29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 1 1.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Self Government for the Northern Territory
– I present a petition from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly praying that the Senate redress the grievances of the Assembly relative to the determination of self-governing power for the Territory and set right the wrongs imposed on the Territory by the Australian Government. The petition exceeds 250 words and under Sessional Orders may not be read. Honourable senators will be able to acquaint themselves with the text of the petition which will be incorporated in the Hansard record:
The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the Legislative Assembly respectfully showeth: that the avowed intention of the Australian Parliament to further the interests of democracy and parliamentary government in the Territory is being frustrated by the executive and administrative arms of government.
In particular the will of the Australian Parliament is being hindered by the extended delay in considering the reports from the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory.
It is 12 months since the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory was elected. Without provision for executive authority this was a very limited constitutional advance.
It is over 2 years since the Joint Committee was appointed. Eleven months have passed since the main report was tabled. Nearly 5 months have elapsed since the supplementary report was presented.
Despite the firm recommendations of the Joint Committee relating to the transfer of executive powers and administrative functions to a Territory executive, the Government has transferred neither powers nor functions. It has not provided a statement of attitude to the reports, nor the opportunity for debating them.
The major parties in government and opposition have espoused the cause of constitutional development for the Northern Territory in recent years. The evidence for this is in the ‘Outline of proposals for the transfer of a range of functions to the N.T. Legislature and Executive’, August 1972, and the ‘Terms of reference of the Joint Committee on the N.T. ‘, September 1 973, as well as in party platforms.
The first report of the Joint Committee tabled on November 26 1974, included 25 specific recommendations and these were re-affirmed by the second report tabled on May28 1975.
Apart from confirmation of the arrangements for election of the composition of the Assembly the recommendations dealt with.
Relationship between the National and Territory Executives (2);
Role of the Administrator ( 1 );
No action has been taken in respect of any of these 2 1 recommendations, but certain initiatives of the Australian Government continue to cut across the spirit and terms of the report, particularly in the fields of legislation.
Recommendation 5- that the Legislative Assembly continue to have power to legislate in respect of all state-type matters but an over-riding power be vested in the GovernorGeneral to make regulations. This over-riding power to be used only when the Assembly has failed to pass, after consultation, in a form acceptable to the Australian Government, Australian Government sponsored legislation in respect to functions being the executive responsibility of the Australian Government.
Recommendation 6-that all State-type matters, the executive responsibility of the Australian Government, be introduced into the Legislative Assembly.
The Australian Government has continued to enact in respect of many State-type matters, without any reference or consultation with the Assembly- e.g. National Parks and Wildlife, Darwin Reconstruction, Land Price Stabilization, Ombudsman, Aboriginal Land, Australian Police.
Recommendation 8- that the present arrangements for the withholding of assent by the Australian Government in respect to those State-type functions retained by the Australian Government be exercised only after the fullest consultation with the Territory Executive.
The Government has withheld assent to 8 Ordinances in the past two years, including the Cyclone Disaster Emergency Ordinance 1975, where the withholding of assent to part of a section changed the whole sense and intention of the legislation- again without reference or consultation.
In the case of the Northern Territory police force, the Government, acting on an Administrative Arrangements Order, has continued to ignore the laws of the Territory.
Recommendation 17- that a Northern Territory Administration be created, comprising the existing Northern Territory Public Service and those officers of the Australian Public Service engaged in the functions to be transferred to the control of the Territory Executive.
Recommendation 23- that the Australian Government co-operate fully with the Territory Executive in the provision of required services on an agency basis.
Attempts by the Legislative Assembly to function as a Westminster-style parliamentary institution have been frustrated by the failure of the Government to provide staff to enable executive members to function in an executive capacity.
The decision of the Government to remove senior officers of the Department of Northern Australia from Darwin to Canberra has reversed the trend towards local responsibility in the administration of the Territory and restored the old concept of the Territory as a colonial outpost of Canberra.
As the duly elected representatives of the people of the Northern Territory we humbly pray that the Parliament will take steps to redress our grievances and to set right the wrongs imposed on us by the Australian Government.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are fearful that any further delay by the Senate of the Loan Bill and Appropriation Bills will bring Australia into a constitutional, economic and social crisis, leaving indelible scars on our democratic institutions.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should proceed forthwith to allow passage of these Bills so that the Government, legitimately formed by a majority of the members of the people’s House (the House of Representatives) may proceed with its administration without further disruption.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator James McClelland, Senator Grimes, Senator Everett, Senator Gietzelt and Senator Button.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the stability of our parliamentary system is dependent on the strict observance of constitutional convention with regard to the passage of Supply in the Senate.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate immediately pass the 1975-76 Budget Appropriation Bills.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator James McClelland.
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 Mulvihill.
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 Martin.
– I present the following petition from 75 citizens of Australia:
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 we are fearful that any further delay by the Senate of the Loan Bill and Appropriation Bills will bring Australia into a constitutional, economic and social crisis, leaving indelible scars on our democratic institutions.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should proceed forthwith to allow passage of these Bills so that the Government, legitimately formed by a majority of the members of the peoples’ House (the House of Representatives) may proceed with its administration without further disruption.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1 975.
Self -Government for the Northern Territory
-Mr President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly having agreed to a resolution on 1 6 October 1 975, seeking an invitation for a delegation to be heard before the Bar of the Senate, the Senate invite a delegation from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to attend before the bar and address the Senate in relation to the substance of the petition which was presented to the Senate this day by Senator Webster, at a time and day to be arranged by the President in consultation with the Speaker of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
– I give notice that, 8 sitting days after today, I shall move:
That the Surveyors Ordinance 1975, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 27 of 1975, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973, be disallowed.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Does the Prime Minister propose to hang on to power and to govern without the Appropriation Bills being passed by the Parliament and in defiance of that provision of the Constitution, section 83, which states that no money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law?
– The Government is not hanging on to power. The Government is remaining in office because it has a mandate from the Australian people to do so. That mandate was given to it in May last year. The Prime Minister has stated repeatedly, and it is the Government’s, position, that there will be no continuation of the Government unless everything that it does is constitutional and legal, and that any moneys which are expended are expended with the authority of the Parliament. The Government has stated on numerous occasions that the hardship that will be caused by the action of the Opposition must be alleviated if it is at all possible for the Government to do so. We are investigating, as we should properly investigate, whatever alternatives are available to us to ensure that the Australian people are not hurt by the actions of the Opposition.
– Without the appropriations by Parliament?
– J have just answered that question in the first part of my answer. I refer the honourable senator again to what I said. The Government will not be acting illegally or unconstitutionally. If the present position remains, the Government will continue to examine schemes which it believes are practical, legal and constitutional. When those schemes are brought to finality the Parliament will be advised accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Last year Senator Willesee, who was representing the then Special Minister of State, presented to the Senate the report of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Review of the Public Works Committee Act. This report recommended a number of substantial changes to the Act which would enable the Public Works Committee to review the works of all government bodies except those bodies which are principally of a business nature, such as Qantas Airways Ltd. Under the current Act, the Public Works Committee is restricted to examining the works of Australian Government departments. Can the Minister inform the Senate how this review is progressing?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Poyser is a member of the Joint Public Works Committee and he has raised this matter with me on a number of occasions. I should mention to him that before considering the report of the Interdepartment Committee on the Review of the Public Works Committee Act the Government believed it to be appropriate that it should seek the views of the Public Works Committee and other interested bodies on the proposals of the Interdepartmental Committee. Those views have been received and indeed have been considered. The review of the Act was nearing completion when the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System brought down its interim report. This report makes several recommendations which, if implemented, would make substantial changes to the Public Works Committee.
A major recommendation of the interim report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System relating to the Public Works Committee was that the Senate should establish a standing committee specifically empowered to carry out the functions of the Public Works Committee, the Joint Committe on the Australian Capital Territory, and the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. I therefore have suggested to the Prime Minister that it would be inappropriate for the Government at this stage to proceed with proposed amendments to the Public Works Committee Act until the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System has been able to prepare its final report and that final report has been considered, examined and determined by the Parliament.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the
Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement on Friday that the Government probably could govern without a Budget. I refer also to the Treasurer’s assertion at the weekend that the Government would have lawful authority, constitutional sanction and parliamentary approval for everything it did. I ask whether the 2 statements are compatible?
– Yes, the statements are compatible. I think Senator Drake-Brockman ought to consider a little more closely what he believes to be some contradiction. The Treasurer was referring to the Budget. I have just indicated in my earlier answer that the Government has been investigating alternative ways of continuing the financial arrangements which are necessary for the Government to pay its employees and to provide the necessary finance and payments to the suppliers of goods and services. I think that time will demonstrate that alternative methods which are legal and constitutional will be formulated. As I said earlier, the Parliament will be advised of them. There is no contradiction in the 2 statements. It is a matter of new methods and avenues being explored. These certainly may be different to the traditional ways but there is no contradiction in the 2 statements which have been made, as I read them.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State who is responsible for royal commissions. I ask the Minister whether he has seen a number of references recently in the Press to documents produced for the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. What is the status of these reports and papers? Are they formal reports of the Commission? What is their purpose? Finally, will the Commission continue to release such papers?
-The reports and papers to which the honourable senator refers are documents which are produced by the staff of the Royal Commission, by consultants employed by the Royal Commission and also by the task forces- there have been 5 task forces in all- which have been set up by the Royal Commission. It is in line with the Commission’s policy of having its investigations open to the public that these documents generally are made available for public scrutiny in the Commission’s offices. In a limited number of cases submissions to the Commission are published, I understand for sale to the public. This permits a much wider access. The main purpose of providing public access to material which is made available to the Commission is, as I understand it, to stimulate discussion within the community about the matters reported on to the Commission and to allow the Commission to examine various views which may be forthcoming from the discussion which takes place. Of course, these views will be taken into account by’ the Commission when it formulates its conclusions and recommendations.
I know that just recently- I think Senator Guilfoyle placed a question on the notice paper in relation to the matter- much publicity was given to a report prepared for the Royal Commission by Professor Caiden from the University of California. I understand that Professor Enid Campbell, herself a member of the Royal Commission, is about to produce a report on the manner in which royal commissions are established and staffed. I assume that this report will be made available by the Commission. The papers which are released by the Commission are not formal reports of the Commission, nor does acceptance of them by the Commission necessarily reflect any viewpoint or recommendations which the Commission may ultimately express in its final report.
-Is the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware that accounts rendered for nursing home care of repatriation patients at some homes in Adelaide for the month of September have not been paid? In view of additional Supply granted earlier this year under Appropriation Bills (No. 1) and (No. 2) for increased funds over last year of about 49 per cent and 110 per cent respectively to 30 November, will the Minister explain why his Department is now unable to pay its way? Is the Minister in agreement with a statement made by the Prime Minister recently that the Government has funds sufficient to enable it to carry on until the end of November? Is the Repatriation Department unable to meet its obligations through overspending and lack of supervision or are payments being withheld to blackmail the public and the Parliament? Is this also an attempt to cover up for the Government’s mismanagement of the Australian economy by falsely blaming the Opposition? Will the Minister bring to the Senate a statement certified by the Treasury as to the actual financial position of the Department at this date? Will he present such a statement to the Senate tomorrow? Will the Minister agree that if such a statement reveals either an unaccountable shortage of funds or unexpended funds for the payment of outstanding accounts he should resign?
– I think it would be impossible for the Minister to answer a question such as that. I ask the honourable senator to reframe the question.
-Did the Minister for Labor and Immigration receive a letter last week from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, complaining that the Dundas Shire Council was in trouble because the Federal Government had not met outstanding claims totalling $49,496 for Regional Employment Development scheme projects? If the answer is in the affirmative, why has this money not been made available to the Dundas Shire Council? Further, are there any other outstanding claims by city or shire councils which have not been met by the Federal Government? If so, why have they not been met by the Government?
– I did receive a letter from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, last week on the subject. He also wrote to me about the plight of some local government authorities in his electorate. I was surprised to get these letters as I had answered questions in this place a week earlier about the general situation of Regional Employment Development scheme projects and had issued a statement on 24 October on the subject generally, outlining the difficulties which the deferral of the Appropriation Bills was causing in this area of my Department’s administration. I repeat for the information of honourable senators and also of Mr Fraser that the $5 8m provided from Supply and the Advance to the Treasurer for the RED scheme has been exhausted and my Department is unable to meet any further claims until additional funds become available. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition has belatedly realised the difficulties which his unprincipled action has already caused local government. His action could also cause 20 000 people to lose their employment before the projects they are working on are completed. Mr Fraser sought my urgent advice as to what he should tell the Dundas Shire Council about its outstanding claims for nearly $50,000. I advise him to tell the Shire Council that its claims will be met as soon as possible once he and his colleagues in this place decide to cease deferring the Appropriation Bills.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: What are the differences between benefits currently payable to single supporting fathers and single supporting mothers? What are the reasons for these differences? Does the Minister agree that in some cases single men who are responsible for the upbringing of their children are worse off than single mothers? What does the Minister propose to do to relieve the hardship of single supporting fathers and to ensure that Australian children who are without a mother’s care can receive adequate attention from their fathers?
– I agree with Senator Missen that single supporting mothers receive a greater contribution from the Australian Government than do single supporting fathers. I do not have the precise figures in my head. I also agree with Senator Missen that there can well be circumstances in which a single supporting father is in a more difficult position than a single supporting mother. I do believe that we ought to have as an objective the provision of a rate of benefit for single supporting parents, whether they are fathers or mothers. I think it can be said that in the Budget which is at present before the Parliament some recognition has been made of this by way of the taxation deductions which are now available to single supporting parentswhether they are fathers or mothers- and which are of quite considerable financial benefit to the single supporting fathers.
If I may be quite frank, I would have proposed that in the context of the present Budget there ought to have been some equalisation of the position of single supporting fathers to that of single supporting mothers, but the Government felt that this was not a time for new initiatives so far as expenditure on social welfare is concerned. In this, as in so many other very deserving fields, action which we hope will be taken in the near future when we are able to take it was not taken because of the general overall economic situation. But I do agree with what Senator Missen has said so far as the principle of it is concerned. It is the objective of the Government, as soon as it is in a reasonable position to do it, to take the sort of steps that Senator Missen has suggested.
– Is the Special Minister of State aware of the serious financial embarrassment that is now being experienced by so many local government bodies in South Australia due to the fact that Opposition senators lack the necessary courage to allow the Appropriation
Bills to proceed to a vote? Further, is the Minister aware that many councils have earmarked their allocations under the untied assistance grants but are unable to proceed with these projects until the necessary legislation dealing with these allocations is passed by the Parliament?
-As Senator James McClelland mentioned in response to a question directed to him by Senator Brown this morning, the Regional Employment Development scheme has practically dried up as a result of the Appropriation Bills not having passed through the Senate. The untied grants to local government by the Australian Government come within a special appropriation of grants for local government. The Bill providing for them was introduced into and passed by the House of Representatives last week and is due to be introduced into the Senate this week. Of course, there are, I think, some 34 Bills lying on the Senate notice paper because the Senate has been debating whether the Government will receive passage of the present Appropriation Bills and the existing Loan Bill. The Local Government Grants Bill makes provision for an amount of $79.9m to be made available to local government organisations throughout Australia. I can assure the honourable senators that it is the wish of the Government that this Bill be passed as soon as possible so that the resultant assistance to local government organisations can be provided by the Australian Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Some weeks ago I asked him about Medibank refusing to pay for medical services rendered by doctors to doctors and members of their families or doctors in partnership and their families, and received the reassurance from the Minister that he would see that this practice was stopped. I draw his attention to a segment of a letter from the Queensland State Manager of Medibank to a Queensland doctor dated 10 October 1975, which reads:
Within the meaning of the Health Insurance Acts, medical expenses are not incurred in respect of professional services rendered by medical practitioners in either of the following circumstances:
By medical practitioners to members of their own families, whether dependants or not.
By medical practitioners, participating in a partnership, to other members of the partnership and their dependants.
Consequently, Medibank benefits are not payable in either of these instances.
I ask: Does Medibank provide universal cover? If so, who is right- the Minister or the Queensland State Manager of Medibank?
– I cannot remember giving any undertaking that I would see that a practice would stop. I think what I said at the time was that I was not even aware that the practice existed. If the practice were as I recollect that Senator Sheil put it- that medical practitioners were not being paid by Medibank for treating other medical practitioners, and he put it in as broad a term as that- I would regard it as being improper. I think that there are of necessity special arrangements which apply when medical practitioners are treating members of their own families or their partners. However, 1 shall obtain a more detailed answer in relation to the principles which underlie the letter from the Queensland Manager of Medibank and let Senator Sheil have the answer in due course.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by reminding the Minister that the Australian Liberal Government in February 1969 negotiated a German loan for 200 million deutchemarks, roughly the equivalent of $A59,6 12,000, on which the expenses were $A 1,824,000 and interest was at the abnormally high rate, at that time, of 6V4 per cent. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether a prominent member of the Liberal Party was involved in the negotiations for that particular loan and received a substantial fee for his troubles? Will the Minister investigate the circumstances of the loan and inform the Parliament of his findings?
– I am not aware of the circumstances referred to by Senator Keeffe. I shall have to ask that the question be placed on notice to obtain a reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the frantic efforts being made by the Government to find ways and means of bypassing the Parliament and the Appropriation Bills. I ask: Is the Government seeking such ways and means to govern indefinitely? If not, for how long does it intend to do so?
-If there is anything frantic about the Australian political scene at the moment it is the attitude of the Opposition. I can assure the honourable senator that the Australian Government will continue to govern under the mandate that it has been given by the Australian people until such time as the normal general election comes around again.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation seen reports of concern expressed by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Lewis, that his State is facing severe difficulty in continuing to provide workers compensation and third party insurance? Can the Minister say whether Mr Lewis has at any stage approached the Australian Government for special assistance with regard to workers compensation and third party insurance? If such an approach were made, what assistance would the Australian Government be able to provide?
– I have seen statements attributed to Mr Lewis, in the same way as I have seen statements attributed to people who are responsible for the management of State Government insurance offices and statements made by private insurers who handle both compulsory third party insurance and workers compensation insurance about the difficulties that both of those branches of general insurance are getting into. Iri a statement reported to have been made on 14 May last Mr Lewis said that if some sort of national compensation scheme were not passed quickly he would be obliged to make alternative arrangements within New South Wales for compulsory third party and workers compensation insurance. I am not aware of any approach which has been made by Mr Lewis to the Government in general or to me in particular about any assistance that could be given to him. In fact, on 19 March last I did have a meeting with all the relevant Ministers from the different States, including the New South Wales Minister, and I did receive submissions from them with regard to national compensation.
As the honourable senator knows, the Government is now in the process of preparing a new National Rehabilitation and Compensation Bill to deal with the proposals for a national compensation scheme which will take into account most if not all of the recommendations which were made by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I was rather puzzled to see a report in the Sydney Sun on 30 October which stated that Mr Lewis thought that this was the wrong time to introduce such a scheme because it was so extravagant. It seemed additionally puzzling in view of the fact that Mr Lewis’s own Government Insurance Office announced that it had lost $8m last year on workers compensation insurance and $37m on compulsory third party insurance. The net cost to employers of compulsory workers compensation and third party premiums this year is estimated to be $700m. The plateau cost of the national compensation scheme, after allowances have been made for taxation, would be only $535m. In fact, the national compensation scheme would be considerably cheaper than the scheme which is at present being operated in New South Wales by the New South Wales Government Insurance Office. I find it quite bewildering why Mr Lewis who has already expressed serious concern about the state of third party and workers compensation insurance in New South Wales, should be adopting this attitude towards a government which is doing something which he himself said only a few months ago was essential.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that even though I have asked this question on many occasions, it is now 2 months since I first asked it? The question is whether the issuing of radio licences by the Government under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act rather than under the Broadcasting and Television Act is legal, and whether the Government has received an opinion from the Attorney-General on this matter. I also ask the Postmaster-General: Is he aware that there are legal opinions which question the legality of the issue of such licences? As he has had the opinion of the Attorney-General on this matter for some time, will he now present it to the Senate; if not, is it because the AttorneyGeneral’s opinion also places in question the issue of such licences?
– I had hoped to have the letter for Senator Young today. It is not yet available, but it will be delivered this week. The letter, the subject matter of which obviously has been discussed by the heads of departments, the officers concerned and the Ministers, will set out the opinion of the Attorney-General. The position is not as suggested by Senator Young. I put to Senator Young that he received a copy of the report of the inquiry on public broadcasting as soon as I did and he has had an opportunity to make points to the Minister for the Media or to me about what he thinks should be the position regarding the general question. As far as I am aware now Senator Young has not made any response.
– That is entirely different from the issue of the legality of these other licences.
– It is related because the question is raised in the report. For the reason that I have given I hope to have the letter for Senator Young this week.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy, refers to the current reports of a recession in the Japanese steel industry. I ask the Minister what effect this recession is having, or could have, on Australian coal exports to Japan and what action the Government may be planning to take.
– There has been a slowing down in the Japanese steel industry this year- a drop in production of about 20 per cent compared with last year. Under the arrangements which we have concerning our export of coal to Japan, it is agreed with the Japanese steel industry that despite any downturn in the Japanese production of steel, the rate of shipment of coal will be observed under the contractual arrangements which have been entered into. It is not expected that there will be any detrimental effect on our exports of coal. There has been a fall-off in exports in the last few months due primarily to industrial reasons. No doubt this has enabled the Japanese to keep their stocks of coal at manageable levels, although I understand that they are reaching virtual maximum capacity now in the storing of coking coals. There is no immediate danger to our coal exports. As I have mentioned, the Japanese will maintain their level of shipments under the agreements which have been entered into.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. In view of substantially increased funds provided by the Senate in appropriations earlier this year for the period to the end of November, can the Minister say why the Department of Repatriation and Compensation is unable to pay nursing home accounts for repatriation patients for September? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister stated that the Government had sufficient funds to the end of November? Will the Minister table in the Senate this week a statement certified by the Treasury indicating the current financial position of his Department in order that the Senate can determine whether the Department is unable to meet its obligations through overspending or unnecessary spending? Does the Minister agree that if there are no funds this is indicative of the Government’s economic mismanagement? If there are funds available, is there not a continuation of the scaremongering campaign which has been directed by this Government against various sections of the community?
– I do not know why Senator Jessop should accuse the Government of engaging in scaremongering campaigns against the returned servicemen of this country. In fact, that is certainly not the attitude which the Returned Services League adopted when I was at its national congress last week. The representatives were very pleased indeed with what the Government had been doing for them since it had been in office.
– You do not scare anybody.
– I am not trying to scare anybody. If I wanted to, I think I could scare Senator Missen, but I have never tried. In fact, I think a lot of people have been scaring Senator Missen just lately. So far as the present financial position of the Government is concerned, it is completely clear: Without the passage by the Opposition of the Appropriation Bills, a number of the most deserving people in the community are suffering. There is no way in which the Opposition can try to evade the responsibility of the consequences which their lunatic actions have produced for many of the most underprivileged people in this country. I do not know the details of the payment of nursing home accounts in South Australia, but if Senator Jessop will be patient for a few days I will obtain the information about the nursing homes and provide it to him.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. The Minister succeeded in evading the gravamen of my question. I asked him whether, according to the Prime Minister, there were sufficient funds for his Department to function through to the end of November. My question asked also whether the Minister would table an up-to-date Treasury-authorised statement of account for the scrutiny of this House.
– If I escaped Senator Jessop ‘s gravamen, I can only say that it is a very easy gravamen to escape. I will consider what he has put forward and see if the appropriate course to follow would be that which he has suggested. I will let him know in due course.
-Has the Minister for Police and Customs seen recent Press reports which indicate that faulty helmets for motor cyclists are being imported in large numbers? What action has the Minister taken in respect of this matter?
– I have seen the reports which have appeared in the Press over the last couple of days. They were brought to my attention this morning. As a result, this morning I signed the necessary documents to bring under the prohibited import regulations safety helmets for motor cyclists which do not meet the requirements of the code of safety of the Standards Association of Australia. I have asked my Department to look into the question of protecting other wearers of helmets, such as those worn on building sites or mining and industrial helmets which would not be subject to the standards code, to see if we can establish a standard for such helmets. As from today, traffic helmets that do not meet the requirements of the Standards Association will be prohibited imports.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government and follows questions already asked this morning with regard to the continuation of the Government without assent by both Houses of Parliament to the Appropriation Bills. I ask: How many Treasury Regulations will require amendment to enable public servants to comply with the Government’s proposed course of action?
– I indicated earlier that the procedures which the Government is considering have not yet been finalised. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to say whether matters of the nature which the honourable senator has mentioned, would or would not be involved. I think it is more appropriate for the Parliament to await a final announcement by the Government on the course it proposes to adopt.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to an article in the Daily Telegraph of 3 1 October in which the General Manager of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd is reported to have accused the Government of making an arbitrary decision in rejecting supplementary hospital insurance tables proposed by the Fund? Will the Minister comment on this reported accusation?
– It is true that the supplementary hospital insurance tables which have been offered by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. as ancillary to the Medibank hospital agreement in New South Wales have been rejected by the Government. They have not been rejected arbitrarily if by ‘arbitrarily’ one means acting just out of the blue in rejecting propositions without there being some principles on which they are rejected. In fact, these tables have been rejected because they do not comply with the specific guidelines which have been set down for the approval of such ancillary health insurance which the private funds can offer. The Government has an obligation under the National Health Act to protect the contributors to these private funds. That obligation is specifically made clear in the National Health Act. The guidelines have made clear to funds how they can change their rules so that new tables can be offered in order to provide the additional or fringe benefits.
The proposed table of the Medical Benefits Fund lists a wide range of expenses which the Fund claims are associated with the hospitalisation of people who go into a private hospital. This was one of the matters which particularly attracted our attention. We do not think that on the propositions that the Fund has put forward it is likely there would be any surplus, after the private hospital daily bed charges in New South Wales had been met, for moneys to be available, firstly, to provide some of the additional benefits which the Fund claims it can make available. Secondly, we have some objection to the manner in which the Fund has asked for a contribution of $1.86 a family for the theatre fees in private hospitals. Other funds have included the payment of theatre fees in private hospitals amongst the general ancillary payments which are asked for if one takes out additional insurance with those funds.
In addition to that, the Medical Benefits Fund wishes to make provision for sickness benefits which go beyond the normal provision of hospital and medical expenses which are covered by Medibank and which it is intended should be covered by the funds in their ancillary arrangements which they propose to make through their private subscribers. The provision of sickness benefits is not a proper matter for funds of this type. There is nothing wrong with people taking out sickness benefit insurance, but it ought to be done through an ordinary private insurer and not through a hospital or medical benefits fund. The guidelines and the reasons why the Government insisted on these guidelines were contained in 2 circulars which were forwarded to all of the registered hospital benefit organisations in New South Wales on 13 August and 19 September last. The Medical Benefits Fund is the only fund whose proposals have been rejected. All the other funds have complied with the guidelines of the Government under the National Health Act.
-Can the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation indicate whether there are any medical statistics that in any way confirm or deny that ex-prisoners of war are more susceptible to and suffer a greater degree of disability from arthritis than members of the general public? If so, will he undertake to have this disease accepted as war-caused in respect of these men so described and affected?
– I do not know whether there are statistics in the sense that a systematic analysis of this proposition has been done, but certainly the proposition has been put to me that former prisoners of war, particularly prisoners of war of the Japanese, are susceptible to arthritis. I think this may well be the case. I will take up Senator Bessell ‘s suggestion and ask that some investigation be made into this matter with a view to giving consideration to his proposition.
I think it should be remembered that the Government, in the 1974-75 Budget, provided for all hospital and medical expenses of former prisoners of war to be met as part of the repatriation entitlement of these returned servicemen. To a certain extent, that provision has lost some of its relevance since the introduction of Medibank. I can well appreciate that there are a number of particular problems from which former prisoners of war are suffering. Arthritis could well be one of them. I believe it is a proper matter for study by the relevant officers of my Department.
-Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs provide the Senate with any information on the recently concluded talks in Rome between the Indonesian and Portuguese Foreign Ministers on the situation in Portuguese Timor? How does the Australian Government view the outcome of those talks?
– Talks on Portuguese Timor between the Indonesian and Portuguese Foreign Ministers took place in Rome between 1 and 3 November. A communique was issued at the conclusion of the talks. We have not yet received the full text of the communique, but according to news reports the 2 Foreign Ministers agreed that there should be a restoration of peace and order in the Territory and that resolution of the conflict should be sought through talks with all the political groups in Portuguese
Timor. The Portuguese have reportedly agreed to try to arrange such talks in the near future. The 2 Foreign Ministers, in their communique, were also reported to have agreed that in the implementation of the decolonisation of Portuguese Timor it would be essential to safeguard the legitimate interests of the countries in the region, particularly Indonesia’s interest as the nearest neighbouring country.
The Government welcomes this reported outcome of the talks. It has long urged that the solution of the problems of Portuguese Timor should be sought through talks between Portugal and all the Timorese parties. We have consistently held that any durable solution must recognise the importance of the Indonesian interest in the territory. We hope that the talks now foreshadowed will lead to the restoration of a decolonisation program like that agreed earlier at Bacan in which the claims of all political parties could be satisfactorily decided.
May I add one thing, which is not a direct answer to Senator Everett’s question. The reports from Portuguese Timor are that there is a considerable amount of tension in the area. As I mentioned in regard to Beirut last week, I make the point that people who do not have very important business there ought to look to whether they should remain in an area which is potentially dangerous and in which there is not a normal war being fought, as there is not in Beirut, which would put themselves in considerable danger.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to recent statements by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the Government can continue to govern without the Budget being passed by the Senate. If the Government can govern without the Budget being passed by the Parliament, what is the constitutional crisis about which the Prime Minister keeps talking?
– The constitutional crisis is quite obvious. It has been brought about by the Opposition taking an unprecedented step in refusing the Appropriation Bills. I should have thought that Senator Chaney would be aware of that as he has been a member of the Senate for the past few months. As Mr Hayden, the Treasurer, pointed out only yesterday, certain items of normal expenditure will not reach the Australian people. They have been referred to here this morning in answer to some questions.
The Appropriation Bills do not cover all government spending, as we well know. A great deal of spending goes through in separate legislation. Even under the proposals which the Government is considering, there would still be certain areas in which the Government would not be able to expedite payments.
– Why do you not resign and accept the judgment of the people?
– I seek to remind Senator Wright that i:he judgment of the people will come down on him as it did in 1974. The position is that certain areas of expenditure can be made available or can be expedited under the Government’s proposals. As I said, these proposals will be brought to the Parliament in due course.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General, representing the Minister for Defence, and relates to a recent Press announcement by the Minister for Defence concerning the invitation to a number of Australian and overseas shipbuilders to tender for the supply of patrol craft for the Royal Australian Navy. I note that half the tenderers are overseas companies and ask the Minister: What assurance cart he give in relation to Australian industry participation in the project should the successful tenderer be an overseas company?
- Senator Drury has mentioned that Mr Morrison, the Minister for Defence, has announced already that a total of 1 1 local and overseas companies were invited to tender for the project. The cost of the studies will be met by the Australian Government and it is planned that they will commence in April next year. Mr Morrison states that the craft probably will be built in Australia, subject to satisfactory quality, cost and delivery times, although it may be necessary to consider building a lead craft overseas should an overseas company be the successful tenderer. The decision will be taken in time for construction to begin early in 1977, with the first craft planned to enter the Service during 1979.
– I ask the Leader of the Government: Has the Prime Minister come around to your view, as reported in the media the week before last, that there should be an election for the House of Representatives this year and not next year? If so, and as time is running out to hold such an election, when will the announcement be made?
– The decision was taken by the Government and announced. We stand by that decision.
-I ask the Minister for Police and Customs: What are the circumstances under which passengers on certain vessels entering Australian ports are immune from normal customs and quarantine regulations? Do the circumstances in a recent drug detection case merit a discontinuance of this undeserved privilege?
– Everyone who enters Australia is subject to the application of the Act and regulations under which the Department of Police and Customs operates and is liable to search. The procedure at landing places, such as port terminals, is to random search passengers, so everyone is not searched. I think the case referred to is one where someone came in with a boat and as a result a number of people were charged with having prohibited imports of the narcotic cannabis. Two individuals who are now subject to a charge were searched but they were not searched at the point of landing. I think that as they are subject to police prosecution we should not say any more on the matter at this stage. But still, they were liable to be searched and two of them subsequently were searched.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. What I should like to know is: In the outcome of this case, was there any feedback from the State Police to the Department of Police and Customs to indicate that there could be a loophole by means of which this crime could be perpetuated?
– There is particularly good co-operation, especially between the Narcotics Section of the Department of Police and Customs and the State Police Drug Squad. There is co-operation also between the Australia Police and the State police forces right throughout Australia. I think there was co-operation in this particular case but, as I understand the case, drugs were landed in an area in Western Australia. This case is an example of one of the near impossibilities that exist in policing our coastline in Australia. There has been cooperation between the State and Commonwealth Police and the Air Force in this particular case with the result that the drugs were discovered and arrests took place.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. I preface my question by saying that no doubt the Minister has been made aware of the shortening of the working week at the Cadbury company in Hobart in an effort to stop the retrenchment of about 1 50 people. I ask: When was the Minister made aware of the plight of the Cadbury company? What action has he taken to assist that company? In any discussions with the company has it intimated that it will eventually close the plant at Hobart and leave the State? Finally, what influence has the recent freight rate increase by the Australian National Line had on Cadbury company’s decision?
– I was first made aware of the plight of the Cadbury company a moment ago by Senator Townley. However, 1 will convey his question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry and let him have an early reply.
– I ask the Special Minister of State: Is he aware that an auction was held in Melbourne last week of early Australian coins and medals? Did the Minister take any action to ensure that these important relics of our past are kept in Australia?
-The Government has consistently taken the view that all aspects of the National Estate must be protected from the pillaging of those who seek personal benefit from the cultural heritage of the Australian people. I suggest that in the past little has been done to protect items of our cultural heritage from the inroads of overseas museums, galleries and private collectors. I believe that the message is now becoming known and that overseas collectors are turning their attention elsewhere. When I heard of the sale referred to by the honourable senator which included centennial medals struck as long ago as 1888, I immediately contacted my colleague, the Minister for Police and Customs. He reported that the export of vintage coins was already controlled under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations. He said that he would take urgent action to ensure that the centennial medals were kept in Australia. I understand that Senator Cavanagh, in his capacity as Minister for Police and Customs, issued a Press statement to that effect shortly afterwards.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it not a fact that he, among other Labor senators, voted to defeat the Appropriation Bills in 1970? Is it not also a fact that the Australian Labor Party, when in Opposition, voted against numerous money Bills and succeeded in relation to a number of them, including important Budget legislation such as the States Grants (Receipts Duty) Bill? How can the Minister say, as he did in answer to a question asked by Senator Chaney this morning, that the Opposition’s action in this chamber, in relation to the current appropriation Bills, is unprecendented and constitutes a constitutional crisis?
– I was asked a question identical to this the week before last. I refer the honourable senator to the answer which I gave on that occasion.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Media. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that in this current political crisis the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been participating in the distortion and manipulation of news? Is it a fact that the people of Australia are being subjected to such a devious and deceptive plan emanating from ABC radio and television?
– I have heard suggestions of this kind made by way of questions asked in this chamber by members of the Opposition. All that I can say is that the Government has adopted the practice religiously that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, financed by the Government, should have complete political and programming independence. Any matter coming within the purview of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a matter for the responsibility of the Chairman of the ABC, Professor Downing, the members of the ABC and the management of the ABC. I do not for one moment suggest that there is bias one way or the other on the part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In the time I was Minister for the Media I had great respect for its general approach to matters of current affairs. However, if there be bias in the media generally I suggest that honourable senators refer to Senator Keeffe ‘s speech on the Appropriation Bills last week concerning allegations he made in relation to certain sections of the newspaper medium.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the curtailment of the working week at Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd as an alternative to the retrenchment of 155 personnel. This matter was the subject of a public meeting in Hobart yesterday. It is. accounted for by a depression in the confectionery trade throughout Australia generally. I refer to the announcement in this morning’s Australian of retrenchment following curtailment of production of steel at Whyalla- I think to the extent of 30 per cent- due to the depressed state of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd steel market, both domestic and overseas. Does the Minister keep himself systematically informed of all announcements of retrenchment in the labour market due to the depression in industry? If so, what is the trend for the month of October?
– I thought the beginning of the question was addressed to me in my capacity as representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. The question later spilled over into my portfolio of Labor and Immigration. As to the problems at Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd, in relation to an earlier question from Senator Townley I said that I was not aware of the situation at Cadburys until the question was asked. I am aware of problems in the steel industry due to the general downturn in industry. I keep myself informed at least of major trends in the work force. The figures for October are not yet available. When they are available, of course, they will be announced.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration: Is it a fact that a Laotian student, Saysavath Vichidvongsa twice wrote to the Minister’s Department seeking political asylum for himself, his wife and his child? Is it further a fact that the Department’s only response was merely a formal acknowledgment of receipt of the letters and that the Minister ordered the man to leave Australia this week? Has he in fac; gone? What justification has the Minister for such a grossly inhumane action? Is the Minister unwilling to give normal refugee status to people seeking the substance of the protection of the terms of the international treaty on refugees? Will the Minister review this matter urgently? Is it a decision which the Minister is competent to make or is the Prime Minister the de facto Minister for Immigration?
– I suppose one would have to be a member of the Opposition to place any reliance on a report in the newspaper the Australian which is the authority for the honourable senator’s question. The article in question implies that this man Saysavath Vichidvongsa, a Laotian Colombo plan student, received only acknowledgments of his letters to my Department. This is not correct. On 2 October 1975 the Department wrote to Mr Vichidvongsa telling him that as he came to Australia on a Colombo Plan award the question of his continued stay in Australia and of the admission of his wife and child was a matter for determination by the Australian Development Assistance Agency which falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Similar advice was given on 23 September to the Honourable A. J. Grassby, Commissioner Designate for Community Relations who had made representations on behalf of Vichidvongsa. My Department’s file shows that on 8 October 1975 the Australian Development Assistance Agency also wrote to Mr Grassby about the same case, indicating that inquiries would be conducted through the Sydney office of the Agency. The article in the Australian has been brought to the attention of the Australian Development Assistance Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and they are currently making inquiries as to the situation of Mr Vichidvongsa.
It would appear that the ADAA office in Sydney, in providing Mr Vichidvongsa with a return ticket to Laos for departure next week, has followed its normal procedure for all Colombo Plan students who complete their course. The changed political situation in Laos would not have been weighed as a factor. Instructions which ADAA sent to its State offices on 30 October, following an interdepartmental meeting on 29 October in Canberra which considered the implications for Laotian students here of the changed political situation in Laos, would not have been acted upon at the time Mr Vichidvongsa was provided with his ticket. When the ADAA and Department of Foreign Affairs inquiries are completed my Department will be informed. However, the matter at this stage is not one in which I as a Minister for Labor and Immigration am directly involved. My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs has responsibility for Colombo Plan and other sponsored students. That, I think, also answers the section of the question concerning the Prime Minister’s responsibility.
-Is the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware of the practice of some private insurance companies of declining to renew third party insurance cover even though the prospective insurers have been clients of those companies for many years and in some instances have no-claim records? Is he further aware of an insistence in other cases that third party cover will be provided only if all the client’s insurance policies are transferred to the company concerned? Is this a contravention of the Trade Practices Act? Because motor vehicle registrations are dependent upon the production of a third party insurance certificate, what action is available to prospective insurers in a situation such as this to enable them to register their vehicles and meet their citizen responsibilities?
– I am aware, as I think everybody is, that private insurers are getting out of the compulsory third party insurance field as fast as their legs will carry them. In a number of States they have completely abandoned the field to the State government insurance offices and, having abandoned this unprofitable field to the State government insurance offices, have drawn attention to the losses which the State government insurance offices have made in a field in which they will not work themselves and have used this as an argument against State enterprises. In Tasmania, where, I think, Senator Devitt’s episodes have taken place, a number of private insurers still engage in compulsory third party insurance; but as they are on a losing proposition and, I think, all acknowledge this, they have tried to protect themselves a little by asking people who wish to take out compulsory third party insurance with them to take out all their other insurance with them as well. Whether this is a breach of the Trade Practices Act I do not know; that would be a question for the Attorney-General.
If I could have evidence of the particular incidents to which Senator Devitt refers, I will pass it on to the Attorney-General for an opinion. The only alternative available to the motorist who has been denied third party insurance by the private insurers or has been faced with an ultimatum that he will not get third party insurance cover unless he takes out all his other insurance with them is to transfer his business to the State government insurance office in the State in which he lives or, better still, to wait a few months until the Australian Government Insurance Corporation has been established and take out all his business with it.
– I seek leave to make a personal statement arising from allegations made by Senator McLaren.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-On 30 September 1975 Senator McLaren made certain statements during the adjournment debate. He made allegations arising from his claim to have overheard a private conversation at a table next to that at which he was seated in the parliamentary guests dining room. He stated that on 30 October 1974 Mr Fraser and Mr Street, in the company of a leading South Australian senator, were discussing the coming move to oust Mr Snedden and what the plans would be if the move were successful’. He did not mention the senator by name, but later identified him with these words:
Prior to this that person was a front bencher and a shadow Minister and he is now a back bencher.
That description applies to only one South Australian Liberal senator; that is to me. Senator McLaren claimed by inference that I was involved in intrigue for my own advancement. At the time these allegations were made I chose to treat them with disdain. I now find that his allegations are being repeated, that their repetition is damaging to me and that an attempt is being made to damage Mr Fraser and the Liberal Party of Australia. I refer to the publication Inside Canberra of 10 October 1975 as an example. Finding that this situation exists, I believe that it is in my own interests and in the interests of Mr Fraser and the Liberal Party, that I should reply, even though I still regard Senator McLaren’s scurrilous rumour creation and peddling as a poor substitute for argument and generally unworthy of any form of recognition.
I emphatically deny having been present on 30 October 1974 or at any time during any conversation with Mr Fraser and Mr Street regarding the ousting of Mr Snedden. The facts are these: Firstly, I ceased to be a shadow Minister at my own request in June 1974; secondly, I have never participated in any intrigue against any Leader of my Party; thirdly, I supported Mr Snedden throughout his term as Leader and in the ballot in March 1975 when he was defeated- a fact which can be corroborated by another senator who sat next to me during that ballot; fourthly, although there have been occasions when I have dined with Mr Fraser and Mr Street, as I have with most if not all of my Liberal Party colleagues, I have never been present at any conversation such as Senator McLaren described.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement in view of what Senator Laucke has said.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In view of what Senator Laucke has said, he has now admitted that he was there that night. I did not name him in the Senate. By way of interjection-I think it was Senator Mulvihill -
– That is precisely opposite to what Senator Laucke said and you ought to have the decency to acknowledge it.
- Mr President, in the course of my remarks I intend to ask Senator Laucke whether he does deny that he dined with Mr Street and Mr Fraser on the night of 30 October 1 974. If he does deny it, I will ask him to make provision- I will go along with him- to have a look at the dockets for the dining room, which should be kept by the Joint House Department, and see whether he was at the same table. I want to say further that if what I am saying is untrue, as Senator Laucke has said, I must have very great powers as a clairvoyant because many of the things that I divulged in the Senate on the night of 30 September have now come true. I want to refer to my words of that night. I said in the chamber that night:
I shall relate to the Senate a discussion which took place 1 1 months ago today- on 30 October 1 974- in the precincts of this building because it has a deep bearing on the credibility of Mr Fraser. Mr Fraser and Mr Street, in the company of a leading South Australian Liberal Senator -
I did not name him, but Senator Laucke has now admitted that he was the one to whom I was referring- were discussing the coming move to oust Mr Snedden and what the plans would be if the move were successful. Mr Fraser said it was against Liberal Party policy to reject the budget and that he would overcome this by claiming that the economy was in such a mess that he just had to do it.
Honourable senators should remember those words and look at the big full page advertisements which appeared in the daily Press a few weeks ago and which were headed ‘I had to do it’. Those words appeared above the photograph of Mr Fraser. Those words reiterate what I told the Senate he was doing. I went on to say:
However, to prevent the Liberal and Country Parties from bringing down the wrath of the public servants and the pensioners upon their heads if an election prevented those people from being paid over the Christmas period, he would offer the Government temporary Supply on the understanding that the Government held an election early in the new year.
What was the proposition put forward by Mr Fraser yesterday, as reported in today’s Age? It carries the headline: ‘Fraser offers a deal’. The deal that he is offering the Prime Minister now is that if the Prime Minister gives an undertaking to hold an election before June next year he will let the Budget through. Is that not what I told the Senate I overheard these 3 people discussing on 30 October? The only thing that stopped what is happening now from happening last year was Mr Fraser ‘s unsuccessful bid to oust Mr Snedden. I retract nothing of what I said in the Senate. It is the honest truth and I stand by it.
Senator LAUCKE (South Australia)-Mr President, may I repeat a section of my statement?
– Only with the leave of the Senate.
-May I have leave?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In reply to Senator McLaren, I reiterate that I emphatically deny having been present on 30 October 1974 or at any other time during any conversation with Mr Fraser and Mr Street regarding the ousting of Mr Snedden.
-I have received from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory an address to the Senate which was made by resolution of the Assembly on 15 October 1975. The address reads:
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled.
We the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory of Australia have recently endorsed and commended the policy of your Honourable House in declining to proceed with a Bill relating to the Territory until such time as this Assembly has considered it.
With great humility we now request that the Senate accept as a general rule the desirability of referring to this Assembly all legislation, the nature of which would permit it to be dealt with by the Assembly.
In furtherance of this policy we would request that any legislation introduced into the Federal Parliament proposing to make changes in the constitution of the Northern Territory Police Force, which is a body created by Ordinance as part of the Northern Territory Public Service, be referred to this Assembly in the same manner as was the Stabilization of Land Prices Bill 1975.
I hereby certify that this copy is a fair print of the address to the Australian Senate made by the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, 15 October 1975.
Clerk of the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the minutes of proceedings of the Australian Constitutional Convention held in Sydney from 3 September 1973 to 7 September 1973.
– Pursuant to section 3 1 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1973 I present the annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 15 of the Universities Commission Act 1959-1974 I present the sixth report of the Universities Commission dated May 1975. A pre-print copy of this report was distributed to all honourable senators during the winter recess of Parliament.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for 1974-75.
Pursuant to section 37(5) of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970-1975 I table the fifth annual report of the AIDC for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
-Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I observe briefly that the report discloses a quite difficult situation and justifies the Senate’s examining this organisation under the new proposals put forward for it at an earlier stage. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 I present the report of the Law Reform Commission on Criminal Investigation. I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-This is the second report of the Commission and, with the first report on complaints against police concludes, for the time being, the work of the Commission on its first reference- to inquire into and report on the appropriate legislative means of safeguarding individual rights and liberties in relation to the law enforcement process by the Australia Police under Australian and territorial law. The Government is appreciative of the detailed analysis which the Commission has undertaken of the many complex- and sometimes controversial- issues which have been raised by the report.
It has been noted that the Commission has . presented this report as an interim report to enable full and detailed discussion by all sections of the community on the issues raised in the report. The Government will take note of this public discussion in its consideration of the Commission’s recommendations and in its examination of the draft legislation which has been included with the report. The Government has not, at this stage, formed any view on the Commission’s proposal.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for September 1975. Due to the limited number available reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable senators I present copies of tables relating to the second reading speech on the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1975, made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Les Johnson) on 22 October 1975. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of these tables have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. In addition, a limited number can be obtained on request by honourable senators from the Senate Records Office.
- Mr President, I rise at this stage merely on a point of order if you will permit me to intervene. There is an effective reproduction system in the Senate. Perhaps you, Mr President, would canvass the administrative problems presented in the 2 statements which have recently been made, namely, that there are not enough facilities available to produce a greater number of copies of reports. In the interests of honourable senators, you Mr President might allow the use of the Senate’s resources to have these reports reproduced and distributed to honourable senators.
-I shall discuss this matter with the Minister later.
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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
Honourable senators will recall that on 27 May I announced that the Australian Government had approved the continuation of the minimum reserve price arrangements for wool during the 1975-76 season. The Australian Wool Corporation has been authorised to continue operating a minimum floor price equivalent to 250 cents per kilo clean for 2 1 micron wool at auction. The Government has made it clear that this authority will apply throughout the 1975-76 wool selling season.
During the 1974-75 season a total of $289m was advanced to the Corporation by the Government to finance the purchase of wool under the reserve price scheme, and to provide for advances to growers. This total was made up of $ 1 3m which had been available in the Australian Wool Corporation Working Capital Trust Fund, and $276m which was advanced from the special appropriation of $350m under the Wool Marketing (Loan) Acts.
During that season, the Corporation bought extremely heavily, especially earlier in the season. During the first 3 months of the selling season the Corporation’s purchases averaged 43 per cent of offerings at auction. As the season progressed the market strengthened considerably, and in the last 3 months of the season the Corporation’s purchases averaged 10 per cent of offerings. Towards the end of the season there was a net reduction of some thousands of bales of wool in the Corporation’s stockpile. At 30 June the Corporation’s net purchases had averaged 33 per cent of the season’s offerings at auction and its stockpile of wool had reached some 1.6m bales.
The purpose of the present Bill is to amend the Wool Marketing (Loan) Acts to increase the amount of the appropriation under that act to $356m. After account is taken of the $276m advanced to the Corporation last year, the remaining appropriation available for advances to the Corporation in 1975-76 will be $80m. Honourable senators will recall that this is the amount which is included in the Budget for advances to the Corporation. The Government also will guarantee new borrowings by the Corporation of $70m from trading banks. Those borrowings would be additional to borrowings under the existing facility of $34m, made available by a consortium of trading banks under Government guarantee.
In addition to this provision of $150m, the Corporation will be able to finance wool purchases and advances to growers, from the cash proceeds of the 5 per cent levy on growers returns from sales of wool, estimated to amount to $46.25m in 1975-76. This is in accordance with the arrangements agreed with the Australian Wool Industry Conference and provided for in the Wool Industry Act. As honourable senators will be aware, advances to the Corporation under the Wool Marketing (Loan) Acts are made to the Corporation by the Treasurer, on terms and conditions determined by him, after the customary consultation with me.
I take the opportunity to refer to reports which appeared in the media, following the presentation of the statements attached to the Budget Speech, to the effect that Government assistance to rural industries would be reduced by some $200m this year. That amount is, of course, roughly the extent of the reduction in advances from the Government to the Wool Corporation, from $289m last year to the provision of $80m this year. Honourable senators will appreciate that this is a complete misconception. There is no reduction whatever in the effective support for the Wool Corporation. In both years the Government has pledged its support for the floor price at 250c. We judge the provision of $150m-$80m from the Budget, $70m by way of Government guaranteed borrowing from the trading banksto be adequate for this purpose. However, as the Treasurer made abundantly clear in the Budget Speech, we will as a matter of course keep the position under close review throughout the year. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) 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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the terms of my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard. In so doing I indicate that Senator Wriedt, as Leader of the Government, and I, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, have indicated to the Opposition that the Government is keen to secure the early passage of this legislation, as it is with the other 2 States grants Bills which are to come before the Senate later.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise revisions to the financial assistance grants arrangements settled at the Premiers’ Conference held on 19 June 1975, and to authorise adjustments to the financial assistance grants payable to South Australia and Tasmania in connection with the railway transfers in those States and in connection with the former State’s withdrawal from the Grants Commission system. The changes to the financial assistance grants arrangements provided for by this Bill are an increase in the financial assistance grants of $220m in 1975-76 above those which would otherwise be payable under existing legislation, and the addition of this amount to the base for calculating the grants in subsequent years; an increase in the ‘betterment’ factor from the present 1.8 per cent to 3.0 per cent to apply for purposes of calculating the financial assistance grants for 1976-77 and later years; an addition of $5m to the base amount on which Western Australia’s grant for 1975-76 and subsequent years will be calculated; an addition of $2 1 m to the base amount on which South Australia’s financial assistance grant for 1975-76 and subsequent years is to be calculated; and the deduction of $10. 7m from the base amount on which Tasmania’s financial assistance grant for 1975-76 and subsequent years is to be calculated.
As honourable senators will know, the financial assistance grants are the chief form in which grants are made to the States for general revenue purposes. They are subject to no conditions as to the purpose for which they may be spent. Very briefly, the present arrangements provide for the financial assistance grants to be determined by a formula under which the grant paid to each State in each financial year is calculated by taking the grant paid to it in the preceding year and increasing that grant by factors which take into account the growth in each State’s population, the increase in average wages in Australia as a whole and a ‘betterment’ factor to assist the States in improving the standard and range of their services. In accordance with the Government’s undertaking to review the existing arrangements before the end of 1974-75, consultations took place with the governments of the States and with their respective officers prior to last June’s Premiers’ Conference. At that conference the Australian Government agreed to introduce legislation to provide for the first three of the changes to the financial assistance grants arrangements which I listed earlier.
The details of our consultations with the States prior to and at last June’s Premiers’ Conference, and the basis of the changes agreed to, are set out in the Budget paper entitled: ‘Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1975-76’. I only point out here that the $220m increase in the financial assistance grants is a very substantial amount, particularly when it is considered that this increase is on top of the increases produced in the grants this year by the operation of the formula. Furthermore, the addition of this amount to the base for calculating the grants in future years, and the raising of the betterment’ factor from 1.8 per cent to 3.0 per cent, will ensure that the States will receive further large increases in general revenue funds in 1 976-77 and subsequent years.
I should also explain here that the addition of $5m to Western Australia’s grant is being made following representations by the Western Australian Government in relation to the additional financial assistance grants it has received since 1967-68 following its withdrawal from the special grants system. The remaining two adjustments to the grants arrangements are connected with the transfer of railways in South Australia and Tasmania and with the former State’s withdrawal from the Grants Commission. The addition of $2 1 m to South Australia’s base grant is comprised of: (i) a reduction of $29m, being an agreed figure representing the State’s nonmetropolitan railway loss in 1974-75; (ii) an increase of $2 5 m providing general budgetary assistance to the State; and (iii) a further increase of $2 5 m to compensate the State for loss of special grants which it received prior to its withdrawal from the Grants Commission system.
The deduction of $10.7m from Tasmania’s base grant is comprised of: (i) a reduction of $14m being an agreed figure representing the State’s railway loss in 1974-75; and (ii) an increase of $3.3 m providing general budgetary assistance to the State.
Turning to the details of the Bill, the first 2 clauses are of a machinery nature. Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the amendment of the States Grants Act 1973-74- the legislation which at present authorises the payment of financial assistance grants to the States- by the insertion of 4 new sub-sections to section 6, namely subsections (5), (6), (7) and (8). Sub-section (5) specifies that an addition of $2 1 m is to be made to the base for calculating the grant payable to
South Australia in 1 975-76 and subsequent years under the formula laid down in earlier parts of section 6. Sub-section (6) specifies that an addition of $5m is to be made to the base for calculating the grant payable to Western Australia in 1975-76 and subsequent years. Subsection (7) specifies that an addition of $4.3m is to be made to the base for calculating the grant payable to Tasmania in 1975-76 and subsequent years. The $4.3m is the difference between the addition of $15m made to Tasmania’s grant under section 6A of the existing Act- which is to be repealed under clause 4 of the present Billand the deduction of $10. 7m to be made to Tasmania’s grant in connection with the railway transfer in that State.
Sub-section (8) specifies that the ‘betterment’ factor in the formula is to be raised from the present 1.8 per cent to 3.0 per cent for purposes of calculating the grants in 1976-77 and subsequent years. Clause 4 of the Bill provides for the insertion of a new section 7 consisting of two subsections. The first of these specifies that $220m is to be added to the grants payable in 1975-76 under section 6, and distributed among the States in the same proportion as the grants payable under section 6. Sub-section (2) of the new section 7 specifies that the $220m is to be added to the base for calculating the grants payable in 1 976-77 and subsequent years.
Finally, clause 5 of the Bill provides for the amendment of section 1 1 of the existing Act in order to specify that the financial assistance grants arrangements are to be reviewed again before the end of 1979-80. Full details of the financial assistance grants to be paid to the States in 1975-76 and the nature of the formula for calculating the grants in subsequent years are given in chapter 2 of the Budget paper entitled: Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1975-76’.
After incorporating the changes I have outlined and on the basis of current estimates of increases in population and average wages, the financial assistance grants are estimated to total $3, 184.6m in the current financial year. This is $8 10.8m or about 34 per cent higher than in the previous year. It would, 1 believe, be appropriate for me at this stage to refer to the overall position in relation to Australian Government assistance to the States and their authorities in 1975-76. It is estimated that over 38 per cent of outlays from the Australian Government’s Budget in 1975-76 will take the form of payments to or for the States or their authorities. Such payments are expected to grow much more rapidly than other forms of outlays- that is outlays on matters for which the Australian Government is directly responsible. Payments to or for the States and their authorities are expected to increase by over 30 per cent, compared with an increase of about 1 8 per cent in all other Budget outlays.
This very large increase in payments to or for the States- amounting to about $2,000m- is attributable to a number of factors. First, and most important, is the very large increase- about $900m- in general purpose funds- that is untied’ funds which the States are free to spend as they decide themselves. This reflects, amongst other things, the improved financial assistance grants arrangements which I have been discussing. Secondly, the large increase in payments to the States reflects the new Medibank arrangements for financing the running costs of public hospitals, under which payments of the order of $700m are to be made to the States in 1975-76. The purpose of the new arrangements is, of course, to improve the quality and availability of health care and to rationalise and make more equitable the financing thereof. However, the new Medibank arrangements will also have the effect of providing very substantial and continuing relief to the States’ budgets which in effect amounts to further general assistance which the States are free to use as they decide themselves. Thirdly, the increased allocations for local government, including $79.9m as untied assistance as recommended by the Grants Commission, and about $97m under the Regional Employment Development scheme, are relevant.
In other areas of payments to or for the States there are lesser increases or, in some cases, relatively small reductions. This is consistent with the Government’s overall budgetary strategy of expenditure restraint. Taking all forms of payments to the States together, however, and looking particularly at the area of untied assistance, it is clear that the States and their authorities have come out of the Budget quite well. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– Following upon the comments made by the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland), the Opposition is willing to give immediate passage to this and the other related Bills. In the ordinary course of events, of course, a Bill such as this one would take its normal course of debate in this Senate and be entitled to scrutiny by the Senate; but the Government has indicated that it desires the Bill and the Opposition proposes to let it have it. In those circumstances, I wish to make some very brief remarks. This is a Bill which essentially aims to bring about new and revised financial assistance grants arrangements which were settled at the Premiers Conference on 19 June 1975. Briefly, the Bill authorises adjustments, firstly, for South Australia and Tasmania with regard to rail transfers and, secondly, for South Australia with regard to that State’s withdrawal from the Grants Commission. The Bill provides for an increase of $220m to the base from which the grants shall be calculated in a subsequent year. It proposes that for the years 1976-77 and beyond the betterment factor should increase from 1.8 per cent to 3 per cent. It provides an addition of $5m to the base amount on which Western Australia’s grant for the year 1975-76 is calculated. It adds $21m to the base amount on which South Australia’s grant is calculated. As a result of a deduction of $ 14m for rail losses in Tasmania and a $3.3m general Budget addition, it deducts $ 10.7m from Tasmania. That is the substance of the Bill, to which the Opposition will agree.
I say simply that in this Bill we are perpetuating a formula which, under this and previous governments, has proved to be very unsatisfactory. The formula itself takes the grant of the previous year, increases it by factors which take into account increases in population, increases in average wages and a betterment factor to assist in improvement; and, when it does so, it inevitably produces a result whereby the States in their general purpose revenue grants receive less in total than the ordinary growth rate of Commonwealth revenue. In other words, the States continuously get a worse deal than the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth raises its income tax from the States and gives back less to the States for general purposes. This is doubly unsatisfactory because, in basic terms, in the Vh years that this Government has been in office it has used special purposes grants to erode the sovereignty of the States and therefore to destroy them. It is therefore of prime necessity that for the future there should be a major change in the whole approach of the Government in Canberra towards the finances of State and local government. It is in foreshadowing that and in foreshadowing the Federal Opposition’s announced policies of an entirely new deal for the States that we will allow this Bill to pass.
Sitting suspended from J to 2 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard. As I indicated in regard to the previous Bill, Senator Wriedt, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate and I, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, have already indicated to the Opposition that the Government is keen to secure the early passage of this legislation.
-Is leave granted for the second reading speech to be incorporated in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1975-76 of special grants of $36.3m to Queensland and $2. 5m to South Australia. These payments are in accordance with the recommendations of the Grants Commission contained in its Forty-Second Report on Special Assistance foi States, which has been tabled by the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland). The Bill also seeks authority for payment of advances to Queensland in the early months of 1976-77, pending receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and enactment of any necessary legislation to provide for the grant that may be paid to the State in that year.
The Australian Government makes special grants to certain of the States to compensate them for such factors as lower capacity to raise revenue from their own resources and higher costs in providing government services of a standard similar to those in the financially stronger States. When special grants were first paid they constituted the only regular form of general revenue assistance paid to the financially weaker States for this purpose. For many years now, however, the main way in which special compensatory assistance has been provided has been through the higher per capita financial assistance grants paid to the 4 less populous States. The financial assistance grants, are, of course, the main general revenue grants to the States. The special grants may, therefore, be regarded as supplementing the financial assistance grants, and as having the special characteristic of being independently as well as expertly assessed by the Grants Commission.
In arriving at its recommendations, the Grants Commission makes an assessment of the ‘financial needs’ of the claimant States. To quantify these needs, the Commission compares in detail the finances of each claimant State with those of New South Wales and Victoria, taking into account differences in revenue-raising capacity and differences in the cost of providing comparable services. The payments of special grants recommended by the Grants Commission consist of 2 parts. One part is based on a preliminary estimate of the claimant State’s financial need in the current financial year, and is treated as an advance payment subject to adjustment 2 years later when the Commission has compared in detail the finances of the claimant and standard States. The other part represents the final adjustment to the advance payment made 2 years earlier and is known as the completion payment. This adjustment may be positive or negative and therefore may result in the final grant in respect of that year being higher or lower than the original advance payment.
The Commission has recommended that an advance payment of $25m be made to Queensland in 1975-76- an increase of 67 per cent on that made for 1974-75- and that a completion payment of $1 1.3m be paid to the State in respect of 1973-74. The 1975-76 advance grant will, of course, be subject to adjustment, if necessary, in 1977-78. The $2. 5m payment to South Australia referred to in this Bill is a completion payment in respect of 1973-74.
For the information of honourable senators, 1 mention that as part of the negotiations on the transfer of South Australia’s non-metropolitan railways, arrangements were agreed with the State for withdrawal from the Grants Commission system at the end of 1974-75. To compensate the State for the loss of special grants, an addition of $25m is to be made to the 1974-75 base’ on which the State’s financial assistance grant for 1975-76 is to be calculated. This is provided for in the States Grants Bill 1975. I also add, for clarity, that payments totalling $ 16.434m were also made to the State in 1974-75 in this connection, comprising amounts of: $10m in lieu of the completion payment which the State would have expected to receive in 1976-77 in respect of 1974-75 if the State had remained claimant under the procedures of the Grants Commission; and $6.434m being payment of the ‘unused assessed grants’ referred to in paragraph 1-17 of the Grants Commission’s Forty-first Report.
The Commission’s recommendations have been adopted by Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition will give a speedy passage to the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill. The recommendations of the Grants Commission have been received unanimously by the Parliament since the inception of the Grants Commission. This Bill simply ratines 2 recommendationsthe payment of a special grant of $36.3m to Queensland and $2. 5m to South Australia. Those recommendations are supported by the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the terms of my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard. As with the previous 2 Bills which have just received the assent of the Senate, I have indicated, as has Senator Wriedt, that the Government is keen to secure the early passage of this legislation because it will make available $79.9m to local government.
-Is leave granted for the second reading speech to be incorporated in Hansard) There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise payments, in 1975-76, of amounts totalling $79,908,000 to local governing bodies throughout Australia. These payments are in accord with the recommendations of the Grants Commission contained in its Second Report on Financial Assistance to Local Government which I tabled in the Senate on 19 August 1975. They represent an increase of almost 42 per cent on the 1 974-75 allocations of $56. 3m. The 844 local governing bodies which will benefit from the passing of this Bill comprise 95 per cent of all the bodies which applied for financial assistance. Last year, 13 councils chose not to apply for assistance. This year all eligible local governing bodies sought grants. Our aim is to reduce inequalities between local governing authorities throughout Australia. The Australian Government believes that until the barriers of inequality have been broken down, local government will not be in a position to fulfil its proper role as a true partner in the federal system.
Since coming to office, the Government has vigorously pursued its commitment to strengthen the status of local government. The Government’s decision to extend the Grants Commission operation to local government represented an historic breakthrough. It enabled the Grants Commission to play the same role in reducing inequalities between local governing authorities as it has since 1933 in reducing inequalities between the States. It gave local government, for the first time, access to untied Federal funds. In accordance with the principles of fiscal equalisation which have been developed by the Grants Commission over many years the grants are designed to reduce inequalities between local governing bodies in the provision of services to their communities. Again there will be no conditions attached to the expenditure of the grants this year. They are untied grants completely without strings. The grants are not intended to replace existing State Government grants, or rates and charges by councils. They will be made to the States for payment to local governing bodies to supplement their general revenues to enable them to provide services of a standard comparable with those provided by councils elsewhere. The nature of the equalisation process is such that in any year some local governing bodies will receive lower grants than their neighbouring councils. Some will receive no grants. In this year’s program, the number of councils not receiving a grant was reduced to forty-one. Last year 70 councils did not receive a grant.
The Commission’s methods require that comprehensive and up-to-date financial and statistical information be submitted by councils as a basis for assessment of their claims. But the
Commission’s assessment does not rest there. It also ensures it has a first-hand appreciation of the problems faced by councils. During its second round of public hearings which led up to these recommendations, members of the Grants Commission travelled extensively making inspections in all regions and in all States to see at first hand the problems of local government. Over the last 40 years, the Grants Commission has earned for itself an enviable reputation for its role in reducing the financial inequalities which exist between the Australian States. Under its new chairman- Mr Justice Rae ElseMitchellthe Commission is continuing to bring to bear the same expertise and sympathetic understanding to the problem of reducing the inequalities which abound in local government. A total of over $136m in equalisation grants has been earmarked for payment through State Governments to specified councils in the 2 years of the scheme ‘s operation.
This period has witnessed significant progress towards the new federalism in which local government will take its rightful role in a balanced working partnership with the State and Federal Governments. It is to be hoped that the current Australasian joint study into local government finances, which involves representatives of the 3 tiers of government, will provide the kind of solutions that will cement that partnership. The Grants Commission scheme is an excellent example of the level of co-operation and understanding that can be achieved between Federal, State and Local Government. The Government believes that these grants will go a long way towards alleviating the problems of local government. The many letters of appreciation the Government is receiving from councils support this belief and reflect the widespread approval of the initiative the Government has taken in making this form of untied grant available.
I turn now to the detail of the Bill. Clauses 4 and 7 are intended to ensure that out of the moneys payable to the States under the Act the States will pay to the local governing bodies the amounts specified for each body in the Schedule to the Act and that the payments of those amounts will be unconditional and will be made without undue delay before 1 July 1 976. Clause 5 provides for the situation of a local governing body ceasing to exist before the commencement of the Act or before receiving payment for all or part of the amount specified in the Schedule. This situation might arise, for example, upon the amalgamation of local governing bodies. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition will support the Local Government Grants Bill and will very willingly give it a speedy passage. Honourable senators will recall that last year I spent quite some wearying weeks urging the Government, once the Grants Commission had made its decisions, to get the Bills passed by the Senate so that the moneys could go out to local government bodies. It is in that spirit that we give a speedy passage to this Bill today. I will be brief and I hope not too provocative in my comments. The simple fact is that local government, being the poorest relation of the 3 spheres of government, is facing enormous difficulties today because of the huge rate of inflation which has hit it, in its struggle to keep alive in its rating system, and with the high interest rates charged on its borrowing programs. These grants which total some $79.9m are not insignificant in themselves. Nevertheless, they in no way make up for the erosion caused by inflation and by high interest rates. The real cure or relief for the position of local government can come only when the economy is returned to stability, when inflation is mitigated and when interest rates are diminished.
It is well to remind honourable senators, in the brief space of time I devote to this Bill, of the origins of” local government grants. I am reminded of them in a speech which the present Chairman of the Grants Commission made recently to, I think, a local government body. The simple fact is that a royal commission in 1967 and 1968, I think under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Else.Mitchell, made recommendations to the New South Wales Government with regard to the principle of grants to the States and a Grants Commission. In 1968 the New South Wales Government set up a Grants Commission and would have greatly expanded its funds had not its revenues been restricted. We can obtain some idea of the dimensions of the assistance given by referring to the fact that last year, 1974-75, no less than $ 10m was made available by the State Government to its State Grants Commission. I draw the attention of honourable senators also to the fact that State Grants Commissions exist in 2 other States. Because local government is in such a dreadful situation in terms of its finances at this moment and because of the pressure upon it due to inflation and high interest rates, I have been very brief in my remarks and simply commend the Bill to the speediest possible passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Restoration to the Notice Paper
Debate resumed from 30 October on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 be now restored to the Notice Paper and that they be Orders of the Day for a later hour this day.
Upon which Senator Cotton had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after’That’, insert-
1 ) the Senate having considered Message No. 392 of the House of Representatives- rejects the assertion made in paragraph (a), rejects the allegation made in paragraph (b), and asserts that, as to the matters contained in paragraphs (c) and (d), the true position is given in the Senate Resolution as communicated to the House of Representatives in Message No. 279.
That the foregoing Resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by Message. ‘
– Last Thursday evening I referred to the gross and monumental incompetence of the Government in relation to its economic and financial policies and said that in 1972 the Government inherited a stable economy which within a matter of months it turned from an area of financial and economic stability to one of economic instability. I referred also to the oftrepeated claims of members of the Government that our economic problems were imported. I referred to the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development report of July 1975 which laid the blame clearly upon the Government. This was the first matter to which I referred in justification of the stand being taken by the Opposition at this moment. The next major issue to which I refer and for which the Government quite palpably stands condemned is the Government’s lack of integrity and its deceit. Despite the boast of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of ‘open government’, it surely must be the most secretive government in Australia’s history. It has attempted, by this secretiveness, to conceal the deceit, the illegality and possibly the criminal conspiracy, if not corruption, involved in the infamous and scandalous loans affair. Nothing illustrates more the deceit and dishonesty of the Government than this issue. The Prime Minister has often claimed that no one has made any charges against the Government. The Prime Minister, like Nelson, obviously turns a blind eye, because allegations of illegality, of deceit, indeed of criminal conspiracy have been made repeatedly. The Government has given no answer to these allegations. The Prime Minister has given no answer to these allegations but has chosen to ignore them.
We have the ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd affair. We have the Gair affair. I could go on almost ad infinitum. All these matters seriously involve the integrity and honesty of the Government. It is without doubt a discredited government led by a discredited Prime Minister who conceals the lack of integrity and incompetence of the Government by irrationality and by smart aleck comments. He has turned the House of Representatives into a comedy theatre, and this is no answer to the serious charges being made against the Government. The Prime Minister is a man who repeatedly denies the truth, no doubt in a belief that if a lie is told often enough and repeated often enough, someone will believe it. One wonders whether he can even lie straight in bed.
One of the untruths that the Prime Minister repeats- I regret to say that Senator Gietzelt repeated it last Thursday, and I will come to that in a moment- is that the Senate has not rejected a money Bill in 75 years. I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, on Tuesday, 21 October, whether it was a fact that in 1967, 1968 and 1970 the Senate had rejected money Bills. I refer to the Post and Telegraphs Rates Bill in 1967, the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill in 1968 and the States Grants (Receipts Duty) Bill in 1970.
– It did not lead to the Government’s resignation, which is what you are attempting to do on this occasion.
– Do not try to change the subject. You said in the Senate on Thursday as reported at page 1 646 of Hansard:
The plain facts are- the Opposition must face up to thisthat never in 75 years has the Senate exercised its power to reject a money Bill.
You repeated the untruth that the Prime Minister has been making time and again. To his credit, Senator Wriedt, in reply to a question by me on Wednesday, 22 October, acknowledged the rejection of a money Bill by the Senate on 1 8 June 1970.I will remind you if you wish to check it. I checked to see whether you were here, and you were not. If you had been you would have voted with the then Opposition. The divisions appear at pages 2681 and 2682 of Hansard. With the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party the Opposition rejected a money Bill.
– Rejected it?
– Rejected it and defeated it. Senator Georges, from memory, voted with the Opposition to defeat it. It is time this untruth was laid to rest once and for all.
– Why did your government not resign?
– That is another matter. It was not a major Bill as the Appropriation Bills are. Let us come to this matter, because the Prime Minister has some very strong views about resignation as a result of the defeat of money Bills too. I repeat what the Prime Minister had to say about this. The fact is that money Bills have been rejected, and it is time this untruth was laid to rest. I charge the Prime Minister with repeatedly telling untruths to deceive and mislead the Parliament and to deceive and mislead the public.
This fact has now been acknowledged by the Government. I do not charge Senator Gietzelt with being dishonest, but he repeated the statement last Thursday. It is an untrue statement. The Prime Minister seems to repeat these untruths with great conviction and with all the assurance of long practice. Recently, in fact last week, at his Curtin lecture- I am indebted to Senator Chaney for drawing attention to further untruths by the Prime Minister- he made an attack on the Senate. I quote from Senator Chaney ‘s speech at page 1643 of Hansard. The Prime Minister said:
He cited 2 Bills- the National Compensation Bill and the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. Senator Chaney dealt at length with both these Bills and referred to the excellent work, bipartisan work, that is done by Senate committees. I refer to the Family Law Bill which also was referred, to a Senate committee and in respect of which the then Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, acknowledged the good work done. But the Prime Minister has completely misrepresented and distorted the truth.
My memory goes back to the days when the Senate was establishing these committees. I recall very well Senator Murphy arguing- very rightly and correctly arguing- that one of the purposes of these committees was to consider complex legislation and to advise the Parliament. In those days Senator Murphy acknowledged the value of those committees to consider complex legislation. I pay tribute to the capable chairmanship of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange by Senator Georges and
I am quite sure that that Committee will present a report that will improve greatly the corporations and securities legislation. That, of course, is surely one of the responsibilities of the Senate. I say again, this is a typical example of the distortions and misrepresentations of the Prime Minister. It is an indication of the Prime Minister’s lack of integrity and of honesty and of his attempts to deceive and mislead the Parliament and the people of Australia.
I know that the matter of the powers of the Senate to reject money Bills and the constitutional propriety of the Senate’s present action has been dealt with ad nauseam. I think these powers of the Senate could almost be compared with the safety valve of a steam engine. A steam engine might last for 75 years and the safety valve never be required.
– But there is a boiler inspector to examine it.
– That is a very interesting point. I am talking about the steam engine which is examined well by an inspector so that the safety valve is never required for the life of the engine; but it is ensured that the safety valve is there to prevent an explosive force being built up. The power of the Senate is the same. It is not to be used without discretion, as Senator Murphy said. It is to be used with discretion. The power is there and I think there is an analogy between this power of the Senate and the safety valve on a steam engine. When a government, as in this case, exceeds its powers and its authority then these powers of the Senate are and were meant by the constitutional fathers to be a safeguard. If one reads the reports of the constitutional convention one sees that 20 per cent or so of the time of the proceedings of the convention was taken up with a discussion of the powers of the Senate. Those powers were given to the Senate deliberately to be used if the need should arise. They were not to be used capriciously but only if the need arose. Surely the need exists today. The Senate is exercising its powers properly and constitutionally. I regret that Senator Gietzelt made the comment, in the speech I referred to earlier, that the Senate was acting against tradition. He is at conflict. By way of interjection he said that the Senate was breaking the Constitution. Those were his words.
We have the words of the previous AttorneyGeneral, the former Senator Murphy, which have been quoted very often in this chamber. We have also the words of the Prime Minister in 1 970. 1 do not wish to quote Senator Murphy in full but we know his words when he upheld without equivocation the powers of the Senate which, he said, were without limit. I think it is important that on this matter of tradition referred to by Senator Gietzelt, Senator Murphy is reported in Hansard of 1 8 June 1 970 at page 2647 as having said, referring to the States receipts duties legislation:
In doing this the Opposition is pursuing a tradition which is well established, but in view of some doubt recently cast on it in this chamber, perhaps I should restate the position. lt is a great pity that the then Senator Murphy is not here today to restate the position because he then went on to restate it, as I said, in clear and unequivocal terms. But what of the Prime Minister, who charges the Senate with acting improperly and unconstitutionally? The Prime Minister suddenly finds a great virtue in the Senate’s being stripped of its powers with respect to money Bills but in 1970 the Prime Minister took an entirely different view. He is reported at page 349 1 of House of Representatives Hansard for 1 2 June 1 970 as having said:
This Bill and its associated Bills will be rejected by the Parliament.
We all know what the Prime Minister had to say about the Budget of the same year. The Prime Minister went on record as saying, when the Gorton Government had been in office for only 10 months- I repeat this to bring home the untruthfulness and the deceit of the Prime Minister in his actions today- the following:
Let us take this Budget and the Government which produced it to the people themselves. The Parliament has already voted Supply to the end of November. By that time, there can be an election for both Houses. An election therefore would cause no disruption. The only thing that will cause disruption is the continuance of this Government.
If we bring this up to the present day, all I can say is ‘Hear, hear’. The Prime Minister is reported as having said also:
Let me make it clear at the outset that our opposition to this Budget is no mere formality.
When the Prime Minister and Senator Gietzelt talk of constitutional powers and of tradition, it is important to remember that the Prime Minister is recorded as having said:
We all know that in British Parliaments … the tradition is that if a money Bill is defeated … the Government goes to the people to seek their endorsement of its policies.
We know that in April last year with the mere threat of deferment of the Appropriation Bills the Prime Minister rushed out of this place, jumped into his car and rushed up to Government
House in accordance with the tradition he supported in 1970. One wonders today why the sudden change in the Prime Minister’s attitude. He condemns himself out of his own mouth. One could argue that the attitude of the Senate is a matter of political judgment and I agree with that. Senator Wriedt had the honesty to say it is a matter of political judgment. Of course it is. But that is different from arguing that it is unconstitutional, and that it is against tradition. That is how the Prime Minister is arguing today and he is wrong. The Prime Minister is on record -
– It has been unconstitutional.
– That is Senator Hall’s opinion but that is a matter of political judgment. I do not rely on Senator Hall’s political judgment because he does not have a very good track record of political judgment. So that is better left alone. I do not argue on that issue and I think Senator Hall ought to keep very quiet about it. But he is entitled to his opinion and I am entitled to mine. I am amazed at the effrontery of the Government in challenging the powers of the Senate in view of the Government’s track record in the past. This must be the most cynical and hypocritical exercise in history. Senator James McClelland, in his attitude of righteous indignation the other day, quoted some constitutional authorities. They were selective and he is entitled to be selective in this respect if he wishes to be. But the views of the former Senator Murphy, whose standards of constitutional law are so high that the Prime Minister saw fit to elevate him to the High Court, were made quite clear. He is in very good company. Before dealing with the good company that Senator Murphy is now in, I mention that it always amuses me that in 1970, the then Opposition defeated money Bills and it voted against the third reading of an Appropriation Bill. Senator Chaney mentioned some of the distinguished members of the then Opposition who on 3 November- if my memory serves me correctly- attempted to defeat an Appropriation Bill in pursuance of the present Prime Minister’s statement that the Budget would be defeated. They included Senator Wriedt, who has a wry smile on his face. They tried to defeat it. No one could argue that they did not have the numbers. No one can tell me that if the Democratic Labor Party had supported them they would not have gone ahead and defeated the Appropriation Bills in 1970. 1 do not remember any sense of outrage from members of the Australian Labor Party. There were no challenges then to the power of the Senate and there was no irresponsible talk about unwritten conventions.
– You are not fair dinkum.
– Do not tell me you were not fair dinkum, senator. I believe better of you. No unwritten conventions were spoken about which the apologists for the Government today are falling back upon. There has never been a convention. There has never been an unwritten convention. There certainly was not a convention acknowledged by the present Government in 1 970. This argument that there is a written or unwritten convention is nothing more than a pack of garbage. I do not believe the Prime Minister meant other than what he said in 1970. No smart aleck words of his can conceal the fact that he meant what he said. There are other authorities. Senator Gietzelt, by way of interjection last week, said that the Senate was breaching the Constitution. He was not in the Senate in 1970. So we cannot charge him with double standards as we can charge others.
I fall back now upon the decision by the High Court the other day to uphold the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. Senator Chaney quotes 2 Justices of the High Court, Mr Justice Stephen and Mr Justice Gibbs, as upholding the power of the Senate. We now have the authority of Mr Justice Mason and the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick. Four Justices of the High Court unequivocally stated that the Senate’s powers were not being misused and that the Senate did have the power to reject. No doubt Mr Justice Murphy, in view of his past record, would support that view. That makes 5 justices of the High Court who would support that view. What utter nonsense it is for the Government and Senator Gietzelt to talk about breaking the Constitution when the High Court- the highest constitutional authority in the land- has upheld the Senate’s powers. 1 need refer to no more than that. I do not need to refer to other constitutional authorities such as Professor Lane and others who have upheld the powers of the Senate.
It is sheer hypocrisy for the Government to claim now that the Senate is acting illegally and unconstitutionally. What is at stake is quite clear. It is the integrity and competence of the Government. The Government has proved incompetent in economic affairs and government generally. Indeed, the Government’s incompetence is incredible. It has shown a lack of honesty and integrity. Its gaggle of funny Ministers are all going their own way, all making statements and all spending recklessly in pursuit of pet schemes without any control from the top. The Government has provided jobs for the boys -
– And the girls.
– And girls. I am sorry; this is International Women’s Year and I should have included girls. Indeed, its catalogue of political dishonesty and stupidity makes sad reading. It has been argued, of course, that the Government was elected for a 3-year term. That also is garbage. A government is elected and should remain in office only so long as it has the confidence of the Parliament.
– Yes. A government is not elected for a 3-year term. The 3-year term is provided as a maximum term. Indeed, a Prime Minister or a Premier is entitled to go to the Governor-General to ask for a dissolution of the Parliament at any time he thinks it could be of political advantage to him. Only a couple of months ago the Premier of South Australiaafter only 2 years of government- decided that the portents were favourable and he sought a dissolution of the Parliament.
– He had a majority in the House.
– Will you deny that? He had a majority; that is all right. It is his right to go to the people. I am saying that it is all nonsense and garbage to say that a government must run a 3-year term. A government can exist only when it has the confidence of the Parliament. When it ceases to have the confidence of the Parliament then it must go to the people. I am indebted to Professor Gordon Reid, Professor of Politics at the University of Western Australia. Senator Chaney quoted something from an address that Professor Reid gave the other day when he defended the Senate’s powers. He was talking about the people and he said:
We believe that when we have an election we determine and elect a government for 3 years- but this is not provided for in the Constitution. All we do is elect 125 members of the House of Representatives for 3 years, with the provision that Parliament may be dissolved by the Governor-General.
– Not at the whim of the Opposition.
– Yes, at the whim of the Opposition as you tried it in 1970. Now get your facts straight and be honest enough to admit that if the Parliament had been dissolved in 1970 it would have been at the whim of the then Opposition. The Opposition has its rights in the Parliament.
– Why do you not vote on the Bill?
– I will vote on it. Do not worry. The Government is well aware of the reason why certain legislation has not been passed. We do not trust the Prime Minister. The issue is quite clear. The Parliament is not elected for 3 years, it can be dissolved at any time by the GovernorGeneral on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is elected and can remain in office only so long as it has the confidence of the Parliament. When it has not the confidence of the Parliament and the Senate is -
– Of course it has.
– Cock-a-doodle-doo. Senator McLaren cackles the whole time. The Government does not have the confidence of the Parliament, because the Senate is a part of the Parliament. Honourable senators opposite recognised this in 1 970. The third issue at stake is the right of the Parliament to control the Executive. No one who believes in Parliament and the rights of Parliament can but deplore the Prime Minister’s arrogant attempt to defy the Parliament and to defy the Constitution. He defies what he has said is British tradition- that when a government is defeated on a money Bill then it should resign. The Prime Minster is defying that- the Constitution to which he himself has adhered and which he has laid down as being correct.
The Prime Minister is now engaged in hysterical and irrational threats to smash the Senate. This indicates his frustrations that there should be any parliamentary control over his actions. I know that from reports sometimes Caucus also has been frustrated at its lack of control over the Prime Minister who completely ignores Caucus and goes his own way. He might get away with it in Caucus but he cannot get away with it in the Parliament. It indicates, despite his high sounding words, a contempt for the Parliament. This is exemplified, of course, by the illegal attempt to raise loans without the knowledge of Parliament. His attempt in this loans affair to subvert the Constitution shows the Prime Minister to be a man without principle.
The supremacy of Parliament must remain. We are indebted to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack for laying clearly on the line last week the necessity for the supremacy of Parliament to be upheld. The Prime Minister and the Government are attempting to conceal these facts behind a mass of false and misleading information from a propaganda machine, very reminiscent of Goebbels. The same lies and distortions which were poured out by Goebbels in his vicious and wicked propaganda machine are being repeated here. The sooner this is understood, the better. I just make one more reference to misleading information. I refer to the Minister for Defence, Mr Morrison, who has apparently caught the
Prime Minister’s disease. Dr Millar, who prepared the report on cadets, had cause the other day to reprimand Mr Morrison for taking his report out of context and using selective quotes. Dr Millar’s comments were reported as follows:
This is another example of deceit by the Government and by Ministers of the Government. Obviously the disease is contagious. This is the Government with the mostest. It is the most incompetent, the most dishonest, the most deceitful, the most corrupt and the most evasive in Australia’s history. It is lacking in integrity and propriety. The private briefing that Mr Hayden recently gave to Mr Hawke is an example of this. We have Ministers and ex-Ministers accusing the Prime Minister and one another of disloyalty. We have the Prime Minister accusing exMinisters, including his past deputies, of disloyalty. Such a government rightly forfeits the confidence of the Parliament and of the people.
– I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has just walked into the chamber with a reprehensible circumstance under his arm. I do not doubt that we will hear more about that later. Mr Acting Deputy President, I take this opportunity to address you without very much fear of an interjection because I know that a very important event is taking place in Melbourne. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said this morning, even the banks are closed. One of the methods which he suggested might be used to see the Government through its difficulties was an approach to the banks. I do not doubt that today would be a poor day to approach the banks in Melbourne. I have listened to this debate for 2 or 3 weeks now. We have the Appropriation Bills before us for the third or fourth time. It could be the fifth or sixth time. If we go into next week or the week afterwards it possibly will be the seventh or eighth time. This indicates and really describes fairly clearly the tedious method which the Opposition has used in order to have its own way. Its own way is to demand of the House of Representatives- not this chamberthat it should go to an election.
I have listened to a variety of constitutional lawyers and politicians on this matter. I must admit that I am as confused now as I was before I commenced. I am not quite certain whether there is the constitutional power for the Senate to reject a money Bill. I have been told by many
Opposition senators that there is such constitutional power; that there is no constitutional crisis as such, that it is a political crisis. Whatever it is, the result is exactly the same. Those people and departments which need funds to carry out their programs- whether they be State government programs or Australian Government programs- are not receiving the necessary funds to carry them out. In fact, it is said that at the end of November there will be many people who will be deprived of payment for their services, whether they happen to be employees or employers. This is a sorry situation to which we have been brought. It is quite a simple matter. We have had several weeks for reflection.
I can hear the quorum bells ringing in the other place. It is rather poor timing on the part of someone to call a quorum. I doubt that it is a division at this time of the afternoon. Let me put this to the Opposition: After some 4 weeks of debate on this matter, surely the Opposition has come to the conclusion that by a simple act on its part, that is by walking across the floor, the Supply Bills could be passed, this crisis would be over, we could proceed to pass the necessary legislationwe now have a considerable backlog of legislation- and we could have an opportunity to be with our families for the Christmas period. But of one thing we can be certain, and that is that the Australian economy will not suffer the consequences of the Opposition’s act.
– But is not an equally simple course open to the Government?
– It is a rather complicated course and one which the Opposition ought not to impose upon the House of Representatives. I decided to read back over the speeches which led to the setting up of the Federation. There are several books on this matter. Honourable senators opposite would have been wise to have read the speeches which were delivered at the various conventions which led up to Federation. Honourable senators will find that almost all speakers took the view that, although the 2 Houses were to be co-ordinate and were to have almost equal power, one power which they did not intend to give to the Senate was the power to reject money Bills. Section 53 of the Constitution merely refers to the amendment of Bills and to those Bills which cannot be amended by the Senate. I wonder whether constitutional lawyers and some of our constitutional experts opposite could put their minds to this proposition: If it is not possible for the Senate to amend money Bills, if it is not possible for the Senate to amend 99 per cent of a money Bill and to leave one per cent unamended- I take it that that is not possiblethen surely it must be accepted that it is not possible to reject the Bill in toto. The only people who could decide upon this would be the judges of the High Court. Unfortunately, there is no means by which this matter can be tested. Perhaps one ought to do some investigation in order to find some means whereby the Parliament can refer sections of the Constitution for interpretation by the High Court without the legislation having to be passed through the House. It seems to me to be a simple proposition. Parliament should be able to ask whether a matter is constitutional before the legislation is passed. We would have fewer problems on the Senate Select Committee on the Corporation and Securities Industry Bill 1975 -
– You think big.
– I do think big at this time of the afternoon. It is wise to think big and now that I am on my feet I have to think long, until at least 3 o’clock. But let me get back to the consequences of the action taken by the Opposition, the consequences of that search for the reprehensible act. We have been taken through the loans affair and the ACTU-Solo affair. We have been through the Khemlani episode. We are about to have the Khemlani episode resurrected. The Opposition has been in search of a reprehensible act. This search has gone on continually, and continually it has failed. The proposition is simple enough. Why does not the Opposition change its mind? Why does not the Opposition think of the people if it is talking about the people? It looked at the various polls and judged them some time ago. The Opposition thought the polls were in its favour and it acted accordingly. Now that the polls are not in its favour, why does it not act accordingly and pass the Appropriation Bills so that we can get down to the business of running the country? I take it from the looks on the faces of members of the Opposition, both in this chamber and in another place, that it is somewhat dejected.
– It is your speech that is doing that.
– I know that Senator Withers has been doing considerable reading of material which came out of 8 brief cases owned by one, Khemlani, who sounds like a runner in today’s event.
– He is on a holiday wagon now.
-He is the horse who bolted.
– Who saddled him up though? Who sired him?
– If I was asked what horse I would be backing in this afternoon’s event I would not be able to bring a horse’s name to mind, but by association of ideas one name that does come to mind is Khemlani and that horse has bolted, really bolted. What the Leader of the Opposition is intending to do, I have no doubt, having had here the author of the papers which he holds so dearly to himself at present and that author having departed to other places, is to go through the exercise today of having those papers presented to us as papers of great authority. That is for the Leader of the Opposition to establish and I doubt very much whether he can establish a case against the Government.
In any case the people are very tired of what is going on. I do not know whether they really appreciate the antics of the Opposition. They certainly will not appreciate, especially the people and commercial interests in Canberra, the drying up of Supply funds which will place them in a precarious position before the end of November. I believe that the people hold the Opposition responsible for this situation. As to the constitutional power to deny Supply, as I said before, having listened to all the constitutional lawyers and having become aware of their divisions and variety of opinions, 1 am not certain of this power. However, I can accept that there could be a situation where the Senate could take unto itself the power to reject Supply. Let me put myself in this position: The House of Representatives could seek to appropriate a vast sum of money, speaking in retrospect, for the continuation of the Vietnam war. I most certainly without hesitation would vote against that appropriation. Speaking from an individual point of view in a circumstance of that sort, I would say, standing where I do at the moment, that I would vote against that appropriation.
However, the situation, the circumstances, now are different. Here we have what is without doubt a grab for power by the Opposition led by Mr Fraser. Mr Fraser has been poorly advised. He has sought to achieve power before his time. If he had struck to his original decision- though Senator McLaren has indicated that he did not have one- that the Government was entitled to serve out its full term, no doubt his chances of winning government would have been considerably better than they are at present. I have no doubt that some members of the Opposition parties did give that advice, that is, that it would have been better to wait until then. Twice now the Opposition has attempted to reject Supply. Eighteen months ago it attempted it and failed. Opposition senators should realise that if they had not attempted it then, the elections they are looking for would have been held right now and held without the loss of favour which they have suffered as a result of this manoeuvre. There is no doubt in my mind having looked at the polls, the economic situation and the inflationary trend that seems to continue, that those would have been circumstances which would have led to a change of government. But the Opposition has messed it. There is no doubt about it, the Opposition has placed itself in a sorry state and has itself to blame for that.
What members of the Opposition parties should do- and most of them now are taking the view that Mr Fraser got them into this mess and Mr Fraser should get them out of it- is at their next Party meeting, and I say this with all sincerity and for the good of the economy, to advise Mr Fraser to back off and back off quickly. In fact he has half backed off. What a strange situation! The Liberal Party, the Liberal Premiers, Liberal Opposition leaders and the senior members of the Liberal Party met at the weekend and pulled away from their position by announcing that they would allow the Appropriation Bills through providing the Prime Minister gave them an assurance of a House of Representatives election before next June.
– That is what he was going to do last year.
– Maybe he was going to do it last year, but it appears to me that the Opposition has held the Government to ransom for an election immediately but has now backed off and said: ‘Give us a half election and hold it before next June, if you like’. That is a back down and it must be causing some Opposition senators considerable embarrassment. I think the best idea would be for them to call the whole thing off. I do not think the Opposition would lose any face. It should let the Supply Bills go through and fight its political battle on the legislation before the Parliament.
We have not yet debated the provisions of the Bill. No one on the Opposition side has bothered to do that. They have merely attacked the Government on its performance referring to three unusual circumstances, but it has not really attacked the Government on the Appropriation Bills. Those Bills need to be tested, and if the Opposition had any sense it would allow those Bills to go through and be tested. There will be a half Senate election before 30 June and there will be an opportunity then for the people to judge the Budget but it cannot be judged until it has been passed.
Senator Sim made the statement that the Government had lost the confidence of the Parliament. That is not correct. It has not lost the confidence of the House of Representatives. It still has a majority in the House of Representatives and that is where there should be the test of money Bills of this sort. There is no lack of confidence in the Government in the House of Representatives. The Government has the numbers and as long as it has the numbers it is the master of the situation. Even if we took the Parliament of the whole, that is, the House of Representatives and the Senate together, there is not a majority of the members of this Parliament who want the rejection of Supply. In fact, even if we take the whole of the Opposition as being in favour of the rejection of the Budget, and I do not think all Opposition members are, the Opposition still does not have a majority of members of Parliament favouring rejection. There is a difference of one in this place and the vote here will possibly be 29 votes to 28, or even allowing for pairs, with a majority of just one. So if we count members of the House of Representatives as well, that is, taking the Parliament as a whole, the Government has a majority of members of Parliament in. favour of the passing of the Budget. In other words, the whole of the Parliament believes that the Appropriation Bills should go through. I trust that we will not have to debate these Bills again. As I said when I spoke on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4), I hope this will be the end of it and that we will not have to debate Appropriation Bills Nos 5 and 6, Nos 7 and 8, and Nos 9 and 10. It is tedious.
– They are Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 [No. 3] and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 [No. 3].
– One ought to be forgiven for losing count because we have gone through this exercise time and again looking for the reprehensible act that will gain the necessary support for the Opposition.
– It cannot find it.
-No, it cannot find it, but there is a stack of papers on the other side of the chamber that is going to prove interesting later on. Of course, as I said before, the author of those papers has bolted overseas. Nevertheless we will debate that issue.
– He was shanghaid out of the country.
-I do not know whether the term that should be used to describe his departure is ‘shanghaid’, but I do know that he has been going backwards and forwards between Singapore and Australia like the proverbial yo-yo. Neverthless the Opposition had every opportunity to bring him before the Bar of the Senate. On two or three occasions it was invited to bring him before the Bar of the Senate, as it did previously with a Mr Karidis and several public servants. The Opposition had every opportunity to bring Mr Khemlani before the Bar of the Senate and it will have the opportunity, if it so desires, of bringing him back. Mr Khemlani has offered to come back again. I do not doubt that the proper way in which to deal with the forthcoming situation would be to produce not just Mr Khemlani ‘s papers but both Mr Khemlani and the papers. That would be the real test of the situation. In any case I anticipate what might be said later by other members of my Party.
– Strange as it may seem the Senate at the moment, as I understand it, is debating a motion that was moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) for the restoration to the notice paper of some Appropriation Bills. But, as you would be well aware, Mr President, the debate on this subject has ranged far and wide. If I could, I would like to make but a few comments on what my friend, if not my colleague, Senator Georges has just said.
– Colleague is not friend.
-If Senator Georges were to come and join us he could be both. As to the constitutional power of what the Senate is doing. I invite Senator Georges to read the reasons for judgment of the learned judges of the High Court of Australia in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority case that was decided recently. Certainly four of the judges said that we have the total and absolute constitutional power to do what we are doing. So I think we can forget about what all the lawyers- academic, parliamentary or otherwise- might be saying.
– But not to dismiss a government.
-Do not get excited, Senator Cavanagh. I am talking about one thing at a time. One of the other things to which Senator Georges adverted at some length was the actions of one Mr T. H. Khemlani, who was never found by the Opposition, who was never employed by the Opposition and whom I have never seen, nor has Mr Fraser or any of my parliamentary colleagues.
– What about Mr Lynch? He sent a car out to the airport for him.
- Mr President, if that fellow were to get back onto his perch and not worry about trying to lay the bad eggs that he normally does we might get further in this debate. We never found Mr Khemlani. We never had contact with him. We never put forward an Executive Council minute that gave Mr Connor the power to borrow $4,000m through Mr Khemlani. We never had the telex messages floating back and forth. We have never had telephone conversations with him. At no time have we ever vouched for him in the Parliament. In fact, the truth of the matter is that the Opposition was castigated quite a number of times by the Government for daring to call into question the probity of Mr Khemlani. I remember- I hope I am not doing him an injustice- that Senator James McClelland basically implied once that we were attacking Mr Khemlani because he was a Pakistani and because the Government was attempting to obtain its money through other than what might be called the traditional sources of the normal British, European or North American capitalist spheres. I thought that Senator James McClelland said at some stage- I trust that my memory is serving me correctly- that there was nothing wrong in the Government seeking to borrow money from other sources and through people other than white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, if I may use that term. We were castigated as racists in attempting to worry about who Mr T. H. Khemlani was.
I have been taunted within both the Parliament and the media- neither of which worries me overmuch- about the fact that one Mr Khemlani arrived back in Australia on, I think, Monday of last week. Everybody has said: ‘Why didn’t you call him the next day?’
– Tell us.
-1 am about to tell honourable senators. Senator Wheeldon, who is a very good politician and who I think used to be a fairly good lawyer -
– Used to be?
-I said ‘used to be’. I understand that reconversion is impossible. But if Senator Wheeldon, in the days when he was in practice, could put together a statutory declaration running to -
– But that would not be necessary if he were under examination.
-There is no doubt about how the innocents know more than the professionals. One could well understand why Senator Poyser is sitting where he is and not on the front bench. I doubt whether any honourable senator opposite has the capacity to put together a statutory declaration that runs into some 60 to 80 pages and that is put together with a bundle of exhibits running from 1 to 79 in one lot and from 80 to 87 in another lot -
– You are the mail boy.
-I know that the Shire Clerk of Scottsdale might have had that sort of capacity in the sort of jurisdiction in which he practised, but his professional colleagues - ( Government senators interjecting)-
– Order! Senator Withers must be heard in silence.
-Thank you, Mr President. I could do well without the Shire Clerk of Scottsdale coming to my assistance.
– The once great lawyer from Western Australia.
-Senator Devitt is getting excited, is he not? Is it any wonder he has not got past being the Assistant Whip. That is about where he ought to stay.
– You are a bum lawyer.
-Senator Devitt is cranky. He would do better to keep quiet.
– You are Khemlani ‘s mail man.
– Honourable senators opposite may imagine that one could put together overnight such a statutory declaration and those exhibits, but I doubt whether any lawyer in Australia could do so. Of course, we could have had the situation -
– Your only claim to fame was conveyancing, I understand.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition must be heard in silence.
– Let him say something, then.
– Please address the Chair, Senator Withers.
-Thank you, Mr President. I imagine that shortly you will be naming somebody on the other side of the chamber. The other thing, of course, is that the Government quite deliberately wanted us to call Mr Khemlani before the Bar of the Senate. There would have been the same sort of exercise as occurred when
Mr Karidis came before the Bar, which was not a terribly edifying performance, conducted by the people on the other side of the Senate. It was one of the most deplorable exercises as to behaviour. It was much like the behaviour of honourable senators opposite at the moment. They all have the capacity to cackle. That would have neither got to the truth nor done any thing for the Senate. I know that that is how the Government operates. It rushes in and makes mad decisions and then whinges about them when they go wrong.
– Like Malcolm.
-The lawyer from Scottsdale is giving us the benefit of his knowledge again. I do not know why he does not make a speech. My understanding of what has happenedI have not seen Mr Khemlani- is that his solicitor has sent to me a mass of material, for none of which I vouch. I do not know the truth of it. I do not know whether Mr Khemlani is accurate. He has made it available in the form of a statutory declaration.
– Submit it to the lowest indignity to which a human body could submit a piece of paper.
-I remember what Senator Cavanagh said once about scabs when quoting from Jack London. For a man who does not believe in capital punishment, that was a rather gentle statement.
– Now I have to look at the lot of them.
-There he goes. He is getting used to going back into opposition again, and I have no doubt that he will speak in the adjournment debate tonight just to get his hand in again. What Mr Khemlani has done, as I understand from his solicitor, is to put together his statement in the form of a statutory declaration.
– You cannot vouch for the truth of it, though.
– I understand that Mr Khemlani ‘s solicitor wrote to the Minister last Friday and told the Minister that the matter had not then been concluded. I take the solicitor’s word for that. Are honourable senators opposite saying that the solicitor is a liar when he says that he wrote that letter? If so, let them say so. I understand that the solicitor, acting for Mr Khemlani, wrote and said that for some days they had been preparing -
– There is a lot of money around the place.
-That is not a terribly interesting remark either, Senator Poyser. If the honourable senator wants to call a man a liar then he should go outside and call him one. He wrote to a Minister of the Crown- one imagines he is entitled to be taken as having written in good faith- setting out what he saw to be the truth of the matter, that he had been working on the matter all during the week and that the matter was then not concluded.
– You just said earlier in your remarks that they put it together in one night. You have contradicted yourself.
-Oh, you are a stupid person.
– Have a look at Hansard tomorrow and see.
- Mr President, he really is a stupid little man. I wish he would stop eavesdropping and depart this Senate.
– You do not like the truth. I do not pinch documents from the Treasurer’s office.
– Order! Senator McLaren, the honourable senator must be heard in silence.
-As I said before, Mr Khemlani is not our man. He was not found by us. He has never been employed by us. He has never been offered a commission by us and he is certainly never going to be paid by us.
– You are just his unpaid agent.
-The honourable senator would not know the difference between an agent and a principal.
– The bum lawyers have always amused me.
-The Town Clerk of Scottsdale is really getting angry. I put it to the Senate that these documents ought to be tabled in the Senate so that all honourable senators can have the benefit of reading them.
– Bring him before the Senate.
-Having read the documents honourable senators may then decide whether or not they wish to see him.
– He is your man.
-Make up your mind. I am also informed by Mr Khemlani ‘s solicitor that Mr Khemlani is prepared to come back either before the Bar of the Senate or before a Senate Committee and be questioned or crossexamined as to what he has put in his statement.
I think that is a fair offer for Mr Khemlani to make.
– You will not bring him.
-Do not jump to conclusions, senator. I think that is a fair sort of an offer to be made by the Government’s man. What I am really getting at is that I am going to ask for leave to have these documents tabled in the Senate. One of the documents I would wish to table in the Senate is a statutory declaration by one Alan James Crawford of 130A Ashleigh Gardens, London, England. He states in the first paragraph of his declaration:
I have been associated with and assisting Mr Tirath Hasaram Khemlani in relation to proposed Australian Government loans since they were first mooted in October 1974. . . .
It is a very short statutory declaration, basically confirming the contents of the great statutory declaration by Mr Khemlani himself. Mr Khemlani commences his affidavit in the normal way by saying:
I am the manager of Dalamal and Sons (Commodities) Ltd, a company duly incorporated in the United Kingdom and having its office at 8 West Eaton Place, London in the United Kingdom.
That must bring back happy memories for Senator Wheeldon of the days when he used to prepare these things by the thousand. Mr Crawford is Mr Alan James Crawford. He says he has been associated with -
– Is he in England or in Australia?
– He made that declaration in Sydney on 3 February 1975. I do not know whether he is presently in Australia or where he is. All I know is that that is the statutory declaration from which I have quoted.
– But he gave an English address.
-Yes, he gives an English address, 130A Ashleigh Gardens, London, England, SW 1, but the statutory declaration was made in Sydney on 3 November 1975. Mr Khemlani ‘s statutory declaration was declared in Sydney on 3 November 1 975 before a Mr P. E. Lovelace, JP. Also there are various documents from which he quotes. I believe that these documents ought to be tabled so that all honourable senators will have the opportunity of reading them.
– No, read them.
– Would the honourable senator like me to read the 80 pages?
– I would like you to read them.
– The honourable senator is going to be disappointed. I have read them in a cursory manner because I first saw them late last night at about 9. 1 5 p.m. I think that all honourable senators would be interested in seeing them because what they tend to show is this: Firstly, that the Executive Council minute of December last was a deliberate device to avoid constitutional requirements.
– How would he know that?
-I will quote parts of this declaration in a minute which will point up that evidence. They tend to show also that the Prime Minister was continuously kept informed and involved in all developments relating to the loan. The third thing they show is that the Government was continually trying to raise loan funds through Khemlani at least as late as August of this year and that the Prime Minister was apparently involved -
– Who says this Crawford or Khemlani?
-Khemlani. I am saying that this is what the documents tend to show. The Prime Minister was apparently involved, as according -
-Wait a minute; I am not vouching for the accuracy of this. According to Mr Khemlani the Prime Minister was to form one of a group which was to arrange its consummation and, according to what Mr Khemlani says in his statutory declaration, the Government deliberately and possibly illegally arranged to pay Khemlani commission by making arrangements to wash the loan- a device to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the loan raisings. Fifthlythis is the important thing- the Prime Minister’s claim that any relevant documents had been tabled is patently untrue, because the documents produced by Khemlani include telexes which Mr Connor did not table on 9 July which discussed the loan washing arrangements.
– Is that the one Senator Hall presented the other night?
-No, there are some other ones. Do not get too excited. They are the sorts of things contained in these documents. I thought I might just quote the odd paragraph from them so that honourable senators can see the burden of what I am saying.
– These are the bits you believe?
– Not necessarily; these are just some bits and pieces. Paragraph 41 on page 1 5 states:
A very lengthy discussion took place at this meeting regarding commission payable. Mr Rose -
I take it that is Dr D. Rose of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department- and others said that the rate of commission, namely 2Vi per cent, was too high and this was in excess of any rate in any previous loans. At that point of time Mr Connor said to just hold it for a minute, that he wanted to leave the room and make a telephone call to the Prime Minister. Both he and Sir Lenox left the room. Mr Connor came back into the room and said that he had spoken to the Prime Minister and it was felt that 2 per cent would be more appropriate. I said 1 would discuss the matter with my colleagues, and that we did, and we agreed to 2 per cent commission. I conveyed that to Mr Connor and he said OK.
– What date was that?
-I will see whether I can find the date for the honourable senator, because there is a mass of stuff here. I want to table it so that all honourable senators can read it.
– But you are also putting it into Hansard now and giving it privilege, are you not?
-Do not get excited. Senator Georges has said all sorts of things under privilege in this Parliament. He has said some quite terrible things under privilege about people who have not had the opportunity to defend themselves under privilege. The date is 7 December.
– Whose declaration is this- Khemlani ‘s?
-This is Khemlani’s declaration.
– Which year?
-It is dated 7 December 1974, prior to the Executive Council meeting. In fact, Mr Khemlani has attached a schedule here which gives the dates from his passport of his visits to Australia and the countries from which he came and to which he went. Certainly he entered Sydney, according to this document, on
I I November 1974. He was in Singapore on 12 November, and he was back in Sydney on 7 December. It appears that he was in Japan on the 28th.
– What year was that?
– That was in 1974. There is a long list of the dates in respect of his visas and passports. Mr Khemlani is an interesting man. He certainly had a flying carpet. He was in Australia on 7 December 1974, according to what he says in this statement and according to the stamp on his passport.
– But not his visa. He did not ever have a visa, did he?
-It would appear that he arrived in Sydney on 21 January 1975 and that he had a transit pass which was valid until 1 700 hours on 30 January 1975.
– Just a transit pass. Why did he not have a visa?
– Well, on 7 January he had a transit pass which was valid until 1015 hours on 8 February. He arrived in Sydney on 25 February 1975 and he had a transit pass which was valid until 1700 hours on 26 February. He arrived in Sydney on 7 March with permission to stay for 4 days. I should imagine that these details could be checked with the Department of Labor and Immigration to discover the truth or falsity of them. Senator Georges asked me when Mr Khemlani was here and how he was here. I am just illuminating him. Mr Khemlani was even in Perth on 20 June last, and he had a transit pass which was valid for 3 days. When I saw that reference I thought that Senator Wheeldon and I had better discover where we were on 20 June. On 23 August 1975 Mr Khemlani was in Sydney with a transit pass which was valid until 1500 hours on 24 August. Mr Khemlani gives details up until his last visit to Australia. He arrived in Sydney on 27 October 1975 with a transit pass which was valid until 1640 hours on 29 October 1975. He left Australia some days later because the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) gave him permission to stay longer.
I put it to the Senate, without in any way vouching for the truth or accuracy of what Mr Khemlani says, that these documents ought to be tabled in the Senate. It is an interesting story. I could quote from the large mass of telexes, if honourable senators wished. I think that the telexes form part and parcel of the declaration. In fact, they are annexures; they are part and parcel of the one operation. I thought that for the information of honourable senators the documents should be tabled. I thought that the information ought to be given to anybody. Therefore, I seek leave to table the documents in the Senate.
-Is leave granted?
Government senators- No.
– Leave is not granted.
- Mr President, pursuant to standing order 364 1 move:
That the documents quoted from by Senator Withers in the speech just concluded be laid upon the table of the Senate.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
- Mr President, I am opposing the motion. As Senator Withers has reminded us, we both used to practise in various courts of petty sessions in Western Australia. I think that both of us know from our experience there that it is a quite strict rule of legal practice that one does not accept secondary evidence by way of affidavits or declarations when there is available a witness who can give evidence on which he can be examined or examined.
– You kicked him out.
– He was here last week.
-One of the advantages that I had when I was in practice was that I was not a senior counsel and I did not have the assistance of others when I was addressing the Bench. The opportunity was open to the Opposition last week to call Mr Khemlani before the Bar of the Senate to explain whatever it was that he had to tell us. Mr Khemlani was not called, despite the fact that the Government made it quite clear that in no way would we prevent Mr Khemlani from coming before the Senate and giving to the Senate evidence on which he could be examined by those who called him and crossexamined by those who did not call him- if examined’ and ‘cross-examined’ are proper terms to use in regard to a senatorial inquiry. The opportunity was not taken by the Opposition to call Mr Khemlani; nor was the opportunity taken to call Mr Crawford who, apparently, also has made a statutory declaration. I am informed that Mr Crawford is a much more interesting person than Senator Withers in his modest manner has let us know. Mr Crawford apparently is prominent in Scientology circles. He is a man of many parts. He once conducted a pirate radio station in Great Britain. One of his financial ventures, which was of quite some interest to those who participated in it, was the selling of tickets for the first flight to the moon which, apparently, some people in the United States of America agreed to buy.
– Who is this?
-Mr Crawford, whose name also has been mentioned. He is an expatriate Australian. He also was back in Australia during the past week. Mr Crawford, who was the seller of tickets for the first flight to the moon, also would have been available. In the same way as the Government was quite agreeable to having Mr Khemlani called before the Senate, if Senator Withers had made some contact either on a national or other level with Mr Crawford, I can assure Senator Withers that the Government would not have objected to Mr Crawford being called to say a few words, even if they were words by way of hearsay, on the subject which seems to have agitated him.
– Are you suggesting that a bunch of crooks got together on this matter?
– I am not suggesting anything, but I think it is possible that something like that happened somewhere along the line. Yes, I think that that may well be the case. I know that the Senate is not a court, but I hope that those lawyers who sit on the Opposition side of the Senate will remember the days when they were in practice and remember that the rules about the calling of witnesses are not there just because of some quirk in the minds of the judiciary or because of some strange archaic practice which has not yet gone out of fashion. They are there for very good reasons. It is a very soundly established principle that one does not accept evidence by way of affidavit or declaration when the witness himself is available to give oral evidence on which he can be examined or cross-examined. I believe that this shows that what the Opposition is trying to do, what Senator Withers is trying to do with regard to the tabling of these documents, is completely bogus. If the Opposition had really wanted the people to know what Mr Khemlani and his colleague Mr Crawford knew about this matter, if it really felt that Mr Khemlani and Mr Crawford had some useful information which would illuminate a topic which seems to have become rather murky with the passage of time, it had the opportunity last week to call them before the Senate.
What is the purpose of tabling these declarations at present? If they are matters of which the Senate ought to be apprised, if they are matters about which the Parliament ought to be fully informed, then clearly the people who have made the statutory declarations ought to be called before the Bar of the Senate, as we agreed to have them before the Bar of the Senate. Apparently they wanted to come. Mr Khemlani said that he was waiting anxiously for advice from Senator Withers, Mr Lynch or whoever it was so that he could come before us and tell us his story. He did not come forward, and he did not come forward because he was not called by the Opposition. If they are not matters which are properly the subject of the Senate’s attention, the Opposition should not be cluttering up the business of the Senate, it should not be cluttering up the Senate Hansard with these voluminous documents which Senator Withers has now prepared.
If these matters are or could be, defamatory, it is quite improper that the Opposition should attempt to circumvent the laws of defamation by allowing these statements by Mr Khemlani and Mr Crawford to be admitted in this way so that full Press, radio and television publicity can be given to them, but without the authors of the declarations being in any way subject to any of the laws relating to defamation. If the Opposition believes that these documents stand on their own feet, if it is prepared to defend what is within these documents, there is nothing to stop it calling a Press conference, issuing a statement, writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper or in some other way having the documents published but without hiding behind parliamentary privilege, which is what the Opposition is doing at present.
This is a completely improper practice. It is a practice which the Government does not intend to condone. If the Opposition by the use of numbers is able to make a mockery of the Senate in this way, then it is a misuse of proper parliamentary procedures. Already the Opposition has had the opportunity to examine these documents. Senator Withers has said that these declarations apparently show that Mr Whitlam was aware of some subsequent negotiations with Mr Khemlani, but then we find that none other than the former Solicitor-General, who now has rather sunk from grace as a back bench Liberal member of Parliament, has examined the documents which Mr Khemlani and I presume his colleague Mr Crawford had, but certainly the documents that Mr Khemlani had. As a result of his examination of the documents, Mr Ellicott said that there was no evidence whatsoever to link the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) with any of these alleged negotiations. Surely that is sufficient. Why do Opposition senators want to repudiate the advice of Mr Ellicott in the same way as they themselves have repudiated Mr Ellicott? This is an improper practice, and the Government opposes the tabling of these statutory declarations. If people want to make these statements, let them make them outside the Parliament where they are not protected by parliamentary privilege; or alternatively let them come into the Senate- the Government agreed to allow Mr Khemlani to come into the Senate- so we can cross-examine them on these matters and so that we can test whether they are telling the truth or whether they are telling falsehoods.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order relating to whether or not the motion is in order. Senator Chaney relied on standing order 364, which states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table;
A request was made to have the document laid upon the table, but permission to do so was refused. The Senate has the right to order that a document be laid upon the table- we agree on that much- and Senator Chaney moved accordingly. I would question the right of any honourable senator to move a motion without obtaining the permission of the Senate to move it.
– Read standing order 364. It says ‘without notice ‘.
– That is so, without notice if the Senate orders. It does not have to be brought on the next day. It happens every week in this chamber that someone seeks leave to move a motion, but there is no power to move a motion in this House unless leave is granted. There is a right to seek leave to move a motion that the Senate order that the document be tabled.
– The standing order provides that such order may be made without notice immediately upon conclusion of the speech of the senator who has quoted therefrom. That procedure was followed by Senator Chaney.
– He moved that motion without getting leave to move it.
- Mr President, while you are considering this matter, could I raise a point of order as to whether Senator Withers had in fact finished his speech. I saw him turn around in the middle of some remarks and invite Senator Chaney to his feet. He gave Senator Chaney the nod to rise. That is a factual statement.
– I signalled to him that I had finished my speech.
– On the point of order, I took it that Senator Withers had concluded his speech. I cannot uphold the point of order. Standing Order 364 states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
I cannot see that there has been any departure from that standing order and the matter is in order.
- Senator Wheeldon by his opposition to this motion is attempting to prevent the whole truth from being revealed. He is talcing a course which is unprecedented. I am sure that it is not within the memory of any honourable senator here, except possibly those who have been here for a very long time, that a motion under standing order 364 has been opposed. It is a rare experience. If my recollection is inaccurate, certainly I have not heard such a motion being opposed with such vehemence by a Minister of the Crown. Secondly, the motion is being opposed with such specious arguments. Senator Wheeldon asked why Mr Khemlani was not called. He said that the best evidence is the evidence of a witness himself. But as Senator Withers said, the last time the Senate had before it a witness to give evidence the behaviour of Government senators was so shocking and reprehensible that injustice was done to an individual. Why should any person be subjected to that treatment if the story he desires to present to the Senate can be presented in a different way?
Further, the Government has ordered Mr Khemlani to leave the country. He was told that he had to leave Australia by Monday, 3 November, at the latest. Although his solicitor wrote to the Leader of the Government (Senator Wriedt) indicating that the material Mr Khemlani wanted to present to the Senate had not been completed, the Government did not yield. Mr Khemlani is not in the country at the moment, and I imagine that the Government heaved a sigh of relief after he left and felt that one of the other burdens it might have had to suffer had removed himself from the jurisdiction. But Mr Khemlani has left a statutory declaration and it is desired to have that declaration, together with an accompanying declaration, tabled in the Senate. What was the other specious argument used by Senator Wheeldon? He said that in some way a person is being granted parliamentary privilege. That rings hollow from the lips of a Minister who week after week, month after month, has pleaded executive privilege to prevent the story behind this sordid loans affair from being revealed. As Senator Withers has said, the Opposition was assured that all the relevant documents had been tabled. This statutory declaration, declared to be a truthful statement by the man who made it, indicates that there were other documents which Mr Connor did not table. Why should there be any specious claim of privilege to prevent exposure of what the Government has tried to conceal?
I suggest to the Senate that the man who has made this declaration has done so knowing that there are provisions of the law which render him liable to penalties if he has made the statement untruthfully. That is a position which ought to be remembered by anyone who wants to challenge what Mr Khemlani is saying. At least we ought to be prepared to hear what he has to say. We have received in this Senate in times past, in particular on 9 July, a mass of documents; the House of Representatives received a mass of documents, all from the one source- the Government. At that stage Mr Khemlani was relied upon by the Government as a man who was conducting negotiations on its behalf. When the Opposition sought information about what Mr Khemlani was doing it was told that as a matter of responsibility and confidentiality it could not be told. Now the Government has fallen out with Mr Khemlani and Mr Khemlani wants to tell his story. Upon what basis or principle of justice is his account to be denied? Why should not we in the Parliament and the people of Australia be informed as to what Mr Khemlani has done and what is his account of these transactions?
More and more the Whitlam Government resembles the discredited Nixon Government in the United States. I have thought time and time again, as I have seen the florid countenance of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), that more and more he resembles Spiro Agnew. The more I hear the Prime Minister on this issue the more I think he resembles Richard Nixon. We have seen a total cover-up which persistence is exposing. I think we should remember that it took approximately 2 years and 4 months- from April 1972 to September 1974-before Richard Nixon was driven from office for the crimes he had attempted and for the misleading of the Congress and the people of the United States of America. We saw last July one of the most massive criminal conspiracies ever attempted by people in power in this country slowly being exposed and revealed for the illegalities which it contained. Persistence is bringing the truth to light. The resemblance between the Nixon cover-up and the Whitlam cover-up I think is one of the remarkable events of history.
There is not any doubt that the Prime Minister month by month has had the truth dragged out of him. Still we do not know the full truth because he is doggedly hanging on and refusing to reveal. Senator Wheeldon today wants to keep the truth hidden. Is it not remarkable how Richard Nixon over the months was forced to dispense with the services of so many of his trusted servants? First, there was James Dean; then there was Mr Ehrlichman; and then there was Mr Haldeman. They were followed by a host of’ minor, lesser officials who eventually found themselves before the courts and in gaol. What have we found here in Australia? We find that the former Senator Murphy- I wonder what will happen to hi m one day- leaves the Government. We find that Dr Cairns ceases to be the Deputy Prime Minister. He is disgraced and discredited and is no longer a Minister. We find that Mr Connor has to go the same way. How many other people are there?
– And Mr Cameron.
-Even Mr Cameron, the man who claimed to be responsible for the whole thing when he spoke in the House of Representatives, has been removed from the office that he wanted to hold on to and is now languishing as the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs.
– Order! Senator Greenwood has the call.
– I am conscious of this constant cacophony of noise from the back benchers in the Labor Party who know that they are seeing the end of their Government and who are determined, so far as they can, to make it a noisy demise. Their purpose is simply to prevent the truth coming out and to participate further in the massive cover-up. The word ‘Watergate’ will be associated in this country with the name Whitlam’. It has been made an event of history which will last for all time because of what occurred in the United States. It will have indelibly marked the discreditable record of this Government which hid the truth, which hid criminal conspiracy and prevented to the very end every opportunity for it to be exposed.
Let it not be forgotten that the Government said it was producing all the documents that were relevant. It produced a number of documents. Let it not be forgotten that recent events have disclosed that it had not produced all the documents and that much which it knew was kept hidden. Mr Khemlani’s statement represents a further instalment in the revelation of all that has taken place. It will provide greater information and maybe it will provide that final exposure which will put Mr Whitlam in the place that Mr Nixon ultimately went to. One can understand, therefore, why Senator Wheeldon is concerned that this document should not be produced. It is an absolutely incredible situation that the Government which wants to reveal the truth, which came into office as the government -
– Order! The Senate will come to order.
-Mr President, I am fully conscious of the fact that the truth hurts the members of the Australian Labor Party. They came into office on the plea of open government. But every effort which they have made since they have been in government is to deny the claims which they made. We hope that the Senate will carry this motion.
– I can understand why Senator Greenwood had that sickly grin on his face throughout his speech; it is because he evidently finds even himself ridiculous. Honourable senators opposite will recall that just the other day he rose in this sanctimonious, pious manner which has become his trade mark and accused me of the awful crime of defaming someone under privilege. Let us have a look at what he has done today. A man who was once an idolexPresident Nixon- a man whose every decision in relation to Vietnam Senator Greenwood applauded, a man who was very much of Senator Greenwood’s ilk because he went over to the far extreme of conservatism, even for a Republican, this man who has now been convicted of being one of the great criminal figures of American history, Senator Greenwood now uses in an attempt to besmirch our own Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), a man against whom no wrongdoing has yet been established, despite the attempts of the Opposition to dig up dirt from the 4 corners of the world. The Prime Minister of Australia is, in the view of this man who hates defamation, to be lumped in with one of the great political criminals of our time, ex-President Nixon. 1 would hope that if Senator Greenwood wishes to maintain his stance he will at least have the grace in future not to claim that other members of the Senate are defamers. This is one of the greatest pieces of defamation that one could imagine.
Let us look at some of the more absurd propositions that Senator Greenwood is advancing today. He says that when Mr Karidis was called before the Senate the Government members of the Senate behaved in such a shameful way as to deter honourable senators opposite from repeating the performance. Let us recall some of the shameful things that were done by people from
Senator Greenwood’s side of the Senate. His own leader, Senator Withers, called upon the President to order Mr Karidis’ solicitor to table a document which he, if he had any skerrick of legal knowledge, must have known to be a document privileged as between an attorney and client. He acted as though Mr Karidis and his solicitor were under the same obligation as a senator in this place under standing order 364. Not only was it a disgraceful exhibition of a lack of knowledge of his Standing Orders but also it was an abdication of any of the principles that any legal man should hold dear. He asked the President to order the tabling of a document that was confidential as between solicitor and client. Senator Greenwood then has the nerve to say that we were the ones who behaved badly when Mr Karidis was before the Senate. The fact of the matter is that the more responsible, the more dignified, the more serious and honest members of the Opposition- I concede that they exist- were so shamed by their own performance when Mr Karidis was brought before the Senate that they were not game to repeat the dose with Mr Khemlani. We have this absurd motion that we are trying to suppress the facts from Mr Khemlani. For a week - (Opposition senators interjecting)
-This grinning hyena, the Leader of the Opposition in this place (Senator Withers), for a week before Mr Khemlani arrived in Australia appeared on every program and stated in every newspaper that he would afford all the facilities of the Senate to Mr Khemlani so that he could come here and tell his story. He led us to believe that as soon as Mr Khemlani set foot on these shores he would move a motion at least to bring him before the Senate.
– Why did you order him out?
– I will come to that. I will answer every point that has been raised. Mr Khemlani himself, from the moment that he arrived, was asking for the opportunity to appear before the Senate. But what did our opponents do? They opened up his 8 cases of documents. They sent their legal expert, Mr Ellicott, the man who has given such unfortunate advice to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to have got him into his present sorry plight, and another of their legal experts to examine everything that Khemlani had brought to this country. They came up with nothing. So they did not call him before the Bar of the Senate. Are they suggesting that I had anything to do with making that difficult? Let me recount again the story of Khemlani coming to this country. On the Friday before he arrived, his attorneys in New York rang my Department and asked whether he would be given a visa.
– That is not the point. Why did you put him out?
-Let me make the point, and you can reply later. They asked whether he could have a visa. If the Government had wanted to suppress the truth, if we had wanted to keep Mr Khemlani ‘s testimony out of this country, I could have said no then. I said yes he could have a visa, no obstacle would be put in his way. Nonetheless, he arrived in this country without a visa. If I had wanted I could have turfed him out of the country there and then. He was given the ordinary transit courtesies and was told that he could stay here for another 72 hours. The Opposition knew this. He was in its hands at this stage. He had become its client. His papers were being sifted by its experts. When his time was up his solicitor rang me and asked whether he could have an extension of time. I said yes he could have an extension of time until Monday of this week. Can the Opposition seriously and truthfully try to tell us that I am any sort of reason why Khemlani was not brought before this place? It is absolutely absurd. It had a whole week to call him, and it did not call him. If blame, is to rest for the fact that we have not had the best evidence that could be offered on anything that Khemlani has to say, it rests at the door of the Opposition. If Khemlani has anything to say, if there is anything that the public should know, let it be said openly. Let it be published in the newspapers.
– Unless it comes from you it will not be published in the newspapers.
– I do not know what the honourable senator is suggesting. Is he suggesting that somehow we control the newspapers? This is the oddest of all propositionsthat somehow or other we control the newspapers. I suggest that what we are witnessing is the death throes of the Opposition’s attempt to make something out of the Khemlani story. Members of the Opposition have fallen on their faces. They have hit the fence. They are fools before the whole Australian public. It is understandable that they cannot reconcile themselves to this, but let us get this silly charade over as soon as possible and get back to running the country because the public knows who to blame if the country is at a standstill at the present time. It is these people opposite who never reconciled themselves to the fact that we have won office, who think they are entitled to be over here and who have attempted by every method possible to usurp power again. The public has seen through them. None of their gyrations, none of their attempts to turn the blame away from themselves onto us in this matter will work. The Australian voter is a little bit more sensible than they thought he was. So the sooner they get around to being sensible again themselves the better it will be for their Party and for the Australian people.
– After that tirade from Senator James McClelland I think it would be just as well to consider the motion that the Senate is actually debating. This afternoon Senator Withers quoted from a large number of documents, and Senator Chaney moved that the documents from which Senator Withers quoted be tabled. The speech which we have just heard from Senator James McClelland has ranged far and away from that proposition- a proposition which is so normal in the Senate that the request is usually agreed to as a matter of course. In this case the Government is refusing to allow documents which have been quoted from to be tabled. In any ordinary circumstance when a senator quotes from a document- certainly when the Leader of the Opposition quotes from a document- the Government or the Opposition is most anxious to see the document. In this case the Government is concerned about the contents of these documents. That is the reason it is fighting tooth and nail to prevent these documents from being tabled. It is not even prepared to have them opened. It is not even prepared to look at them , much less let the public know what is contained in them.
What are the documents from which Senator Withers quoted and which Senator Chaney seeks to have tabled? They are documents which have come into existence over many months. They are from the man whom the Government has made famous in Australia. About this time last year, about November 1974, the Government got in contact with Mr Khemlani when it conceived the extraordinary and bizarre notion that it could raise $4,000m of overseas money, of Arab money, and put Australia into hock for 20 years to the tune ultimately of $20,000m. The man whom the Government sought to do this most extraordinary, bizarre and clearly wrong exercise as far as Australia was concerned, was Mr Khemlani. The Government had constant dealings with this gentleman from November 1974 until September 1975. Over that period Mr Khemlani has been working constantly for the Government. I will not confine my remarks to Mr
Connor. Mr Khemlani has had dealings not only with Mr Connor, Mr Cameron and many other senior Ministers but also with a great battery of senior public servants. Let us not run away from this for one minute. Mr Khemlani ‘s dealings have been for months at the very highest levels of government.
In the course of these dealings the Ministers and the senior public servants who have been dealing with Mr Khemlani have obviously been informing the Prime Minister what was going on. The Prime Minister, the then Senator Murphy, Mr Connor and Dr Cairns were parties to and the principals who brought into existence the famous or infamous and illegal Executive Council Minute of 13 December 1974. From November 1974 to September 1975 Mr Khemlani was the agent for the Government in this extraordinary but- from the Government’s point of view- highly important exercise. The Government, as part of its policy, attached the most enormous significance to this loan raising activity. Mr Khemlani was the man upon whom the Government was relying to get the money for it. He came to Australia time and time again. What utter nonsense it was for Senator James McClelland the other day and today to make some bones about Mr Khemlani staying in Australia for a few days or coming back to Australia. In November and December last year, in January, February or March this year, or on the numerous other times that he came to Australia, did the Government worry whether he had a visa? This man came to Australia as and when he liked and when the Government liked. He was coming in and out of Australia, naturally at the wish and invitation of the Government.
It is ridiculous to suggest that this man who had dealt with this Government over these months should have any qualms or concern about coming to Australia without a visa. The way the Government has treated him over these months, he is just carrying on in the same way as he has done over that time. But apart from coming to Australia on numerous occasions, Mr Khemlani has been in almost daily contact by telephone with Ministers, with senior public servants and with other intermediaries on behalf of this Government. He has been using the telex machine from his office or from many other parts of the world in contacting Ministers, in particular, the former Minister for Minerals and Energy.
Senator Withers has come into the Senate this afternoon and has in his possession a very lengthy statutory declaration of something like 100 pages in which this man- this agent of the Government for months and months- sets out in great detail his story of this relationship that he has had with this Government. It is not just a declaration. As Senator Greenwood has said, it has been made on oath and there are the severest penalties of the law for perjury which would apply if Mr Khemlani deliberately has misrepresented the facts or told any untruths in the declaration. The declaration is supported not only by that oath, but it is also supported by the contemporaneous documents that have come into existence during Mr Khemlani ‘s relationship with the Government over this period of 10 months. There are over 100 of these documents here and, as Senator Withers has said, many of them are documents that have not been tabled by this Government.
– It is hardly likely. They were not ours.
– The Government was tabling relevant documents. The Prime Minister sacked Mr Connor because some documents had not been tabled on 9 July and Mr Connor had made a statement to the effect that all documents of substance had been tabled. The fact of the matter is that those documents related to the dealings and the transactions between the Government and Mr Khemlani and the banks and others with whom they were associated. Mr Khemlani, in the course of his statutory declaration, has now referred to a large number of documents- as I said, over 100 documentsmany of which have not been tabled prior to now and in respect of some of which, when they came to light after 9 July, the Prime Minister sacked Mr Connor. That is the situation.
We have this statutory declaration from a man whom the Government itself contacted to do its great job- this extraordinary and bizarre exercise, as it may be. Nevertheless it is the job that the Prime Minister, the Government and honourable senators opposite who support that Government have regarded as of the highest importance to Australia, to the Government’s interest and to its policies. This is the man who has now brought into existence this affidavit and who has now backed it up with his 100 or more documents and who has taken very great care in doing so. He certainly has taken a week to prepare these documents and has not been able to complete it in a week. Any lawyers on the other side of the chamber who have had any experience of practice- I do not refer to Senator Wheeldon who apparently thinks these things can come into existence overnight, or to some other lawyers on the other side- would know how tremendous a job it is to produce a statutory declaration of that order and to collect the documents in that way, and would know that it certainly is reasonable for it to have taken Mr Khemlani and his legal advisers the whole of last week to prepare these documents.
That is the reason- and the only reason- why we have not taken any of the steps which the Government senators are saying should have been taken last week. In fact, last week a notice of motion was given by the Opposition to enable a committee to be established for Mr Khemlani to come before, if it is desired, and be crossexamined on the statutory declaration and on anything else he likes to say, if it is desired. Senator Wheeldon has made great play on the fact that we are seeking somehow or other to act in an unusual manner so far as legal procedures are concerned. Well, it is a long time since Senator Wheeldon has practised and perhaps he has got a little rusty as to the development of the law in regard to these matters. But I think that even Senator Wheeldon would realise that a great many legal procedures take place on the basis of affidavits and statutory declarations.
– I was aware of that, yes.
– You did not give any indication of that in your speech earlier today. But the procedure in these cases is that if any party wants the deponent- the person who has sworn the affidavit- to come along and be crossexamined, the facilities are made available for that to be done. Senator Wheeldon knows that as well as I do. If a person presents a document- it is quite common in legal proceedings- the test of cross-examination is most important and the facilities are then provided for him to be crossexamined by the other side. We are not resiling from having Mr Khemlani cross-examined. Mr Khemlani says he is prepared to come back to Australia on 48 hours notice to be examined on his statutory declaration by such means as the Senate chooses. But who is stopping Mr Khemlani from coming before the Senate? It is Senator James McClelland who has not allowed Mr Khemlani to remain in Australia. He has booted him out of Australia. This man came and went to and from Australia for 10 months at the invitation of the Government. Time and time again he was in and out of Australia without a visa. But when he comes to Australia now and when he is going to produce something that may reveal the truth, this Government will not have him in Australia for more than 72 hours.
– Bring him back.
– Bring him back, certainly. If Senator Devitt can persuade his
Government and his leaders to bring Mr Khemlani back the committee will be set up and Mr Khemlani can be examined on these documents. The motion provides only that the documents should be tabled. It would be ridiculous in the extreme for this Senate to refuse to table and to examine carefully documents which have come into existence over a period of 10 months and which have been presented by a man whom the Government of the day selected and dealt with for 10 months, day by day, to achieve what this Government thought, mistakenly and wrongly, and probably illegally, to be one of the highest of its purposes. It was a great and dominating purpose of this Government over all this period. The man who was the absolute linchpin of the affair came into Australia and gave his version of it. The documents are now here and available to be tabled. It would be absurd in the extreme for this Senate to deny the tabling of those documents.
– I believe the Opposition, by this motion, by its use of standing order 364 in this manner and by its use of its numbers in this Senate, is setting a very dangerous precedent for this Senate to pursue. It is giving unrestricted and unqualified privilege to people, particularly people who are now outside Australia, to use the Australian Parliament, perhaps- I use the word ‘perhaps’ because we do not know what is contained in these documents- to vilify and defame any Australian citizen. During the course of his remarks this afternoon, Senator Withers said repeatedly that he could not vouch for the authenticity or accuracy of the documents. He read one or two sentences from the documents- presumably statutory declarations. I suggest he read those sentences merely to bring himself within the ambit of standing order 364. Then he sought the Senate to allow him to table the entire 100 pages that he suggests there are of the documents. I believe that that is an untenable position for the Senate to be placed in and indeed, as I have said, that it is creating a very dangerous precedent. The use of this standing order in this manner, I suggest, is a misuse of the standing order. When Senator Withers sought leave of the Senate to table the documents, leave was not granted. Certainly under standing order 135 leave of the Senate can be granted only if there is no dissenting voice. Senator Chaney then rose and moved his motion under standing order 364, which states:
A document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may bc made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who was quoted therefrom.
I suggest that standing order 364 was written with the intention of ensuring proof of accuracy of the document from which an honourable senator was quoting. I suggest that that is the very purpose of the standing order- to ensure the protection of the Senate and to ensure the accuracy of the document from which an honourable senator quotes. In this instance Senator Withers, in quoting one or two sentences from the multiplicity of documents that he seeks to table, repeatedly said that he himself could not vouch for the accuracy of the documents. As Mr Odgers has said in his publication Australian Senate Practice, by the use of standing order 364 the members of the majority party can impose the rule on the minority but because of their numbers can be in a privileged position themselves. He then states that with that factor and others in mind it may well be argued that standing order 364 needs reconsideration. If standing order 364 is to be used in this fashion, I agree with Mr Odgers’ comment in his publication that the standing order needs further consideration by the Senate. Again I assert my belief that this is a misuse of the Standing Orders.
What are the facts? There is no need to relate or recite them. We know that these allegations about the loans affair have been made for the last 9, 10 or 11 months. We have heard accusation after accusation. We have had public servants brought to the Bar of the Senate. A private Australian citizen has been brought to the Bar of the Senate. We, as a Government, said that, if the Opposition sought to bring Mr Khemlani or any other person to the Bar of the Senate at any time to give testimony in this manner, whilst we objected in principle to the use of the Senate in this way we would not object to such persons appearing before the Bar of the Senate. The Opposition did not accept that principle. Last Wednesday Senator Withers, as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, gave notice of motion that he would move that a select committee be established for the purpose of inquiring into the Khemlani loan affairs. At the time he gave that notice he indicated that it was merely a holding notice. As reported at page 1521 of Hansard, Senator Withers said:
This is a holding notice of motion. It gives the Opposition the capacity, if need be, to move the motion tomorrow - that was last Thursday- but I indicate that we will not necessarily move it then.
On Thursday, when I moved that Government Business take precedence of General Business
Senator Withers stated, amongst other things, as reported at page 16 1 1 of Hansard: lt may have been anticipated that the Opposition would wish to proceed with my notice of motion No. 17 which has just been declared not formal. However, I understand, and I do not think the Government would mind me saying this, that if I had moved my motion it would have sought an adjournment, that being the normal procedure so that it could consult with colleagues in Cabinet and Caucus. Consequently the motion would not have been disposed of today. I therefore consider it an exercise in futility to commence a motion today which would not be concluded today. One anticipates that on Tuesday next - that is today- after the Government has received its riding instructions from its Cabinet and Caucus -
I leave out the interjection and the reply-
Here we have a situation in which all last week Mr Khemlani and his solicitor were ensconced with leading members of the Opposition. They had brought to Canberra some 8, 10 or 12 bag loads of documents for the Opposition to study. Senior members of the Opposition who are lawyers- a former Solicitor-General, Mr Ellicott, and Mr Howard- were ensconced with Mr Khemlani for a great deal of time, having a look at these documents and giving them every consideration. Mr Ellicott went to Sydney to have further discussions with Mr Khemlani and to have another look at the documents. He then made a statement that there was nothing in the documents that in any way implicated Mr Whitlam in the loan affair after 20 May. Mr Ellicott then came back to Canberra and received new riding instructions from the present Leader of the Opposition ( Mr Malcolm Fraser).
The Opposition has had every chance in the world to bring Mr Khemlani before the Bar of the Senate. The Opposition has had every opportunity to have Mr Khemlani ‘s case stated. Mr Khemlani stated when he came to Australia that he was coming here to have his case stated, and he had the opportunity while he was here to do so. The Opposition now, in this manner of subterfuge, I suggest, is using this standing order to try to get these documents on to the table of the Senate. I suggest that it is wrong. I suggest that the Opposition is creating a very dangerous precedent. I suggest that it is a misuse of the privileges of this House. It is giving unwarranted protection to people who are not within the confines of Australia. I believe that the members of the Opposition, in using the tactics they have used, are doing the wrong thing by this Senate. I believe that the motion should be rejected.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. My point of order is this: The motion before the Senate seeks the order of the Senate to table certain documents. Reference has been made to two of those documents- Mr Crawford’s statutory declaration and Mr Khemlani’s statutory declaration- and apparently a mass of copies of telex messages. We cannot, I suggest, fully determine an ultimate attitude on the matter until we see the documents.
– Table them.
– Just a moment. The motion is to table certain documents. I submit that it would be proper for the Leader of the Opposition, who seeks the tabling of the documents, or the mover of the motion, the Opposition Whip, to show us the documents even while we are debating the matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Senator Everett, actually you are not raising a point of order.
– It is a point of physical order, really. My submission is that the documents should be at least shown to the Government, perhaps even while the debate is taking place. We are asked to vote on a motion that certain documents be tabled.
-If you got $4,000m -
– Just a moment, Senator Townley. I will not be diverted from this. I submit that it is basic that no person in the world should ever be put in the position of agreeing or not agreeing to documents going into some formal position, which is what the tabling of them in this place would involve, without at least letting his eyes repose on them. That is the point I am making. We do not know what the documents are. We do not know whether they are written in Pakistani, or what.
– But documents are tabled here every day.
- Senator Rae seems to assume that this is a normal procedure. It is not.
Senator Poyser- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Senator Rae is interjecting and he is not in his seat. If he wishes to interject he should sit in his own seat. (Honourable senators interjecting)
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I call Senator Everett.
– I make the point very seriously and I ask you, Mr Deputy President, to treat it not with the levity with which the Opposition would invite you to treat it but with complete solemnity. Let us take the analogy of a court. Whoever heard of a document going into evidence without its being seen by the other side? Whoever thought of a document being used in cross-examination without its being shown to the other side? This document will go into the court of public opinion in relation to a matter which, 10 days ago, was the linchpin of the Opposition’s case against the Government to bring about its defeat. It is as serious as that. This is not a trivial matter which arises every day. This is terribly important for the future of the Senate and for a proper judgment of history. This relates to the propriety of the Senate and its behaviour in these matters from the parliamentary institutional point of view. Mr Deputy President, I urge you to rule that if the Opposition seeks by this motion, as it has done, to get the authority of the Senate for papers to be tabled or for certain documents to be tabled., at least those documents should be shown to the other side which has a responsibility to vote upon the very motion which the Opposition has moved. This is not a formal or technical objection. There may be no precedent for it. Mr Deputy President, I urge that you do not just ride over the matter as though it is a formality. I am sure you will not. History will be looking at this afternoon, I do not doubt. I strongly press the point of order which I have made.
– I rise to speak to the point of order. All I say is that Senator Everett has carefully camoulflaged a speech under the pretext of taking a point of order. No point of order arises. This is a motion that the documents from which Senator Withers quoted should be revealed on the table for the perusal of every member of the Senate.
– U nder privilege.
- Senator Withers could have read all the documents under privilege. How obnoxious becomes privilege when it is sought to disclose faces. How lovely it is when Senator Everett joins with the Government to preclude public servants from revealing facts. When a Government is engaged in a massive cover up what platitudinous nonsense it can put forward. The Government is hoping to beat the air, to get Khemlani, out of the country and then to take a point of order that the Government should be shown the documents before debate on the motion should proceed. I think that a point of disorder was indicated by a submission of that sort.
- Mr Deputy President, I direct your attention to standing order 362. Senator Everett’s concern is a concern which I have. It is possibly the reason for refusing leave to table the documents. These documents are considerable. Perhaps in them may be some material that is defamatory against a person or persons. I think standing order 362 indicates that if these papers are tabled and if they are ordered not to be printed or not ordered to be printed then they may be inspected at the office of the Senate at any time by senators and with permission of the President -
- Senator Wright, let me make my point. The documents may be inspected by other persons and copies thereof or extracts therefrom may be made. I take it, under standing order 362, that those documents will be covered by privilege. Mr Deputy President, I ask you to rule on that point. If those documents, when tabled, are covered by privilege then you can understand the concern of some honourable senators on the Government side at the suggestion that the documents be tabled without the Government first seeing what is in them. I do not know what the views of my leaders are. Perhaps if the documents are inspected this controversy could cease. We could proceed to have the documents tabled. I remember that one evening during the debate on the motion that the Senate adjourn when I endeavoured to have something incorporated in Hansard Senator Wright -
– That is a different matter.
– Not quite; it is not entirely different. It related to a matter I wanted to make public. If I recall, it was an article on the Pentagon. This happened about 5 years ago. Senator Wright refused me leave and, what is more, he persisted in refusing me leave for a number of nights to have that matter incorporated. I learnt my lesson on that occasion.
– Is this relevant to the point of order?
– This is a point of order. I am going back to a precedent where I was refused leave. Senator Wright stated that he did not know what was contained in the material which I sought to have incorporated. He did not know what that material covered. I accepted that. I have never attempted to have material incorporated again. Here we have a similar situation. I believe that the importance of standing order 362 must be taken into account. These documents ought to be made available to the
Government for perusal before the matter is put to a vote.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise to speak on the point of order. It seems quite clear to me that the object of standing order 364 is to ensure that any document which is quoted from in this chamber is available in full to the Senate so that the Senate may judge the document, not on the part which has been quoted but on the whole. I think it is consistent with that principle that the document quoted from in the present case ought to be on the table of the Senate. I refer to the procedure which has already taken place in relation to this so-called loans affair and in particular to the fact that on 9 July, in both this chamber and in the House of Representatives, extensive documents were tabled without notice being given to the Opposition. The document purported to set out what the Government said were the facts of the matter.
In support of my opposition to the point of order I shall quote what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said about the privileges of the Parliament and the use we ought to make of them. On 9 July the Prime Minister stated:
The privileges of this Parliament fully protect members who believe that their information -
I emphasise these words- even partial information, even suspect information, would warrant making specific charges of impropriety against Ministers which the laws of defamation might render dangerous if made outside. Here allegations can be made, persons can be named and documents can be produced with impunity and immunity, lt is not only a privilege which Parliament bestows but a responsibility which it imposes.
I would say that it is quite clear, on the precedent which has been established by honourable senators on the Government side and by Government members in the other place, that this is the perfectly normal and proper procedure to be followed. I refer to the 38 pages of Hansard taken up by the documents tabled by the Prime Minister on 9 July. These documents, like the Prime Minister’s documents, ought to be on the table where they can be judged.
THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I shall deal firstly with the point of order which Senator Georges raised. I do not believe that the Chair should be called upon to rule on a point of order relating to the privilege or otherwise of documents. It is- for the Chair to interpret standing order 364. In regard to Senator Everett’s point, the honourable senator may well put to me that his view is that the documents should be available to the Government prior to their being tabled. Again, that is not a matter for me to decide. The honourable senator may put that request to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). The Chair is guided by standing order 364 which gives the decision to the Senate.
-I support the motion that these -documents be tabled. It is an extraordinary thing today that although Senator Everett does not know what the documents contain- he is worried about that- there seems to be no trouble on the part of the 3 Ministers who have spoken already. They seem to have a very good idea that there may be something in these documents which they do not want to see tabled and publicised in the Senate. They even reached the situation where Senator Douglas McClelland queried the Standing Orders under which these documents are sought to be tabled and wondered whether they ought to be changed. He tried to read into the Standing Orders a reason for someone wanting to look at the documents, a reason for someone asking for them to be tabled. Senator Chaney has given another reason and, of course, there may be all kinds of reasons for a person who, having seen a document quoted from, wants to check it, wants to see it and wants to find out its date. There might be all kinds of reasons for him wanting it tabled so that it is open for the public. So there is no point in that minor suggestion which Senator Douglas McClelland made.
He complained that the Opposition had a holding notice of motion and that we had not used it, that it is still there and can still be used. There is absolutely no point in him saying: ‘It was not used last week and the Opposition should have used it’. In fact it is there and it is an opportunity to take a step from the position we are now in if, when these documents have been tabled, examined by senators and by members and by the public, it is found that it is worth while to examine the person who made the declaration. In this afternoon’s debate there was one very significant point made by Senator James McClelland. He maintained that the Opposition had had a chance to look at these documents and came up with nothing. It fell flat on its face, he said. Why then is he protesting now? Why is he complaining about these documents and what I assume to be a chronology of events, among other things, being put before the Senate? Why is the Government so worried? I think the expression is: ‘Me thinketh they protest too much’.
Government senators have protested all the afternoon about the tabling of these documents and obviously they have no confidence that there is nothing in them. Why should they complain if there is nothing in them but that this man Khemlani, the Government’s man, a man it negotiated with for a considerable amount of money over a considerable period of time, a man it trusted and a man whose involvement with the Government we have criticised, wants to clear his name. He has been involved throughout a long period and his name has been bandied about this country. He is in a special position where he seeks now to clear his name by putting all the facts before the public. If that is so, why should those facts not be put before the public? Why should we not have an opportunity to see them? It is no use interjecting and barking in the way that a little dog would all afternoon and as the senator who is interjecting now, Senator Poyser, has done throughout the afternoon, asking: ‘Why don’t you give it to the Press to publish; let the Press do it?’. I should have said a macaw or some kind of parrot.
– Why not?
– If Senator Poyser listens for a moment I will tell him. We are entitled to see the whole document, to see how this man sets out his case. We should not have to depend on reading tomorrow morning’s Age or Sun or some other newspaper and see only the extracts which it chooses to publish. It is not for their judgment. This man sought to put material before the Senate so that he could clear his name. He subscribed to this material on oath and if he has done that we are entitled to see the whole of the documents and make our judgment not only on whether they are of value but also on what parts of them are significant. We should not be dependent upon what a newspaper tomorrow morning chooses to print of these documents. We have already seen selective tabling and printing of documents and we have not yet seen the whole story. It is of value to this Senate to see the whole of the documents. Although there could not be anything left of what Senator Wheeldon has said that Senator Durack has not already disposed of in his magnificent speech, there are one or two sludges that I want to pick up. In his attack, and this is something that has been said already, Senator Wheeldon talked of his petty sessions experience and the fact that in that jurisdiction documents are not used in this way.
It was pointed out by Senator Durack that in the courts time and again in custody proceedings and all kinds of other cases proceedings are based on documents. Documents are produced. What is the particular value of that? Instead of coming into a jurisdiction and finding out the evidence piece by piece with no prior knowledge, the documents are there in which a person sets out his record and his evidence. There is the advantage that those concerned can look at it and cross-examine on it. There is the advantage of being able to tear it to pieces if it is not true. This is the situation here. The correct procedure for this Senate is not to have another grand type of investigation by having someone before the Bar of the Senate and having no knowledge of what he is going to say and then having Ministers, as has happened today, endeavouring to make a laughing stock of such proceedings. Obviously we ought to give this man the chance to have these documents tabled. One look at them shows how extensive they are. It is no use Senator Wheeldon asking us why we are cluttering up the Senate with these documents for one only has to look at Hansard to see that there has been a cluttering up of Hansard with documents, but not all the documents- just those that Mr Connor, the Prime Minister and others have chosen to put before us.
– What the public needs to know.
-That is right. Senator Chaney points out to us that that is what Senator James McClelland said on television in a debate with Senator Greenwood- ‘The public knows all that it needs to know’- and he has since admitted that he was wrong in saying that and that sometimes one makes mistakes on television. I give him that to his credit. However, we want to know all that this man wants to put before the Senate so that we can then judge whether further investigation is needed. When we have all looked at the documents those of us who think there is something worth doing about what is contained in them can go ahead and do it. There is machinery to do that. It is no use saying here that this man should have been brought here next week, stood up in the back of the Senate and examined in a way which we have already seen demonstrated to be not very effective. It is obviously a matter where the facts should be looked at first. A man who has put his own words in writing can be judged by them and examined upon them.
Finally, it is not just the case of an individual claiming to have been slandered and wanting to clear his name and put forward some views. The Senate could not cope with that sort of thing. This deals with a matter that has been in the Senate and in the other House of Parliament for something like 6 months now. It is a matter in which this man’s name has been brought forward and in which all kinds of claims have been made. The Government relied so strongly on him and subsequently has gone cold on him.
Surely the least that he is entitled to is to be able to present the documents and have the Senate do something about them if the documents warrant it, but with all the protests this afternoon, with all the screams, yells and the cackling of geese in this chamber, one can say only that there must be some truth hiding somewhere, there must be something which those honourable gentlemen and ladies opposite are unhappy about because they would not otherwise have put up such a performance to avoid the mere tabling of documents.
-A precedent is being established this afternoon. Never in my time in this Parliament have I seen a member of the Opposition seeking to have tabled a document produced by the Opposition, nor have I seen a motion by a member of the Government seeking to have tabled a document produced by the Government. This is obviously a plan, a plot, and we saw the puppet rise to his feet when the string-puller said: ‘Get up’. It was obvious to everybody on this side of the House that he was directed to do what he was told when he was told. We are now in a situation where we have challenged the Opposition to release freely to the Press a document which would protect any person who may be defamed in that document. But Senator Withers hides behind the privilege of Parliament, as he has often done, to ensure that if that document is not accurate there can be no reaction against any person.
The whole purpose of standing order 364 is to prove the authenticity of a document. We have the situation where a person who is endeavouring to have a document published has got his puppet to argue the point that the document should be tabled so that he does not have to prove the authenticity of the document. He is afraid to walk out into the Press Gallery and give it to the Press and say: ‘This is the document that we have received from a person who is no longer in Australia and who may never come back to Australia. ‘
– That is wishful thinking.
-Senator Missen said: ‘We wish he would ‘.
– No, I said that that is wishful thinking.
-The moment he comes back we will welcome his presence before the Bar of the Senate as a result of a motion of the Opposition.
– You bring him here.
– We will not oppose such a motion by the Opposition. We will have the kind of examination that is proper in these circumstances. Senator Withers is hiding behind a standing order by getting somebody to move for him the tabling of an 80-page document that nobody on this side of the chamber has seen. We have not seen it. I cannot say whether it defames anybody. But he is certainly hiding behind the privilege of Parliament in case it does. We are simply saying that we have nothing to hide. Khemlani would have been able to come before this House on any day last week, following the statements of the Leader of the Opposition that he would facilitate- I emphasise the word ‘facilitate’ Khemlani ‘s coming before this House. We gave him 3 days in which to do it. Whilst we would not have supported such a move, we would not have opposed it. He could have been brought here for public examination.
Senator Missen is yapping because he has a dirty conscience in relation to what he has done in the last few weeks. He has succumbed to the pressure of a Party that says: ‘If you do not do what we want you to do we will take your endorsement from you’. He is doing something that he does not believe in. Everybody knows that. The dogs are barking that he was pressured last week to cross the floor and that he said: ‘Do your own dirty work. You have got us into this position. Now you have to get us out of it’. That is the kind of situation in which Senator Missen finds himself. I feel ashamed.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– I am unashamedly a member of the Labor Party. I support the decisions made by the Labor Party Caucus. I have never pretended, as honourable senators opposite do, that I have a free vote and that if I exercise a free vote no disciplinary action will be taken against me. Pressures have been put upon certain people in the last week. People who I thought would not succumb under the so-called free vote situation have succumbed because of the threat that they will not get another endorsement if they cross the floor or refrain from voting. But that is not what we are debating now. We are debating the question whether an 80-page document should be tabled. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition is also suggesting that the other documents that he has before him should be tabled. I am saying that he does not have the guts to release this document to the Press without its tabling. He does not have the guts to stand up and say: ‘We will give this to the open Press of this country’ and let the persons who may be defamed take the appropriate action. Again I repeat that we have not had the opportunity of seeing it. The Leader of the Opposition is hiding in a coward ‘s castle- the Parliament- in relation to this matter. His tame cat puppet has risen at the motion of a finger to move a motion to have the document tabled.
In my time in this Parliament it has never happened that a member of the same Party has sought to use that standing order in order to have a document tabled. I challenge honourable senators opposite to show me one occasion on which a member of the same Party, whether he be a member of the Opposition or, indeed, a member of the Government, has used standing order 364 to force the tabling of a document for which the Opposition or the Government has refused leave so to do. That, is an example of the kind of Dirty Dick tricks that the Opposition is getting up to. We heard Senator Greenwood talk earlier about Mr Richard Nixon, the former President of the United States of America. At one time Nixon was holier than thou to Senator Greenwood. He put the kids into Vietnam to be slaughtered. At that time Senator Greenwood was saying that Nixon was right. But the moment Nixon gets caught with his fingers in the till who repudiates him first? Senator Greenwood. Senator Greenwood is the man who had mothers’ homes raided on Christmas Day in the hope that he would catch some person who was legitimately and properly evading the draft. That is the kind of person with whom we are dealing. At the same time as Senator Greenwood was running around Carlton trying to find draft dodgers the Ustashi were blowing up people in Sydney. He could never find the people who were responsible for those bombings because he has never exercised his mind to do so. He was happy when that kind of thing was happening. He was happy when he had to find draft dodgers.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I cannot see any relevance between the tabling of documents and what happened in Vietnam. Perhaps Senator Poyser can be brought back to the subject matter of the motion, Sir.
-I will be happy to deal with it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I uphold the point of order. I think all speakers in the debate have ranged fairly wide. Senator Poyser ‘s remarks are of interest but I think that he should moderate them and get back to the point at issue.
– I am quite happy to concede that the point of order is correct. I hope the same point of order will be raised in the future when people like Senator Missen and Senator Greenwood stray from the mark in the remarks that they are making and that they will be kept to the point at issue. The point I am making now and the point I made in my earlier remarks is that a precedent is being established today by the action of a puppet in rising to his feet at the instigation of a string-puller to move a motion in relation to the tabling of documents that he believes should be tabled. The Leader of the Opposition does not have the guts to give them to the Press for free publication; so he is using a standing order of this Parliament for the purpose of having these documents tabled. He is going to win on the vote of a dead man. Good luck to him if he gets away with this kind of snide and underhand practice.
- Mr Deputy President, I began to suspect during the course of -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Senator Chaney will be closing the debate on this matter.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Am I to understand that Senator Chaney has risen to his feet very quickly with the purpose of closing the debate?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am not in a position to say why he rose to his feet. He was the first senator to rise in this instance.
– The point of order lam raising, Sir, is: Could you clarify the purpose for which Senator Chaney claimed the call because there are speakers on this side of the chamber, at least, who wish to speak to this motion.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Deputy President -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Perhaps I should say firstly that the speaker’s list I have before me only lists Senator Button’s name. I did have Senator Everett’s name on the list but it was crossed out when Senator Everett did not rise quickly. I call Senator Chaney to speak to the point of order.
– Having just listened to a tirade of abuse from Senator Poyser, I find it a little strange that a point of order should be taken querying why I have risen to my feet. I point out to you, Mr Deputy President, that a considerable number of references have been made to me over the last 10 minutes and it seemed to me to be most natural that I should rise immediately.
– Do you want me to withdraw something? I will withdraw it.
– Not at all.
– Is he or is he not closing the debate, Mr Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I think it would be fair, unless the Senate determines otherwise, to hear other speakers who wish to be heard on this matter. A member of the Government side of the chamber rose and I then looked across to the Opposition side of the chamber to see whether any Opposition senator wanted to speak and only one Opposition senator had risen. I will give the opportunity to any honourable senator who wishes to participate in this debate to do so. I call Senator Button.
-I understood Senator Poyser to describe Senator Chaney as a poppet rather than a puppet. I think we all agree with that. Many references have been made in the debate by Senator Missen and others to the desire of Mr Khemlani to clear his name. I understand that when Mr Khemlani came to Australia that was his announced purpose. There is a difference, of course, between somebody who wants to come before the Senate and clear his name, as Mr Khemlani said he did, and the exercise which was engaged in last week. Mr Khemlani could quite properly have come before the Senate on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week and cleared his name by a simple statement. But that was not the cause of the delay last week. The cause of the delay was not that the Opposition wanted to facilitate Mr Khemlani’s clearing of his name but that it wanted to obtain material which hopefully would besmirch the name of the Government and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). That is a completely different exercise which is still being a little confused in the minds of honourable senators opposite today.
The purpose of the motion now before the Senate is to use Mr Khemlani’s express wish to clear his name as a sort of trojan horse to be wheeled into the Senate and out of which will come some material which may or may not be damaging to the name of the Government.
– A trojan rabbit.
-I know that it is Melbourne Cup day and that the word ‘horse’ upsets Senator Baume. The point is that Senator Withers has quoted from a document which apparently has been made available to him by
Mr Khemlani. Having quoted from that document, as is required by standing order 364, Senator Withers has then used the procedures of that standing order to try to have the document laid upon the table. The Government’s case in this regard is not that we are particularly concerned about the contents of the documents; in a political sense, they have now become a great yawn and I do not think many honourable senators, let alone anybody else, would even bother to read them. The basis of our objection is not, as is hoped by Opposition senators, that the documents will be embarrassing in some way, but rather that it is a misuse of the procedures of the Parliament to introduce documents in this way. It is a misuse of the procedures of the Parliament because the exercise is not to protect Mr Khemlani’s name, as has been claimed, but to do something else and to do it on the basis of a classic hearsay situation.
– Why do you say it is hearsay?
-That is what it is.
– It is sworn evidence.
-I do not know.
– You are not suggesting that Mr Khemlani did not have any direct knowledge of what was going on?
– Let me come back to Senator Durack ‘s point. He said that we did not table all the documents. Of course we did not table all the documents. The ones which were in Mr Khemlani’s possession and which I understand now to be in the possession of the Opposition were not our documents. We could not table them. I do not see the point that the honourable senator is making about that. The only objection we have is that it is a misuse of the procedures of the Parliament. To go on with this nonsense about Mr Khemlani’s name as being a matter of importance to the Opposition is just the utmost hypocrisy. If one looks to see who asked that Mr Khemlani be brought before the Bar of the Senate, that information can be found in Hansard of 28 October when the President recorded that he had received a letter from Mr Lynch about this matter and that Mr Lynch had received a letter from Mr Khemlani asking him to facilitate his appearance before the Bar of the Senate for the purpose of clearing his name. The Opposition had all last week to do that. It was not a difficult thing for an Opposition which has a majority in the Senate to facilitate, if it was applying its mind to that particular problem. Senator Greenwood laughs because he knows that the Opposition was not the least bit interested in Mr
Khemlani ‘s name, except as something to bandy about as an adjective before the word ‘crisis’, the word ‘scandal* or something of that kind. Senator Greenwood knows perfectly well that last week nothing was further from the Opposition ‘s mind than clearing Mr Khemlani’s name. Mr Khemlani got no satisfaction from Mr Lynch in using him as the point of introduction to the Senate.
- Mr Khemlani was preparing his own documents for his own purposes, was he not?
-That is what we are told. If it takes Mr Khemlani 100 pages and all the facilities which the Opposition lawyers made available to him to clear his name, it must be a dreadful situation in which Mr Khemlani finds himself. It may be that he is in that dreadful situation because of his association of the last week. It may be that Mr Khemlani started the week feeling- he indicated this in the letter to Mr Lynch- that he could come before the Bar of the Seriate if the Opposition would help him, clear his name very quickly and go away. But after his association with these people last week he decided that it would take him 100 pages of a statutory declaration to do so.
– If you were called to the Bar of the Senate or tabled a document here, would it not be equally privileged?
– I am not here to answer a series of interrogatories submitted to me orally. I am here simply to make the point that this whole thing -
– Ha, ha!
– If Senator Wheeldon would cease interjecting I would be able to get on with what I want to say. The point of the matter is that the whole exercise is an insult to Mr Khemlani- the way in which his name has been used to introduce this motion into the Senate and the attempt to use the provisions of standing order 364 to bring these documents on to the table of the Senate. I oppose the motion.
– That small bundle of papers is a pretty tiny bit of change out of $4 billion; and, if it writes the final words on this unsavoury adventure into the backyards of London, Geneva and wherever else these people travel in their shady dealings, it might do a service if it were tabled. I can see nothing wrong with adding that mass of papers to all the others with which we have been dealing. I tabled some papers the other day. Some of them obviously were false; yet they appeared on the front page of a nationally known newspaper and were brandished in front of the public as being of importance. They have since proved to be of no importance. I tabled another letter copy which I hope is not true. I do not know whether it is or is not.
– You went further; you had them incorporated in Hansard.
– Yes, and I had them incorporated in Hansard. So I see nothing wrong with having these documents added to the general mass of paraphernalia. I take the point that not many honourable senators, if any, will read them. They will have all sorts of funny little code aspects to them. They will have funny little names that probably will mean something else, and they will be practically useless, I believe. I think it would be useful to get on to some fresh subjects in politics. As I said, if that little bit of change out of $4 billion is going to do the trick, let us have it. I can see nothing wrong with supporting the motion.
– 1 wish to speak briefly to this motion because 1 doubt very much whether at least some members of the Opposition realise just what they are doing by invoking standing order 364 in these circumstances. It is inevitable that this motion will be agreed to and that the documents will be tabled, but that result will have been achieved by the Opposition, in my submission, choosing an extremely wrong procedure when, while it continues to have the numbers, it has open to it two completely proper forms of procedure. The simple fact is that Mr Khemlani has become the foster child of the Opposition. 1 hear the laughter from Senator Sim, but I believe that members of the Opposition are acting as good foster parents.
Members of the Opposition became aware of the fact that Mr Khemlani was about to arrive in Australia. They organised government transport to meet him at the nearest airport. That is a quite proper thing to do. Then they took him to a $23- a-night motel, but the pressure was a little hot there so they removed him- again acting like good foster parents- to the more rarified atmosphere of the Lakeside Hotel. They gave him the very best counsel that they were able to muster during the next 24 hours. I use the words ‘that they were able to muster’, because I should imagine that Senator Missen was not invited to advise on the documents; otherwise I think that the result might have been quite different. I do not believe that Senator Missen would have got his 2 professions of law and politics so mixed up as to do what Mr Ellicott did; that is, act like a lawyer, speak properly in Sydney at lunchtime on the Tuesday and say that there was nothing to implicate the Prime Minister in the 8 suitcases of documents, and then come back to Canberra about 4 hours later, act like a politician and retreat from the previous position. Senator Missen would not have done that because he is an honourable man. All I can say is that it is a great pity that the Opposition does not take more notice of Senator Missen in the negotiations that are taking place, and seek his advice. I said that there were open to the Opposition 2 options which were proper. One was to do what I believed from all the media statements that I read about 9 days ago the Opposition would do, that is, to call Mr Khemlani to the Bar of the Senate.
– You would oppose it?
-Not at all. Senator Sim does not read what the Prime Minister says. On several occasions the Prime Minister has virtually challenged the Opposition -
– What did you decide in the Caucus today?
-We decided that we would continue the fight against blackmail- if Senator Sim wants it like that. That is what we decided, and we will use all proper means to do it. If Senator Sim wants to know anything further about our Caucus meeting I will tell him privately. The Opposition could have chosen that course and there would have been not a onesided recounting by Mr Khemlani, if he is so minded, of events traversing now nearly 12 months; there would have been a proper opportunity for cross-examination.
– And under privilege.
-Of course it would have been under privilege, but it would have been balanced. As a balanced legal practitioner Senator Missen must know that it is important, when material is going out to the public, to ensure that it be balanced and that it not simply be the ipse dixit of the deponent of the affidavit or statutory declaration. Senator Missen knows that as well as every other honourable senator in this chamber. The second course that could have been taken was for the Opposition to proceed with the motion of which it gave notice in this chamber last Wednesday, and require that this document- it has the numbers to get its select committee if it wants it -
– We did not have the documents.
-The Opposition had embraced Mr Khemlani, his 8 suitcases and all his documents for 72 hours by the time notice of the motion was given. Mr Ellicott, who after all was a senior Queen’s Counsel in Sydney and still is, was able to say after examining the documents: ‘There is nothing in them to implicate the Prime Minister’.
– What are you worried about?
– I am not at all worried about that, but I am very much worried about the manner in which the Opposition in the Senate is using standing order 364 and its numbers. I urge the Opposition to consider whether it is proper for a member of a Party in a majority fortuitously in the Senate- whether or not the Opposition uses the vote of a deceased senator is not material to my argument- to come along to the Senate and to say: ‘I have a statutory declaration from a certain person- inferentially implicating the Government, or purporting to do so- and I am going to read a section from it’, and then by pre-arrangement for the Opposition Whip to get up and move under standing order 364.
– What did Mr Whitlam do in the House of Representatives? He tabled all that information.
-I do not appreciate what the Opposition Whip is endeavouring to get at, but I will not be diverted from drawing attention to what I submit is fundamentally wrong, regardless of the politics of the matters. Does it mean that in the days when the previous Government was infamously committing this country to war in Vietnam, if with the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party the Opposition had produced a statutory declaration which purported to prove that the former Prime Minister had lied in relation to our involvement, it would have been proper to get that declaration before the public by this means? That to me is the issue. I submit that it is fundamentally wrong.
I am not at all worried about what is in the document that I have not seen, because I have sufficient respect for Senator Withers’ perspicacity to know that when he picked out what he thought was the plum in the statutory declaration- he has seen it, we have not- all he was able to point to was what I believed he called paragraph 15, and that contains a statement as I recall it by the deponent, Mr Khemlani, that apparently the Prime Minister knew of some continuing involvement of the Prime Minister. What was the evidence that Senator Withers quoted from that statutory declaration to support that? It was the fact that on 7
December 1974 Mr Connor had said he had talked to Mr Whitlam about the interest rate. Good God, the Bunbury police court, the Scottsdale police court or even the Hobart police court would not be guilty of hanging anyone on that.
– Why are you worried?
– I am concerned-I thought that Senator Missen had assented to my proposition- that it is extremely dangerous for the Opposition in the Senate to use its numbers and standing order 364 in this way when it has other avenues open to it. Why does it not move to set up the select committee?
– That may happen.
– It may happen, and we will take a certain attitude then.
– You will support it or oppose it?
-Senator Withers will learn then. He does not tell us what he is going to do, and we will not tell him what we are going to do. That is a separate issue. I will not be diverted. The Opposition has the numbers to set up the select committee. If the Opposition is really serious in getting to the public the truth of this matternot a one-sided story, but a story tested by crossexamination why did it not today, before it adopted this procedure, move for the setting up of the select committee and let the statutory declaration go to the committee? The Opposition has the numbers to set up the committee, and it knows it.
– Because we want to see whether there is anything to be investigated.
– Will not Senator Withers let Senator Missen see a copy? Senator Missen must be a dangerous person.
– I have not seen it yet.
-Oh, nonsense! I have never heard such a ridiculous statement. Senator Withers, having had the document for a number of hours that he can tell us- was it 2 days, 48 hours or 72 hours?
– It was 9. 1 5 last night.
– It was 9. 1 5 last night. Do I take it that Senator Missen has never looked at the document?
– I have not had a copy yet, but that is no fault of Senator Withers. I have not got a copy.
– I think that Senator Missen is trying to draw a red herring across the trail. The point is that before the motion to table this document was moved, all Opposition Senators had the opportunity, if they wished, to see the document.
– Oh, rubbish!
-Dear, oh dear, oh dear! Of course they had the opportunity to see it if they were anxious to see it. The matter could have waited until tomorrow. What was magic about today, if Senator Sim had not had time to look at the document?
– We wanted to keep all this nonsense off the air.
-That may be all right. The Opposition can make light of this matter. Opposition senators will live to regret that they used standing order 364 in this manner. Finally, on the merits, lest it be said that we want to conceal something, if Senator Withers could not produce out of the document that undoubtedly he has read something a little more cogent than paragraph 15 and the evidence in the document allegedly supporting what is contained in paragraph 15, all I can say is that this is much ado about nothing.
Motion (by Senator Sim) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, in accordance with the order of the Senate, I lay on the table of the Senate the statutory declarations and exhibits thereto. I seek leave of the Senate to propose the following motion:
That the Senate, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1 908-74, authorise the publication of statutory declarations and exhibits presented by the Leader of the Opposition this day.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I might say that this is the same motion that Mr Daly, the Leader of the House of Representatives, has always moved in that place. I move:
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– When I first expected to speak to this motion I thought I would follow Senator Withers. Although I do follow him, a number of other people have intruded between us. We have had a quite interesting symposium on the law of evidence, which I would not wish to try to recapitulate at this stage.
– You were doing very well before.
-Yes, I was. It is kind of the honourable senator to say so. There are other matters concerning us. One is the matter which is now before the Senate, and that is the restoration of the Appropriation Bills to the notice paper. The situation in which we now find ourselves would not have arisen if it had not been for the lunatic course upon which the Opposition set itself, namely, to try, for the second time within 2 years, to destroy a government which was elected for the first time less than 3 years ago.
– We do not destroy governments; the people do.
-Senator Greenwood said that members of the Opposition do not destroy governments. I think that between the lot of them they destroyed the Gorton Government and the McMahon Government which preceded us, and they destroyed those governments quite admirably. Not only do they destroy governments but they destroy Leaders of the Opposition. We saw only recently the destruction of Mr Snedden after we had an undertaking that Senator Greenwood would walk on hot coals through the Valley of Death on Mr Snedden ‘s behalf. In fact they tried to destroy the Government in May 1974, but the people would not accept their offer. The Government was returned in May 1974. Since then we have tried to carry out the policy on which we were elected. We have carried out that policy to a very large extent. The Opposition does not like that policy. For that reason it is hellbent on destroying the Government which the Australian people elected by overwhelming majorities in 1 972 and 1 974.
The Opposition is using its majority in the Senate. At the last Senate election in 1974 the Australian Labor Party gained approximately 200 000 more votes than the Liberal and Country parties senators who sit opposite us. Opposition senators have not been prepared to come out openly and reject the Budget. They have tried to use a subterfuge by moving a motion which is similar in effect to a motion which they moved last year and which we acted upon at that time. It is a motion to the effect that the Senate should withhold supply until such time as the Government has agreed to hold an election.
As a number of senators on this side of the chamber have pointed out, that motion would not have been carried had not the Premier of Queensland acted completely contrary to all convention, to all decency and to all established practice. When the late Senator Milliner died the Premier of Queensland appointed to fill his position a person who was not a member of the Australian Labor Party in contravention of the practice which has always been religiously followed by Labor governments.
Only a couple of years ago when the former Senator Prowse retired from the Senate shortly before his term of office was due to expire, the Labor Government of Western Australia appointed a gentleman by the name of Reid to fill the position for a short time. He was known as Easy come easy go Reid’. He became a senator before the next Senate election was due. As it happened, he was caught up in the thralls of the double dissolution and we lost him. But Senator Reid was appointed here, obtaining an advantage -by not having to stand for election. It was quite obvious what the Country Party was doing in artificially inducing not a birth but a departurein this case that of Senator Prowse- in order to replace him with former Senator Reid. Despite that fact, because a Country Party senator had retired the Tonkin Labor Government in Western Australia had no hesitation in appointing a Country Party senator to replace him. Had that been done here; had the same decency been shown by Mr Bjelke-Petersen as was shown by Mr Tonkin; had the same respect for democratic traditions and conventions been shown by Mr Bjelke-Petersen as was shown by Mr Tonkin when Mr Tonkin had much more reason not to follow the conventions because it was quite obviously a ploy that was being followed by the Country Party whereas in fact our former colleague, Senator Milliner, died while he was in office; and had Mr Bjelke-Petersen followed tradition, the Opposition would not have had the majority to enable them to carry a resolution that the Budget be deferred until such time as we had undertaken to hold this election.
I think that tells us volumes of the character of the people who sit opposite and it tells us volumes also about those people within the Opposition who say that they would not vote to reject a Budget. When they say that they are speaking with a forked tongue because they know very well that the resolution which has been voted on here was a resolution which would not have been carried had proper procedures been followed. The resolution was tantamount to the rejection of the Budget. The Opposition says to us: ‘Why do you not go to the people? Why do we not have an election?’ We have an answer to this- a reasonable answer and an answer which is accepted by an overwhelming majority of the Australian people. It is that if a government is elected for a 3-year term it is completely improper and completely undemocratic that an undemocratically constituted Upper House should be able to pick the time for that government to go to an election. It is completely improper because all of us ought to know, even if we do not know, that at the present time the whole of the world is involved in an economic crisis and that all governments become unpopular during a period of economic crisis.
Everyone remembers the Great Depression which extended from 1929 into the 1930s. Every government in Australia which was in office in 1929 was defeated. A Federal Labor government was defeated, a State Labor government in Victoria was defeated, a State Nationalist Government in Queensland was defeated. In every State in Australia whoever was in office of whatever party went out of office. They went out of office because of the unpopularity that comes from being in government when there is a recession. If a government has a Senate which rejects its legislation- if a government faces the circumstances that we have faced while we have been in government- it is almost impossible for a government to introduce the legislation and to carry out the programs which are necessary in order to combat this great depression. There is a depression. I do not believe it is any exaggeration, when one sees the level of unemployment and the level of inflation in the advanced capitalist countries throughout the world, to say that there is a depression. Although this depression is taking a different form from that which the last great depression took, on this occasion we have inflation instead of the deflation which accompanied the previous depression. But it is a depression and it requires measures which must, for the time being, be unpalatable. Even if the Opposition were in government whatever it did would be unpalatable to many Australian people. So unpatriotic are our opponents that they take advantage of this situation to create economic chaos throughout the country so they can move across to the right hand side of the Senate and the House of Representatives and once again be a government which can again pursue the policies which proved so disastrous to this country during the 23 years for which they were last in office.
The members of the Opposition have said that the Budget which has been introduced by this Government ought to be condemned. They have said that the Budget ought to be rejected. They have even said that the Budget has failed. How they can tell that a Budget has failed when the Budget has not even been passed and has not even been given an opportunity to be seen in action by the people is a mystery which defies the most vivid imagination. That is what members of the Opposition have said. They have said there is a great crisis which must be solved- a crisis relating to Mr Khemlani about whom we have heard so much this afternoon and about whom I would not want to weary the Senate by referring to him at any greater length. We have heard so much about Mr Khemlani.
– You will hear more.
-I can only say to Senator Durack that if we are going to hear more about Mr Khemlani I wish we had heard a little more of Mr Khemlani. Mr Khemlani was in Canberra all last week. Senator Durack ‘s leader made a number of statements to the effect that Mr Khemlani would be coming before the Bar of the Senate to give evidence. We know what happened with that. Despite the fact that the time of his permit to stay in Australia was extended by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), despite the fact that the Opposition parties knew that he would not be here this week and he was here last week, despite the fact that they said he had all these illuminating observations to make to us and that he had the good oil which he was going to give to us, and despite the fact that members of the Opposition spent hours with Mr Khemlani and his solicitor, Mr Khemlani has not appeared before the Senate. If Mr Khemlani has a well filled visa page in his passport, the passports of some of the members of the staff of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Lynch) must be almost as well filled as those of Mr Khemlani.
– They are the poor man’s James Bond.
-Yes, they are the poor man’s James Bond, as Senator Mulvihill so colourfully puts it. Their peregrinations backwards and forwards from here to London to Zurich were certainly sufficient to obtain any information they needed. But in fact when Mr Ellicott- unlike Senator Durack, Senator Withers and me, he is a Queen ‘s Counsel, one of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in the law and a former Solicitor-General- went to Sydney to peruse all these documents which filled 8 suitcases with the assistance of a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales who so far has preserved his taciturnity on this subject, what did Mr Ellicott, Q.C., M.P., have to tell us? He told us that there was nothing there which in any way would implicate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). If there had been anything to implicate anybody else, if not the Prime Minister, I am sure we would have heard from Mr Ellicott.
– Well, directly. If there had been something which implicated the Prime Minister or anyone else indirectly, I think we would ha.ve heard all about it. If Mr Ellicott had found anything there that could have linked Mr Whitlam or anybody else directly or indirectly I do not think that he would have preserved this maidenly silence on the subject. I think we might have heard from him today, for example, in the House of Representatives. Have we heard anything from Mr Ellicott, Q.C., or his instructing solicitor, Mr Howard? No, we have heard not a word from either of them of any evidence which would implicate anybody directly or indirectly, as Senator Durack reminds me, on this topic. This is such a gripping matter that I feel it would be a pity to rush it. I think that the things which I will be revealing here during the course of this debate will be so exciting that it would be a pity to cramp them in any manner whatsoever. I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate 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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have included in Hansard the terms of my second reading speech.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech, read as follows)-
In the 1972 election speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) it was foreshadowed that moves would be made to licence overseas and interstate travel agents operating in Australia. Shortly after the Government assumed office, action was taken to commence the preparation of appropriate national legislation the basis of which was to be the protection of consumer interests. Ensuing discussions with the State governments and travel industry organisations revealed general support for such legislation.
In their operations, travel agents are principally engaged in the sale of both domestic and international bookings on all forms of transport and on package tours which generally include travel, sightseeing and accommodation. For providing this service travel agents receive a commission on sales.
Accurate information is not available at present regarding the financial magnitude of travel agency operations in Australia, although recent estimates have it that the gross commissionable sales of international and domestic air travel by agents during the year ended 1973-74 were of the order of $400m.
At present the main constraints on travel agents are associated with the accreditation requirements of the major air and sea carriers and travel industry associations. Indirectly, the various accreditation systems have benefited travellers because the systems, particularly those of carriers, maintain standards relating to such factors as financial stability, turnover and experience. Bonding is an integral part of accreditation. However, its prime purpose is to protect the interests of carriers not travellers; travellers must rely on the goodwill of carriers to look after their interests.
There are no reliable statistics on the number of businesses operating ostensibly as travel agents although conservative estimates suggest around 1500 agencies Australia wide. Of this number, less than 50 per cent would have any recognised accreditation to support their operations.
From his knowledge of the travel trade, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation is convinced that the vast majority of travel agents conduct their business by reasonable and sensible standards having due regard to the interests of both clients and principals. However, because of the actions of some irresponsible people, the reputation of travel agents is clouded not only to outsiders but also to those within the travel industry.
All the efforts of travel industry organisations such as the Australian Federation of Travel Agents and the International Air Transport Association to enforce their codes of ethics have so far proved ineffective in preventing agency failures. While the number of failures has been small, the impact on those affected has been considerable.
To stress the tragic implications of agency failures for travellers, it is worth highlighting one of the more outstanding recent failures. Some honourable senators will no doubt recall the spectacle of the collapse of Travel House of Australia during 1972. When the company closed its doors hundreds of travellers were stranded throughout the world and many were unable to take that overseas trip for which they had already paid. In addition to losing their money many travellers were subjected to gross inconvenience and had to seek assistance from Australian missions overseas.
Investigations by the Victorian AttorneyGeneral revealed that the company had accumulated debts amounting to $774,000 and had realisable assets worth less than $100,000. It was found the company’s affairs had been grossly mismanaged and clients’ funds had been misused.
It is time, therefore, that the community can turn to travel agents confident in the knowledge that they are dealing with professional people bound by codes and practices which uphold their interests. Travel industry organisations have tried to develop such confidence, but since they have been unable to enforce those standards aimed at achieving this, they looked to the Government for assistance. The Bill could thus be seen as a response to industry needs quite apart from its consumer protection emphasis.
State governments have indicated that they favour a uniform Act and, with the exception of N.S.W., have agreed not to introduce separate legislation if Australian Government legislation is satisfactory. In the case of N.S.W., that Government felt its citizens needed protection against travel agents in the interim and, therefore, proceeded to introduce their legislation which was implemented last year. It should be added at this stage that the then N.S.W. Minister for Tourism, now the Premier, stated that if national legislation was introduced and it was acceptable to the N.S.W. Government, then the N.S. W. legislation would be allowed to lapse.
The legislation has been developed after lengthy and detailed discussions with the travel industry and the States. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation has made every effort to include all the points raised, provided they met the basic objective of protecting the travelling public. At the same time, he sought to avoid imposing such harsh and stringent controls as to cause a major disruption to the travel industry.
The result has been a complex piece of legislation, It requires careful study to be fully understood.
The Bill has been subject to close public scrutiny since the Government introduced it on 6 March in the other place. Suggestions for amendments were received by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation and those which were seen to improve the Bill have now been included. I would now like to provide honourable senators with some brief comments on the principal elements of the Bill. Part I defines the business of a travel agent. In summary, the definition covers persons who, in their normal course of business, undertake or offer to arrange travel and /or accommodation and meals for other persons involving the use of facilities they do not own. Charter and tour operators are specifically included as travel agents because, although they are principals in marketing tours, their operations involve the use of facilities which do not belong to them.
Whilst this definition can be interpreted widely, it is not intended to cover certain activities and in order to exclude them appropriate exemption provisions are incorporated. For example, the legislation will not apply normally to principals provided they only offer to the public, services or facilities they own. The appointment of the Registrar of Travel Agents is also provided for under Part I. The Registrar will be engaged under the Public Service Act and his main functions will be to assist the proposed Travel Agents Regulation Board in administering the legislation. Part II provides for the establishment of the Travel Agents Regulation Board which will be primarily responsible for the administration of the legislation. The board will comprise three part-time members, namely a chairman, with a legal background, a departmental representative and another member who will have a knowledge of and experience concerning the business of travel agents.
To facilitate meetings of the Board, provision has been made for the appointment of up to 7 deputy members any one of whom could stand in for the member representing travel agents on the Board. Normally, a deputy member would be invited to stand in for the other member when the member was unable to attend a particular meeting. The Board will be assisted in its work by staff from the Department of Tourism and Recreation. For the convenience of enabling decisions to be made without continual reference to the Board, provisions has been made for the Board to delegate powers and functions to the Registrar or staff. Part III is a key section of the Bill. This
Part outlines various restrictions on conducting a travel agency and specifies penalties which will result from contravention of the different provisions. The question of penalties was the subject of particular attention during drafting of the Bill. To maximise the effect of consumer protection, onerous penalties have been provided for in this Part and in other Parts of the Bill as a deterrent to malpractices by agents.
It should also be pointed out that Part III embodies a fundamental principle which is developed in later Parts of the Bill, namely that each authorised travel agency premises will have to be under the immediate control of a registered travel agent manager unless the Board approves otherwise. The concept underlying this principle is that a person competent in travel matters will be responsible for the maintenance of statutory standards within the agency at all times. Part IV is concerned with the registration of travel agent managers and the licensing of travel agencies. Individuals will be registered as travel agent managers on the basis of integrity and expertise in travel matters. Registration is an integral part of the principle of travel agency management. Through registration, it is envisaged that minimum standards for qualifications and experience will be established which should lead to a higher degree of professionalism in the conduct of persons engaged in travel matters.
On the other hand, travel business, that is, agencies, will be licensed on the basis of financial stability and the business integrity of the owners. Licensing will be the principal device used to control the activities of travel agencies. In essence, without a licence, no person, partnership or company will be allowed to operate a travel agency. Provided an applicant for a licence meets the necessary criteria, the Board will approve the licence. However, the licensee will not be able to conduct the agency unless he is a registered travel agent manager or until he engages the services of a registered travel agent manager to supervise the business. The Bill requires that all travel agency premises will be licensed. Therefore, in cases where an organisation owns several agencies, each location will have to be licensed separately. Part V deals with the accounts and records which licensees will be required to maintain. The provisions are designed to ensure that proper accounts are kept, that clients’ funds are used for the purpose for which they are paid to an agent and also to bring a degree of uniformity in accounting methods adopted by agencies. Agents will be required to open an account with a bank and deposit into it all moneys received from or on behalf of clients.
The account will be subject to regular audit and also scrutiny by authorised officers of the Board.
Some honourable senators will no doubt be prompted to ask why trust accounting provisions are not specified. Before proceeding to develop the accounts provisions, various policy options, including trust accounts, were carefully studied. Having regard to the objectives of the legislation, travel industry practices and the practical application of trust accounts it was decided to avoid the use of trust accounts in their strictest sense. It was felt that the most sensible approach would be to devise accounting arrangements which would require moneys exchanged between travel agents and their clients to be channelled through a statutory account. An important point which should be stressed is that this Bill provides for the stringent supervision of accounts and records. Wide powers are given to the Travel Agents Regulation Board and the Registrar to ensure that accounts and records are properly maintained. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation informs me that he is satisfied that the legislation provides ample protection of clients’ moneys in travel agents statutory accounts. Trust accounts would afford no greater protection but would be more costly to administer. In addition, there is the protection of the proposed Fidelity Fund.
Under Part VI, the duties of licensed travel agents in their dealings with clients and principals, are outlined. The key requirement is for the agent “to exercise due care, skill or diligence in acting for a client”. The failure by an agent to observe his statutory obligation will be dealt with by the Board which could order, among other penalties, revocation of a licence. Provision has been made for the Board to consider legitimate grievances against licensees or registered travel agent managers. Parts VII and VIII are mainly concerned with procedural matters associated with cancellation of the registration of a travel agent manager, the surrender or cancellation of licences and the conduct of inquiries by the Board. Honourable senators will find the various provisions of these Parts self-explanatory. So far the Bill has concentrated on supporting the interests of and promoting the rights of travellers- and to a degree principals. Part IX seeks to protect the rights of those persons seeking approval to operate as travel agents and those persons already authorised to operate as such, by allowing them the right of appeal to a tribunal. Part X provides for the issue of permits for the temporary supervision of an agency, for example, in the event of the death of a licensee. A permit may be subject to special conditions as determined by the Board.
Part XI is another important area and relates solely to the establishment and maintenance of the Travel Agents Fidelity Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to compensate travellers for financial losses suffered because of the activities of travel agents. The Fund, which will be administered by the Board, is seen as the ultimate protection that can be afforded the interests of agents’ clients. The resources of the Fund will initially be raised using deposits contributed by licensed travel agents. Details of the size of the Fund and the amount of the deposit licensees will be required to contribute are to be covered in the regulations. It is intended that the Fund should be selfperpetuating and in order to achieve this the Board will be empowered to invest the resources of the Fund. In time, the growth of the Fund through investment could ease the financial obligations of licensed travel agents towards maintaining the Fund. In the event that the resources of the Fund are depleted due to successive agency failures, the Board will be able to make a levy on licensees. In this way the Fund can be maintained at a level such that additional claims for compensation can be met. Only certain types of financial losses will be eligible for compensation under the Fidelity Fund. The various categories are covered under Clause 91. For each category, the loss sustained must be related to a failure on the part of an agent to properly discharge his obligations to a client. Compensation will not be payable unless it can be shown that a travel agent failed in his obligations under the Act and the licence of a travel agent was subsequently suspended, revoked, cancelled or expires and not renewed. It will be appreciated that the Bill provides for the travel agent to exercise due care, skill and diligence.
Honourable senators will note that compensation will not be payable for every conceivable circumstance or ‘loss’ which a person may suffer. A claim on the Fund must be for the actual pecuniary loss suffered. By this, it is meant that travellers must accept that during the course of a tour, certain events or additional costs may be imposed upon them over which an agent has no control whatsoever and could not reasonably be held to blame. Claims for damages in respect of inconvenience, ill health, etc., will not be allowed. Some limit needs to operate to enable the Fund to meet claims arising from several failures at any particular time. For this purpose, it is proposed that in respect of any one defaulting licensed travel agent a limit be prescribed in the regulations on the total amount which may be paid out to cover the aggregate amount of claims for compensation. Honourable senators will note that the Board may direct a claimant to institute proceedings against a licensee to ensure all avenues of recourse open to the claimant have been properly pursued. The costs of such proceedings will be borne by the Fund. In the event of an overpayment on a claim, the Board will be able to institute its own proceedings against a claimant or the former licensee to recover the amount.
Finally, I come to Part XII of the Bill. This Part covers a number of miscellaneous matters regarding the conduct of an agent or licensee and the general administration of the legislation. For example, if the Board has refused a person registration as a travel agent manager on the grounds that he was not a person of business integrity or has had his registration revoked then a licensee must not knowingly employ that person unless the approval of the Board is obtained. This provision clearly seeks to protect the public interest against those persons whose competence or integrity in the arrangement of travel are questionable. In relation to administration, specific provision is made to exempt the Board’s operations from taxation liability- the provision is in the usual form for statutory bodies. Mr President, I commend the Bill.
– Before I formally move the adjournment of the debate, I indicate very briefly that whilst there have been spread among people interested in the outcome of this legislation rumours that in some way it was being held up as a result of some action taken by the Opposition, in seeking the adjournment I do not intend that these Bills should be held up. The Opposition will be happy to deal with them promptly and as soon as the Government wishes to bring them on.
– Does the honourable senator want to bring them on now?
– As the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland) knows, a number of amendments were made in the House of Representatives and a number of others were mooted. These will require some discussion so the Bills will take some little time to put through. I indicate the Opposition ‘s preparedness to deal with the Bills as soon as the Government can provide the time in its management of the business of the chamber. I totally deny that there is any Opposition attempt to delay these Bills at any stage of their proceedings.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
– I move:
Having regard to what Senator Rae has said, I point out that there are some 34 Bills on the Senate notice paper at this stage awaiting passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is a supplementary measure to the Travel Agents Bill 1975 and should, therefore, be read in conjunction with that Bill. The Bill is necessary to ensure the validity of the deposits and levies provisions of the Travel Agents Bill with regard to the fidelity fund. Mr President, I commend the Bill.
– I shall seek the adjournment of this debate but indicate, as I did in relation to the Travel Agents Bill 1975 in reply to what Senator Douglas McClelland said about there being 34 Bills on the notice paper waiting to be dealt with, that if we did not keep on dealing with the same legislation day in day out as we have done over the past couple of weeks and if we got on with the legislation we would be able to get all these Bills through. I indicate again that the Opposition is anxious to see this legislation, with what we believe to be improvements, passed as soon as possible. We certainly will be supporting the overall objectives of the proposed legislation.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) 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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the terms of my second reading speech.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Customs Tariff Bill now before the Senate proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1974. The Bill, which contains 27 Schedules, is designed to enact tariff changes made by Tariff Proposals introduced into the Parliament from 25 September 1974 to 20 August 1975. The tariff changes arise, in the main, out of decisions by the Government on recommendations made in reports by the Tariff Board, Industries Assistance Commission and Temporary Assistance Authority. The Bill also contains increases in Customs duties on potable spirits and manufactured tobacco products which formed part of the Government’s budgetary program.
All of the changes in the Bill have been in operation for some time. In view of the magnitude of the Bill and the numerous reports involved, I do not propose at this stage to detail at length the contents of each of those reports. However, I have had prepared a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the changes in duty rates and the origin of each of the amendments contained in the Bill. This summary is now being circulated to honourable senators and I feel sure will be of assistance to them during the ensuing debate. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 5.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is it the intention of the Australian Government, after the introduction of Medibank on1 July1975, that all medical and hospital expenses and health insurance premiums paid by taxpayers should continue to be concessional deductions for the purpose of taxation; if not, why not.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Other than their conversion to rebates under the income tax reforms announced in my Budget Speech, 1 do not envisage changes to expenditures now allowable for hospital, medical, etc., expenses and for contributions to hospital and medical benefit funds. I note, however, that some funds have begun offering benefit schedules that contain elements relating to categories of expenditure not allowable under present law and I am having the implications of this development put to study.
Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (Question No. 698)
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
By what legislation or other authority-
has the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation been established;
has each State Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation been established;
has staff been appointed or allocated to such Committees and remuneration and allowances been paid to members of the Committees and their staff; and
are persons required to answer questions and appear before the Committees.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information requested is wide ranging and would require considerable research and approaches to a number of departments and authorities to obtain the answers.
If there are any specific programs on which the honourable senator requires information I suggest he direct his question to the Ministers responsible for each program.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What are the titles of the reports, papers or documents produced by or for the Government since December 1972 in the areas of the Attorney-General’s responsibility which have not been publicly released.
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s reply to Question No. 885 (Senate Hansard 2 October 1975, page 930).
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Austral String Quartet will visit Moscow during December 1975 as part of a wider tour. The cost of this visit is expected to be approximately $2,000.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– In response to a question without notice that Senator Carrick asked me on 16 October 1975, the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has informed me that he has not received, nor does he have knowledge of, any approaches from either of the banks mentioned by the honourable senator.
The Treasurer has assured me also that he has informed relevant institutions that they have no authority to act on behalf of the Australian Government.
ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd
– On 7 October, Senator
Chaney, referring to an earlier question without notice he had asked on 2 October, asked me without notice when the files relating to the transfer of oil to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd would be tabled in the Senate.
I do not intend to table the relevant file. Its contents have already become public information as Exhibit No. 377 before the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
The following organisations have not yet forwarded statements of expenditure for 1974-75:
Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
The above organisations have been contacted and it is understood that audited statements of expenditure will be available in the near future.
Grants can be approved for those costs associated with the operation of the project including salaries, rent, ar.d other associated recurrent costs, such as stationery, power, communications, etc.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question.
My Department also has been co-ordinating the compilation of a conspectus of Government financial assistance programs. This record, which is being prepared in the interest of informing members and senators of Government programs, has been under preparation since July 1 975.
Information in this record will be broken down where possible on an electorate basis for the benefit of all members of parliament and I expect a preliminary version to be available shortly. I referred to the conspectus in my answer on 30 September 1975 (House of Representatives Hansard, pages 1459-60).
I note that the Leader of the Opposition has on more than one occasion sought information on an electorate basis. For example, I would draw the honourable senator’s attention to Questions Nos. 3198 and 3201 on the House of Representatives Notice Paper addressed to the Ministers representing the Ministers for Social Security and Labor and Immigration.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 November 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19751104_senate_29_s66/>.