APC which would not even recover the costs of the paper work involved, let alone the cost of the High Court action.
If there is in fact no additional secret deal conditional on this one, we can only speculate that the benefit to APC must come later when ACTUSolo will be seeking bulk storage facilities in capital cities. So if Mr Connor’s native intuition was not alerted by these facts, the officer pointed out that APC was much more foolish than Mr Connor for selling at the purchase price. It was not even recovering the cost of its paper work or its court costs. If there was a secret deal it was to be explained by the provision of bulk storage facilities. That is one of the flimsy excuses which Mr Souter put forward to explain the second deal and which Mr Justice Collins dismissed as fantastic. Where did the officer in Melbourne get the idea that this obvious subsequent agreement was a secret deal and was going to be explained by the provision of storage facilities? One would think that all those matters would explain to Mr
Connor that there was a secret deal in the offing. The inference is that he well knew it. So clearly is that to be accepted, that if one looks to Mr Connor’s answer in the Parliament to a question asked of him on 3 September one will find that he said:
I had no doubts as to the nature of the transaction. From as early as December of last year both the respective litigants in a case in the Supreme Court of Victoria had been endeavouring to flog off their respective rights, or what they claimed to be their rights, to this crude at $5 per barrel. There had been letters sent out by Allied Petrochemical Pty Ltd in May, immediately after it had won the case, to every major oil company offering it to them and it was in all cases rejected. It was a natural thing for me immediately when approached first on the matter and before receiving any documentation specifically to raise the point that it was this same crude. I had no doubt, and 1 insisted, that it should be an orthodox transaction and nothing beyond that.
He also said that he had discussed it fully with Mr Souter. Mr Souter gave evidence that the discussion was one in which he was quite clearly told that there could be a subsequent commercial transaction for additional benefits. That is so inconsistent with the former Minister’s position that the former Minister is bound to appear and give evidence in explanation of the matter. Until that is done the overwhelming inference is that it is a corrupt transaction.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-The motion before the Senate is one under standing order 64 to discuss as a matter of urgency the need for further inquiry into the matters that have been mentioned in the debate this afternoon. It is a fatuous motion because it can achieve nothing and it ignores the fact that there are 3 avenues open to the members of the Opposition or their friends and supporters to pursue this matter if they wish to do so. Of course, not only is it fatuous but also we all know that rather disconsolately this is put on as the substitute performance for today because the test match involving Pakistan will apparently not take place, at least today. I can understand the Opposition not wishing to disappoint the crowd and putting on the next best performance it could muster at short notice. It is the ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd deal.
– We held it over on Thursday for you.
– I did not hear that interjection. I listened to Senator Wright in silence. He is a senator who so often combines the role of accuser and judge in the Senate against individuals. It is apparent that this motion is aimed essentially at the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, who is the one person outside the Government whom the Opposition most fears; fears because of his forthrightness; fears because of the manner in which he exposes some of the capitalistic deals that have been a disgrace to this country; fears because when, from the cover of privilege of Parliament, accusations are made against him he answers like an honest man in a ringing voice and says: ‘Repeat that outside and you will be sued ‘; and fears, fourthly, because he has a very good track record in defamation proceedings.
It was made clear by the Minister, who spoke for the Government in the House of Representatives on 7 October of this year, that there was a means by which anyone who wanted to raise further matters in relation to this issue could be heard, and that was to go back to the Royal Commission, which is still sitting, and ask to be heard, lt would then be a matter for the discretion of the Royal Commission whether the matter was reopened. That is the proper course. It is the legal course. It is the fair and honest course. Is that course being adopted by the Opposition? No. Mr Woodhouse, who from the humbleness of his weatherboard home seems to have intrigued -
– Is it a disgrace to live in a weatherboard house?
– Who said it was a disgrace?
– Your sarcastic voice implied it.
-Run away and go home. Senator Marriott would be better employed reading the transcript of the evidence of Mr Woodhouse, an expelled member of the Australian Labor Party.
– He must be a decent fellow.
-Senator Marriott keeps interjecting. I can understand that in view of his present involvement with his research officer he would have considerable experience of persons expelled from the Labor Party or about to be expelled from the Labor Party. Mr Woodhouse gave evidence to the Royal Commission on Thursday, 28 August.
– At what page of the transcript does his evidence appear?
– It begins at page 4144. Two things are notable in relation to his evidence, which ][ scanned quickly during the suspension of the sitting. One is that he claimed that his knowledge of the 2 agreements had been acquired only on the night of the Tuesday of that week- the 26th- in a discussion with Mr Wieland. A second thing is noteworthy about his evidence. I invite Senator Greenwood, who accused, tried and executed Mr Hawke in this chamber today, to peruse that evidence and to tell the Senate in what way Mr Woodhouse on 28 August referred to his pre-knowledge of what was in the Budget.
Mr Woodhouse went before the Royal Commission. He was so anxious to go that when he was asked whether he would appear the next morning he said: ‘Yes, I will appear with bells on’. He was reminded that he need not worry about his bells; only he was required. He was very anxious to appear. He did not inform the Royal Commission of this allegation with which he now comes forward, through Senator Greenwood, namely, that he had foreknowledge of the Budget provision for a $2 per barrel excise on oil.
– That was on 5 August, and that was the date I gave.
-Senator Greenwood was speaking about 5 August. I am speaking about 28 August. When Mr Woodhouse gave evidence as to what he knew about the ACTU-Solo deal he did not mention that he had, as he claims now, some foreknowledge of what was in the Budget. Let us look at the chronology to see why it was impossible for him to have any foreknowledge. The relevant dates have been given. I remind the Senate that the agreement of the Minister was forthcoming on 26 June, having been sought in writing on 17 June. It was not until about 10 days after the agreement of the Minister was sought that the possibility of a tax on crude oil production, as part of this Budget, was for the first time canvassed, and it was not until 30 July, some 6 or 7 weeks after the application was made and some 5 weeks after the application was approved, that any decision was made by the Government that the Budget would contain such a provision. This discredited person I say that he is discredited by his involvement, by his behaviour and by his record in relation to this Party- now comes along and says: ‘Oh, in some way I had foreknowledge of this $2 a barrel deal’. Would any just person give that statement any credence? I suggest not.
Before I pass on to other matters, let me say as a comparative newcomer to this chamber that I am appalled by the manner in which members of the Opposition, under cover of privilege, are constantly making charges of the most serious conduct against individuals in the community and are proceeding to canvass those charges in this chamber, and then are reaching conclusions, by their own judgment, as to the guilt of those persons. It is a complete debasement, I suggest, of the right of audience in the Senate. It is a complete debasement of the powers of this Senate. I suggest that history will so record it and condemn those who are so constantly responsible for the abuse.
Senator Greenwood began this morning by saying in effect- Senator Wriedt has referred to his exact words- that he was not going to reach any conclusions against anybody, that all he wanted was an inquiry. As a former first law officer of the Crown in this Commonwealth he proceeded then to prosecute, to judge, to convict and to execute. That is the concept of justice of the former first law officer of the Crown in this Commonwealth. The sooner the Senate gets down to its proper business of dealing properly with legislation and not deferring it, as has happened with the Budget, instead of going on to something which appears to be the best bet of the day but which will turn out to be a damp squid, the better it will be for the reputation of the Senate through the cameras of history.
There is one simple answer in relation to this matter. We will not be voting on the matter of urgency, so the will of the Senate will never be known. There is one simple answer to this and that is the answer which was given by Mr Bowen, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, in the House of Representatives on 7 October. He suggested that anyone who has any relevant information ought to go either personally or by counsel to the royal commission, which fortuitously is sitting and which is capable of determining whether or not any fresh evidence ought to be considered by the commission. I refer to the terms of reference of the commission. They were issued by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 12 September 1973. The first paragraph reads as follows:
To inquire into and report upon-
All aspects -
I emphasise the word ‘ all ‘- of the production by refining, and the marketing and pricing, in Australia of all types of petroleum, diesel and other fuels …
Under sub-paragraphs (c) and (d) of paragraph (2) there are 2 terms of reference which are even more specific. But the general head of inquiry is ample, I suggest, to embrace any further evidence that anyone can legitimately produce in relation to this matter. I do not know whether the Opposition is directing criticism- it has not been prepared to say so as yet- against the royal commissioner on the basis that the inquiry should have gone farther than it did, but I invite the attention of the Senate to page- 45 18 of the transcript where senior counsel assisting the commissioner said this in conclusion:
I would submit that the decisions Your Honour has to make concerning the facts of this matter are quite straightforward.
Senior counsel put it on a very simple basis and the judge accepted that situation. He left the matter open for anyone else who wanted to make any submissions to do so. Incidentally, Mr Woodhouse was treated the same as counsel appearing for the parties and in due course, after the evidence had been given, made his actual submissions to the commission. In those submissions he did not mention any question of foreknowledge of Budget details.
The Royal Commission, having heard all the evidence that it considered relevant- all that was of profit to it- and having considered the arguments of counsel appearing for various parties and of Mr Woodhouse, made a clear cut decision and recommendation which this morning Senator Greenwood said he accepted. That is the point; he said that he accepted the decision. The principal finding was that there had been deceit and misrepresentation vis-a-vis the former Minister for Minerals and Energy. Senator Wright cannot have it both ways. He proceeded to be a prosecutor and a judge- only time prevented him from being an executioner- in saying in effect that that finding could not be sustained on the evidence and that Mr Connor must have known this and he must have known that. The analytical approach of the lawyer says that it must be so because of certain dates and certain facts.
The Opposition through its remaining speakers will say either that it has confidence in the Royal Commission or it has not. If it has no confidence in the Royal Commission it ought to move a substantive motion that the terms of reference of the Commission be aborted. What is the use of this incompetent, if that is the allegation, Royal Commission, which has already been in progress for some 2 years and which I understand will continue its inquiries for some 1 8 months or so from now, continuing to waste funds that presumably, because of the Senate’s action in other respects, do not exist? That is just crazy. Let the Opposition come clean. If the members of the Opposition will not accept the challenge of Mr Hawke to repeat their charges outside the Parliament so that he can take appropriate action and maintain his track record, they ought not to try to achieve the same political result by maligning, by implication, the royal commissioner whose finding Senator Greenwood who raised this matter of urgency said that he accepted, and as to which the second honourable senator speaking for the Opposition side said could not possibly be right.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-Mr President, may I make a personal explanation?
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During his speech when I interjected once Senator Everett said he knew that I was having trouble with my research officer. I completely refute that. The research officer whom I employ is a full time Australian Government public servant and a sacked member of the Australian Labor Party, Mr R. J. Mulcahy, in whom I have every faith and trust. He is a man of brilliance in the work that he is doing, and it is not right to criticise him in this cowards’ chamber, as Senator Everett has done.
-Mr President, the matter of urgency that has been raised in the Senate refers to:
The need for further inquiry into whether:
there was any agreement between the former Minister for Minerals and Energy and/or the Government and ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd to grant benefits or advantages contrary to the Government’s indigenous crude oil policy to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd.
there was undue benefit, information or advantage given to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd or to any of the Directors thereof.
One would believe that under normal Labor Party policy further disclosures on this matter would be welcomed. One would hold the view that where substantial sums of money appear to have been made by commercial enterprises, that would be a matter of criticism by Labor and it would be most anxious to bring the matter to the fore. Senator Everett commenced his remarks by criticising Senator Greenwood and the Opposition for bringing on what he said was a specious matter. He attempted to say that the Khemlani business was of more importance and, because of that, the Opposition should not be pursuing the ACTU matter. I think that is an unfair interpretation, and if Senator Everett looked at page 1436 of last Thursday’s Senate Hansard he would know that it was the Opposition which deferred pursuing this matter on that day because at that stage the Government was seeking to give some assurances as to what it might do about the matter. I think that Senator Everett was particularly unfair about that.
Senator Everett also referred to the capitalist market. Indeed, if ever an inquiry needed to be held into the capitalist market it is on this matter of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and its directors. How would this Government perform with any other commercial undertaking that contravened Government policy and gained for itself $lm or more? If that happened the greatest criticism in the world would come from this Government, but that has not happened. Senator Everett then went on to discuss discredited persons. If in this chamber we started discussing discredited persons we would be talking more about members of Parliament in another place than we would about officials or others outside this place. My entry into this debate is an attempt to clear the name of a man for whom I have had great respect foi many years. I have had some experience with what happens when an attempt is made to discredit people. In this instance a man in my State who has devoted himself honestly to the work of unions and who, in concert with others, is a director, of an enterprise finds that as a result of an inquiry he is the one who is picked out and is left by his other directors to take the full burden of whatever criticism is made, criticism which in actual fact might wreck the whole career of Mr Souter. As far as I am concerned, that is not good enough.
Could I take up one other matter mentioned by Senator Wriedt. One becomes very sick of it when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stands up and says untruthfully that nobody has asserted that there has been any wrongdoing in this loans business. Of course, the fact is that that has been asserted on a number of occasions in this place and outside. Senator Wriedt today criticised Senator Greenwood for saying that there may have been favours to certain people, and he said that statements such as that are never substantiated. I ask Senator Wriedt to look over the record because he has made an incorrect assumption there. Does he recall the suggestions made about the purchase by this Government of the trade union premises in Hobart? Does he remember that on many occasions I have raised the matter of the preference given to Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd to enable it to be the one company to manufacture in the Australian Capital Territory? Does he remember my asserting that the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) overrode the foreign takeovers report to allow that same company to dispose of its shares in a particular food group to an overseas corporation? We have the present situation of the Government paying in excess of $300,000 a year for the use of government premises. We have the falsehood presented in an advertisement yesterday in the Australian, apparently by the Labor Party or David Combe, which states to the people:
We urgently need your support now more than ever before.
It also states:
But unlike the Opposition parties, the ALP does not rely on donations from large companies for campaign funds.
Only a week or so ago we had the announcement of a $70,000 contribution by the Murdoch organisation to the Australian Labor Party. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate wants particular allegations that are substantiated, each one of those allegations stands substantiated on the record.
– To do him justice, perhaps he gets his wrongdoings mixed up.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)-Order!
– I would have to think about that point because I believe that the Minister in this place is one of the Ministers who attempt to -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Webster, I called the Senate to order. I expect you to respect the Chair. Would you please address your remarks to the Chair and not answer interjections from around the chamber.
-My apologies, Mr Acting Deputy President; I did not hear you calling for order and I did not notice you stand at that time. There is no doubt that a reading of the evidence presented to the Royal Commission on Petroleum raises grave doubts as to the occurrences relating to the ACTU-Solo deal. There is also little doubt that, without media inquiry and without the constant sifting of statements by the Opposition, no truth would have emerged regarding this matter. I may also say that, without the sifting of evidence and media inquiry, no truth would have been forthcoming about the overseas loans matter, and the results of that have been particularly significant. It is my view that the full facts of both these matters have not been given by the Government. The Government has stated that it believes in open government. I ask: Why does it not welcome an inquiry so that the President of the Australian Labor Party and the former Minister for Minerals and Energy, who resigned because statements he made to the Parliament were apparently untrue, can be cleared? These matters in relations to the ACTU-Solo business should be cleared up.
The motion for a discussion of a matter of urgency is one way in which the Opposition wishes to pursue the facts so that the public will have a clear interpretation of what did happen in this matter. Senator Greenwood and Senator Wright, in the limited time available to them, have put very clearly the questions that are raised. The Government has stated that crude oil must not be sold for more than $2.10 per barrel. The product was offered to a variety of private enterprise commercial undertakings throughout Australia and the offer finally was taken up by a wing of the Australian Labor Party- the Australian Council of Trade Unions- in conjunction, apparently, with the Solo company. A company was formed and an agreement was made for the purchase of that crude oil at $5 a barrel. One would not doubt that Mr Connor was aware of the facts. Mr Connor is a very intelligent man who knew, as was stated in the evidence, that this product was being offered to companies at $5 a barrel as early as January of this year. Finally, when the offer to purchase the product was sought to be taken up at great commercial advantage to that wing of the Australian Labor Party, the purchase apparently was approved by the Minister.
The report of the royal commission states that the Minister was misled. I am not prepared to believe that Mr Connor was such a fool. I do not believe that Mr Connor was not aware that this product, having been offered all over Australia at $5 a barrel, was sold at that figure to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd. I believe that the information on that transactions should be brought to light in a further inquiry. I do not believe that full investigation was made into the commercial transaction and the business arm of the Labor Party by the royal commission. I believe that in many areas it must have sought either not to gain the actual facts or not to call before it people who could give proper evidence. I wish to quote the words of Mr Souter. Indeed, it is he whom I would seek to protect in this matter. Mr Souter stated, as recorded at page 4276 of the transcript of evidence of the commission ‘s inquiry: my clear understanding of the concept and the basis of the sale of the crude was that the commercial sale was distinctly not a matter for the Government’s approval.
No man could have obtained that view unless he had the approval of the Minister to such an undertaking. I make the point that Mr Souter is not given to lying. He stated his belief and that belief could be gained only by his communication either with the Department of Minerals and Energy or with the former Minister. I believe that it is essential in Mr Souter’s interest that we establish the truth in this matter.
Another m atter of concern, of course, is where this great benefit of $1.5m- if that is the limit of it- finally flowed. One must imagine that it flowed to the corporation, ACTU-Solo Enterprises. I think that matter should be investigated. But the matter of gravest concern that I have, having somewhat of a commercial background -
– How can he be so dumb?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! I want the speaker to be heard in silence. I called for order and I expect that call to be respected.
-The matter of gravest concern to me is the fact that one director in a corporation can be found to be guilty while other directors of the same corporation can wash their hands and say: ‘We are not guilty’. I do not believe it to be an acceptable fact that they are not guilty. Putting it in its context, it is not possible for Mr Hawke, as the chairman of that company, to say: ‘My fellow director is responsible; I know nothing about it; brand him as the villain’. I think if the Senate -
– I rise to order, Mr Acting Deputy President. This is a severe reflection on the judge associated with this commission. Mr Hawke has never at any time to my knowledge expressed the words which were expressed by Senator Webster. This is a clear reflection on the decision of a royal commission and must reflect back to the j udge. I think it is entirely out of order for these inferences or comments to be made.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- I do not accept that as a point of order that can be upheld, senator. The honourable senator who is speaking is addressing himself to this matter in the manner in which he feels he should. It is on his head, as it were, to accept the responsibility for the statements he makes. There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I realise that those interjections are meant to take from the 15 minutes that I have in which to speak. I refer the Senate to Gower’s Modern Company Law. At pages 147 and 148 of this publication one finds, amongst other things, that it deals with the responsibility of the company to its directors and, in reverse, the responsibility of the directors to the company. I shall attempt to read some paragraphs of a fairly long precis on this matter. It states:
This identification of the company with its directing mind was carried to its logical conclusion in R. V. McDonnell where it was held that the company could not conspire with the sole officer responsible for its acts and intentions.
Recent years have seen a further development whereby the rule that the acts of directors are treated as those of the company is, in effect, applied in reverse, so that the acts of the company are treated as those of its directors. Many modern statutes and regulations provide that if an offence is committed by a company, -
I interpolate that an offence has been committed every director or officer who was implicated shall be guilty of that offence and often the onus is placed on him to prove that it was committed without his consent and that he exercised due diligence to prevent its commission.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Australian public are very quickly becoming sick and tired of the way in which this Parliament has been used over the last 12 months by the Opposition and, indeed, is still being used to defame, to traduce, to vilify and to besmirch the reputation of decent Australians. I suggest that it is time that the Opposition realised the damage it is doing to the reputation of this institution. Earlier this year the Senate was used as a chamber of inquisition when the Opposition brought public servants to the Bar of the Senate. Then, for the first time in Australia’s history, the Opposition dragged a private Australian citizen to the Bar of the Senate to give evidence. A foreign gentleman came to Australia some three or four weeks ago. He told us then, through the media, than on legal advice he would not say anything. He departed from our shores. Now he has been brought back. There is some talk around the place about that gentleman being brought to the Bar of the Senate. I suggest that the muck-raking and the use of this place of privilege to attack, defame and libel ordinary decent Australians are contemptible actions on the part of the Opposition. Having regard to what Senator Webster has just said, it appears that even royal commissioners who do not bring in the right findings as far as the Opposition is concerned are to have their reputations challenged. The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 2 October last directed this question to the Prime Minister:
I ask the Prime Minister: Does it trouble him as a matter of elementary justice that all the sworn testamentary and documentary evidence which was presented to the Royal Commission on Petroleum and which could have exonerated Mr Souter and the Australian Council of Trade Unions of the charge of deliberate deceit of the Government was entirely overlooked by the royal commission in its report?
That sort of questioning of the probity of eminent jurists of Australia by leading members of Parliament is nothing but contemptible. The fact is that Mr Justice Collins has had a long and distinguished career both at the Bar and as a judge. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1932 and during the course of his legal practice at the Bar he had a very wide and diverse career. He was appointed an acting judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1955. He has been on the bench for some 20 years. He was appointed chairman of the Electoral Districts Commission of New South Wales. He has been a member of the Archives Authority of New South Wales. He was chairman of the Crown Employees’ Appeal Board of New South Wales in 1964. As 1 have said, he has been a judge for 20 years. He is a distinguished jurist of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. For the last 2 years he has been the Commissioner of the Royal Commission on Petroleum which was established by this Government.
Having regard to Mr Justice Collins’ long career at the Bar and his experience over 20 years as a prominent jurist, I say it is scandalous that the findings of the commission on the evidence which was presented to it are brought into query by members of the Opposition. I have referred to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. There are other like references right through the pages of Hansard. It is disgraceful that the Leader of the Opposition should cast such an aspersion on the royal commissioner. The Government appointed the royal commission to inquire into and to report on the petroleum industry as long ago as 1973. It was given very wide terms of reference. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
ROYAL COMMISSION ON PETROLEUM
Terms of Reference to make inquiry into, and report upon, the following mutters, so far as they are relevant to laws that have been, or could be, made by the Parliament, namely:
All aspects of the production by refining, and the marketing and pricing, in Australia of all types of petroleum, diesel and other fuels for internal combustion and jet engines, derived from any form of liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons, whether such hydrocarbons are produced in Australian or elsewhere, and all types of residual furnace and heating fuels and other by-products likewise derived.
Without limiting the generality of paragraph 1 :
a ) the need, in the public interest, for any changes in the number, location, capacity, technology, and type of refineries in Australia of any such form of liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons, and whether the allocation of the output of such fuels should be rationalised by joint operating or sharing of such refineries;
the need for additional refinery capacity to be located within the Sydney metropolitan area to serve the needs of that area;
whether the prices of such fuels and other byproducts are excessive and the extent to which the marketing, management and trading practices, proliferation of service stations and other retail outlets, and the granting of secret or other discounts, and the maintenance of a multi-tiered price structure by refiners and wholesalers of such fuels, are contributing thereto;
whether, and if so to what extent, the policies and objectives of any of the refiners or wholesalers of such fuels have contributed to price-cutting wars in any one retail sector to the detriment of other sectors; and
to what extent fuel pricing by companies operating in Australia which are subsidiaries of foreign corporations has been influenced or determined by the decisions of their overseas principals in such matters as inflating original prices paid to overseas crude oil producers and shipping freight thereon thus creating an artificially high landed price to the detriment of Australian consumers.
AH matters incidental to any of the abovementioned matters and in relation thereto.
-When this matter came up late in August or early in September the Government asked the commission to report upon the circumstances. The commission presented its report to His Excellency the Governor-General on 19 September. Because Parliament was not sitting at that time the Government was unable to present the report to the Parliament until 30 September. The first day on which the Parliament sat after 19 September was 30 September. It was the first day of the second sessional period of this session and it cannot possibly be said by the Opposition that there was any attempt by the Government to conceal or to run away from the findings of the royal commission. These findings were presented to the Governor-General who in turn forwarded them to the Government. Immediately they were tabled in the Parliament. Since that time, 30 September, we have had question after question, we have had a debate on a matter of public importance in the House of Representatives and today we have a debate on an urgency motion in this place. Time after time the Government has said that if the Opposition has any evidence to present it should present it not to this Parliament but to the royal commission that was established by the Government as long ago as 1973. The Prime Minister himself in response to a question asked by Mr Sinclair, Deputy Leader of the National Country Party in another place, on 2 October said, among other things:
If any person has any facts which he believes would change the Commissioner’s findings then I would suggest that he should sue the counsel engaged to assist the Commissioner. The commission ‘s inquiry is still proceeding.
I understand that no member of the Opposition, despite the accusations which have been made in this place almost daily, has taken up that challenge. I now invite the Opposition if it has any evidence to present to His Honour Mr Justice Collins to go to the royal commission which resumed its sittings today and present such evidence to the royal commission. Apparently Mr David Woodhouse, who has figured prominently in the royal commission hearings, has asked the commission to re-open its inquiries into the affair. I understand that he presented an affidavit to the royal commission. I am not suggesting for one moment that the royal commission released the terms of the affidavit to the newspapers but suddenly, for whatever reason and no matter who released it, though I suggest it was Mr Woodhouse, they appeared in the Melbourne Age. Then we had this hullabaloo and cry from the Opposition for a re-opening of the hearing. Perhaps it is significant that Mr Woodhouse is a former executive of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party. Perhaps it is significant that he was expelled from the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party. Perhaps it is significant that he became a member of the Democratic Labor Party. Perhaps it is significant that he ran as a Democratic Labor Party candidate against Labor Party candidates on 2 occasions. If that is the sort of person the Opposition is hanging its hat on in order to re-open the inquiry I suggest that it looks at what is in the material available.
Mr Woodhouse has now had his affidavit published in the Melbourne Age and, in fairness to him, he has accepted the invitation of the Prime Minister that anyone wanting to give evidence should go to the royal commission and ask to give evidence. I am told that on the resumption of the royal commission’s hearings in Sydney this morning Mr Woodhouse presented himself and asked that the inquiry be re-opened. I can tell the Senate that Mr Liddell, counsel for the Government, stated to the royal commission that so far as his instructions were concerned, any person with, evidence would be welcome to submit it to the commission but it must be in the correct form. He said that no instructions had been given to him as yet about re-opening the inquiry or extending the terms of reference and that the Commissioner should decide these matters in the light of the evidence presented. In other words, he said it was for the Commissioner to determine what developments should take place having regard to the type of evidence presented to the royal commission.
I am advised that Mr Fisher, the counsel assisting the royal commission, said that Mr Woodhouse had not presented evidence but had merely made assertions and allegations and that he, the counsel assisting the commission, would welcome any evidence, but in the absence of evidence there was no case so far as he could see why the hearing of this matter should be reopened. He recommended to the presiding judge, His Honour Mr Justice Collins, that the application to reopen be denied. I have been told that argument ensued before the royal commission on the subject. After Mr Woodhouse had tendered his affidavit or had his affidavit read at the commission and after hearing submissions by counsel, His Honour Mr Justice Collins stated that he would consider the matter of Mr Woodhouse ‘s application to have the hearing reopened and advise his decision this week, probably on Thursday. A copy of the transcript is to be furnished to my Department as soon as possible.
As Mr Woodhouse has gone to the royal commission and asked the royal commission to reopen the inquiry and the investigation, I suggest also that Mr Lynch, Mr Anthony, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the Senate, Senator Greenwood, Senator Wright or anyone else who wants to produce evidence should go along to the royal commission and present to the royal commission the evidence that they say they have. I am amazed at the attitude of the Opposition. It, by the terms of its motion, has called for a further inquiry into a matter which has already been referred by the Government to the royal commissioner and on which the royal commissioner has already reported. The Government has already tendered its report to the Parliament but, not agreeing with the findings of the royal commission, the Opposition again wants to traduce, vilify and defame people in this Parliament.
Now the Opposition has called in this urgency motion for a further inquiry. I draw the attention of members of the Opposition to the terms of the speech on the Budget on 27 August of this year by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). He said, amongst other things:
Never has there been a government so anxious to inquire into trivia at the taxpayers’ expense. It has set aside more than $2m for royal commissions and it is so intent on keeping up taxpayer-financed royal commissions that it is now advertising for staff to fill a permanent pool of people to work on these and future inquiries. That, Mr President, no doubt is one of the areas in which the Government found it impractical to cut expenditure.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was then criticising and castigating the Government for having set up a number of royal commissions to inquire into matters affecting the Australian people, including the Royal Commission on Petroleum, but, that commission having presented its report to the Parliament on the subject matter into which it was inquiring, the Opposition has now come out and said: ‘We are not satisfied with that report. We want a further inquiry’. All I can say is that if the Opposition wants a further inquiry and if it asserts that it has further evidence it should go along to the royal commission and present that evidence. If the Opposition wants a further inquiry it is up to the Opposition to produce the evidence in the correct place and in the right manner and not to make assertions, wild accusations and allegations in this place that vilify and defame ordinary, decent citizens. I suggest to the Opposition that it is a case of ‘ money up or shut up ‘.
– It is quite clear to me that anybody who read the report that has been produced by the Royal Commission on Petroleum would be anxious to have further inquiries made into the activities of certain people to whom we have referred this afternoon. I would have thought that the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland), who has just resumed his seat, would have been only too anxious to clear the allegations that have been made, based on what I believe to be significant evidence if one cares to read the document to which I have referred. It is interesting to note the red faces of and the silence from Government senators during this debate. I believe it is a mark of their guilt in this whole sordid affair. Obviously they are condoning the practices of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in this ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd deal. In my opinion, the debate has highlighted again the path of deception that has been traversed by this Government ever since it came to office. The debate has compounded the deceit of the loan scandal and brought into focus the way in which the ACTU has behaved in this ACTU-Solo affair. I believe it is one of the reasons why Mr Dunstan put on the Pontius Pilate act during the last State election campaign and washed his hands of the Australian Labor Party. He did not want to be identified with a discredited Federal Labor government.
Mr Souter, a prominent member of the ALP, has claimed that he has been maligned by the interim report of the royal commission and that the Government has been whitewashed. Yet another scapegoat has been sacrificed on the altar of Mr Whitlam or the Government. The Commission’s finding of deceit and misrepresentation by Mr Souter and other directors of ACTU-Solo relied substantially on evidence that the former Minister for Minerals and Energy and his Department had not been aware of a second supplementary agreement with respect to the purchase of crude oil. The Minister claimed that he granted approval for the sale of crude on the basis of the government approved price of $2.10 per barrel and that he was ignorant of the second arrangement which lifted the price to $5 per barrel. Where does the President of the ALP and Managing Director of ACTU-Solo, Mr Hawke, fit into this picture? This sordid situation is a repeat of the Whitlam-Connor overseas loans affair, lt is quite clear that if Mr Hawke were an efficient managing director he would have known about this deal. He is as much to blame as his co-directors, if not more so, I believe, and can be lined up with the Prime Minister in this regard because the Prime Minister is as responsible as Mr Connor for the loans affair.
– Who wrote that for you?
-I did. Reverting to the question of Mr Hawke, I draw the attention of honourable senators to that part of the transcript of Mr Souter ‘s evidence which appears at page 4356. It reads:
Did you relate your understanding of these matters to Mr Kelty in the executive offices of the ACTU and to the other directors of the company, ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd?Yes, I did. May I point out, too, that in the transcript it says, ACTU executive’. It should have said ‘executive officers’.
But you related to the ACTU executive officers and the ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd directors that that was your understanding of what you were entitled to do?- Yes.
At page 4357 this evidence appears:
Is it correct that you passed it on first to Mr Kelty and secondly to the executive officers of the ACTU and thirdly to the other directors of the company ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd your understanding of the Minister’s requirements, is that right?- My understanding of what I considered was the requirement.
Yes. It was in the context of you having passed on to these people your understanding of what were the Minister’s requirements that the negotiations proceeded and the deal proceeded and the documents were drawn?- Yes.
No one can tell me that Mr Hawke can escape the clear evidence that has been placed before us in this transcript. I believe that he has something for which to answer. As far as Mr Connor is concerned, Mr Souter has said in sworn testimony before the royal commission: ] strongly object and deny that any Minister of the Crown has been misled by the ACTU.
When asked why we did not inform the Government of the second part of the agreement he said:
Because as I indicated to you it was my firm impression in discussions with the Minister that the question of the sale of the crude was at the government approved price, and the commercial contract in relation to the refined products is a matter between the parties.
When Mr Fisher put it to him that it was entirely misleading to write to the Minister without mentioning the fact that there was a supplementary agreement he said:
No, I do not accept that it was entirely misleading at all because, as I repeat to you, my clear understanding of the concept and the basis of the sale of the crude was that the commercial sale was distinctly not a matter for government approval.
When speaking on a television interview, Mr Ian Sykes, chairman of XL Petroleum Pty Ltd, claimed that the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, knew that ACTU-Solo was paying more than the Government fixed price for crude oil. He said that he had written to Mr Connor advising him of the deal and had received an oral reply from Labor M.P. Mrs Child to the effect that the Government had allowed higher prices to be paid in previous shipments. To simple laymen, such as myself, and I am sure to the electors of Australia, that is quite odd and I am quite sure that Mr Hawke and indeed Mr Connor ought to come forward and front up in relation to those matters to which we have referred today.
I sum up by saying that it is quite clear from the debate that has ensued this afternoon that Opposition senators have put down clear irrefutable evidence that the whole deal ought to be gone into in far more detail. That is why we have brought on today a matter of urgency in these terms:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for further inquiry into whether:
there was any agreement between the former Minister for Minerals and Energy and/or the Government and ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd to grant benefits or advantages contrary to the Government’s indigenous crude oil policy to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd.
there was undue benefit, information or advantage given to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd or to any of the Directors thereof.
I believe that the Labor Party, the ACTU and this company of which Mr Hawke, the President of the Labor Party, is managing director have something more for which to answer. At this stage I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Greenwood’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill (No. 2) 1975
Inter-State Commission Bill 1975
Social Services Bill (No. 3) 1975
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1975
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949-1975 I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1972 I present a statement concerning the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the subsidy year ended 30 June 1975.
Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania-Minister for
Minerals and Energy)- Pursuant to section 5 of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1 974I present amending agreements between the Australian Government and the Governments of Victoria and Queensland relating to sub-section 5 (2) of that Act.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Meat Research Act 1960-1973 I present the annual report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act 1971 I present a statement of payments authorised under section 3 of the Act during 1973-74.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators I present reports of working parties on the national rehabilitation and compensation scheme.
– I have received letters from Senator Walsh, requesting his discharge from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, and from the Leader of the Government in the Senate, nominating Senator Brown to be appointed to the Committee in his place.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That Senator Walsh be discharged from attendance upon the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and that Senator Brown, having been duly nominated in accordance with standing order 36a, be appointed to the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That consideration of Business of the Senate be postponed until the next day of sitting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator James McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
Opposition senators- No.
– Leave is not granted.
-The purpose of the Legal Aid Bill is to enable an independent statutory authority- the Australian Legal Aid Office- to provide legal assistance generally in the Federal area; to establish an independent advisory commission to undertake research and to tender policy advice to the Government regarding the provision of legal aid in Australia; and to enable suitable arrangements to be made for a co-operative undertaking in legal aid between the Australian Government, State governments, the legal profession, welfare organisations and the like. I would remind the Senate that legal aid is presently available in one form or another under a large number of Australian statutes. Reference may be made by honourable senators to the list set out in page 2 of the explanatory memorandum that has been circulated. Of particular importance is the provision in the Family Law Act, which specifically gives to the Australian Legal Aid Office the task of providing legal assistance subject to its ‘means and needs’ test in matters arising under that Act. It is expected that these matters alone will number at least 40 000 in the first year of operation of the Act.
It is important, also to realise the extent of the advice and information that the Governmentand, indeed, the Opposition- have had available to assist them in approaching the question of Federal legal aid legislation for Australia. Extensive research has been carried out not only in Australia but also overseas, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. In July 1973 the Government set up the Legal Aid Review Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Roy F. Turner, a prominent Sydney solicitor and a Vice-President of the Law Council of Australia, and in December 1973 requested Professor R. Sackville, Commissioner on Law and Poverty, to prepare a report on legal aid in Australia. The Government has been assisted by the 2 reports of the Committee and the report of the Commissioner, all of which have been published.
Of great significance in drafting this legislation has been the experience gained in operating the nationwide program of the Australian Legal Aid Office which was set up by the former AttorneyGeneral under administrative arrangements. This legislation, therefore, does not create a legislative framework in any abstract way but builds upon a substantial foundation- a foundation, I add, which has the support of 94 per cent of the Australian people right across party lines. It is of the greatest importance, when considering the proposal of the Opposition to refer this Bill to a committee, to recall that the Australian Legal Aid Office has been operating for over 2 years. It employs some 160 lawyers and 220 support staff. It has already opened 33 branch and regional offices across Australia and is shortly to open more. Personal interviews during which advice and assistance is given alone number some 150 000; they currently number about 15 000 a month.
We are not engaged in a theoretical exercise, but in a practical one. To refer this legislation to yet another committee as though the 33 offices and 380-odd staff of the Australian Legal Aid Office did not exist and the reports of the Committee and the Commissioner had never been made, is nothing less than absurd. If honourable senators wish to inform themselves about legal aid, they can easily do so through the resources of the Parliamentary Library or, still better, walk into any office of the Australian Legal Aid Office. There is no need to form a committee. Government senators will be happy to assist the senators opposite with any information they require.
Having made those introductory remarks, I wish to pass to the Bill. It is important, I think, to set out the fundamental principles which it embodies. And, whatever differences they may be as to detail, I venture to hope that there will be no disagreement about these principles.
First, a salaried service is a necessary component of a comprehensive legal aid scheme. This is the view held in every common law country which has grappled with the problem. In the United Kingdom, where a host of charitable salaried law centres have sprung up in response to evident need, the Law Society has been pressing for years for funds to set up a salaried service of its own. In Canada, there are strong moves towards establishing salaried services, even in Ontario where the profession which set up the Legal Aid Scheme in the first place originally opposed a salaried service; the most recent comprehensive scheme, established in Quebec, relies heavily on salaried lawyers. The basic pattern in the United States is the salaried neighbourhood law centre.
Salaried lawyers in community law offices make the law accessible to disadvantaged people who are wary of resorting to private practitioners even when they are available. The advantages of specialisation in so called ‘poverty law’ are obvious. Those who consider that a salaried service is unnecessary or should be confined to mere advice not only ignore the universal experience in the common law world but would commit the Government to a bottomless pit of expenditure on fees for service. Experience with the Australian Legal Aid Office program of advice and assistance short of litigation shows that it costs much less than the cost of paying the profession on a fee-for-service basis. For the provision of duty lawyer services the savings are considerable. Economies are expected in family law and other areas. Overseas research has noted similar savings. I need hardly add that the service is and should be staffed by fully qualified and independent lawyers.
Second, the private legal profession is a necessary component of any adequate scheme. Not only is it a basic principle that the independence and integrity of the profession be maintainedand the Bill specifically acknowledges this- but the profession must necessarily undertake the bulk of the work on behalf of assisted persons. The Office could not and would not seek to do so. At its very forefront, in clause 6 of the Bill, appears a clear statement of this principle. At the same time, the profession should be involved at the policy level. This is also provided for in the Bill. But plainly it would not be appropriate for the private profession to control the salaried service. Other questions aside, it would immediately be caught in a conflict of interest situation.
Third, the Government should have a general policy role in relation to the Office. The Bill has been amended to make it perfectly clear that there can be no interference in particular matters. The professional independence of the lawyers of the Office is specifically guaranteed. But the Government must be able to set general priorities and ensure that a truly rational service is undertaken. I might point out to honourable senators that the United Kingdom legislation provides for the Law Society’s scheme to operate under ‘the general guidance’ of the Lord Chancellor. Of course, provision is made in the Bill to ensure that no improper political pressure can be brought to bear on the Office.
Fourth, an independent body representing a wide cross-section of expertise should be established to conduct research and give objective advice to the Government on policy matters and grants of financial assistance. The usefulness of such a body has been shown by the United Kingdom experience with the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on legal aid. The Government has accepted the advice of the Legal Aid Review Committee as to membership of the Commission and proposes to appoint: A chairman, who is an eminent member of the profession; one representative of the AttorneyGeneral; 2 lawyers from private practice; one member from the Australian Legal Aid Office; one from a salaried legal aid service; one from the Australian Council of Social Services; 3 from other organisations or persons interested in the provision of legal aid; and one person with expertise in law reform. The Commission has been given a wide policy-advising function to enable it to enquire and report upon the very matters that the Opposition wants to refer to a parliamentary committee. The first 2 matters that the Opposition wants such a committee to report upon, namely, the adequacy of existing legal aid services and the most effective, efficient and economical method of providing assistance, are a straight steal from clause 17 of the Bill. The difference is that the Commission is an expert body that may be expected to provide the right long term answers in the light of experience, whereas the proposed committee that, it is said, will report within a few months may be expected to advance political differences but not the cause of legal aid.
Fifth, there should be as much community involvement in the work of the Office as possible consistent with the professional responsibilities of its lawyers. Part VII of the Bill provides for the establishment of consultative committees. Their basic function is to provide a focal point for cooperation between the community and the local office. This will enable the Officer to ascertain more readily and respond more appropriately to community needs. Again, the private profession will be represented on these committees, though the majority of members will be lay persons from the community. Sixth, there should be cooperation, not competition, between the Office and other legal aid schemes. It has been suggested in uninformed quarters that the Bill permits duplication of services. This is nonsense. The provisions of the Bill, particularly clauses 8 and 1 7, are designed to ensure that this does not occur.
The Office is anxious to avoid duplication and has arrived at satisfactory arrangements with State schemes to ensure co-ordination and cooperation. It was put in another place that this matter should be examined by a committee. But duplication is not implicit in the legislation. If it occurs, it can be controlled in the course of administration. The policy is perfectly clear, and will be adhered to. When the 23rd Report of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on legal aid was debated in the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Elwyn-Jones, pointed out that private practitioners and law centres employing solicitors to give advice and assistance to the poor had complementary and not opposing or competing tasks. He remarked: ‘It is quite ludicrous to regard the two as competing for a limited pool of work. We confront my Lords, not a pool, but an ocean ‘. The Legal Aid Commission will be able to consider the whole position and advise the Government upon it. I point out again that the Office is a going concern and problems such as this have been or are being overcome. The legislation ought not to be delayed simply because of theoretical objections which, in the field, have already been resolved.
I suggest to the Senate that there can be no real argument with the principles I have just enunciated. It is not necessary for me to go through the Bill in detail. I commend to honourable senators the detailed explanatory notes, especially the introduction, that have been circulated. These are not simply a paraphrase of the legislation, but explain the policy reasons for its provisions and outline how they will be administered. The proposal to refer the legislation to a committee is a mere farce, a cover-up to cause it to disappear from sight forever without the Opposition having to commit itself by a vote. The Australian people will not be deceived.
I will not go through the objections to this Bill which were tediously reiterated in the other place by Opposition spokesmen. With the exception of the States’ rights issue the objections are answered by the specific provisions of the legislation or in the explanatory memorandum. Many are matters of administration, capable of resolution by the exercise of common sense. The Bill, of course, assumes that the Federal Government has a responsibility for the provision of legal aid in Australia and that this involves a direct role. This is the view taken by Federal governments since Federation. The only substantial cricitism that has been made is directed to this question of policy. If the Government’s view is accepted, I suggest to honourable senators that there is and can be no real argument about the terms of the legislation. Let me turn to the suggestions that have been made by the Opposition spokesmen on this point.
The Opposition’s policy was stated in another place in the following terms: The Australian Government has a legitimate and proper role in the provision of legal aid services throughout Australia; it must have a very direct interest in and responsibility for such services; the service should represent a co-operative involvement of the State and Federal Governments, the legal profession and other professionals such as social workers, and the assisted public; and a legal aid commission should be established in each State, by State legislation, supported by Federal financial assistance. These propositions may be summarised thus: The Federal Government must pay the piper; it cannot call the tune; it must not even join the dance. Putting to one side the particular issue raised by these propositions, I suggest to the Senate that very little will be gained by referring to a committee the hackneyed question of States’ rights. Surely this has been debated enough. The Opposition no doubt has its view; we have ours. If we have not resolved it by now, a committee would not achieve agreement. I suggest that the following considerations would lead honourable senators to the view that the Australian Government has a direct and necessary responsibility so far at least as the provision of” legal aid in the federal area is concerned. First, as a glance at Professor Sackville ‘s research paper and the first report of the Legal Aid Review Committee will show, each State has a multiplicity of schemes in operation, funded in various ways, though largely by the Australian Government, and operated by government, the law societies and non-profit organisations. There is a substantial degree of co-operation but there are, nevertheless, many gaps in the services provided. Added to these schemes is the Australian Legal Aid Office, concentrating its efforts in the federal area. It would not be practical, or even desirable to impose a uniform, monolithic organisation on these bodies, and I suggest that honourable senators reflect upon the chances of getting State governments with their own legal aid schemes- for example, the Queensland Government with its Public Curator and Public Defender- to co-operate with the Australian Government in this area.
– Or any area.
-Or any area.
Second, if the Australian Government is primarily responsible in the federal sphere- and there is no real debate on this premise- how can it, consistent with that responsibility hand over federal legal aid to the vagaries of 8 different commissions to be set up under State and Territory legislation? The considerable delay and disorganisation implicit in such a proposal are obvious. It is necessary to have an Australian policy on legal aid and an Australian program implemented through a legal aid office set up by and reponsible to the Australian Government. I interpolate here that, as a result of a recent decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, this legislation is urgently needed to ensure that the lawyers of the Office and those private practitioners to whom matters are referred are able to act as solicitors for legally assisted persons. The doubts raised have already caused embarrassment in the courts of some States. There must be a national approach to the resolution of problems such as this.
Third, on a more practical level, if the Australian Legal Aid Office is to maintain high professional standards, it must be able to offer a career in legal aid to its lawyers. One of the main reasons for having a salaried service is to take advantage of the efficiency, competence and expertise arising from specialisation in so-called poverty or welfare law. If, as has happened in the United States, there is a high turnover of professional staff because of limited career possibilities, the standard of service available to the public must fall. This is unacceptable. A nationwide operation, with sufficient flexibility to be responsive to local needs and with an emphasis on decentralisation and individual professional responsibility is of vital importance.
Fourth, because of the urgent need for legal aid to be made available to Australians, the Australian Legal Aid Office was set up administratively. The Parliament has appropriated funds for its operations. The Office has the statutory responsibility under the Family Law Act for providing legal aid in family law matters. It has the support of 94 per cent of all Australians. It has already helped some 150 000 needy people. It employs some 380 persons in 33 offices throughout Australia, and this number is increasing to cope with the enormous amount of work. The clock cannot be turned back. I am confident that, upon reflection, the Senate will pass this legislation without further delay. Surely there are no real differences between us about it. Let it not be a political issue. If 94 per cent of Australians across party lines can agree, surely 94 per cent of the Senate can do the same.
I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 22 October.
Consideration of House of Representatives Message No. 382:
The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following Resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the House of Representatives having considered Message No. 275 of the Senate asserts that the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of the Loan Bill 197S for the reasons given in the Senate resolution is contrary to the accepted means of financing a major portion of the Defence budget of this country and therefore requests the Senate to re-consider and pass the Bill without delay.
Gordon Scholes Speaker
House of Representatives, Canberra, 21 October 1975
– In view of message No. 382 from the House of Representatives, I seek leave to move a motion to restore the Loan Bill 1975 to the Notice Paper.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the order of the day for the second reading of the Loan Bill 1975 be restored to the notice paper and that it be an order of the day for a later hour this day.
– I have rather gathered from that fascinating tangle of words that what I should do is proceed immediately to debate this issue.
-This is a fairly straightforward situation as far as the Opposition is concerned. It is part of our overall position as enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) when this Bill first came to be debated in the Senate. The Opposition has a clear view on this matter, as it has on the Appropriation Bills. It is deferring further consideration of them all until the Government has indicated that it will, as the Opposition believes it should, present itself to the people in a House of Representatives election at the earliest possible opportunity. That is the reason for the Opposition’s deferment of further consideration of this matter both earlier and again today. I move:
I now proceed to discuss this matter fairly briefly. I refer first to the message which came to the Senate from the House of Representatives. It does not seem to me to add anything new to what has already been said before. I have also been once again through the second reading speech of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) that accompanied the introduction of this Bill in the first place. It does not in any way provide us with any new material or material about which we did not already know.
Most honourable senators are familiar with the position concerning financial transactions. They operate in 3 areas- the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. It is obligatory that the Consolidated Revenue Fund should never be in deficit and that it must be funded. That has happened on a number of occasions with the present Government. The Fund needs to be supported because it is in excess of expenditure over revenue, although there have been occasions previously when it has been in reverse and money has been transferred out of it. As we all know, there is a massive deficit in the Government’s financing. There is great apprehension and concern in the Opposition that the deficit will become much greater. That is one of the principal reasons why we have put all of these measures under very detailed inspection. We have already said why we have done that. We have already done the inspecting. Out of it we have emerged with growing apprehension about the size of the deficit, what it might eventually become, and the Government’s methods of financing it. It is known to us that the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ), consideration of which also has been deferred, would need to be amended if this Loan Bill ever went through. I think that is a most unlikely event. All honourable senators know the problem with the Consolidated Revenue Fund needing to have the massive deficit transferred out of it. No amount is stated in the second reading speech or in the legislation as to what the size of the deficit to be transferred might well become. That, of itself, is a matter of substantial moment. It is illuminated by both clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill.
asked a number of questions at the conclusion of his remarks on an earlier occasion on the Loan Bill. They were answered by the Leader of the Government in the Senate when he replied to the debate on 15 October. I do not need to go through all of them again, but I do wish to refer to some of them which are of some significance. The first question asked by Senator Carrick reads:
Will the Minister re-affirm the statement of the Treasurer as recorded on page 4 1 9 of the Senate Hansard of 2 September that ‘Present plans envisage that only small amounts will be raised overseas in 1975-76. Small refinancing loans to cover maturing debt are planned, together with a borrowing of about $50m for on-lending to the AIDC which is provided for in the Budget’.
The answer to that question was as follows:
Yes. Present plans with regard to overseas borrowings are as stated in the answers to questions provided by the Acting Treasurer. The anticipated overseas borrowing activities of the Government are for small refinancing loans to cover maturing debt and for a borrowing of about $50m for onlending to the AIDC. In addition, there are expected to be small net borrowings on behalf of the Australian National Airlines Commission and Qantas Airways Ltd. These were also mentioned in the answers provided on 1 September by the Acting Treasurer- under the section dealing with net drawings under credit arrangements.
Senator Carrick also asked another question, which was question No. 2 and which reads:
Will the Minister affirm that current activities in the money-markets of Europe, purporting to be directed towards the raising of substantial loans, reputedly in units of $ 1 ,000m, for Australia, have no stimulus or support from the Commonwealth Government?
The answer is clear and unequivocal. It is:
If there are any such activities they certainly have no stimulus or support whatsoever from the Australian Government. The Australian Government has no intention of borrowing large amounts overseas of the type mentioned at this time.
That answer seems to make the situation quite clear. On a number of occasions we are assured by the Government that it does not intend to borrow in any way substantially overseas. That statement always makes very strange reading to all of us, in the light of what we know has been going on in this country by way of overseas loan negotiations since some time about last October. The answers are not consistent. The position is not consistent. I think the Government will have some explaining to do to the Australian people in due course, when it presents itself to the people at a House of Representatives election.
There is one other matter to which I think we ought to advert as part of our general concern in this whole area of government financing arising out of what might be called extremely peculiar behaviour in overseas loan negotiations plus the massive deficit of the Government which may well become greater and the financing transactions associated with that. The latest figures that are available are the ones put out by the Treasury as at 30 September. They illustrate the Government’s position. It was, in effect, in total overdraft at the end of September to approximately the following extent: It had outstanding treasury bills of $850m and treasury notes of $ 1,280.4m; its bank balance had gone from a credit to a debit and it was therefore in bank overdraft as well. Its total indebtedness to the Reserve Bank of Australia, needing in due course to be refinanced or funded, at the end of September was $2,250m. They are the facts. They are certified and signed by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) and by Sir Frederick Wheeler, Secretary of the Treasury, in the statement which has been issued.
If one looks at the position one begins to wonder what is really happening with the finances of this country. I hope the Government will understand that that is one of the principal reasons why the Opposition has been putting this whole financial transaction of the Government under severe query and severe test. As I have said on many occasions, it has not only a right to do so but also a proper responsibility to do so. As the information has emerged day by day, week by week, month by month, it has so heightened our concern that we have felt it is time the Australian people were informed of these matters and given a chance to judge the financial capacity and general probity of the Government which we presently have in this country. The interesting thing in this cash position is the way the cash has run down. I have had these figures taken out: At the end of June 1974 the Government had cash in hand of $ 1,425m. At the end of June 1975 it had run that cash in hand down to $764m. At the end of September 1975 its cash in hand was minus; it owed the bank $124m plus the balance of the money which it owed. We find ourselves also in a state of difficulty in reconciling the statements made by the Government on various occasions with reality. The same statement of the Treasurer and the Treasury officials indicates that for the 3 months ended September 1975 the total outlays of the Government were $4,948m, in rounded figures, as against $3,438m for the same 3 months of the previous year. That is a growth rate of 44 per cent in expenditure in 12 months, comparing the first 3 months of the last financial year- July, August and Septemberwith the first 3 months of this financial year.
On the other hand, we know that the Supply Bills gave the Government approximately a 62 per cent advance in its expenditure this year as against last year. So we have 2 problems in determining what the Government is up to. Will it in effect, as it says it will, only expand its expenditure by 23 per cent, as stated by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech when he said: ‘Total outlays are now estimated to increase by 23 per cent’? Is that the truth? Is the truth the published figure given for the 3 months ended September which indicates 44 per cent? If all these things are the case, why a bid for Supply in May to increase the amount for 5 months by 63 per cent? In all these things one finds it very difficult to determine the true position. Our best calculation, not having access totally to the Treasury, is that the Government has in reality an ability to carry on in a Sup- ply sense un til well into December, unless we are l ooking at a tremendous increase in expenditure well above the figures given to us and not yet disclosed.
I do not think I need say a great deal more. I think I have indicated quite clearly our concerna concern which has been spread over a long period. Nothing we have seen, none of the indications given to us, none of the information supplied in relation to the various negotiations for overseas loans, in contrast to what is stated to be the Government’s actual position, has satisfied our very great apprehension, and that is why we again propose to defer the Loan Bill 1975, as we deferred the Appropriation Bills. I suggest that the proper remedy for the Government is to explain in fine detail its actions in relation to all its transactions and to reconcile all the areas of difference of opinion and of statement. So I have nothing further to say, except that we believe that the Bill should be deferred again.
– in reply- I think I am right in saying that the amendment that has been moved by Senator Cotton is identical in its terms to the one which was moved previously. In that amendment the Opposition makes some assertions and calls on the Government to hold an election. The Loan Bill 1975 has been debated at length and I do not wish to go over the material again. However, Senator Cotton has raised 2 points to which I feel I ought to reply. He referred to the answers which Senator Carrick sought and which were tabled on the last occasion when this legislation was before the Senate. I want to emphasise that in relation to the matter of overseas loan raisings a commitment was given in the answers supplied that overseas borrowings would not be used largely for the purpose of funding the deficit. That is true and that position stands. I think it was somewhat misleading to suggest that reports of units of $1 billion being raised on the overseas markets at the behest of the Australian Government or with the support of the Australian Government are related to the answer that has been given here. The question was concerned with the raising of loans in respect of financing the Budget deficit. That is quite a separate matter to these other accusations that are being made about the Australian Government’s alleged current involvement in the raising of $ 1 billion units on the
European money market, and the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has indicated that that is simply not the case. I regret that this matter has to be raised again here because there is no evidence to support it. It is another one of those statements which are being used in order to confuse people and to give the impression that very large sums of money are still being negotiated or inquired into by this Government. That is not true, and such statements are to be rejected.
The other matter raised by Senator Cotton was concerned with the increase in the deficit during the September quarter. It is true that the deficit in the September quarter is higher than the deficit would be in any other quarter, and that is a trend which has been customary over the years. If we look back over the years we find that the September quarter deficit in 1971-72 was $682m when the annual deficit was $134m. The September quarter deficit expressed as a proportion of the total deficit was 5.1.I am sorry to have to recite all of these figures but it is important that they be written into the Hansard record. For the following year, 1972-73, the relevant figures were $80 lm, $709m and the proportion was 1.1. In 1973-74 the September quarter deficit was $988m, the annual deficit was $293m, and the proportion of that September quarter deficit to the total deficit was 3.4. In 1974-75 the September quarter deficit was $923m, the annual deficit was $2, 567m, and the proportion of that September quarter deficit to the total deficit was 0.4. In 1975-76 the September quarter deficit was $ 1,887m, the annual deficit is $2,798m, and the proportion of that September quarter deficit to the total deficit is 0.7.
I appreciate that it would be impossible for anybody to retain those figures in his head, but the relevant factor is that it is evident that the September quarter deficit in 1975-76 is not abnormal in relation to the budgeted deficit. Indeed, it is lower than in any year in the past decade, with the exception of 1974-75 when it was 0.4. But in that year the Government by decision expanded the deficit greatly after the September quarter by 2 methods- the new expenditure decisions and the tax cuts. It is important to realise that the present position with which we are confronted insofar as the September quarter deficit is concerned is not an abnormal one. If we relate the proportion of that September quarter deficit to the total deficit, going back to 1971-72 we find the evidence shows that it is not an abnormal position. In actual aggregates the figures are quite different, but we must look at the aggregate of the deficit itself related to the September quarter deficit in each year. That is the only way in which we can get a proper picture of it.
It is quite obvious that the Opposition is prepared to maintain the same position as it took when this Bill came before the Senate earlier. I presume that the numbers will be used again to carry the amendment. Obviously we will divide on it. I can only say that no matter how adamant the Opposition may feel about this matter or how convinced it is that it is right, it is evident that the majority of Australians do not think the Opposition is right. As time passes more and more Australians will come to realise that the action that has been taken to refuse the passage of this Bill and of the Appropriation Bills will not be accepted by the majority of Australians.
I was interested in Senator Cotton’s reference to the fact that the Consolidated Revenue Fund should not normally be in deficit. Of course the whole purpose of this Bill was to enable transfers to be made to the Loan Fund to ensure that it does not go into deficit. What is the Government expected to do insofar as these defence appropriations are concerned? They are being continually debited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund which obviously must go into deficit. There is not an accounting procedure that was invented by this Government. It is a normal accounting procedure which was used by previous Governments and which will be used by future governments. Quite apart from the politics involved in the rejection of the Appropriation Bills, I believe that the Opposition’s stand on this Bill is unwarranted. There is no political mileage to be gained by it. It creates difficulties in the normal accounting of the Government. One could talk oneself blue in the face but the man in the street would not have the faintest idea of what the meaning of this legislation is. But we in this chamber understand it, and I know that no one would understand it more than Senator Cotton, It is unfortunate that the Opposition takes its present stand on this legislation. Probably I would be wasting my time if I were to say any more on the matter. Mr President, I suggest that we put it to the vote.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cotton’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question resolved in the negative.
That the motion (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
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:
Mr President, 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)-
This Bill, in conjunction with the Income Tax Bill which I shall introduce shortly, will bring into effect the: new personal income tax system announced in the Budget Speech. It will also give effect to the Budget decision to continue the system of doubled rates of depreciation which applied for 1974-75 and to extend it, from 1 July 1975, to all sections of commerce and industry.
The paramount objectives of the Government in introducing the new personal income tax system are twofold. One is to achieve a more equitable distribution of the burden of taxation borne by individual taxpayers, especially the single income family. The other objective is to reduce marginal rates of tax at the level of average weekly earnings. In broad terms, these aims are achieved by increasing the marginal rates of tax payable on the first $6,000 of income and reducing them on the excess over this amount, and by substituting a much more generous and equitable rebate system for the existing system of concessional deductions. Both elements of reformthe new rate scale, and the change-over to rebates- are of fundamental importance.
In brief, a ‘tax rebate of $400 will replace the existing deduction of $364 for a spouse, a rebate of $200 will replace the deduction of $260 for a student child or for one child under 16 years of age, and a rebate of $150 will replace the deduction of $208 for other children under 16 years of age. These rebate amounts are far in excess of the tax value of the deductions previously allowable. They mean also that, for all taxpayers, rich and poor alike, the tax value of a dependant is exactly the same, that is, it is not, as under the old system, larger for wealthy people than it is for low-income earners. I want to make this quite clear: Our new tax scheme removes the inequitable system of concessional deductions and replaces it with a fairer system of rebates, Further, a new allowance- a rebate of $200- is to be introduced for parents without partners who are maintaining children who qualify for concessional rebates as dependants. The definition of student for the purpose of the higher of the two rebates for children is to be extended from the present definition to include any child under 25 years of age receiving full-time education at a school, college or university. Under the previous, more restrictive definition, only children between the ages of 16 and 25 could qualify as a student.
Other deductions of a concessional nature, except those for housing loan interest and gifts which will continue to be deductible from income, will be replaced by rebatable amounts subject to a 40 per cent rebate of tax. The minimum rebate to be allowed in this context, which I shall refer to as the general rebate, will be $540. This means that taxpayers who would otherwise claim other concessional deductions of $ 1,350 or less will not need to itemise deductions claimedthe $540 rebate will be, as it were, automatic. Deductions for residents of zone A and zone B and members of the defence forces serving overseas will be replaced by rebates equal to at least 40 per cent of the deductions formerly allowable. These rebates will, of course, be additional to the general and dependant rebates. We have decided that two of the concessional deductions that were allowed under the old system will remain outside the new rebate scheme. These are for housing loan interest, and for gifts to public institutions and approved building funds. The percentage of housing loan interest allowable as a deduction at present is, in effect, means-tested by reference to the combined income of a married couple. It is not proposed to change the present basis of the concession. Also, having regard to the people it is intended to assist, it is the Government’s view that the concessional deduction for housing loan interest should be viewed independently of any other concession and that interest eligible as a concession should therefore be placed outside the range of personal expenditures that are to be covered by the $540 general rebate or rebated at the proposed 40 per cent rate. As to gifts, the deduction is being retained because we believe that it is the recipient of the gift rather than the taxpayer that it is intended to benefit, although indirectly, by the concession, a redistribution of the taxation burden implies, of course, that there will be both gainers and losers. From the point of view of taxpayers collectively however, gains will exceed losses and the total amount of income tax to be paid annually by individual taxpayers will be some $205m less under the new system than it would have been if the old system had continued. Considerations of equity demand that the gainers in the redistribution should be those people who, out of a modest income, maintain dependants with little or no income of their own. This will be achieved under the new system by the generous scale of rebates for dependants. Those who will pay more tax under the new system will, for the most part, be persons without family responsibilities or members of multiincome households. Turning to the technical scope of the Bill, much of it is devoted to the repeal of the provisions of the existing law relating to concessional deductions and to their reenactment in a form appropriate to a rebate system. There are also consequential amendments to other provisions of the law. I should, however, refer to education expenses. The concessional allowances for both education expenses for a child and for so-called self-education expenses are, of course, to be absorbed into the rebate system. But the limit on the amounts to be taken into account is to be increased from $ 1 50 to $250 and, in the case of self-education expenses, the range of expenditure is to be widened beyond the cost of fees, books and equipment, so as to include all expenses necessarily incurred in connection with a prescribed course of education. Self-education expenses in excess of $250 will fall for consideration under the general deduction provisions of the income tax law. In addition to the personal income tax provisions, the Bill provides also for the accelerated income tax deductions for depreciation announced in the Budget Speech. This measure represents a significant widening of the scope of the provision enacted last year to grant depreciation deductions at double ordinary rates in respect of new manufacturing and primary production plant. The new provisions will apply to all new plant that is first used or installed ready for use for the purpose of producing assessable income on or after 1 July 1975, other than certain motor vehicles and plant that qualifies for special statutory rates of* depreciation. No time limit has been set for the operation of this provision. Taxpayers will be entitled to claim deductions on eligible plant at twice the rates normally applied for income tax purposes. The increased rates will continue to apply in succeeding years until the cost of the plant has been written off or until the plant is sold or otherwise disposed of. Taxpayers may elect to forgo the accelerated allowances if they so wish. Finally, the Bill provides for the provisional tax otherwise payable in respect of 1975-76 income to be reduced or waived in certain circumstances. In the absence of a special measure, provisional tax payable in respect of 1975-76 income would be an amount equal to the 1974-75 tax in respect of income other than salary or wages. Where that tax included any amount payable as a surcharge of tax in respect of income from property, that amount will be disregarded for the purposes of provisional tax calculation. Also the Commissioner will be authorised to refrain from charging provisional tax in 1974-75 assessments in any case where it would appear that as a result of the proposed general rebate and the proposed rebates for dependants a taxpayer may not be liable to pay tax in respect of his 1975-76 income. A memorandum explaining technical features of the Bill is being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
-I rise, not to detain the Senate long on the first reading of a money Bill, but in order to seek information which the Minister has been asked to provide over a period of months and which has not been provided. In regard to the first matter I raise I simply state that this is the third occasion on which I have raised this matter in the Senate. I do consider that, whilst there are other matters of grave concern activating us all, there are individuals whose rights ought not to be ignored simply for want of ministerial attention.
– To which Minister are you referring?
– I refer to the matters on which I originally addressed representations to Mr Clyde Cameron as Minister for Labor and Immigration and concerning which I am now seeking the attention of Senator James McClelland as the current Minister for Labor and Immigration. The first matter relates to a gentleman by name of Ivan Pavlovic, who is a Croatian born Australian who has been denied a passport and who has been given no reason for the denial of the passport. I first became aware of this matter in the middle of 1974. I became aware of it because it was a boast of Mr Grassby as the then Minister for Immigration that the Labor Government, unlike- as he said- previous Governments, had never withheld passports or citizenship on political grounds. Shortly thereafter I received information which I have endeavoured to pursue on behalf of an individual who has been denied a passport. For want of any reason being given, one can only assume the passport was denied on the political ground that he is a Croatian-born Australian and for that reason in the eyes of this present Government is a second rate Australian. He made application for a passport in July 1 974 and on 24 July he was told he could not be provided with one and he could not be provided with any reason.
– What is his name, senator?
- Mr Ivan Pavlovic. I wrote to the Minister, Mr Clyde Cameron, on 29 July and on 1 August I received a reply stating that immediate inquiries were being made and that the Minister would write again as soon as he had something definite. The Minister again replied on 1 6 August 1 974 stating that the application had not been refused but that it was still being processed and it was hoped that a decision would be reached shortly. Not hearing further, I wrote again on 9 November referring the Minister to his earlier letter and hoping that I could be informed. Then there was some confusion in the Minister’s office. On 12 November I received a reply from the Minister stating that Mr Pavlovic would not be granted a passport and that no reasons would be provided for the decision. On 14 November I received a letter from the Minister stating that he had requested his Department to expedite its inquiries into the matter. Obviously there was some office confusion at that time.
I replied on 18 November protesting at the failure to grant Mr Pavlovic a passport. At this time I instanced other matters such as the fact that he had sought to go to New York to meet his mother whom he had not seen for many years. She had been granted a visa to leave Yugoslavia to visit her daughter in New York. Mr Pavlovic’s intention to visit his mother had been the original reason for his application for a passport. Of course his mother was unable to see him because he could not leave Australia. When she applied to come to Australia, with her son paying the expense of her coming, she was told by the ConsulGeneral in New York that she could not get a visa to come to Australia. Likewise, when he sought to have his father come to Australia various difficulties were placed in the way. I can only say with regard to those difficulties that I was ultimately given the reason- many months afterwardsthat there was a health condition which prevented Mr Pavlovic senior from leaving Yugoslavia. I am not in a position in any way to qualify that response but it indicates the problem which a person who has left Yugoslavia and who comes to this country finds when endeavouring to see his parents again. 1 take up the story. On 25 November 1974 I received a letter from the Minister in which he stated that he directed his Department to report to him on the matter as quickly as possible and that I would be written to again. But in January 1975 the Minister stated that the circumstances of the case were such that he could not vary the previous decision that Mr Pavlovic should be issued with a document of identity as opposed to a passport. I raised this matter in the Senate on 2 1 April. Senator Bishop said that he would give me an answer as soon as possible. I received no answer. I raised the matter again on 7 June 1 975. At that time Senator Bishop said that there were reasons why the passport would not be granted and, that as far as Mr Clyde Cameron was concerned, I could have a look at the files. If I still wanted the reasons aired after looking at the files, Mr Cameron would be prepared to do that. I took up that invitation in writing, seeking to know when and where I could see the files. I have been told that this is a matter which cannot be pursued and that the files are not available to me.
At the same stage in this latter period, the administration of passports was transferred from the Minister for Immigration to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I apologise for the supposition that the Minister for Immigration is still involved in this matter; it is the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). I received no reply from the Minister for Foreign Affairs after being told in June that the Minister had referred my matter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for his consideration. Only within the last week- on 10 October- I received a letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs in which he indicated that the files could not be looked at and that Mr Pavlovic would not be granted a passport. I simply say that this is a situation in which an Australian citizen is denied what ought to be the entitlement of every Australian citizen.
It is completely unsatisfactory for this man who has been messed about for a period of approximately 16 months to have no reasons given. He is a man who has no criminal record whatsoever. The mere fact that he happens to be
Croatian born- notwithstanding the Government’s antipathy towards Croatia or its desire not to offend the Yugoslav Government- is no adequate reason. While there is the ability in this place to pursue the cause of individuals who are denied what is common justice, there will always be people in this chamber, I hope, who will take up the cudgels on behalf of such people. Otherwise they have no answer available to them. I think it is a reflection upon the present Government’s standards that it made great claims in its election platform that this would be a change which would be brought about when it came into government, but there has been no change whatsoever.
The second matter which I refer to is one which directly concerns Senator James McClelland as Minister for Labor and Immigration and relates to a gentleman named Milan Sogorovic who is currently in gaol in Western Australia and who, I understand, has been in gaol for a quite long period. He is about to be released from gaol and fears that he will be deported to Yugoslavia. He fled from Yugoslavia to France in approximately 1963 and was granted political asylum by the French authorities. He was a political refugee. I knew nothing of this gentleman until he wrote to me in March this year expressing his apprehension that he was about to be deported to the country from which he had fled. I sent a telegram to the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, on 12 March. In it I said:
I have received a letter from Milan Sogorovic at present in Fremantle Prison.
He states he is being considered for deportation to Yugoslavia.
He further states he escaped from Yugoslavia in 1963 to Italy and then to France where he was granted political asylum.
He fears being deported to Yugoslavia where he will be dealt with for anti-Communist activities.
I do not know the circumstances of the case but am alarmed to think that Australian Government would deport anti-Communist to a Communist regime when he has been granted political asylum as a refugee from a Communist country.
If such deportation is under consideration I urge that Sogorovic be not deported to Yugoslavia.
Appreciate your early reply.
I then sent a fuller letter on 12 March. I received a reply by telegram on 1 8 March from the Minister’s private secretary informing me that the Minister would contact me as soon as possible. I waited a considerable time before I received any reply. I wrote again to the Minister on 24 July informing him that I had written on 12 March and had received no reply except an acknowledgment from Mr Cameron’s private secretary. The letter which I wrote on 24 July was directed, of course, to the present Minister, Senator James McClelland, and I received from the Minister’s immigration private secretary on 3 1 July an acknowledgment of my letter and a statement that Senator James McClelland had directed that his Department report to him as quickly as possible and that he would write to me immediately he had something definite to tell me. Since then I have had communication with the United Nations Commissioner on Refugees who is likewise concerned. I have had correspondence from a barrister in Western Australia who, at legal aid instigation, is taking up Mr Sogorovic ‘s case and is seeking information. I am still awaiting a reply from the Minister. I last wrote to the Minister on 19 September and I think I sent him a telegram within the last week, but so far I have had no reply or acknowledgment.
It ought not to be necessary to raise these matters in this way. I just wonder what the circumstances are surrounding any inquiries which I make about Croatian-born Australians. There are other matters which I do not raise at this time in respect of which I have been waiting for months to get information. Of course, the answers which are given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) with regard to Mr Vlasic who was recently imprisoned in Yugoslavia are a matter of common knowledge. These people by and large lack friends in this country but there ought to be someone who can speak up for individual cases which warrant attention. I hope I can receive some information from the Minister.
– A week or so ago, on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) I attended a Serbian function. It was a function to celebrate the eighth centenary of the birth of St Sava, who is the patron saint of all the Serbs. It is becoming increasingly clear that Senator Greenwood is attempting to cast himself in the role of patron saint of all the Croats. I will deal separately with each of the propositions that he has advanced today, which are a tribute not so much to his devotion to the cause of the Croats as an example of his own obduracy.
Firstly, let us deal with the case of Ivan Pavlovic, a naturalised Australian citizen of Croatian origin who wishes to obtain an Australian passport to travel to Yugoslavia. Let us dispose for all time of Senator Greenwood’s extravagant proposition that this is a natural right of any Australian citizen which has been adhered to by all Australian governments. I need only remind him of the case of one Srecko Rover, who is perhaps the best known Croatian or man of Croatian origin in this country and who was treated in exactly the same way by Senator Greenwood ‘s Government under the aegis of Mr McMahon. Srecko Rover, a naturalised Australian, would appear to have had all of the rights of Mr Ivan Pavlovic, but for reasons which it never saw fit to publicise the McMahon Government refused him an Australian passport. I will tell Senator Greenwood here and now that it is the present intention of the Government not to give a passport to Mr Pavlovic for good and sufficient reasons which cannot be discussed. If he wants a better hint than that, I am afraid he is asking this Government to undertake the exposure of matters which have to be kept secret by any Government.
Further than that, for some curious reason Senator Greenwood does not seem to be able to accept the fact that there has been an alteration of the administrative arrangements in this country and that since March of this year the responsibility for the issuance of passports has rested not with my Department but with the Department of Foreign Affairs. I do not know why it has taken until 10 October for the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) to tell Senator Greenwood that Mr Pavlovic is not going to be given a passport. I know why he is not going to be given a passport. I think there is abundant reason why he should not be given a passport and I also think that there is abundant reason why Senator Greenwood should not be told why he is not going to be given a passport, just as there was abundant reason why the McMahon Government did not tell us or anybody else why Srecko Rover was refused a passport. It is characteristic of the system of double entry bookkeeping for which Senator Greenwood is famous that he sees no conflict here and exalts to an inalienable right a right that was not accepted or acknowledged by the last Liberal-Country Party Government.
– Like your open Government.
– I think I can ignore the inanities of Senator Webster. Let us turn to the other example which has the patron saint of the Croats up in arms, that is, the case of Milan Sogorovic, a criminal who is at present serving a term in gaol in Western Australia not for a crime of a terrorist nature but for a purely ordinary criminal act. He is about to be released and he, of course, is anxious that he should not be sent back to Yugoslavia. I can give
Senator Greenwood a categorical assurance that any Australian citizen or any person of Croatian origin who is to be deported or who has rendered himself liable to deportation and who would be in genuine danger in Yugoslavia because of terrorist activities or terrorist associations will not be deported to Yugoslavia. No decision has been made to deport Mr Sogorovic to Yugoslavia.
Surely Senator Greenwood can understand this difficulty: The word has gone around among the criminal element in the Croatian community that, if one is sent to gaol and one has rendered oneself liable to deportation under the Migration Act, the thing to do is to spread it about that one is a member of a Croatian terrorist organisation; that way one will not be deported to Yugoslavia. The task of determining whether a man will be in any peril for political reasons if he happens to be deported to Yugoslavia is a task of considerable administrative difficulty, but we certainly do not propose to be the victims of that sort of campaign. We do not propose to have people who are ordinary common criminals, who should be deported, who will be deported and who normally would be deported to Yugoslavia preserved from being returned to Yugoslavia merely by some phoney story that they are men of great principle, although they may be anarchists or terrorists, and that they will be in some peril if they are deported to Yugoslavia. This matter requires a lot of investigation. Mr Sogorovic ‘s case is still undergoing investigation. If he would genuinely be in any peril by being deported to Yugoslavia and we are satisfied of that, he will not be deported to Yugoslavia; neither will any other Croatian in a similar position.
– I intervene in the debate only to support strongly the stance which the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) has taken. I do not say that idly. Like the Minister, during the 10 years that I have been a member of the Senate I think I have attended more than my share of Yugoslav functions. Possibly unlike other senators, I have been involved with violence in the front line- not of my making. So I think I am one who can gauge the atmosphere. During the last 3 years, whichever group has been holding a Yugoslav function there has been none of the gatecrashing that was a feature of such functions during the last 5 years or more of the term of office of the previous Government. Let me be quite clear about it. No matter whether people have a Chetnik, a Ustashi or a white guardist background, or the background of the vast majority of Yugoslavs who are not involved, they should have freedom of assembly. Virtually all the oppression has come from people of the far Right.
I think that statement was borne out, as some members of the Senate would know, when that famous Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians was appointed. At one of its meetings I asked the representatives of the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory Police and the New South Wales Police whether they could give me details of any acts of aggression by members of what would be termed the left wing element of the Greek community against their diplomatic representatives, comparable with what was done against Yugoslav consulates and embassies. They could not give me any. I think Senator Greenwood also would recall that last year I had the pleasure of sitting on an Estimates committee of which he was a member. I asked representatives of the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Capital Territory Police whether we should remove our guards from the Yugoslav Embassy in Canberra. The answer was an emphatic no.
I take this matter a little further. All of us want world peace. In the Balkans in the not far distant future the present ruler could well pass on. He is in his 80s now. Some misguided people in Australia, some of this minute element of the Croats, may want to go there and be involved in some internal wrangle which could jeopardise world peace. I do not say those words idly. An illustrious senator in the Opposition ranks, none other than Senator Wright, on one memorable occasion, as spokesman for the then Foreign Minister, said that any attempt to upset, dismantle or fragment Yugoslavia would affect the power structure or the power balance between the NATO and the Warsaw powers. Nobody wants that. This Government says that it will not tolerate people going there as a sort of agent provocateur and then flashing an Australian passport.
It is not my place to give Senator Greenwood a lecture or a sermon, but I believe that no matter where people come from they cannot use Australia as a launching pad for trouble making. The vast bulk of the Yugoslav community feels that these days they are singularly free of incidents. It will do Victorian senators good to hear this: I was at the Yugoslav-Australian tenth anniversary function at Chatswood, which is in the heart of our northside. There are still votes for Australian Labor Party senators there. But the point was that there were some Croats there from Clifton Hill. When I explained our attitude on pension portability and ethnic radio they said: We realise that we have listened too long to exSenator Hannan’. That was the nicest tribute this Labor Government ever got. I know that Senator Devitt has heard that said also.
My illustrious colleague, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, referred to the Serbians. Senator Greenwood has every right to raise complaints about what I call a minute section of the Croatian community. However, there are other serpents in the garden- I use that term deliberately- among the Slovenes who are pretty highly regarded law abiding people. Two men by the names of Vladimir Menart and Ljemka Ubantich have laid low for a number of years, but these two men have resurrected a newspaper in which they make attacks on people. I get something for my corner, but I have been threatened before today. I do not mind that so much. They have the effrontery to illustrate their newspaper with the actions of White Guardists who were equivalent to the Chetniks and the Ustashi in being allied to the Nazi forces. They imply that any Slovene who does not buy their magazine is not patriotic. Many of the people who do not buy it are men who did not serve in World War II but who got Australian citizenship in the 1954-59 period and were called up as national servicemen. That is the sort of atmosphere that this Government has tried to cool down.
I conclude on another matter. Two Croats came to see me. One is an aeronautical engineer. He wants to go to Chicago and work for some American firm. I told him that I was prepared to go to both the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, and also the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland. I said to him: ‘Look, I am not that naive. If you go to Chicago will you give me an assurance that you are not going to attend any of those Croatian brotherhood meetings which bring out those blood curdling manifestos about what is going to happen when Marshal Tito passes on and about how they are going to get even with people. That is not my idea of modern society’. He said: ‘Senator, I am not prepared to give you that assurance ‘. If that man wanted to further his career as an aeronautical engineer by going to Chicago, we would be wrong in denying him permission to go overseas. As Senator James McClelland said, it is obvious that he is like the infamous Srecko Rover; he has something to hide.
Senator Greenwood has raised the point of our being involved with countries which have left wing governments. Senator Greenwood should not forget that we inherited another nettle which succeeding Ministers for Foreign Affairs have found difficult to overcome. I went to the Austcare seminar on behalf of Senator James McClelland. I had to stand up there and tell people from certain Christian sects of the Middle East that because we cannot get police clearance on some of their relatives they have the odium of being linked with groups associated with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. We have had to err on the side of security. I know that people like Senator Baume have very strong views about our attitude towards the Middle East. Some of my views coincide with those of Senator Baume. But where would this Government be if we did not have a firm hand and insist on proper security clearances. The point of my argument is that Senator James McClelland is taking a rigid line so that we do not export trouble shooters. We are as vigilant about the Middle East as is the Opposition. To be quite honest, it is a very agonising decision to have to take. I know that governments of the persuasion of Senator Greenwood have been divided about on which side they should err, and so are we. All I say is that we are practising the virtue of consistency.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a f irst 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)-
This Bill declares the rates of income tax payable for the 1975-76 financial year. There are 3 main features covered by the Bill: A new personal tax scale; reduced rates of company tax; and the removal of the surcharge of tax on property income. I will, discuss each of these features in turn, but will devote most of my attention to the new personal income tax scheme. Compared with the 1974-75 rates, the new personal income tax scale has higher marginal rates of tax on the first $6,000 of taxable income. In other words, the shape of the progressive tax rate scale has been fundamentally changed in a way that allows an overhaul of the whole personal income tax system. Because of this change in the rate scale, we have been able to make reductions in most of the marginal rates of tax payable higher up the income scale, particularly around the industrially sensitive level of wages near average weekly earnings. The high marginal rates near the average weekly earnings level- 44 per cent and 48 per cent under the 1974-75 scale- have long been causing concern, particularly in the field of industrial relations. They are sharply reduced under the new scale to 35 per cent. We hope and expect that this change will be especially welcome to trade union leaders and the members of their unions.
Restructuring the scale in this way has also made possible an increase in the value of concessional allowances for dependants thus achieving a highly desirable redistribution of the burden of taxation in favour of the family man. The increases in the value of dependant allowances, together with the proposed general rebate of $540, will, in a great many cases, more than compensate for the effects of the increased rates of tax payable on certain parts of the taxable income. Indeed, as the Treasurer (Mr Hayden), emphasised in his Budget Speech, as a package, the new personal tax system will completely free from tax nearly half a million taxpayers. For a person without dependants, the tax thresholdthat is, the lowest level at which income tax will have to be paid- will generally be raised from $1,041 in 1974-75 to $2,5 19 in 1975-76. For persons with dependants, the threshold will range from $4,001 where the only dependant is a spouse, to $5,943 where there is a dependant spouse and three children, including two at school.
Under our new tax system very significant benefits will flow to persons entitled to rebate for dependants. Let me take 2 examples which illustrate the position for gainers and losers. For a taxpayer with a dependant wife and one child who has a net income of $7,000 this year and is entitled to rebates for expenditures equal to 5 per cent of net income, tax will be $770 for 1 975-76 compared with $997 on the same income derived in 1974-75- this is a reduction of 22.8 per cent in his or her income tax. However, for a person with the same income but no dependants, tax will be $1,370 in 1975-76 compared with $1,247 in 1974-75- an increase of 9.9 per cent. Lest this latter example seem harsh, I might mention that by most standards, the taxpayer in the former category would be regarded as needing more assistance than the taxpayer in the latter category.
The benefits of the new tax system will show up in pay packets after 1 January 1976. The revised rates of tax instalment deductions which come into operation on that date will take into account the changed rates of tax, the general rebate of tax, and the rebates for dependants. Tax cuts on income earned in the current first half of the year will be reflected in tax refunds at the end of the year. Two other matters I should mention are the property tax surcharge and the aged persons rebate. The property tax surcharge which applied for 1 974-75 is not being re-imposed for 1975-76. The special rebate of tax for aged persons which for 1974-75 was a basic amount of $130 is to be terminated. First introduced in 1973-74 as a transitional measure associated with the phasing out of the age pension means test, it had always been intended that it be phased out in due course. The rebate is now, in effect, to be absorbed into the general rebate of $540. Although some aged persons will pay more tax in 1975-76 than they would have paid if the arrangements for 1974-75 had continued, it should be remembered that age pensions are being increased each Spring and Autumn. Further, as from I July 1 976, the age at which pensioners become eligible for means-test-free pensions will be reduced to 69 years. The tax effects for aged persons cannot be properly judged without taking these factors into consideration.
Apart from the personal income tax provisions, the Bill proposes that for the 1975-76 financial year, the general rates of tax payable by companies in respect of 1974-75 incomes will be 42Vi per cent. This will mean for both public and private companies a reduction of Vh cents per dollar in the rate of tax payable on the whole of their taxable incomes. For co-operative companies and non-profit companies, other than friendly society dispensaries, it will mean a reduction of 2½ cents in the rate of tax which they pay on income in excess of $10,000. The rate of tax to be paid on the taxable income of a non-profit company that is a friendly society dispensary will remain at 37V4 per cent.
The rate of tax payable in respect of the 1975-76 investment income of a superannuation fund that does not invest a specified proportion of its assets in public securities will be reduced to 42 !A per cent, thus preserving the link between the rate of tax to be paid in these cases and that to be paid by mutual life assurance companies. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in the memorandum I have had circulated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
This Bill proposes technical amendments to provisions of the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act 1953-1974 which operate to apply the credit system of relief of double taxation in respect of certain income derived by residents of Australia from countries with which Australia has entered into a double taxation agreement. Those provisions provide that where credit for foreign tax in respect of any income is allowable under the provisions of an agreement, the amount of that credit is generally an amount equal to the lesser of the foreign tax paid and the Australian tax payable on that income. A statutory basis is provided for ascertaining the amount of Australian tax payable on the amount of income concerned.
It is necessary for these purposes to calculate the average rate of Australian tax payable by the taxpayer. The proposed amendments will alter the basis of this calculation. They are consequential on the amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act substituting rebates of tax for deductions previously allowable for dependants and for most of the other concessional deductions, and on the decision not to re- impose the surcharge of tax on income from property for the 1975-76 financial year. The proposed amendments are explained in the memorandum that has been circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILLS (Nos 1 and 2) 1975-76
-I have received message No. 392 from the House of Representatives. It reads as follows:
Mr President, the House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following Resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the House of Representatives, having considered Message No. 279 of the Senate-
again asserts that the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of the two Appropriation Bills is contrary to established constitutional convention;
denounces the blatant attempt by the Senate to violate section 28 of the Constitution for political purposes by itself endeavouring to force an early election for the House of Representatives;
resolves that it will uphold the established right of the Government with a majority in the House of Representatives to be the Government of the nation; and
again calls on the Senate to re-consider and pass the Bills without further delay in order to avoid the possibility of widespread distress occurring within the Australian community.
GORDON SCHOLES Speaker
House of Representatives, Canberra, 28 October 1 975
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
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:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No. I think this speech ought to be read.
-I re-present to the Senate the Loan Bill 1975. As with the Appropriation Bills, which I re-introduced, the Loan Bill is being re-presented in precisely the same form as it was some 8 weeks ago- on 28 August. Nevertheless, I think I should again outline briefly for the information of honourable senators the purposes and nature of this Bill.
In the very first sentence of my second reading speech on 28 August I pointed out that the Bill is a machinery measure. It is a means of meeting the requirements of the 3 fund accounting system operated by Australian Governments virtually since Federation under the provisions of the Audit Act. Put simply, there will be, in the absence of a loan Act or some similar piece of legislation, a prospective deficit in the Consolidated
Revenue Fund. That Consolidated Revenue deficit, which is part of the overall Budget deficit, must be funded in one way or another. The Loan Bill aims to allow this to be done by permitting the transfer of part of our defence expenditures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund. It would authorise borrowings to finance the defence expenditure so transferred.
There is nothing mysterious or sinister in this machinery process. Loan Acts, including the Act proposed by this Bill, do not authorise any expenditures over and above those authorised in Appropriation Acts passed by the Parliamentthey simply re-allocate approved defence expenditures between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund. In drafting loan Bills, it is long established usage, followed by both this Government and Liberal Country Party governments, that defence expenditures are chosen to be transferred to and financed from the Loan Fund. Borrowings for defence purposes are specifically exempted from the provisions of the Financial Agreement relating to control by the Loan Council. The view has been taken, rightly in my estimation, that Loan Council involvement in the detailed financing arrangements of the Australian Government Budget should not be any greater than necessary.
Loan Acts are far from a new development. They have, for very many years, been used by successive governments as the traditional and simplest method of completing the financing of a deficit which extends over the end of the financial year. In the last 10 years of Liberal-Country Party government Loan Acts were foreshadowed in Budget speeches and statements no fewer than 8 times, and no less than 9 Loan Acts were passed by the Parliament. Given the mechanical, indeed virtually accounting nature of the Bill, it is difficult to understand why it has provoked so much interest and attention by the Opposition parties. The Bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives on 20 August, debated on 27 August and passed the same day. The day before, on 26 August, however, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) announced to the Press that the Opposition would be deferring passage of the Bill in the Senate. Since then the Bill has been debated on 7 separate occasions between 28 August and 15 October in the Senate, 3 separate series of questions leading to the provision, by myself and my colleagues, of 36 detailed answers have appeared. With the Treasurer’s approval, Treasury officials have met with Opposition senators to further explain the reasons for the Bill. Yet we find, even after 8 weeks and a flow of information not previously seen in respect of any other loan Bill, that the Opposition in the Senate has persisted in deferring the Bill. Similar legislation in 1 97 1 with the same type of clause limiting the amount authorised to be transferred, introduced by the then LiberalCountry Party Government took, for example, only a matter of days to pass through all stages in both Houses.
The information provided on most aspects of this Bill has already been so extensive that I feel little would be achieved by again going over all of the ground so far traversed. One aspect, however, needs to be covered to make it clear to the Senate why the Bill is being re-introduced now. The Opposition has argued to the effect that this Bill would permit unlimited borrowing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed anyone reading the Bill properly should know that. The form of limitations used in the Bill now before the Senate was first used in 1968 and similar limitation clauses were used again in 1970 and 1971. There is no basis on which it could be implied now that there is something sinister about these clauses. However, since they are apparently not understood, I will explain in simple terms.
Even though clause 3 does not state a specific amount, there are two very important limitations upon the amount which can be borrowed and utilised under the Bill when it is enacted. First, the borrowing authority is limited to the extent of the anticipated deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Secondly, and more importantly in the current context, the amounts borrowed can be utilised only to finance defence expenditures incurred after the passage of the Bill into law. Such defence expenditures must, at the same time, have been approved by Parliament under other Acts which are mentioned in the Bill or expressed by Parliament to be subject to the Loan Act. Once defence expenditure has already been charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, this Bill will not authorise its subsequent transfer to Loan Fund. The delay in its passage must, therefore, substantially affect the scope for this necessary piece of accounting. Out of a potential total of* $ 1 ,7 1 1 m expenditure under the heading ‘Department of Defence’ close to $500m has been charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund already and that amount, of course, increases as the days go by.
It may be that the notion that delaying this measure will somehow hasten the point at which the Government runs out of money is still abroad. There is no question of the Government running out of money. What the Loan Bill is, and Loan Acts have always been, designed to do is to provide authority to complete the financing of a prospective deficit over the financial year as a whole. Refusal to pass the Loan Bill does not, of itself, therefore, prevent any expenditures being made. It simply means that some other less appropriate way of financing the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit will be forced upon the Government at some future date. The delay which has so far taken place with this machinery Bill may already have pushed us to the stage where further legislation may be required to clear the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit at the end of the year. Obviously, however, the smaller any recourse to such alternatives has to be, the less unorthodox and confusing would be the measures then forced on the Government.
Purely from a legislative point of view, the delays occasioned on the passage of this Bill in the Senate could result in a requirement for an amendment to be made to it before it completes its passage through the Parliament. The Bill was drafted on the assumption that it would receive royal assent before Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and would need to be amended to be appropriate if Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) were to be getting royal assent first. To sum up, when the Bill was first introduced it was an urgent machinery matter. It remains so.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21 October on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the second reading of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. In effect, the Bill makes consequential changes to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act, following upon the announcement by the Government that a new Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization will be appointed. The new Director is to be Mr Justice Woodward who will take office, according to announcements made, at the end of November. Mr Justice Woodward is and has been a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court since 1972. He will continue to hold an appointment as a judge of that Court. He is also the Chairman of the Trade Practices Tribunal. One of the changes which the Bill makes is to ensure that the salary which he receives is the salary which is payable to him as the Chairman of that Tribunal. Essentially, what the Bill does is to ensure that Mr Justice Woodward’s, position as a judge, although he is not named personally in the Bill, is preserved notwithstanding that he holds the office of Director of the Organization. One of the other consequential changes is, of course, that the title Director-General ‘is to be changed to ‘Director’.
The Bill therefore is essentially a formal Bill. But there are some matters to which 1 address myself and to which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) may be prepared to give a response in the course of his reply. The first is the absence of any information from the Government as to the circumstances in which these changes are taking place and the purposes behind the changes which the allied measure relating to the interception of telephone communications is designed to achieve. There has been a great deal of speculation ever since the sudden announcement that Mr Barbour would cease to be the Director-General of ASIO and that a successor would be appointed. Whilst there is always a degree of delicacy attaching to matters relating to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, periodically when a change takes place in the leadership of that Organisation it is appropriate that there should be some announcement as to why the change has taken place.
I think we all are aware that there have been commissions of inquiry into the functioning of security organisations overseas in recent years. In England I think it was originally the Radcliffe Commission followed by the Denning Commission. In Canada also there was a royal commission into the security services. The clear recommendation of each of those commissions was that the responsibility for the security service should be in t he hands of a designated Minister. I think that in Great Britain the designated Minister was the Home Secretary and that in Canada the designated Minister was the SolicitorGeneral. But the purpose of those recommendations, as I understand the reports, is to ensure that a Minister other than the Prime Minister has the responsibility of answering for the functioning of the organisation and has a responsibility for the overall administration of the service and yet those functions are to be performed without denying to the head of the security service the right of access at all times to the Prime Minister of the day. It seems that some such functioning ought to be the way in which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is conducted.
I have not any doubt in my mind that much of the misconception that is abroad with regard to the functioning of our security service stems from a lack of appreciation of what a security service is designed to achieve and the way in which it must carry out its duties. If there were a greater understanding I think it would be recognised that the right of access to the relevant Minister or Ministers from time to time is the important consideration. I think it was the Denning Commission in England which stated that the best way of conducting a security organisation was to appoint at the head of the organisation a man whom you could trust and to ensure that you trusted him. The reason for that, I am sure, is that security is a matter of obtaining information, of assessing and evaluating the information which is obtained and of passing on to the persons who have the responsibility for decision making the best intelligence that is available relating to the security of the nation.
In the course of obtaining and evaluating the information it would be necessary- as it always has been- for gossip, scandal and rumour to be collected and collated and for the relevant information to be obtained from the sifting process which must be engaged in. It ought not to be the right of a Minister of the day, even a Prime Minister, to delve into the records of a security organisation for the purpose of muck raking or for the purpose of extracting from the files any gossip or rumour which might be misused or which might be open to the accusation or suggestion that it could be misused. The important consideration is to ensure that as far as possible there is a safeguarding of the security files and security information and that the persons who have the responsibility for safeguarding and for evaluating the information are persons in whom there can be placed a bi-partisan trust. It is tremendously important for the functioning of a security service that that trust can be demonstrated and held.
I believe that those who have held the office of Director-General- there have been 3 persons over the 27 years since the organisation was first established by Mr Chifley- are persons who ought to have had the trust of the Australian nation. I think it is regrettable that a partisan approach has obscured from time to time the real service which the organisation must perform and that same partisan approach has prevented due acknowledgement being given and to some extent has weakened public acceptance of the organisation. I think that the present Government when it was in Opposition nourished a completely unreasonable fear and apprehension of the work of the Security Organization. I believe that that fear was shown to be unsustained when the responsibility of government placed the available information and the available knowledge in the hands of the present Government.
– There is a substantial difference between the operations of ASIO under our Government and what it was under the honourable senator’s government.
– I wonder how much difference there was. One significant difference was the publicised intrusion of a former Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, into the affairs of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I am sure that that weakened the morale of the officers of the service and aroused doubts and apprehensions as to how far they were appreciated by the government of the day. I suggest that before that intrusion occurred there was no verification of the apprehensions which had been felt beforehand. But I speak only as to the future. I do not know what the future of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation will be. We certainly wish Mr Justice Woodward every satisfaction in the discharge of his duties. He is known to many people on both sides of the chamber as a person whose integrity is unquestioned and whose dedication to serving the interests of the country is not open to question. I am sure that he embarks in an area in which he has little knowledge. I only hope that for his and for the nation’s benefit he will derive satisfaction in the discharge of his duties.
I raise a final matter hoping that the Minister might explain the situation. I notice that he has no advisers here. As I understand the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation there is no provision for the appointment of an acting director of the Organisation. I understand that the present director of the Organisation has ceased to perform the functions of directorgeneral and that the new appointee, Mr Justice Woodward, is not to take office until some time towards the end of November. Other statutory functions are vested in the director-general of ASIO or, as the position will become, the director of ASIO. As I understand it there is no provision for these functions to be performed by an acting director. I wonder whether the Minister will advert to that aspect in the course of his reply.
The Opposition recognises that the administrative arrangements which underlie this legislation are determined by the government of the day. Previously, both under Mr Chifley and under the various Liberal-Country Party administrations, the administrative responsibility for the conduct of ASIO was vested in the Attorney-General. Following the pattern in other countries the head of ASIO always had access, whenever he wanted it, to the Prime Minister of the day. The present Government, without explanation, is changing the administrative arrangements so that in all respects ASIO is now the responsibility of the Prime Minister and of the Prime Minister’s Department. Information might be given to the Parliament as to why that change took place. I invite the Leader of the Government in the Senate to do so.
– I support the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. I felt it was a change to hear from the former AttorneyGeneral, Senator Greenwood, rather temperate utterances on this important matter. As one who has figured at various times on Australian Labor Party policy committees which have dealt with this matter I assure him that I have never had any inhibitions about the justification for an effective security organisation. Every type of government in the world needs it. But the question is: After receiving material, how does the Government use it? I feel that Senator Greenwood has a remarkably short memory when he talks about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation being used for trivial and party political advantage. That may have been an error. I recall on one occasion here a heated debate on Vietnam. Some woman pacifist from the northern suburbs of Sydney had a son who did not want to join the local cadet corps. It finally transpired that we got this information through ASIO. It was not said directly that ASIO got the information, but obviously there was an evaluation. That is the sort of thing that we do not want to happen again.
– What was it that happened?
– There was an upheaval about the organization called Women for Peace Against Vietnam and a Minister then triumphantly produced in the House of Representatives information that the lady had a long history of peace activities and that her son- this was the crime of the century- refused to join the cadets at the local grammar school. We were given the impression that this information was true and came from reliable sources, which is the tag generally applied to some feedback from security.
I do not want to go over the ashes of the past but I think the point Senator Greenwood made, and we are entitled to discuss it, concerned the roles of the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral. To some degree there is a comparison here with Great Britain and the role of its Home Secretary. I have discussed this matter on a number of occasions with the Honourable James Callaghan whom I knew when he was just an obscure backbencher in the British Labor Party. This is an extremely difficult matter because sometimes security evaluations must overlap into the portfolio of the Foreign Minister. I would rather paint a broader picture. I think Senator Greenwood and everyone will agree with me that in the United States of America unfortunately there has been a proliferation of security agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agencythere are one or two others- and these agencies have been competing with one another. The result there is that their credibility seems to have gone by the board.
What is this Government’s grand design? On the one hand we propose to consolidate the Australian Capital Territory Police Force and the Australia Police into one unit, and then ASIO would have its proper function of evaluation. I would say then that when problems concerning terrorist crime arise there would be a feedback from ASIO to the Australia Police and down to the State police. This would make this operation much more efficient than it is now. I do not say that idly. It just happens that less than an hour ago in an earlier debate I referred to the education which honourable senators got when they sat on the Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians. Those of us on the Committee questioned Mr Barbour. I think Senator Greenwood would agree with Senator Wheeldon, Senator James McClelland and I who felt that it was a very good exercise. Mr Barbour did not deny then that his facilities in terms of competent interpreters and translators were inadequate and that they were necessary to one area where ASIO had a role to play. I would say that since that time- one finds out these things and notes the results- some of the inadequacies of ASIO have been improved. ASIO does not have an easy role.
It may be said that Senator Greenwood feels at times that we are unduly disrespectful of certain super powers, but we could say the same about his attitude to another super power. Obviously I would not like to see ASIO tailor its reports to suit the Government of the day, but I believe that the cold war hang-ups we have had have upset some of ASIO’s evaluations. I am pleased that Senator Wright is here because he would know what came through loud and clear on the Croatian issue. There were Foreign Affairs people suggesting to Prime Minister Whitlam and the Attorney-General what should be done in respect of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Warsaw Pact and Yugoslavia. Before we became the Government Senator Wright in one of the best speeches he has made admitted that to me after he had been briefed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. I do not want to harp on that theme but I am trying to get through to the Senate the difficult job which ASIO has. I do not imagine that at any time ASIO will ever be perfect. I refer honourable senators to the problems at the moment of West Germany. The social democratic government was in trouble and there was a fishing expedition like the ones conducted here by the Opposition. The result was that when Willi Brandt left office the social democrats remained in government.
From the reports that have appeared in certain magazines it is clear that even though there are political and security evaluations, people who are subversive do get through. I am not one of those who believe that under this Government or the alternative government every ASIO evaluation is going to be 100 per cent, but we have beefed up the Organisation. We have modernised it. We have it geared to a situation in which it has better interpreter facilities. I will not mention the word ‘telex’ because it is a dirty word at the moment. There is a more efficient organisation. But the more I listen to Senator Greenwood and my colleagues speak about security generally the more I believe that at times one has to see the individual concerned rather than take for granted what is contained in an ASIO report. I am thinking of what happens with citizenship applications. As honourable senators know, I told Mr Justice Hope at my in camera interview with him that I believed in the Canadian system of reviewing citizenship rejections whereby in a 9-man panel any five members constitute an appeals board, one-third of the members are legal people and another third are a blending of representatives of trade unions, manufacturers and other kindred groups.
I believe that it is a welcome move to put ASIO under the responsibility of the Prime Minister. We must act then, in a large enough case, in concert with the Minister for Police and Customs, the Minister for Labor and Immigration and the Attorney-General. Security can be so explosive. I use the Willi Brandt case as an example. A Prime Minister’s head rolled on that occasion. I think that our Prime Minister should have his hand on the throttle to see that things do not go wrong.
We can learn lessons from other countries. I am not speaking out of school in saying that in a conversation I had with our illustrious Prime Minister I asked whether Mr Justice Woodhouse ‘s appointment would mean that he would be deaf to any reforms that Mr Justice Hope may suggest and he told me emphatically no.
So, as I see it, we will have a consolidation of the Australian and Australian Capital Territory police forces and a beefed up, modernised ASIO with the emphasis on national security and not on any petty keyhole prying to find out trivial things out of which someone might get a short term party political advantage. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), knows that if any further adjustments have to be made to ASIO after Mr Justice Hope has brought down his report, which I think will be a monumental one, I will be the first one to raise those matters in this chamber.
– in reply- Senator Greenwood raised 2 matters on which I should comment. The first concerns the provision for an Acting Director. I am not able to answer that question, which appears to me to be a legitimate one. I can only suggest that I obtain a comment from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on that point. The second point that Senator Greenwood raised in the last part of his speech was, as I understand it, the reason for the transfer of responsibility to the Prime Minister from the Attorney-General. It is well known that over the years ASIO has been very much under the influence of the Prime Ministers of the day, even though the administrative responsibility has been with the Attorney-General. I have in front of me some statements by three previous Prime Ministers- Chifley, Menzies and Holt- which I think are worth quoting. On 10 March 1949, Mr Chifley said:
The security service will function under the administrative control of the Attorney-General’s Department but the head of the service will have direct access to me . . . That decision will be made by me or in consultation with me.
On 27 October 1959, Mr Menzies said:
ASIO . . . operates in a direct sense under the Prime Minister, but it is attached to the Attorney-General ‘s Department for certain administrative purposes. It reports to me on matters about which it thinks 1 should be informed.
At a Press conference on 13 November 1959, Mr Menzies was asked:
Which Ministers have the authority to direct the activities of the security service without reference to you, sir?
The reply which Mr Menzies gave was:
The Attorney-General ‘s Department has it for administration purposes. I am responsible for policy and the Head of the Security Service communicates directly with me.
On 29 August 1967 Mr Holt, as Prime Minister, said:
Security has always been a matter for the ministerial responsibility of the Prime Minister although some of the security functions are delegated to the Attorney-General.
It is quite clear that the association over the years under previous governments, as it has been under this Government, has been between ASIO and the Prime Minister. It seems appropriate, in view of the very heavy involvement of the Prime Minister with ASIO, that he should assume the direct responsibility for that service. I am glad that the Opposition is not opposing this Bill. I suggest that to expedite the work of the Senate the question be put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I raise the point to which 1 adverted briefly in the course of the second reading debate and to which the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Senator Wriedt) has referred; that is, the absence of any provision with regard to the appointment of an acting director. I am relying upon newspaper reports for the concern which I have. I understand that Mr Barbour ceased to be Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation almost from the time that the announcement of the change was made. I understand that Mr Justice Woodward will not take up his duties as director until he has completed some judicial duties on which he is currently engaged. It may be- I am not aware of this-that he is currently holding the position of director and therefore there is a function which he is able to perform.
On the other hand, I have some recollection- it may be only an impression- that Mr Mahony, as Deputy Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, is currently acting as director-general of ASIO. I wonder at the authority of an acting director-general to perform the functions which the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act, in particular, requires. I would have thought that a reading of the legislation would show that an acting director, not being a position created by the ASIO Act, is not empowered to perform functions which another Act vests in the directorgeneral of ASIO. On the other hand, it may be that Mr Mahony has been appointed director of ASIO and that my concern is not really germaine to any issue. However, I feel that the Committee would be letting a matter pass without due regard to the seriousness of the powers granted by the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act if it were to allow the question to remain unanswered.
I wonder, in those circumstances, whether the Minister would be prepared to stand over this matter, if we are to go into the other matters, so that the position can be clarified. It is a suggestion made to assist. It may be, as I have said, that the point is not one which on examination has any substance. If it does have substance on the other hand, I imagine that it is a matter which could be rectified very simply, and generally with approval.
– It is quite true that the appointment of Mr Justice Woodward will take effect on 24 November. In the meantime, Mr F. J. Mahony will act as Director-General of Security. I accept the point raised by Senator Greenwood and I can understand his reluctance, from his point of view, to accept this Bill with that area of doubt which he has raised. I am not averse to the idea of this matter being held over, presumably, until tomorrow to enable that information to be sought.
Senate adjourned at 5.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Mrs P. M. Swanton, Principal Executive Officer, Class 10 ($16,353-16,948)
Mr D. Lowther, Executive Officer, Class 8 ($13,978-14,572)
Ms J. Cronin, Project Officer, Class 6 ($1 1,393-12,189)
Mr R. Christie, Clerk, Class 1 ($6,251-7,425)
Ms S. Williams, Clerk, Class 2/3 ($7,68 1-8,7 1 7)
MrsD. Hoffman, Typist, Grade 1 ($5,928-6,316)
New South Wales Committee:
Ms P. Campbell, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($11,393-12,189)
Mr J. Jolliffe, Clerk, Class 4 ($9,0 1 4-9,905 )
Mrs D. Rigney, Typist, Grade 1 ($5,928-6,3 16)
Miss L. Green, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($11,393-12,189)
Miss A. Griffin, Clerical Assistant, Grade 4 ($7,2 1 1-7,537)
Mrs B. Lacey, Typist, Grade 1 ($5,928-6,3 16)
Mr P. Hiskens, Clerk, Class 5 ($10,203-1 1,093)
Mr J. Hamilton, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($11,393-12,189)
Ms A. Kelly, Clerical Assistant, Grade 3 ($6,581-7,054)
South Australian Committee:
Mr K. Belton, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($ 1 1,393- 12, 1 89)
Ms P. Taggart, Clerk, Class 4 ($9,014-9,905)
Western Australian Committee:
Mr G. Walker, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($11,393-12,189)
Mr R. Shenton, Acting Clerk, Class 4 ($9,014-9,905)
Mr P. Roper, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($ 1 1 , 393- 12, 1 89)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
What are the titles of the reports, papers or documents produced by or for Government since December 1 972 in the areas of the Minister’s responsibility which have not been publicly released.
– The following is the answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the reply provided by the Prime Minister to Question No. 885 which appeared in Senate Hansard on 2 October 1975, page 930.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Does the Prime Minister agree with the recommendation contained in the publication ‘Secrecy- Political Censorship in Australia,’ for the creation of a ‘ . . . a parliamentary committee with power to call for the production of any document, to assess independently whether a government classification of that document is justified, and if necessary to order its classification,’ with ‘The Opposition’ appointing the majority of members on such a Committee’; if so, has the Prime Minister taken any positive steps to see that such a Committee is established.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator’s question asks for an expression of opinion, which is not permitted under standing order 99 of the Senate.
-On 16 October 1975 (Hansard page 1203) Senator Maunsell asked me the following question, without notice:
Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall the statement by Mr Karidis in the Senate on 22 July, two months after Mr Connor’s authority to raise a loan was revoked, in which he agreed that Mr Khemlani might still obtain a loan foi the Australian Government? Was the Prime Minister informed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate of the statement? Was a check made as to the substance of the sta statement? If not, why not?
The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In my press statement of 10 June 1973, 1 said:
Henceforth, no person has authority to do anything in relation to borrowings by the Australian Government unless it is done with Mr Hayden ‘s authority. ‘
Income Tax Averaging System
– On 2 October 1975, Senator Scott asked a. question without notice about the income tax reforms announced in the 1975-76 Budget Speech, claiming in relation to taxpayers subject to the primary producer averaging provisions that because dependants’ allowances and concessional deductions would be excluded, excluded that is from the calculation of taxable income, taxation must, therefore, be higher.
The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is correct that, under the reformed system of income tax, concessions previously allowed as deductions (other than those relating to gifts and home loan interest) will be converted to rebates and that the amounts of income on which tax is calculated first up will be higher than under the old system. But after applying the rate scale to the income, the tax so calculated will now be reduced by the amount of the concessional rebates whereas previously there was no such reduction. Every taxpayer is entitled to a basic rebate of $340. The rebates for maintenance of dependants have an effective worth considerably greater than the old deductions, even for a taxpayer on the highest marginal rate under the old system: $400 as against $244 in the case, for example, of a wholly dependant wife. Also the rebate for items other than dependants increases above $340 if allowable expenditures exceed $ 1,350- it will then be worth 40 per cent of the expenditures, whereas the deductions would have been worth less than that for many people.
It by no means follows, therefore, that the amount of tax actually payable will be higher. Concessional allowances have not been withdrawn- they have been changed from deductions to rebates and are brought into the calculation of tax at a later stage.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 October 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19751028_senate_29_s66/>.