30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 6 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any one year would-
be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
Require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 380 electors of Queensland:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of Queensland respectfully showeth-
That the three service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 73 citizens of Wreck Bay:
We the undersigned citizens of Australia humbly petition the Australian Senate that whereas:
the Queensland Government has passed legislation to allow mining on the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve and
whereas the Aurukun Aboriginal Community have declared that they want no mining on their land and
whereas the Liberal-Country Partys’ policy is to allow mining of Aboriginal land only “in a manner which reflects the views and needs of the traditional aboriginal owners.” The petitioners pray that the Australian Government will:
initiate a Commission of enquiry into the mining proposed on the Aboriginal Land at Aurukun
refuse categorically to grant an export licence to the proposed mining consortium until there are negotiations with the Aurukun Community which results in an agreement on any mining terms.
In the event of no agreement being reached with the Aboriginal Community that the Australian Government will persist with its refusal to grant an export licence and
insist on a50 per cent Australian equity in the proposed mining venture.
Your petitioners humbly pray.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Has the Government determined its policy on tertiary education fees for 1 977 and succeeding years? If so, in what way does that policy differ from the Government’s policy for the current calendar year? If not, what is the Government’s policy on tertiary education fees for this year?
– The Government is in process at this moment of developing a program for the whole of education for the triennium 1977-1979. The honourable senator will know that his own Party, when in government, abandoned the program for the triennium commencing 1976 and made 1976 a year to be treated separately. The program for the triennium 1977-1979 if and when determined- and I hope it will be- by the Government will be announced as part of the ordinary budgetary measures for presentation later this year. Therefore, as to the first part of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, tertiary allowances for the year 1977 will be announced in due course as will other matters relating to 1 977.
As to our policy today with respect to tertiary allowances, the present Government in the course of the last election campaign undertook that it would maintain the whole of the education programs that the former Government had announced in the Budget presented on 1 9
August of last year. I think all honourable senators should understand that that Budget contained a very sharp cutback in education expenditure to the extent that in the calendar year 1 976 there is a cutback of 6 per cent in real expenditure figures. So, the money that is being spent today represents a 6 per cent reduction on expenditure in 1975.
Included in that decision in August by the Government which was of the philosophy of the Leader of the Opposition was the maintenance of tertiary education assistance allowances at what are 1974-75 values. We undertook to maintain that program. So, the 1976 allowances will be those which were in the 1975-76 Budget. They will not have been adjusted. They cannot be so, not because of any unwillingness by my Government but because in the last Budget the then Government sought to overspend some $5,000m, creating that level of deficit, on other areas, with the result that expenditure on education and other vital issues has had to be pruned and now those areas must carry the burden of those cutbacks.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen a report that thousands of sugar cane farmers in Queensland will lose as much as 90c in the dollar in taxation this year following a bumper crop and a lift in world market prices? Will the Minister endeavour to overcome the inequities and iniquities that result from a tax scheme that was introduced initially to assist borderline primary producers but which has taken no account of Labor-inspired inflation or of the apparent upturn in world sugar prices?
– I have not seen the report. I am most interested to hear about it. I shall direct the honourable senator’s question with its underlying concern to the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Is the Minister aware that the Minister for Repatriation in another place has delivered instructions to the Repatriation Department that require officers of that Department to give special consideration to all ex-servicemen living in the electorate of Bass? Bass, of course, is the electorate represented by the Minister for Repatriation. Will the Minister seek an assurance from the Minister for Repatriation that the same preferential treatment will be extended to ex-servicemen living in all other Federal divisions in Australia?
– I am not aware of any of the assertions which have been made by the honourable senator. I can only assure him that any Minister in this Government would give to every person in Australia the same consideration with whatever requests were made.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources or the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that due to the problems of the copper mining industry at large, and to the fact that the first 29 dismissal notices have been issued today by the Mount Lyell company, some emigration has already started from Queenstown? Can the Minister expedite a decision on the degree of assistance to be made available to the Mount Lyell company to avoid what I trust will be an unnecessary disruption to the community?
-This matter has been referred to in the Senate on previous occasions by honourable senators. At that time I said that I would direct the questions to the Minister. I have done that. There has not been an answer yet. I shall seek to ascertain what can be done. I mentioned earlier that there were 2 problems in the industry. The first was the very heavy increase in the Australian cost base in the last 5 years- it has been quite massive- and second was the low price for copper. Those who look in today’s newspaper will find reference to the impending rise in copper prices on the London Metal Exchange. I do not know how far that will go towards helping the problem but it is an indication that perhaps some benefit will come.
– I refer the Minister for Administrative Services to an answer which he gave me yesterday concerning the impounding of the diaries of Mr Whitlam ‘s bodyguards, and particularly to Commonwealth Police General Order 16 which the Minister cited to me yesterday. It is found on page 294 of the Senate Hansard. In pan it reads:
Inspection. Diaries are to be entered daily except under special circumstances and are to be inspected as follows:
I understand that the bodyguards come under that category- weekly by the Officer under whose control they are and forwarded to the Officer-in-Charge of the District ever)’ fortnight.
I ask the Minister: Was this section of the Police General Order relating to weekly inspection of the diaries and the forwarding of them every fortnight to the officer-in-charge of the district carried out? If so, is it reasonable to assume that the further decision to impound the diaries 3 months after the entries were made was designed to be an intimidatory and provocative act against the Leader of the Opposition?
-I would have thought that as a result of my answer yesterday- I thought it was a factual answer- the Opposition and the honourable senator in particular, would have ceased to use the word ‘impounded’. The diaries have not been impounded. They cannot be impounded. If the honourable senator reads regulation 17 he might attempt to understand plain English. The diaries did not have to be impounded. As I understand the regulations and the general orders, the chief commissioner is entitled to inspect the diaries as is any superior officer of the person who makes the entries in the diaries. I thought that yesterday I gave the reasons these investigations had been put in train. As I recall an answer given by the Attorney-General in the other place, the Labor Government when in office vastly increased the penalty for breaches of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations- I think to an indictable offence. A person if convicted could be imprisoned, I think for a period of 4 years; could suffer a fine of up to $100,000; and the sum brought illegally into Australia could be forfeited. Those penalties for a breach of the regulations are an indication of how seriously the previous Government regarded any breach of them.
It is therefore not unreasonable that when allegations are made- albeit they may have been made in the media- that there may have been or could have been breaches of those regulations, then the Commonwealth police ought to take all proper steps to ascertain whether there has been a breach of the law. That is all that the Commonwealth Police have done. As a part of that investigation the superior officer, in accordance with the provisions of regulation 1 7, has sent for the diaries. He is entitled to send for them. He does not impound them; he does not confiscate them. He does nothing else but send for them and read them. As has been said time and time again and as the Prime Minister said in his Press statement the other day, the Prime Minister has not seen the diaries and has no intention of seeing them. I have not seen them, nor do I have any intention of seeing them. But they have been made available to the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. If that amounts to harassment of the Leader of the Opposition in the other place it is a strange interpretation of the word ‘harassment’. One should have thought that the previous Labor Government, having increased the penalties in this area, would regard the allegations in the media as a matter of seriousness and a matter which ought to be completely investigated by the police force so that persons who may have been in breach would be charged and persons who have not been in breach would be shown to be innocent.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I ask: Can he confirm that his colleague has announced that in future the Industries Assistance Commission will publish only draft reports for analysis by industry rather than final ones? Will that assist or adversely affect in any way the obtaining of widespread and open industry comment on those reports?
– I am aware that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has made some statement in this area, but I do not have the exact text of it before me. I will obtain the text and let the honourable senator have it. I should indicate that the purpose of and general intent behind the Minister’s statement was that opportunity would be given for interested persons to examine a draft report which has been prepared by the Industries Assistance Commission before any final decision is made either by the Commission or the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has issued a directive restricting the employment of females on ministerial staffs to steno-secretaries and positions of a similar level? If so, does that demonstrate a lack of trust in the .Ministers or in the females?
-I am surprised that the honourable senator should ask that question. I do not have all the details before me at present, but I do have a full list of all the people appointed to ministerial staffs. The staffing arrangement for Ministers was issued over my signature. It was issued in respect of positions only. I might say that in my area the No. 1 position is held by a man and the No. 2 position is held by a woman. That woman has worked for me for some 3 years and is better at the position than most men one could find. But if one looks through the ministerial staffing arrangements over a range of 24 Ministers one will find, as I recall it, that there are some Ministers who have a woman as their principal private secretary. As far as the members of the Liberal-Country Party Ministry are concerned- I have to be careful that I do not express myself badly here; 1 was going to say that we are not interested in sex, but that is not true- we are not interested in the sex of the employee. What we are interested in is the quality of the employee. Women of such quality will be employed irrespective of their age, race, religion, colour or any other form of discrimination which anybody might be able to dream up.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I preface it by reminding the Minister that many Vietnamese who are now living in Australia are without regular news from their families in Vietnam. These people, many of whom are refugees, are unaware whether their families are well, whether they have been ordered not to write, whether they are being reeducated or whether they are in concentration camps. Is the Minister aware that the few letters that have got through have taken up to 10 weeks to do so, irrespective whether they were posted in Saigon or Hanoi? Is any immediate action contemplated by way of representation or negotiation with the new Government of Vietnam which might improve postal communication between that country and Australia? Is it possible to discover the reasons for the loss of communication between Vietnamese in Australia and their relatives in Vietnam? Can the Minister offer any hope that communication will soon be restored to normal?
– I have some briefing notes on this matter. The Minister for Foreign affairs advises me as follows: For several months after the end of the war in Vietnam it was not possible for letters from Australia to be delivered to addressees in the Republic of South Vietnam because of the extensive disruptions which had occurred to the postal service in that country and the need to establish new international arrangements for delivery of letters. However, on 16 October the Democratic Republic of Vietnam Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications advised our Embassy in Hanoi that 2 1 bags of mail for South Vietnam from Australia had been received and distributed. On 1 December a postal agreement between Vietnam and Australia officially came into effect. Our understanding has been that mail services are now operating normally. The only requirement is that items of mail be of no more than 20 grams. Mail for South Vietnam is despatched from Australia via Hanoi 3 times a week. If the honourable senator could provide details of extensive delays, the Australian Embassy in Hanoi would be informed and could discuss the question with the appropriate postal authorities with a view to seeking improvements.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Since earlier plans were made to introduce identity documents for travel between New Zealand and Australia to combat drug peddlers and other undesirable citizens entering Australia- incidentally, they are not necessarily Australian or New Zealand nationals- are we to assume that this problem no longer exists, or what alternative does the Minister propose to cope with this situation?
– As I understand the situation, no firm plans were concluded by the former Government, although at the March 1975 meeting the Australian Minister and the New Zealand Minister agreed at that time that they should ask their respective governments to consider a recommendation that all travellers across the Tasman Sea should carry identification. As no firm decision was taken at the meeting in February 1976 between the present Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the New Zealand Minister for Immigration, it was agreed that there was insufficient evidence that the problems arising were of such dimension as to justify requiring the large number of citizens of both countries who travel across the Tasman Sea to obtain passports or other travel documents. They also agreed to continuing consultation on trans-Tasman travel and other aspects of immigration which are of common interest to both countries. Should there be evidence of significant problems, the matter can be raised again by either government as a matter of urgency.
– Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware that 2 textile manufacturers, Dowd Associates Pty Ltd and Berlei Hestia Industries Ltd have made a decision to expand, despite a warning by the Department of Manufacturing Industry that protection for this section of the industry was to drop? Will the Government warn these manufacturers that they cannot expect additional protection and warn them also that they should not use the threat of a loss of jobs to bring pressure on the Government for higher protection?
-I was not aware of the position in regard to the 2 firms mentioned by the honourable senator. I am aware in general that the Department of Manufacturing Industry has been saying to various people that they should be careful about plans to expand beyond sensible limits. Such plans, of course, are based upon their own commercial assessment of their possibilities and should not be taken therefore as an automatic guarantee later that if that commercial judgment is shown to be false, wrong or unwise they will be helped out of all sorts of troubles.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to a report in the Courier-Mail newspaper of 1 March 1 976 in which the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, is quoted as saying, ‘Education would be one of the fields to suffer from government economies’? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Deputy Prime Minister’s prediction is correct? If his prediction is correct, what areas of expenditure on education are likely to be affected?
-No, I did not see the report in the Courier-Mail and therefore I cannot comment on an alleged statement by the Deputy Prime Minister. While on my feet I will repeat some facts for the edification of the honourable senator and for the community. First, the education budget for the calendar year 1976 will be precisely the same, with all its warts and all its blemishes, as the one the then Labor Government brought in on 1 9 August 1 975 including the education allowances and other measures.
– What about the innovations program?
– The honourable senator interjecting will have an opportunity to ask her question, and I will be delighted to respond. It is well to say to a senator from the Labor Party: Physician, heal thyself.
– I raise a point of order. I regret having to take a point of order on the Minister. Mr President, I draw your attention to standing order 100 which provides:
In answering any such question, a senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
Quite seriously, there is no doubt that the Minister was in fact ranging far and wide beyond the substance of the question that was asked by Senator Colston. He was in fact infringing standing order 100.
– I speak to the point of order. I put to you, Sir, that the Minister was asked a hard political question and he was giving a hard political answer. It may be that question time will be a namby-pamby operation, to which I do not object, but if honourable senators like to ask tough questions they ought to expect tough replies. I fail to see why Ministers should be subjected to quite rough questioning- to which we do not object- if the questioners object when they get rough answers. Mr President, I suggest you rule that the Minister is in order.
– The liberality which has been allowed to members in questioning and to Ministers when responding has been extended so that full explanations may be elicited. Ministers will at all times endeavour to be as explicit as possible in reply. The point of order is not upheld. I call Senator Carrick.
-I direct myself specifically to the point raised by the honourable senator from Queensland which related to cuts in education. I pointed out, and I reiterate, that Labor should heal itself because the primary cut, which was some 6 per cent in real value, was made by Labor in August. I repeat specifically that there will be no cut in the 1976 program at all and the future programs will be announced, I hope, in a triennium, the only qualification to that triennium being the sum of $7,000m deficit built up by the previous Government, thereby hog-tying all great social issues in Australia.
– I preface my supplementary question by quoting the article which I referred to previously which appeared in the Courier Mail and which stated:
Education would be one of the fields to suffer from Government economies, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, said at the weekend.
I ask the Minister for Education whether he will ask his colleague what he actually meant by this comment?
– In my response I pointed out that I had not read the article, that I was not aware of the allegation and therefore I could not answer it. I have responded precisely to the question. If the honourable senator wants further information let him put his question on notice and I will get an answer for him.
– I ask the Minister for Science: In view of the serious effect that the box jellyfish and other kindred stingers have on the lives of people in northern Australia, not only in the loss of life and the inconvenience caused by the closing of beaches in the summer months but also by the loss of revenue to those engaged in the tourist industry, will the Minister ensure that research into the habits of these stingers is given high priority by the Australian Institute of Marine Science based at Townsville so that control and eradication can be achieved?
– I thank Senator Maunsell for his question. I recently visited the Australian Institute of Marine Science and saw for myself - (Honourable senators interjecting)
- Mr President, I cannot be heard.
-The honourable senator will be pleased to know that I recently visited the Australian Institute of Marine Science and saw for myself the excellent work that is being undertaken in Townsville. Whilst there I met Dr William Hamner whose primary research objective is the Great Barrier Reef but who is also looking into the basic problems relating to jellyfish, stingers and related organisms. Dr Hamner is a world authority on coelenterates having studied them for many years at the University of California and is continuing his interest in them in Australia. When at AIMS - (Honourable senators interjecting)
– Order! There shall be less interjection and less discussion. It is impossible for our reporting staff to take down the answer in the noise that is going on. I would ask all honourable senators to observe silence when a Minister is replying to a question.
– It is not -
– You are making it farcical.
– I heard an interjection to the effect that this is a farcical reply. If the honourable senator who interjected only knew the problem that existed with stingers in Queensland and at least shared the interest of some honourable senators on my side of the chamber as to the effect on that area they would be concerned.
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I invite your attention to standing order 363 and I ask for your guidance. Standing order 363 says:
A Document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature, or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public Document.
Mr President, I ask for your advice as to whether, when Senator Webster has completed reading his answer to the question, I can then ask for that document to be tabled.
– The answer is yes, you can ask for that. I call Senator Sibraa.
-Mr President, with due respect, the sting was coming in the latter part of my answer, I thought.
– I call Senator Webster.
-When at AIMS I was interested to see the live stinger specimens which Dr Hamner holds in captivity for study purposes. I am aware of the valuable research into stinger toxins that has been carried out by Dr Barnes in Cairns. I shall certainly draw Senator Maunsell ‘s request to the attention of the Institute.
- Mr President, I ask, in accordance with standing order 363, that the document that was read by the Minister be tabled.
-With regard to the point of order, I did not quote from a public document and there is no call upon me whatsoever to table the document. If the honourable senator had had sufficient sense to listen he would have been able to hear the reply that I made. I have here a briefing note from my Department and I am quite pleased to table that document, and I now do so.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of statements made recently on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program AM by Mr Barry 0 ‘Hagen from the Freedom from Hunger organisation characterising the Government’s policy of reducing foreign aid appropriations as ‘objectionable and reprehensible’? Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no future further cuts in the aid program which can only cause further damage to Australia’s reputation in the Third World?
– The honourable senator appears to be terribly worried about Australia’s reputation in the Third World. I would have thought we would be far more interested in our reputation amongst our friends.
– Have you not any friends in the Third World?
-I do not know whether the honourable senator belongs to that World or to some other world. Senator Sibraa asked me for detailed information about a depanment, whose Minister I represent in this place. I will seek for the honourable senator information about where the current aid is going. I assure him that what we will do in regard to aid will be done for the advancement of both Australia and the people who receive the aid. Aid will not necessarily be going to black African terrorists.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to recent Press correspondence and speculation as to the continued implementation of the Australian Heritage Commission Act which was passed unanimously by the last Parliament. Can the Minister assure the Senate that the membership and staff of the Australian Heritage Commission will be speedily appointed and that the Act will be implemented fully and effectively so as to achieve the major objectives laid down in the report on the National Estate.
– I think I gave to Senator Durack within the last week an answer which I think covers most of the things I can say in response to the question the honourable senator has now asked me. There is no question that the Government is committed to the objectives of the Australian Heritage Commission. We said that in the course of the debate on the Bill last year. It was in the policy that was announced prior to the election in December 1975, and it has been reiterated by myself in this chamber and by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives. Questions have arisen as to how the objectives of the Commission can best be implemented. As I indicated, these questions include whether duplication can be avoided in staff and whether the Commission can best be serviced by a depanment rather than by a staff of its own. Questions also arise as to how one avoids duplication with existing State organisations which have been established since the Australian Heritage Commission legislation was passed. The Government is doing what it can to have these questions resolved as quickly as possible. I hope to be able to make an announcement about this matter in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface I refer him to a question in the following terms which was asked of him by Senator Douglas McClelland yesterday:
Who ordered the impounding by Commonwealth Police of the diaries of the 5 Commonwealth policemen who were the bodyguards of the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam? Who ordered the interrogation last Friday by Commonwealth Police of executives of the Australian advertising agency, Mullins, Clarke and Ralph? What is the nature of any report that has been made to him as Minister responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth Police Force?
The Leader of the Government in the Senate in his reply, amongst a lot of chin-waffle, said that the Attorney-General had authorised an investigation to be made in view of allegations in the Press and because to use his words, ‘questions have arisen whether a serious breach of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations may have been committed or attempted’. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate ascertain how information came to the AttorneyGeneral that foreign money had been brought to Australia by 2 Iraqis in breach of regulations, and whether the Attorney-General had put his seal of approval on any report from a so-called London correspondent who was, in fact, Rupert Murdoch? Is this country to continue to be run with governments being made and broken, and men being made and broken, by snide, slick innuendoes of a lying, perjuring pimp- Rupert Murdoch?
– Order! That is most unparliamentary language.
-Secondly, is it true that 2 Commonwealth policemen are presently in Singapore? Are they investigating offences relating to visas and passports? Are they investigating offences under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations? If not, what offences are they investigating, and is the information on which they are proceeding such as would justify the expense of sending 2 policemen to Singapore? What powers do Commonwealth police have to interview persons abroad? Were any arrangements made with Singaporean authorities to enable Commonwealth police to conduct investigations beyond their jurisdiction? At whose initiative was it decided to send the police to Singapore? Who is the Minister responsible for co-ordinating the investigation? Are Commonwealth Police also to be sent to London or New York to interview Mr Rupert Murdoch before he makes further changes in his story?
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. As a matter of clarification, so that honourable senators may understand the question that is being asked, I wonder whether you, Mr President, could ascertain from the honourable senator asking the question whether the Mr Rupert Murdoch to whom the question relates and to whom repeated reference has been made is the same Mr Rupert Murdoch who made a donation of $74,000 to the Australian Labor Party’s election campaign funds.
-There is no point of order. I call Senator O ‘Byrne.
- Mr President, I should like to continue my question. Are Commonwealth Police also to be sent to London or New York- to Fifth Avenue- to interview Mr Rupert Murdoch before he makes further changes in his story?
– Order! Before I call upon the Minister to answer the question I must say that I deprecate the language used by you, Senator O ‘Byrne, in putting this question. I now call the Leader of the Government.
-I thought I had made it quite clear yesterday and again today that there was no such thing as impounding of diaries, nor were people interrogated. Until the honourable senator phrases his questions in parliamentary language he will not get an answer to any of them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and it arises out of a reply he gave today to Senator Douglas McClelland and it arises also out of the reply he has just given. In reply to Senator Douglas McClelland the Minister said that the principal law officer thought that he had found a responsibility to instruct the Commonwealth Police to make inquiries into allegations which were made in the media. I ask: Did the Attorney-General instruct the Commonwealth Police or did the Commonwealth Police, on its own initiative, interview those who made the allegations in the media? If not, why not?
-A11 I know about this matter is that the Attorney-General has asked the Commonwealth Police to investigate whether or not a breach of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations has occurred. I have no knowledge of whom the officers of the Commonwealth Police have questioned or whom they have not questioned; nor do I have any intention of seeking that knowledge. For a very simple reason -
– You are responsible to Parliament, as the Minister representing the Commonwealth Police.
-It is all right for Senator Douglas McClelland to interject in that matter. Of course I will accept the responsibility for the activities of the Commonwealth Police. But I have no intention of interfering in the day to day administration of police work. As I said yesterday, I have no intention of directing the Commonwealth Police on whom they will question or on whom they will not question. This is a matter for the discretion of the Commonwealth Police. If any honourable senator or any citizen believes that the Commonwealth police have acted unlawfully or improperly, the courts are open to them- as my colleague the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development said yesterday- and I think he also said that legal aid is also available to them.
– I should like the Senate to get back to some sensible questions. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications: To what degree is the Government going to develop the courier service in the capital cities? Is he aware that a large number of vans- from 500 to 600 vans- have been under cover in west Melbourne for the past 1 2 months? Can he say what will happen to these vans?
– I do not have the exact figures with me, but my information is that the figures quoted by the honourable senator are not correct. My understanding is that the courier service has proved already to be a considerable success in terms of consumer use and that the number of vans under cover is much smaller than the number to which Senator Walters referred. I will seek out the precise figures and let the honourable’ senator know.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who I am pleased to see has so much information at his fingertips. I wonder whether he could inform the Senate about the accuracy of newspaper reports to the effect that a questionnaire is being circulated among the public asking whether they think the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be abolished. If the report is accurate, why is this information being sought?
– I am unaware of the truth or otherwise of the allegation, although I did read it in the Press, as did the honourable senator. I will seek information on the matter and let him have it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to Press articles today in which the Minister is reported to have expressed some firm views on the matter of continuing Commonwealth involvement in growth centres. The reference in today’s Press concerns consideration of the pollution of the River Murray in relation to growth centres. Because that consideration relates to such a place as Albury-Wodonga on the one hand and the South Australian water supplies on the other, can the Minister indicate what consideration is being given to the influence of the development of growth centres in relation to the River Murray through the 3 States?
-That is a most comprehensive question and one to which it is difficult to give a straightforward simple answer. A considerable amount of research has been done into the impact of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre upon the River Murray. I have inquired into the details, although I do not have that information readily available. It is not only the impact upon the River Murray of AlburyWodonga which is of concern to those who see the River Murray as essential to their future well being; there are also the various agricultural usages along the Murray which have long been a matter for concern. Not so very long ago in this chamber we heard a great deal about the needs of South Australia and the controversy over Chowilla. I wonder whether the honourable senator will allow me to take his question on board and endeavour to get a more complete answer, or he may choose to put a question on the notice paper which will raise the particular matters on which he is interested in getting an answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Is the Minister able to refute a recent Press statement which claimed that the Liberal Party has scrapped its long-standing promise to abolish the means test on persions within 3 years? Will the Minister give an asurance to the age pensioners of Australia that the Government will honour its promise to abolish the means test within the next 3 years?
– At this stage the Government is not making plans that stretch ahead as far as the next 3 years. It is the intention of the Government to abolish the means test as soon as economic circumstances make that a practicable consideration. At the present time consideration of all matters of social security is being undertaken in the context of preparation for the next Budget, but that does not mean to indicate that the Government is forecasting at this stage for a period of 3 years.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Following my question on 2 March relating to the home finance scheme for Darwin and the Northern Territory and the answer that a statement was to be made later that day, has the Minister any further information relating to the funding of loans to those applicants in Darwin whose homes have suffered from cyclone damage?
-Senator Kilgariff asked a question on this matter yesterday. The Minister for the Northern Territory has released a statement, as I foreshadowed yesterday. The position is that the Government has completed the review of the home finance trustees concessional loans scheme. In the light of this review it has been decided to increase the present cash appropriation of $4m to $9. 5m for the financial year ending 30 June 1976. The Government’s decision should remove any concern in Darwin that funds would not be available to meet approved applications under the concessional loans scheme.
I am informed that all applications lodged with the Home Finance Trustee which meet the eligibility criteria will be progressively approved. Applications for concessional loans will be received up to 31 December 1976. My colleague explains, however, that this does not mean that an applicant must immediately proceed to finality with his application and commence building; eligible home owners who have lodged their applications by 31 December 1976 will have to 3 1 December 1980 to take up their loans. This means that prospective home builders will need only to make the formal application at this stage.
The Minister for the Northern Territory has indicated to me that he is aware that the Acting Administrator’s statement of 23 February 1976 referred to the necessity for the commencement of rebuilding by 1 April 1977 and completion by 30 June 1978. But he points out that this statement also indicated that special consideration would be given to persons who were unable to comply because of differing circumstances. I hope that that is sufficient information for the honourable senator.
– I wish to address my question to the Minister for Education. The Minister has just informed the Senate that there will be no cuts in the education budget as allocated under the Labor Government. Can the Minister then either confirm or deny the truth of the statement recently made in his name, I believe, announcing a cut of $ 1.6m in the innovations project of the Schools Commission? Further, is the Minister aware of a report of the Schools Commission entitled Girls-Schools and Society, which documents the multiple and complex disadvantages suffered by girls in all school systems in Australia? Is the Minister aware that the innovations program which has apparently been cut is the only program under which funds are available for teachers and groups desiring to develop programs to counter sexism in schools? Is the Minister aware also that the innovations program of the Schools Commission was the only program which was truly decentralised in that it gave community groups and individual teachers access to funds to implement innovative programs?
– It is, of course, natural that the Opposition should be so unhappy that it cannot get a breach in the walls of the education program and cannot cry ‘misery me’ for cuts which, in the whole of the Government’s economic policies, have been due to the disaster of 3 years of Labor government. Therefore, in any answer that one must direct towards government economies, one must look to the cause of the economies. The cause of the economies sits on the Opposition benches now because of the decision at the ballot box.
Having said that, I reply to the first part of the honourable senator’s question by saying that she should know that her colleague, Senator Melzer, has placed a question on notice and that I have said specifically that I will give answers directly to what has happened to the innovations program. I will do so. A question on notice preempts a question without notice. As to the question on the report regarding the disadvantages suffered by females, the honourable senator will be delighted to know that not only am I aware of it but have also read it and that I propose to study it in detail. In due course, I propose to do something about it. This is something about which the previous Government did nothing at all. In other words, the report exposes what has happened under 3 years of Labor government, a government which claimed that it was against any kind of sex discrimination. I repeat: As to those innovations programs which applied to schools and to teachers in schools, including those which impact upon the question which the honourable senator asked, there are no cuts in them at all.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate of the truth or falsity of a recently released statement announcing a $ 1 .6m cut in the innovations program?
– I am happy to give the honourable senator the truth. On my feet here in answer to questions I have given it a number of times. What I said was that the overall budget of the program for education of $ 1,770m would be maintained and even exceeded, and that each of the broad programs would be maintained precisely, as with the Universities Commission, the Commission on Advanced Education, the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education and the Schools Commission. As to the specific question about innovations programs, I pointed out that owing to the fact that the previous Government had been absymally slow in introducing-
- Mr President, I raise a point of order in the interest of proper behaviour in the Senate. A simple question was asked, namely, whether the Minister will affirm or deny that there is to be a cut in the innovations programs. Of course, the obvious answer to that is either ‘I affirm it’ or ‘I deny it’. Contrary to standing order 100 the Minister is canvassing the whole subject. We cannot get the answer. The Minister will not affirm or deny, and all he tells us in his answer is that the Labor Government was bad. If we are going to have a second reading speech on every occasion someone wants information, that is something which I cannot take and which you, Mr President in your august position as a responsible Presiding Officer of the Senate, should not permit. I ask that the Standing Orders be observed. If they are we will get from the Minister whether he affirms or denies that that is the case.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. As I said earlier, the Opposition does not like a tough answer to a question. The simple fact is that if honourable senators want information there is a variety of ways in which they can get it. One way is to ask a question without notice. Another way is to put a question on notice, and another way is to write to the Minister. Who is fooling whom in this place? The whole purpose of asking questions without notice when one is in Opposition is to attempt to embarrass Ministers. That is the sole purpose. It is not to seek information. If Senator Ryan genuinely wanted this information she could put her question on notice. But I do not think she is interested in that. She is more interested in making some political ploy at question time which she thinks will be of advantage to her political Party.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld but the Minister will not debate the question.
- Mr President, I put it to you that I did not debate the question. I was asked what had happened to the innovations program. I repeat that owing to the fact that the former Government was abysmally slow in going ahead with a program which had been scheduled some year or two beforehand, the ability to implement the full program in this fiscal year was not with us because half that year had been under the command of the former Government. So the defect in implementing the innovations program lay with the previous Government. Yes, there will be some $800,000 of underspending this fiscal year, but that is primarily because of the lack of implementation of the program by the previous Government. I have said these facts on my feet precisely before. They will not apply in any way to the innovations programs in schools- that was a specific answer to the question from Senator Ryan- and overall the money and the programs of the Department of Education will be maintained.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The question arises from claims by a spokesman for the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and reported in the Adelaide News of 2 March that cuts will be made in the funds available for the railways standardisation program in South Australia and relates to a question asked yesterday by Senator Bishop.
– Union bashing.
– Just a moment. I at least try to ask specific questions and not vague ones. Can the Minister inform me whether the claims are accurate? Is it a fact, as claimed, that stockpiles of equipment will be wasted because of a reduction made in government spending? Has work on partly completed standard gauge rolling stock been curtailed? In fact, according to the report, it has been stopped. If the Government proposes such cuts will the Minister ask his colleague in another place to reassess this decision in the light of the value to South Australia and the Northern Territory of such transport projects and of their importance in providing employment?
– As the honourable senator said, Senator Bishop also asked a question about this matter yesterday. I undertook to find out what I could about it. The information I have is that the Minister is aware of those comments in the Press and, of course, is aware of the discussions about them. He has given me certain information that may be of help to both senators. Consistent with the Government’s policy to contain expenditures this year, the question of the funds to be provided for railway standardisation in South Australia was examined. The Minister for Transport had discussions with the South Australian Minister for Transport on 23 February about this matter and made arrangements for urgent discussions to take place by officers to determine the funding requirements consistent with the need to avoid disruption of the project. He had also told me that there is no consideration of stockpiles of equipment being redundant or wasted and that the suggestion of the work being stopped and the standard gauge link coming to a halt are equally incorrect. I will also seek to put to him the further details arising out of Senator Jessop ‘s question and see whether there are any areas of both of those questions now remaining unanswered.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Has the Minister seen the reports suggesting that the Government is to defer all financial commitments to growth centres until a cost-benefit analysis is completed? Does the Government accept the need for planned development of regional growth centres as the only viable alternative to the destruction of the national estate and recreation areas, congestion of the cities and the general deterioration of the quality of life in our cities? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will not renege on its election promise to maintain the growth centre commitment not only in relation to New South Wales but also and more particularly in respect of those under consideration in Queensland and Victoria, namely, the cities of Townsville and Geelong respectively?
– I think the comprehensiveness of Senator Gietzelt ‘s question really prevents an adequate answer being given. There were so many facets to it that, quite frankly, I find it difficult to pick out any one of them and give a response. The fact is that the Government is looking at its commitment in principle and financially to growth centres. There are many growth centres which have been started in Australia and there are many growth centres which are under consideration. All of them will involve the expenditure of enormous sums of money over a period. The Government has made it clear time and again that it has to look to restraints at the present time because of the financial needs of the country. But at the same time the Government recognises that there are advantages- not, I think, the type of advantages to which Senator Geitzelt referred in his question- in having growth centres which ease the pressures upon development in the metropolitan centres. All those considerations have to be looked at in terms of what the Government can afford and the principles which we espouse. The matter is currently under consideration by the Government. I hope that it will be possible to make an announcement in the near future.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the reported $500,000 loan from the Iraqis to the Australian Labor Party which has been reported so frequently in the Press in the last few days. Has he any information as to what currency was being used for this proposed $500,000 loan to the Australian Labor Party?
– I have no information on this subject.
– Earlier in the day Senator Melzer asked me a question in regard to an alleged directive of the Prime Minister. I have since had the staff lists checked. I advise Senator Melzer and other honourable senators that of the 49 ministerial officer positions- they are the top positions of the 24 Ministers- which have been filled, seven are filled by women. They are on the staffs of the following Ministers: The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, myself, Mr Street, Mr Nixon, Mr Howard, Mr Hunt and Mr
MacKellar. Four of those Ministers are in Cabinet and three are in the outer ministry. If my mathematics are correct, 4 Ministers from the Liberal Party and 3 Ministers from the National Country Party are employing women in top positions. In view of the labels which are occasionally placed on people, I thought that I ought to make available the names of Ministers who currently employ women in top jobs in ministerial offices.
– Earlier in the day Senator Walters asked me a question regarding the Post Office Courier Services. I now have available some information on the matter. The Service commenced with 20 vehicles in Sydney, 20 vehicles in Melbourne and 10 vehicles in Canberra- that is, it commenced with a total of 50 vehicles. Sufficient vehicles are now on hand to expand the fleet to 120 vehicles. Altogether, there are 132 vehicles, twelve of which are not yet equipped with radio. Those are the precise figures on the operation of the Service.
– Pursuant to section 23(2) of the Australian War Memorial Act 1962-75, I present the annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Australian War Memorial for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with the financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 125(8) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1975, I present the report of the Australian Arbitration Inspectorate for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of the following international treaty adopted by the International Labour Conference at its Thirtieth Session in 1947: International Labour Organisation Convention No. 81 concerning labour inspection in industry and commerce. With the approval of the Executive Council, the Australian instrument of ratification was lodged with the DirectorGeneral of the International Labour Office on 24 June 1975. Pursuant to article 25 of the Convention, a declaration was appended to the instrument of ratification excluding Part II concerning labour inspection in commerce from Australia’s acceptance of the Convention. This reflected the fact that Australian law and practice were not in compliance with Part II.
– I move:
Mr President, I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later time.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 42 (3) of the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, I present the first annual report of the Health Insurance Commission for the period to 30 June 1975.
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 Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I present this Bill on behalf of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in the other place. This Bill is primarily designed to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1 952- 1 974 so as to increase the rates of charges by 15 per cent with effect from 1 December 1975. The increase is applied by the insertion of the new table in clause 4 of the Bill. The costs of operating and maintaining the airports and airway facilities provided by the Commonwealth Government are expected to total at least $195m in 1975-76, this being an increase of 1 1 % per cent, or about $20m, on the 1974-75 figure. The comparable revenues received from the users of these facilities at present rates are expected to rise from around $95m in 1974-75 to less than $108m in the current year, so that the increase in costs continues to outstrip the gain in revenues.
The 15 per cent increase in charges is estimated to bring in additional revenue of just under $4m in 1975-76. Together with the small growth in revenue arising from higher traffic, this will raise the rate of recovery of the costs of the air transport infrastructure from 54 per cent in 1974-75 to around 57 per cent this year. In other words, the users of air transport facilities will continue to be subsidised to the extent of more than 40 per cent of the annual costs of these facilities.
The Government is aware that the air transport industry, like all other industries in Australia, is faced with additional costs for wages and materials, and it would normally be reluctant to impose additional governmental charges in these circumstances. However, the Government must look at the matter from all sides, and clearly it is inappropriate for the public purse to be required to meet all of the increases in the costs which are being incurred by the Department of Transport in operating and maintaining its airports and airway facilities. Air navigation charges comprise only about 3 per cent of the total operating costs of commercial aircraft, and a 15 per cent increase in these charges therefore means that the rise in aircraft operating costs is less than ½ per cent. In the light of these facts, therefore, the proposed increase in air navigation charges cannot be regarded as excessive or unjustified.
It will be recalled that the previous Government had proposed increases in air navigation charges ranging up to 300 per cent. Under the previous Government’s Budget proposals the aviation industry would have had to find another $25m and under this proposal it has to find about $3.9m. The Government has been concerned to encourage general aviation in particular and not to price it out of the air. Over the past 3 years, because of the previous Government administration’s approach to cost recovery, combined with inflation, general aviation ran into serious financial difficulties. This can be seen as a measure of our determination to encourage that important sector of aviation.
Maybe, therefore, the only disagreement that the Opposition will find with the present Bill is that the increase is not enough. However, the Government intends to examine carefully the whole question of cost recovery in respect of the air transport facilities, and it would be premature to introduce any greater increase in charges before this examination is undertaken. The other provisions in the Bill are of a minor nature, mainly concerned with the deletion of provisions covering flights to and from Papua New Guinea.
The air navigation charges payable in respect of flights to that country are now determined in accordance with the provisions applicable to other international nights. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 2 March.
– I am proposing to move an amendment to clause 4 of the Bill. That amendment is now being circulated. I mentioned last night that I felt that any connection, however tenuous, between the security intelligence organization of a country and the industrial system of that country should be discouraged. The Bill that is currently before the Committee stipulates that the DirectorGeneral’s salary is related to that of the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court. That is a tenuous connection indeed; nevertheless I feel that if it is at all possible the Government should reconsider that clause and accept the amendment that I propose to move. My amendment simply attempts to delete reference to the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court and to include reference to the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal. After all, we all know the reason for the inclusion in the Bill of the provision relating to the Director-General ‘s salary.
The Director-General to be appointed, Mr Justice Woodward, is currently the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal. I realise that the salary applicable to the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal is the same as that applicable to the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court. I do not go into questions of work value, nor do I go into imagining how one would conduct a work value inquiry into the salary of the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization compared with the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court. I accept that there is a level of remuneration which is being paid to the current Director-General, but I believe that there is no drafting problem and in witness thereof I have distributed the amendment which I propose to move at the end of my comments. Mr Chairman, shall I read the amendment or is it taken as read?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) It is not necessary; it has been circulated.
– Thank you. I now turn briefly to the other Bill, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I am in a very awkward position because the Senate has agreed to take these 2 Bills in tandem so in fact I cannot really vote against the propositions and attempt to defeat the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill. I wish to amend that as I have set out. However, I feel that a case has not been made out by the Government to increase the establishment of the Australian Industrial Court by one member. Last night I detailed to the Senate a number of matters relating to the Australian Industrial Court. I incorporated in Hansard a table which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library setting out the number of sitting days of members of the Industrial Court. I said that there was a motive behind my attempting to raise these matters before the Senate. I said that an institution similar to the Australian Industrial Court should exist and should have the confidence of registered organisations.
However, I want to make it perfectly clear that the criticisms that I levelled last night at the work load of the court and anything else I might say in the remainder of this debate about the work load should not be construed as criticism of the court itself. The point which I made last night was not that the justices of the Industrial Court are underworked as individuals but that they are underworked as justices of the Australian Industrial Court. The problem is with the Government which has been in the habit of loading upon the shoulders of these judges extracurricular activities, work and inquiries, particularly over the last 2 years. I have reason to believe that in the last 2 years the work load of those judges available for industrial work was deliberately increased by previous Attorneys-General to bring about an administrative breakdown in the Industrial Court so that that breakdown could be used as an argument and could be pointed to in this place in support of an imagined need to create the Superior Court. If that claim is correct the judges were the victims of a political manoeuvre which reflects little credit on the persons who conceived it. I cannot conceive of very many other reasons why the judges of the Australian Industrial Court should be hived off into other areas, and I am putting that claim forward as one of the reasons.
As I have spoken of the court in a collective sense in some of my earlier remarks I desire to say that to the extent to which the Australian Industrial Court still enjoys the confidence of the trade union movement is in no small measure due to the integrity and application of such jurists as the Chief Judge, Mr Justice Spicer. Mr Justice Dunphy, Mr Justice Smithers. Mr Justice Franki, Mr Justice Nimmo and Mr Justice Woodward, who of course is what this Bill is all about. The amendment which I propose to move relates to clause 4, which reads in part:
After section 6 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: 6b. ( 1 ) If the Director-General is not a Judge, he shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal and such allowances as are prescribed.
) Sub-section ( 1 ) has effect subject to the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975.
If the Director-General is a Judge, other than Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, and the rate per annum of his salary as a Judge is less than the rate per annum of the salary applicable to the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, he shall be paid additional salary at a rate equal to the difference between the rates of those salaries, and, if the rate per annum of his annual allowance as a Judge is less than the rate per annum of the annual allowance applicable to the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, he shall be paid additional annual allowance at a rate equal to the difference between the rates of those annual allowances.
Where a Judge, not being the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, retires as a Judge or dies and, immediately before his retirement or death, he held office as Director-General, the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968-1974 applies to or in relation to him as if he had been Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court immediately before his retirement or death. ‘.
I believe in respect of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that the Government has not made out a case for an increase in the establishment of that body. Finally, I remind Government senators of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about commissions, boards of inquiry, and so on. I believe that if effect is to be given to the Prime Minister’s statement about commissions and the like, fewer commissions will be appointed and the members of the Industrial Court will be available to do the work for which they were originally appointed, that is. to be full time members of the Industrial Court.
-Mr Chairman, I rise to speak very briefly to the clause which deals with the composition of the Australian Industrial Court. I wish to make clear something that I hoped I had made clear yesterday when speaking on this subject. The Court at this stage of” its history seems to suffer from a sad conjunction of declining capacity in the judges and an increasing work load. I know that Senator Greenwood has had an interest in this matter for a long time, but the point I was making, which I hope the Government will take seriously is that as industrial legislation becomes more complexand it has done so in the past few years- there will be a great need for a specialist industrial court which does not have its energies and talents, such as they are, dissipated by various other functions and by the taking on board of various other jurisdictions. I think that is a very important consideration, and it is something which should be borne in mind when one considers the strength of the Industrial Court.
Contrary to what Senator Harradine has said, if he sees the matter in its historical perspective correctly, I think he would find- and I am sure that Senator Greenwood would agree with thisthat in all the arguments which were put forward in favour of the Superior Court and which were rejected by the Senate, not once was it suggested in the course of the debate that the Industrial Court was overworked, because it was not overworked at that period. Of course, there were many other arguments in favour of the Superior Court which were rejected by the Senate in its wisdom, based on numbers, in 1975.
– There were singularly few arguments offered in support of that Bill, as I recall it, on any of the occasions that it was debated.
- Senator Greenwood says that there were singularly few arguments offered. I seem to recall Senator James McClelland saying to me after that debate had concluded: ‘If ever we won the battle, it was today. Maybe we lost the war.’ Perhaps it was not a bad thing that we lost the war, but we won the battle. If Senator Greenwood has time to dip into the records of that debate again he might even agree with that view himself in a moment of benign charity which sometimes falls upon him. The point 1 wanted to take up briefly about the Superior Court was simply that there were no arguments advanced of the bizarre kind which Senator Harradine has suggested today. There was certainly no effort by the Attorney-General of the day to overload that court. As a matter of fact, the work load of the Industrial Court is largely dictated by the Chief Judge. That is to say, the pace at which the Court deals with the work load is largely dictated by the Chief Judge. Insofar as my experience in the Court over many years extends, I think that the work load has varied considerably from time to time. It has largely varied as a consequence of amendments made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and of the level of internecine faction fighting in trade unions, about which Senator Harradine would no doubt know more than 1. 1 make those comments briefly, and otherwise support the Bill.
– I think the considerations which have been advanced about the composition and the work load of the Australian Industrial Court are substantive matters which received some airing yesterday during the second reading debate. Unless some new points are made or proposed in the form of a substantive amendment, it would be repetitious to go into those matters. I think the record speaks for itself. It is a matter which requires consideration and, as I think I indicated last night, that consideration will be given. Senator Harradine has moved a specific amendment. The Government does not support the amendment. The Government considers that the amendment is unnecessary and that it seeks to espouse, if there be any principle in this, a principle or a standpoint which is not the desirable principle or standpoint.
The simple fact is that we are discussing a man who currently holds a lifetime tenure as a judge and who is being appointed the DirectorGeneral of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Not unnaturally, he desires to retain throughout the period that he occupies the office of Director-General of ASIO, his status and tenure as a judge. Not unnaturally also, he has been prepared to take the position of Director-General of ASIO at the salary which he is currently receiving as a judge. I think that that was an approach which commended itself to the previous Government and it is an approach which commends itself to the present Government. As a result of discussions that successive governments have had with Mr Justice Woodward, the Bill contains the provisions which are currently under debate to cover both aspects to which I have referred.
At the moment Mr Justice Woodward is in .receipt of a salary of $36,000 per annum, which is made up of a basic salary of $35,000, which every judge of the Industrial Court receives, and the sum of $ 1 ,000, which is payable to him in his capacity as President of the Trade Practices Tribunal. I referred yesterday to section 33 of the Trade Practices Act which indicates the differential, the extra amount, which is payable to the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal over and above the salary he receives as a judge of the Industrial Court or whatever other judicial position he holds. The actual differential of $2,000 stated in that Act was reduced to $ 1 ,000 by the Remuneration and Allowances Act of 1975. So the salary of $36,000, that is $1,000 above the basic $35,000 which each judge of the Industrial Court receives, was established.
If we are saying, as the Act states, that if the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is a judge he shall receive a particular salary, the bench-mark upon which the assessment is to be made ought to be his salary as a judge of the Industrial Court. One looks at that basic salary and says that he shall receive an amount over and above that basic amount.
– Why should not it be the amount that he currently receives- and adjust it, of course?
– If Mr Justice Woodward were the only person concerned, I could imagine that this would be a feasible way of approaching the matter. We are dealing with Mr Justice Woodward because he knows who the appointee is to be. However, what we are doing is putting into the legislation the broader proposition as contained in the relevant clause, which reads:
If the Director-General is a Judge, other than Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, and the rate per annum of his salary as a Judge is less than the rate per annum of the salary applicable to the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, he shall be paid additional salary at a rate equal to the difference between the rates of those salaries . . .
He is to be equated to the position of the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court and not, as Senator Harradine would have it, to the salary of the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal.
– They are both the same.
-They are the same, but the Chief Judge of the Industrial Court is the established position in the Industrial Court and that position has a fixed salary. If you are going to use the benchmark of the presidency of the
Trade Practices Tribunal you are going to use a benchmark which is itself related to the position and the salary of Chief Judge of the Industrial Court. We are arguing on fine points. I suppose if anyone looked at the record of this debate they would wonder why such matters take up time. Senator Harradine has proposed an amendment. The arguments which the Government offers for not accepting the amendment are those that I have advanced. It is a fairly fine point, but our basic proposition is that where the person being appointed is a judge and his salary is being related to what the Chief Judge of the Industrial Court receives, then we should state that fairly and squarely and not refer to another position which itself has its salary determined by reference to the Chief Judge’s position. For those reasons the Government will not support the amendment.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 February on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I will not take up too much of the time of the Senate. I want the new Goverment to clarify whether it will take a different attitude from the previous Administration. Frankly, I do not understand why another judge has to be appointed to the Industrial Court. I believe that the Government has not made out a case for such action to be taken. Obviously, when Mr Justice Woodward joins the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation the Government will raid the Industrial Court to find a replacement President of the Trade Practices Tribunal.
The point I am making is that Mr Justice Woodward at present is not doing work for the Australian Industrial Court. He is President of the Trade Practices Tribunal. Therefore, the argument that he ought to be replaced on the Australian Industrial Court does not hold any water. What the Government is concerned about, of course, is a replacement for Mr Justice Woodward as President of the Trade Practices
Tribunal. I may be wrong but I do not see why the Government needs to obtain a new President of the Trade Practices Tribunal from the Industrial Court. Section 3 1 ( 1 ) of the Trade Practices Act states:
A person shall not be appointed as a presidential member of the Tribunal unless he is-
a Judge of a Federal Court, not being the High Court or a court of an external Territory: or
a person who has the status of a Judge of the Court.
That section quite clearly does not say that a presidential member must come from the Industrial Court. Surely there are other areas which the Government could raid rather than the Australian Industrial Court.
– I should like to comment before the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) replies. I want to preface my remarks by saying that I am not defending the action of the present Government. I think that Senator Harradine, with his experience in the industrial field, would be aware that in all industrial disputes or inquiries the emphasis is on instant response. I know that the judges of the Industrial Court would not take umbrage if I related them, and conciliation commissioners, to either a steam or a diesel locomotive in a railway depot where there is always a spare locomotive standing by for an emergency. I listened to the statistics given by Senator Harradine last night and also to the figures given by the Minister relating to the days worked by judges. I relate that to the humble position of a stenographer-typist. If she can churn out 8 hours work in 6 hours, I do not mind if she sits on her bum for the next hour and does nothing, because the darg has been achieved. I am being very blunt, Mr President. If the word ‘bum’ is offensive, I will say ‘bottom’. I feel that strongly about it.
Long before Senator Harradine came into this place I was listening to debates in this place about industrial harmony. Senator Greenwood and I have had our differences but we are both aware that at times the inability to get a conciliator quickly to deal with hostilities compounds the situation. I think Senator Harradine agrees with me also. I do not care whether a conciliator is labelled as a judge or a conciliation commissioner; if someone is there as a trouble shooter and acts quickly, it is money well spent. I know that I am a fundamentalist, but some things leave me cold. With all due respect to Senator Wright, who is trying to interject, the point is- regardless of statistics relating to how many hours a judge works- that a judge should be there when he is needed. Looking at Senator Baume I am reminded of a good sporting analogy. A cricketer can field all afternoon in the slips in a cricket match and not have the opportunity of making a catch until 5.30 p.m. If he drops the catch he is then in trouble. But between 2 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. he was there for that purpose. This is how I see the position in regard to judges of the Industrial Court.
– in reply- To a large extent the matters raised this afternoon were traversed in the cognate debate on this Bill and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill which took place last Thursday. In answer specifically to Senator Harradine I should like to say that the reason this vacancy is sought to be filled is that the Government desires to have an appointment made to the Industrial Court. The person appointed could then become the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal. The Government’s view is that there is no person amongst the existing judges of the court, or holding office in any other federal court, or having the status of a judge who could perform the increasingly onerous task which the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal has to perform. There are 2 federal courts- the Industrial Court and the Bankruptcy Court. The ability of the existing members of those courts to perform the task of presidency of the Trade Practices Tribunal is a matter of judgment, of course. I think, after examination and an appreciation of all the considerations which a government should take into account, that we ought not to disturb existing judges in the role which they are performing. As for any other persons having the status of a judge, those who come readily to mind are the members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Government considers it inappropriate to remove one of the presidential members of the Commission from that area to the presidency of the Trade Practices Tribunal so that the person appointed would be moving backwards and forwards between the Commission and the Tribunal. That is the background to the Government’s action. The obvious fact is that Mr Justice Woodward is the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal and a member of the Industrial Court, and while he is head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation he cannot perform those functions. The Government wishes to make an appointment to fill the gap, and that is the same action which the Whitlam Government was taking.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 26 February, on motion by Senator Knight:
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
To His Excellency the Governor-General
May it Please Your Excellency-
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Harradine had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, viz.: “and the Senate is of the opinion that your advisers, having declared their intention of taking particular care over the special circumstances of the less populous States, should obtain the approval of those States prior to the implementation of your advisers’ new approach to Federalism”
– The debate on the Address-in Reply has ranged over some 2 weeks in this and in another place. In that time it has been distinguished by 2 main factors. The first is the uniformly high quality of the maiden speeches of the new senators and members. I commend them for the quality of their contributions and I wish them and you, Mr President, in your new and very important office, every success and happiness. But there is on the distaff side one other factor. The debate has revealed from the Opposition benches, both in this and in another place, that the Labor Party, whilst wholly disastrous and totally a failure in office, is in Opposition a miserable, snivelling organisation relying on alibis, relying on the concept of conspiracy, unrepentent as to -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I regret having to do this, but I find the language of the Minister most offensive. I think that by adopting this method he is acting in a way which is contrary to the Standing Orders. He ought to discuss the subject under debate in the chamber and refrain from using such harsh language, if I may describe it charitably as such.
-May I speak to the point of order, Mr President? I put it to you that there is no point of order and that the language itself- I was careful about it- refers to an organisation and not to a person. It was directed specifically to the subject of debate. I was referring to what I regard as the miserable and whingeing quality of the Opposition in responding to the Speech of the Governor-General. I ask you not to uphold the point of order.
– The point of order is not sustained.
– The contributions of members of the Opposition reminded me, and I commend it to them, of Cassius’ advice lo Brutus in Julius Caesar when he said:
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
The fault of the Labor Party is not in its stars but in itself. The situation is that for 2 decades the Labor Party has conceived conspiracy as its alibi for failure. The faint voice of the late Dr Evatt can be heard crying up conspiracy for the failures of the 1950s and 1960s instead of looking to the political genes of the Labor Party and recognising that, by its deliberate act, the Labor Party created its own failure, that there was no conspiracy at all. Just as Dr Evatt was wrong and just as successive ballot boxes carrying the votes of the electors rejected the Labor Party, so indeed it has happened this time. What the Labor Party fails to put to the people of Australia is this clear message: ‘All that the GovernorGeneral did was to invite the public, the electors, to adjudicate on whether they wanted returned a Whitlam Government or a Fraser Government’. That is all that the decision of the GovernorGeneral meant, and it was an entirely constitutional decision.
– What did the degenerate Murdoch do?
– What happened was that -
– The product of a brothel.
- Mr President, you have no right to stop me reflecting on Murdoch. I stand by what I said and I challenge you to question my right to criticise a newspaper proprietor. I am not questioning anyone in this Senate; I am saying what I think about Murdoch and what 50 per cent of Australians think about him. He is a degenerate.
– Order! Senator Carrick, do you wish to speak to this point of order?
- Mr President, my point is that the electors decided at the ballot box that they would not have a Whitlam Government and that they would have a Fraser Government. I make the point for the people of Australia to remember that in a total of 75 years of federation the Labor Party has been able to sustain government for only 20 years. For three-quarters of the whole of federation history the people of Australia have rejected, as they do now, the Australian Labor Party. They have rejected it because in philosphy and in behaviour and in its concept of the pursuit of power it is fundamentally alien to the people of Australia. I want to pursue that matter, and therefore I remind the Senate of Cassius:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
The Labor Party cannot look to conspiracy, it cannot look to other alibis. The fact is that it has come here totally unrepentant, saying that it rejects the verdict of the ballot box. Some of its acknowledged left wing leaders have said that they will take the fight into the streets and not into the Parliament.
– Why shouldn’t they?
– A Labor senator has interjected: ‘Why shouldn’t they take the fight into the streets?’ The answer is that they take an oath of office here to do their fighting by words and in this place to fight with the power of ideas and not with physical violence. Yet honourable senators opposite talk and preach violence. 1 say that that is a rejection of democracy and in fact confirms the choice of the electors. It is against that background that I want to examine what happened. As I said, the Labor Party has been rejected 3 times out of four and will continue to be rejected by the people of Australia because its concept of power, its concept of government, is foreign to the whole practice of democracy. Let me deal with that point, because in the course of question time today somebody interjected and said, in effect, that the accumulation of a deficit of $7,000m over 2 years would not have brought about the disaster that has happened, that a deficit of $5,000m this year was nothing for which to blame the Labor Party, nothing to cause hardship. So, at the beginning of my speech 1 invite the former Treasurer, Mr Hayden, and indeed the whole of the Labor Party, to bc witnesses because to a man and woman they supported this thesis when they supported the 1975-76 Budget.
I remind honourable senators that within the first several hundred words of the Budget Speech the Treasurer directed himself to the trend of the finances and to the fact that he found the deficit had run in the last financial year not to $500m but to approximately $2, 500m. He then set out- I will read his words- to make a prognosis of what would happen if a government let the deficit run to $5,000m. I do not talk about some speech in the Parliament; I talk about the Budget Speech. The former Treasurer said:
This year’s budgetary considerations began, as usual, with an examination of the prospective Budget aggregates. Expenditures were projected to grow much more rapidly than revenues and the prospective deficit was nearly double that of 1974-75. Clearly, such a deficit could not be countenanced under the circumstances.
In the context of an economy beginning to pick up, a deficit of the order initially projected would have been a prescription for accelerating inflation. Its acceptance would have been tantamount to abandoning concern with inflation, discarding our wages policies, condemning the corporate sector to an attack on its profitability and threatening the future jobs of thousands of Australians . . .
Those are the words of the Treasurer of the day, Mr Hayden. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Labor Party he said that if a government allowed the deficit to reach $5,000m it would bring economic disaster to Australia. Of course, that Labor Government allowed the deficit to get to $5, 000m.
The important point in this is that the Labor Party allowed that deficit to occur and, by its own definition, brought about total disaster and suffering in a time of high inflation with 350 000 unemployed including 15 per cent of all school leavers unemployed. What a proud record with which to leave government- 1 5 per cent of school leavers unemployed with another 20 per cent of school leavers misplaced in bad makeshift jobs. That same political Party now growls and seeks to attack us when, taking economic remedies, we are endeavouring to overcome the disaster that the Labor Party made. It is against that background that I wish to speak about the exercise of power.
Firstly, let me say this: In 3 years the people of Australia have had a pernicious doctrine thrust upon them by the Labor Party. That doctrine was imposed to win votes in the short term. It sought to grab to itself at the grass roots every little community interest group, every interest factor in the whole of society, and to say to them: Do not go to State governments; do not go to local governments; come to us, because if you come to the Federal Government we will grant your requests’. It preached the pernicious dogma of open-ended expectation, the pernicious dogma that the national purse is unlimited and that a government has no responsibility at all to undertake priorities and to choose between this or that issue as being the more important. The disaster to Australia was the open-ended expectation and the rejection of priorities.
What has happened because of that attitude? That Government in 2 years overspend $7,000m. Government must be restored on the understanding that there cannot be open-ended government, that the national purse is clearly defined and that the art of good government comes in two measurements. The first is in the definition of the size of the national purse; the second is in the order of priorities within the limits of that national purse. Indeed, the people of Australia have said one and all: ‘We want tax indexation’. The Fraser Government has said: We will give it to you’. The cry for tax indexation by the people of Australia is an indication that they will not allow the national purse ever again to become open-ended, that they will not allow the raiding of the purse. That is the first pernicious aspect.
The second pernicious factor is that in 3 years we saw an attempt to centralise all power in Australia. I want to relate my remarks to that. As honourable senators well know, Labor senators in recent days have been attempting to attack this Government’s policy on federalism and, in fact, to support centralism. All those in the community who have an interest in good government should take note of the fact that a number of Labor senators, in particular from the less populous States, are arguing that federalism should be rejected. I cannot believe that anyone who wants his State to have a say, to be on the map, to respond to its local issues and to have some responsibility in decision-making would sell out to Canberra.
Let me put this matter to the test. The Labor Leader has put down on paper very consistently where he stands on centralism. We have said that centralism is a foul thing, that it corrupts government, that it destroys the sovereignty of the States and others and that it is bad. I now read a statement in confirmation of that by Mr E. G. Whitlam as reported in Hansard. He was replying to a speech by Mr Turner, the former member for Bradfield. Every honourable senator opposite should note these words if and when he ever again launches an attack on federalism. Mr Whitlam said:
This uniform taxation system does as he -
He is referring to Mr Turner:
I repeat those words:
This uniform taxation system does as he said, debase politics. It does as he said debauch the States.
This is Mr Whitiam speaking:
And it does lead to the enunciation of the perfectly reasonable theory that those who spend the money should bear the odium of raising it.
He condemns uniform taxation and says that the principle of responsibility in raising and of spending is there. But then he puts the socialist solution when he says:
But the solution lies, not in abandoning the uniform taxation system, but in taking over those functions of the States which the States at present administer, but for which the Commonwealth foots the bill.
We on this side of the House certainly believe that those who spend the money should have the odium of raising it and the corollary is that those who wish to get the credit for spending money should be those who raise it.
He said further:
The uniform taxation system is not something which the Constitution imposes on this Parliament. It is something which the Constitution enables this Parliament to impose on the States if it wishes to do so.
Mr Whitlam said yes, this uniform taxation is everything that the Fraser Government has condemned it for- that it debases politics; that it debauches the States; that it destroys responsibility. He says yes to those things, but adds that his Party will go towards total centralism rather than .go towards federalism. Those are the views of Mr Whitlam.
I repeat what ought to be mentioned. He has said and written in his Fabian addresses and otherwise that in his blueprint for Australia he would abolish the Senate. Of course, the reason the Labor Party is looking to conspiracy today is that the Senate, this House, was the one House which stood against the naked and open extrem.isms of the past 3 years. Mr Whitlam would centre in one House- the House of Representatives, the other place- all power for all government at all levels in Australia.
– With one Party.
– Yes, with one Party. He would in fact destroy the States. In his book Labor and the Constitution he writes:
Much can be achieved by Labor members of the State Parliaments in effectuating Labor aims of more effective powers for the national Parliament and for local government. Their role is to bring about their own dissolution.
He says to State Labor parliamentarians: ‘Commit hara kiri. Dissolve yourselves in the interests of a centralist body’. He then sets out to postulate some 60-odd regions in which to amalgamate approximately 900 local government regions.
In those 3 years of Labor rule, the growth of centralised government- the concentration of government- was greater even than I suspect the community thought.
Let me illustrate this for honourable senators. I cite figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library. In the last year in which the former Liberal Government had influence on the Federal Budget- that was 1972-1973- in constant values the general revenue assistance to the States represented 59 per cent of total assistance. In 2 years it fell to 43.6 per cent, and it fell further this year. The general purpose capital funds fell from 8.6 per cent to 6 per cent. The significant situation is that the specific purpose payments, that is, grants under which directions are given to State governments, in 2 years rose form 32.4 per cent of total grants to 50.3 per cent. This year those grants will be in the order of nearly 53 per cent. In other words, under a Labor Government the States were moved into a situation in which in a projection of several years they would be total agents and servants of the Commonwealth, thus fulfilling Mr Whitlam ‘s aims. Mr President, I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The next matter of factual interest in this debate in the exercise of power relates to the question of what the Labor Party calls double taxation. The Labor Party suggests that under federalism there will be double taxation. The only double, triple and quadruple taxer in Australia was the Whitlam Government. It is notorious now that in the space of a little more than 2 years the Whitlam Government doubled the rake-off in the grab of personal income tax in Australia. What gall it is for the Labor Party to stand up now and talk about double taxation. This same Party which talks about taxation in its time doubled its take on sales tax and doubled its take on customs duty. So it doubled taxation in the brief 2 and a bit years in which it operated.
– It also increased net incomes.
– It is worth recording that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) says that the Labor Government also increased net incomes. I suggest that he tell the people on fixed incomes that the Labor Party increased their net incomes. I suggest he tell the people with money in the savings banks that his Party increased their savings. The fact is that inflation was running at 16 per cent over that time. The Leader of the Opposition must accept responsibility for robbing the people’s savings in the savings banks and in the building societies, which made it impossible for anybody on an ordinary income to buy a home of their own. What a proud record it is that the Leader of the Opposition can sit here and acknowledge the fact that in 3 years Australia, which had the highest home ownership in the world, is now among the lowest. Also, 3 years ago anyone on an ordinary average wage could buy a home of his own and accrue real value.
The record of the Australian Labor Party is that in 3 years it destroyed home ownership. In 3 years it took a country which for 20 years had full employment and plunged it into depression unemployment. In 3 years it took a country which for 20 years had an average inflation rate of 2.5 per cent, which was the lowest of any country in the free and industrialised world, to a situation where it had the second highest inflation rate. The Leader of the Opposition raises his eyes. He ought to have known this because he will find the information in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development statistics. Is he proud of the fact that Australia has the second highest inflation rate and that it is still rising because of what the Labor Government has done? This is a situation in which the Labor Party has the gall to speak as it does. Is it any wonder that I say, as I said earlier today: ‘Physician, cure thyself. The effect of uniform taxation has been to throttle down the general purpose revenue of State and local governments. It is not for nothing that municipalities and shires throughout Australia were forced to put up their rates by an average of 30 per cent. The Leader of the Opposition smiles. He happily acknowledges that the ratepayers of Australia have had to pay from 30 per cent to 35 per cent more in rates because of inflation. In so doing, the services of local government have contracted. If he thinks the handouts to local government in all that rag-bag of handouts- some of them good, some of them superficial- have amounted to any offset, let him ask any local councillor. He will be told that compared with the sheer naked larceny and robbery of inflation on local rates, the other increases were petty cash.
This is the proud record of the Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition must also know that the States had their budgets so constricted in general purpose grants, as distinct from specific purpose grants, that they were forced to impose indirect charges and taxes of an unprecedented kind. The tax force, the King Herod of this world in politics, was the then Whitlam Government which by its squeeze forced the whole of this situation of indirect taxes and charges. Incidentally, this forced up the consumer price index and is forcing up inflation in a great way. Here we have a situation in which the public sector has grown by 5 per cent from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. A Budget or two ago the then Treasurer gloated that because there was a recession in the private sector there was an opportunity to shift the thrust into the public sector so that socialism could take over. In fact, the splurge that this open-ended expectation created in the public sector robbed the pensioners of the true value of their superannuation and of their life savings. It destroyed the ability of people in Australia to become little capitalists. It has resulted in capital investment in commerce and industry being unprofitable. Therefore, some 350 000 people are out of work.
This is the background to our economic position. I want to say a number of things about this matter because one or 2 members from the less populous States have said that they are opposed to federalism. What they are saying is that they believe in the abolition of the Senate, the abolition of the 6 State Governments and the amalgamation of 900 councils into some 60 regions. It is interesting that the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, when he was really being hurt in 1 974 spoke out. A Press report states:
Centralised decision-making from Canberra could spell disaster’ for industries and workers in S.A., he said.
The Labor Government in Canberra already had accepted proposals of the Industries Assistance Commission concerning tariffs on home appliances . . .
He said that this would cripple them. He then made an attack on the heavy penalties of taxation which were forced on him. He said:
I believe it to be essential for the Labor Party to decide in Federal conference that the formula for provision of money to the States from Federal income tax should be an adequate and fixed percentage of income tax revenues to be returned to the States.
Of course that is precisely what the Fraser Liberal Government is going to do for precisely the reasons which Mr Dunstan cited and argued about in 1974 when he sought to get reforms inside the conference of the Labor Party. He failed to do so. It is well to remember that in 1 970, 6 State Premiers, including the then Premier of South Australia, went to Canberra with a 34-page printed document and asked for exactly what we propose to do. Every State Premier, including as I say the then Premier of South Australia, sought these things.
I put these rhetorical questions to the Senate and to the people of Australia: Is it not right- Mr Whitlam says it is- that the government which spends the money should be responsible for raising it? Mr Whitlam says that is an impeccable principle. Is it not right that the States which are close to the people in relation to education, health, housing, the law, police and municipal affairs should have the right to adequate money and freedom of action in spending that money? Do honourable senators opposite believe in that or do they believe in the bond slave system? Do the Labor senators from Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia say that they do not want more sovereignty for their State governments? I ask this with all the force I can command: Do they say that they want their States to be run from Canberra and that they do not want more decision making to be decentralised to their States? Is that what they are saying? When they reject federalism and support centralism that is precisely what they arc saying. They, of course, want an alibi. They do not want to have the responsibility. They want to blame the Federal Government of the day. That, of course, is the basis of the Labor Party’s thinking.
But they cannot go any further now. They have to stand up and be counted now because at the Premiers Conference on 4 and 5 Februarythe most successful Premiers Conference in decades- the Premiers were told that we will bring about this federalism system that I will enlarge upon in a moment and they, including the Labor Premiers, said: ‘This is the first time that we have been allowed to discuss things at a Premiers Conference. It is the first time that we have been asked our views. It is the first time that there has been co-operation at the meeting. We have always been brought here and told what we can have and sent away with our tails between our legs’. I have paraphrased precisely their response. Do honourable senators opposite say that it is wrong to have this co-operation? Wc said to the Premiers: ‘We are not here to tell you as a fait accompli what we are going to do. We are telling you that we are going to bring in revenue sharing as from 1 July, that we are going to bring to local government a growth revenue as from that period and that we will set up a council for intergovernmental relations’. I wonder what the Labor Party objects to in relation to those situations.
It is interesting to remind ourselves that the local government associations have welcomed our policies. I wish to quote from a letter written to me by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. It said that these policies ‘were in line with the general policy of the Australian Council and a document which we’- the Australian Council of Local Government Associations-‘ most certainly support ‘.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-Mr President, I join my colleagues on this side of the chamber in congratulating you on your election to the high office of President of the Senate. I feel sure that you will carry out your duties with integrity and complete impartiality. I would like you to convey my congratulations to Senator Drake-Brockman on his election as Chairman of Committees.
Before commencing to debate the GovernorGeneral’s Speech I want to make some brief comments on the events that led up to the dismissal of the Labor Government on 1 1 November of last year. In making these comments I am doing so not because I have any expert knowledge of the legalities of the Constitution but because, like hundreds of thousands of people in Australia, I am still completely confused and perturbed about the events that occurred last year and that so far are unresolved. It is very disappointing to the people of Australia that although only one Minister has spoken in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech- the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick- no one on the government side of the chamber has made any reference to the events that led to the Australian Labor Party’s defeat last year with the exception, of course, of Senator Missen. I will refer later to his remarks.
Australia experienced and is still experiencing the consequences of an unparalleled and unprecedented crisis. It was a crisis concerning the very legal and constitutional fabric of our system of government. It was brought about by a series of events that have not yet been resolved. If we accept the attitude that this is now in the past we are avoiding a responsibility that we should not avoid. I believe that urgent reform is needed, as previous speakers on this side of the chamber have pointed out, in respect to various sections of the Constitution in order to sort out the anomalies that led to the dismissal of the Labor Government last year. The basic rule of our parliamentary system before 1 1 November of last year was that governments were made and unmade in the House of Representatives, that is, the people’s House, and that accordingly the House in which governments are formed should hold financial paramountcy over the Senate.
No specific power has been written into the Constitution providing for the delaying or rejection of money Bills. I am not going to debate that aspect. Very eminent legal men and professors all over Australia have made their comments on this and they are all undivided in their opinions. As I am a layman I would not like to enter the arena and try to dispute what are the constitutional legalities, what they should be and whether the situation should be remedied. I believe that section 53 of the Constitution should be carefully examined and that if there are powers permitting the refusal or passing of Supply those powers should be curtailed and clearly defined. These comments have been put forward by honourable senators on the government side of the chamber. I refer to a speech that was made by Senator Missen on 19 February during the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and which is recorded on page 1 1 9 of the Senate Hansard Senator Missen said:
There are, analogous to this, constitutional problems which cannot be ignored by this Parliament or by the people of Australia. Nobody seeks to suggest that they do not remain problems. Nobody suggests that after a crisis which naturally imposed dangers and stresses on the system in operation in this country and which was prolonged there are not problems that are unresolved. I say ‘unresolved ‘ because I believe, as I think all honourable senators on this side of the chamber maintained throughout the election, that the election was not some type of referendum on the future of the Constitution or of the rights of the Senate.
Senator Missen went on to refer to three of the constitutional questions that should be investigated and resolved to the satisfaction of not only the Senate but also the people of Australia. I believe that the Senate has an undeniable responsibility to the Parliament to remedy the unresolved constitutional anomalies that cheated the Labor Government of office last year. I believe that the Senate has an obligation to the people of Australia and to future generations to make certain that the events of last year are never repeated.
Prior to the Governor-General’s dismissal of the Whitlam Government on 1 1 November of last year and during the election campaign many people, particularly aged people, came along to see me about the events that were taking place in Australia. They were worried and concerned about what could eventuate. Could there be a military coup in Australia? If the Labor Government were elected for the third time in succession, would the military take over the Government as has happened in other countries? I tried to explain that it was very doubtful that this would happen in a country like Australia where we have known democracy and where it is respected. But I was reminded of what 4 officers of the Army were alleged to have said in Queensland, namely, that if a socialist or Communist government were elected in Australia they would not hesitate to overturn the government elected. Those things are still worrying the people of Australia.
I believe that an investigation should be made by a Senate committee into the constitutional legalities of the position and that the matter should be sorted out. Senator Missen supports the proposition that something be done but he does not think it should be done immediately. 1 do not know whether he thinks that the matter should be forgotten. However, 1 noticed that Senator Grimes, who followed Senator Missen in the debate, stated that if Senator Missen thought that anything would be done by this Government he was far off the mark. I raise this matter hoping that the issues of last year are not forgotten. They should not be forgotten because so much damage was done to the Parliament of Australia and the people of Australia are still divided on this issue.
There are 4 questions in regard to the Constitution to which I want to refer briefly. I will not elaborate on these points because other honourable senators on this side of the Senate have fully covered all aspects of the Constitution. The first point that I believe should be considered carefully is whether the Governor-General’s power to dismiss a Prime Minister and Ministers of the Crown should be retained or whether it should be altered. The second point I make is in relation to the Senate’s authority to block Supply. This was done under section 53 of the Constitution. Many legal men have given interpretations of that section which give no foundation for the actions of the Governor-General on 1 1 November last year. Only recently in an editorial in the Melbourne Herald newspaper dated 18 February 1 976 these comments were made:
Neither the Senate nor any other upper house should deny money Bills and so force an election. Actions taken by the Opposition late last year comprised an improper use of power. A way must be found to curtail even the possibility of that happening again. Presumably, it can be accomplished by a referendum and a qualification of the Constitution.
The Melbourne Herald newspaper has been very consistent on this issue. It has not forgotten the issue even if Government senators would like it to be forgotten. Government senators are adopting the attitude that they are in power, they do not care how they got into power as long as they remain in power. They do not want to make the situation any easier than it is for the Opposition to regain power. But there are one or two matters which they probably have not thought of. The first is in regard to the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate. In the past- that is, prior to last year- casual vacancies were always filled by a member of the political party to which the senator who died or who resigned from the Senate belonged. You, Mr President, will be well aware that the South Australian Government carried out that practice, I think in 1967. Last year there was a departure from that convention by 2 States of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland. I am about to repeat what has been said in the Senate many times: If it had not been for the death of the late Senator Milliner there would have been no election last year. You, Mr President, would not be sitting in that chair and we would be on the other side of the Senate chamber. That is undeniable because 2 senators from the then Opposition said that they would refuse to reject the Supply Bills One of those senators is still in the Parliament; the other lost pre-selection by his Party.
I believe that we ought to set down a principle in the Constitution which declares that in the event of a senator resigning or dying his place must be filled by a member of the same political party. We should not leave the position as it is at present, that is, at the whim of the government of a State. Mr Malcolm Fraser, the present Prime Minister, has announced on several occasions that his Government may have to introduce measures that will be extremely unpopular. Any government that introduces measures that are extremely unpopular, of course, loses electoral support. I wonder whether he has ever thought of the possibility- this is hypothetical- of a tragedy occurring in which an aircraft travelling to South Australia next Thursday or Friday crashed and the 5 Liberal Party senators from that State were all killed. What would happen if the South Australian Labor Government elected 5 Labor senators in their place? We would have a majority in the Senate. We would not be doing anything new. Certainly the Premier of Queensland would take that sort of action. The Premier of New South Wales would not hesitate to do that if he was in office.
– They have established the precedent.
-They have established the precedent. The South Australian Labor Government would be quite within its rights to follow the precedent which has been set by 2 previous Liberal-National Country Party coalition governments.
The final question that I believe needs some clarification and perhaps change in the Constitution concerns the length of time to be served by senators. Although in the last 3 double dissolutions the question of who will have the long term of 6 years and who will have the short term of 3 years has been settled rather amicably by both sides of the Senate, it could so happen that in an election 30 senators from the Government side, 30 senators from the Opposition side and 4 independent senators or senators from a small political party were elected. Those 4 senators, could be elected on the preference votes of the other political parties. It would be quite simple for those 4 senators to vote with the party in Opposition to reverse the conventions that we have carried out over the last double dissolutions. Thus, instead of giving to the 5 senators who were first elected in each State the long term in office and the 5 senators who were last elected the short term in office, the Senate could easily reverse that position and give the 5 senators last elected the long term of office and the 5 senators first elected the short term of office. I believe that matter should be looked at and that the practice followed in the past 3 double dissolutions could quite easily be written into the Constitution so that for all time the people of Australia would know, in the event of any elections, how senators would be placed and whether they were being elected for a long term or a short term. I want to refer briefly to 2 matters contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. The first reads:
The Government intends to increase the capacity of Australian workers and employers to decide the leadership of their organisation. Legislation will be introduced providing for officially conducted secret ballots in elections for officials in organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government is also proposing to ensure that members receive each year a report on the activities of their organisation and its finances.
It seems to me that the Government is intent on a collision course with the trade union movement. Although the Prime Minister promised during the election campaign that he would support full wage indexation, no sooner was the case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission than he intervened in the case in an effort to halve the amount of the consumer price index increase. One sees from the Governor-General ‘s Speech that the Prime Minister or his Government now wants to interfere with the internal affairs of the trade union movement. I am quite certain that the trade union movement will not tolerate this interference. There are ample provisions in the constitutions and rules of unions to provide for secret ballots. There is also ample provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for secret ballots. Section 170 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act reads: ( 1.) An organisation or a branch of an organisation may, in writing, request the Industrial Registrar that an election for an office in the organisation or in the branch (as the case may be) be conducted under this section with a view to ensuring that no irregularity occurs in or in connexion with the election.
An amendment was introduced to the Conciliation and Arbitration Regulations by the
Liberal-Country Party Government in 1 972. The amendment reads: (1.) For the purposes of section 170 of the Act, the number of members of an organisation or branch by whom a request under that section for the conduct of an election for an office in the organisation or the branch, as the case may be, may be made is two hundred and fifty, or one-twentieth of the total number of members of the organisation or branch, as the case may be, whichever is the less.
So, there is ample provision for the rank and file members of any organisation in Australia to have a secret ballot. Only 250 signatures are required to ensure that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer will conduct the ballot in the same way as elections are concerned for the Federal Houses of Parliament. Election of union members will be conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for each State. I had experience of this while in the Australian Workers Union. In every ballot each year we would petition so that the election of officers in the South Australian branch would be conducted by Commonwealth electoral officers. An organisation can obtain 250 signatures in half a day, so no real hardship is placed on a union that wants to have a secret ballot or make certain that the ballot is secret and that irregularities are avoided.
It seems to me that the Government has taken this provocative stand against the unions for the purpose of provoking the unions into causing some industrial unrest. Then the Government, as previously, will want to change the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and re-impose the penalties that previously existed. I can think of no other reason for the Government being so stupid as to want to go on a collision course with the trade union movement.
The other part of the Governor-General’s Speech to which I want to refer reads:
The Government proposes to introduce to the Parliament amending legislation to increase social service pensions and benefit rates every 6 months in accordance with movements in the Consumer Price Index. Similar legislation will be introduced to increase repatriation compensation payments.
I see this as a retrograde step and one which will reduce the rate of pension below the rate that would have applied had the normal procedure of bringing the pension to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings been followed. Senator Colston the other night during a very good speech referred to figures taken over the last 3 years which showed that if movements in the consumer price index had been applied in regard to pensions, pensions would have been something like $6 a week less than they currently are. The preliminary estimate for the December quarter is that average weekly male earnings arc $172 a week. The wage indexation increase of 6.4 per cent, if applied to the current standard pension rate- $38.75- would result in an additional S2.50 a week, making a total of only $41.25 a week. Applying the Labor Party’s policy of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings the standard pension would increase by $2.75 a week making a total of $43 a week or S1.75 more than the amount proposed by the Government in legislation to be introduced later in this session.
The only other comment I wish to make is that no proposals have been made anywhere- the position may be remedied later- that supporting fathers should be granted a pension similar to that paid to supporting mothers. I raised this question here one day last week. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, although in favour of the policy of supporting fathers’ pensions, did not indicate that they would be forthcoming.
– She raised it herself when we were in Government and criticised us for not doing it.
-That is true. I have with me an extract from the Senate Hansard of 30 July 1974. Commencing on page 597 Senator Guilfoyle said:
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer while we are talking about pension incomes. I refer not to a new need in the Australian community but one which should be recognised at this time. I speak of the need of the single fathers, the supporting fathers, of children, particularly pre-school age children. In speaking of this I do not wish to speak with a political objective in mind; I think rather that it is an objective which the Australian community should recognise. I am pleased to say that Senator Melzer of Victoria is displaying the same concern as I feel in this matter. This need in Australia should be regarded as a government responsibility. The government should assist disadvantaged families where a single parent, a father, is caring for children, whether he is a widower or a deserted husband. I believe that in this category there are some 25 000 families and perhaps up to 50 000 children. The anomaly is that if a widow is caring for such children there are government programs to assist her, but if a male parent has accepted the total responsibility for the children there is no government assistance to which he is entitled. There is no recognition of the special need of the supporting father and the children in such families.
Senator Guilfoyle went on to say that legislation of this nature should be considered, and asked the then Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, to introduce it. We know that there is a lot of distress, suffering and poverty amongst supporting fathers just as there has been and still is amongst supporting mothers, deserted wives, de facto wives who have been deserted, unmarried mothers and so on. I see no reason why there should be discrimination against a husband who is supporting young children going to school. The same child care and other benefits should apply to supporting husbands as apply to supporting mothers. I hope that the Minister takes cognizance of this and that she will introduce legislation to cover this anomaly. I have read Senator Harradine ‘s amendment, and although it has some merit I cannot see at this stage that it fully provides for what a competent Opposition should be doing in this chamber. I shall be opposing the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! Before calling Senator Walters, I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that it is her maiden speech. I ask that the usual courtesies be extended to her.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague, Senator Knight, one of the first 2 senators from the Australian Capital Territory. First I should like to congratulate the President on his election to the high office of the President of the Senate. From what has been said by honourable senators opposite as well as by Government senators, I look forward to working under his Presidency. I should also like to congratulate you, Sir, on your election as Chairman of Committees, and the new senators who have made their maiden speeches. I suppose that if male senators can make maiden speeches, so can I. It is a great honour for me to be standing here in this chamber and representing the State of Tasmania. I am conscious of the enormous trust that the electors of Tasmania have placed in me, and I will certainly try to fulfil their confidence.
The first issue with which I will deal this evening is that of a small State- the south island of Australia, as all loyal Tasmanians like to call it. Tasmania is, without doubt, the most beautiful of all the States of the Australian Commonwealth. I do not think any honourable senators, not even those on the Government side, would care to debate that issue with me. The tempo of life, the small population with no large urban complexes, and the isolation give Tasmania many advantages that the larger States lack. In our cities the air is clean, the water is pure and the mother has not the same problems in raising her children as have her sisters in the larger States. One can still go fishing and be assured of bringing home a fine catch- something that is certainly denied the residents of the larger States. Our historic buildings and unspoiled wildernesses are two of the other resources that Tasmania has in abundance. I certainly endorse the efforts of the National Trust and the help recently afforded to Tasmania by Commonwealth agencies in the preservation of these resources, not only for Tasmanians but also for future generations of all Australians. However, as honourable senators realise, some of these advantages turn to gross disadvantages in terms of Tasmania’s economy, for, Mr Deputy President, one cannot eat and drink beauty.
Today in Tasmania the people are experiencing the highest unemployment rate of any State of Australia, inflation is out of control, and our transport costs make a mockery of competitive trade with the mainland. Our economic disabilities are clearly reflected in our relatively low average income per head of population. Tasmania has the lowest average income in the Commonwealth. However, it has not always been the lowest. Certainly, it has been the lowest over the last 3 years. I take a sample of States as a comparison: New South Wales, which has the highest average income; South Australia, where the average income is next lowest to Tasmania; and Tasmania. In 1971-72 the average weekly income in New South Wales was $95.90. In South Australia it was $85.30, $1.50 less than the rate in Tasmania, which was then $86.80. The Australian average at that time was $93. In 1974-75, towards the end of Labor’s rule, the average weekly income in New South Wales was $ 1 5 1 .90. In South Australia it was $ 1 40.70 and in Tasmania it was $139.70. The Australian average was $148.40. In those 3 years Tasmania’s average income had not only dropped from the second lowest to the lowest in the Commonwealth, but also the difference in the average weekly income between Tasmania and New South Wales had increased from $9 to $12. Instead of being $5.20 behind the national average, we were $8.70 behind. I hesitate to contemplate this year’s figures.
Honourable senators will see that this situation just cannot continue. The image of the Apple Isle is no longer a fact. The apple industry, along with the dairy industry, has been brought to its knees. Knitting mills have closed, and the timber, pulp and paper industries are struggling to compete with overseas imports. Along with all our other industries, the textile and tourist industries are screaming for freight and fare relief. The total value of Tasmania’s exports, both overseas and interstate, fell last year by nearly 10 per cent. We must be given a fair go. We were written off as an economic disaster by the Labor Party. It reminded us all too often that we represented only the same number of votes as the city of Newcastle and so did not rate special attention.
The people of Tasmania are now looking to the Liberal Government for the equality that our constitution affords us. Under the Fraser Government, Tasmanians can again expect a stable economic environment in which all people can work.
The issues of freight equalisation are many and complex. As honourable senators know, legislation is now being framed and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is carrying out the Government’s election promise to Tasmania. It is not just a simple philosophy of ‘scrap all ports save one’ that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) advocates. The issue is far more complex than that. Tasmania is the most decentralised of all Australian States. Compared with the national average of 64.5 per cent, 33 per cent of Tasmania’s population live in urban complexes. Also, 26 per cent of Tasmanians live in rural areas, whereas the figure is 14 per cent for the rest of Australia. Therefore, it would be a pity to abandon the ‘Four Port’ system for temporary financial expediency alone, for, surely, all States are aiming for decentralisation. At the root of Tasmania’s transport problems is the question of unreliability. If that problem could be overcome, all our problems would be solved.
The number of man days lost on the waterfront by strikes in Melbourne in 1974-75 amounted to 12 917. That figure refers to 7-hour days. In Tasmania, the number of days lost on the waterfront by strikes amounted only to fiftysix. However, every time the waterfront in Melbourne went on strike the cost to Tasmania was devastating. The Labor Party failed to give us industrial peace. I only hope that as a result of the new industrial relations aimed at by this Government, responsible trade union leadership will minimise these losses. If these aims are accomplished, we are in business. If not, no form of assistance will have lasting benefit. In regard to transport, Bass Strait is Tasmania’s biggest drawback. Generally speaking, unless a manufacturer in the private sector can export about 60 per cent of his total output and compete with mainland prices, he cannot hope to remain viable. The population of Tasmania is just not big enough. So the manufacturer is forced to specialise in areas of industry which export either to the mainland or overseas. Therefore Tasmanians rely heavily on imports, with added freight charges for goods that they consume.
I would like to mention just a few of these articles- just a few because the list would be never ending- to show how the average housewife is disadvantaged. These prices were drawn to my attention this week and are a comparison between a ‘prices crash’ advertisement- one in the Melbourne Herald and one in the Hobart Mercury. Both advertisements were inserted on the same day by the same national chain of supermarkets. In Melbourne tomatoes were listed at 18c lb. They were 34c lb in Hobart. Bananas in Melbourne were 12c lb; in Hoban they were 2 lc lb. Grapes in Melbourne were 13c lb; in Hobart they were 22c lb. On those 3 items alone the difference is 34c. But we find, if we look at the figures put out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, that these increased prices are carried through to almost every food article the housewife buys such as tea, bread, butter and potatoes. Should she be so extravagant as to buy a dozen eggs she pays 9c extra. The housewife in Tasmania pays 64c more for a 4-lb leg of lamb. And so on. Whilst some of these items are readily produced in Tasmania, the production costs are all affected by freight charges. These are just a few of the additional charges affected by southbound freight. When we look at northbound freight we then get some insight into the damage that has been done to Tasmanian industry.
The figures, as I have said, are complex. To put it simply, heavy cargo of high density is not penalised to the same extent as light cargo of low density- volume being the key in sea transport. The figures I am giving are the most recent available from the Bureau of Transport Economics; they are for September 1972. All honourable senators know that freight charges have risen since then by 32 ‘/i per cent for general northbound cargo with an additional 40 per cent for bulk cargo and paper. I shall give some of these charges. One ton of 40 cubic feet of heavy cargo- I apologise to Senator Webster for using the imperial terms ‘ton’ and ‘feet’ rather than the metric terms, but these are 1972 figures- from Devonport to Melbourne cost $7.81 compared with $6.20 that it would have cost to move the same cargo the same distance by rail on the mainland. In other words, it cost about 15 per cent more. This is bad enough but when it comes to light cargo of low density we get a far greater discrepancy. One ton of 1 40 cubic feet of cargo costs $25.80 to shift from Devonport to Melbourne compared with $8.70 by rail on the mainland. That is a difference of approximately 200 per cent. Is it any wonder that our industries are screaming out for relief? These facts, along with our lower wage structure, express our plight very clearly. We need relief from this unfair burden and we need it now.
I should like now to speak briefly about some matters affecting women. During my campaign I was frequently asked questions relating to women. I replied then, and I still maintain, that women’s issues are Australia’s issues and Australia’s issues are women’s issues and any problems must be dealt with by all Australians. We women are not an underprivileged minority group as the radical feminists would have us depicted. We women in Australia are equal with our menfolk, and only those who wish to denigrate our sex would have us believe otherwise. However, one thing we must fight is not our male population but ourselves; for the only things standing in the way of women are the psychological barriers we ourselves impose. An example of this is the way we push our sons’ education just a little harder than we push our daughters’ education and, by so doing, make it harder for girls in their later years to reach their full potential. Changes in this approach are occurring; they should be encouraged. But we cannot change society’s attitude overnight, and to try to do so only harms the women’s cause. History teaches us that rapid change is rarely lasting.
We are now drawing to the end of International Women’s Year. It is hotly debated whether it has been a success or a failure. One thing is certain: It has brought women to notice more than any other single event has ever done. To me, the conference in Mexico City was successful in that it pointed out the diverse problems of women all over the world. Women from the underdeveloped nations were quite at a loss to understand the militant western women’s attitude to matters they thought were trivial. After all, their main interest was to feed, clothe, shelter and educate their children- in other words, to bring up their families with dignity. The women from the western world were unable to comprehend, far less sit and listen, to such simple demands; for here in Australia we already have this. So the feminist activists have in our country turned the full circle and are no longer interested in assisting women in the home. Here I would like to quote Elizabeth Reid, the former adviser on women’s affairs to the previous Prime Minister, who said that to assist women in the home:
She stated further:
All that would do, is to reinforce the existing sex roles in society. It doesn’t question them at all. Wages for mothers is a right wing demand. Every fascist and reactionary political party in history has asked for it. It’s one of the most effective means of keeping women where the fascists think we ought to be- in the house.
This statement expresses more clearly than anything else could the lack of comprehension of some of the women activists. To begin with, the female of the human race is biologically the one to bear and nurture children. This fact is undeniable. It is also undeniable that the continuance of a stable society means stable citizens- and stable citizens come from a stable family background where the love of a mother for her child is of paramount importance. This fact is well supported by innumerable studies on human behaviour. To me, the provision of a happy, stable home is the most important task the average woman ever does.
Governments have, over the years, assisted women to enter the work force through subsidies to child care centres, maternity leave and retraining schemes. While I find these changes most laudable and, in many circumstances completely necessary, I ask: How long is it since any government has assisted the woman in the home? The only assistance- that of child endowment- was first brought in by a Liberal Government in 1941. It was then 50c for the second child and subsequent children. In 1950 an endowment of 50c was introduced for the first child- again by a Liberal Government. This has varied very little in the intervening years. The last increase in child endowment was in 1971 under a Liberal Government. It was still 50c for the first child, but $ 1 for the second child, $2 for the third child and $2.25 for all subsequent children. It is this meagre allowance that induces women to put their children into child care centres and join the work force to keep up with the Joneses- the working sisters with their ever-increasing financial commitments.
If women are to remain in the home they need to be given realistic endowment so that they have money of their own and can feel the same independence as that of their working counterparts. It is only then that women will be able to do what they like with their lives and reach their full potential. If they choose to stay at home and rear a family they can do so without detriment. If they choose to follow a career then they can do that also. In conclusion, I have been somewhat surprised to hear honourable senators on the other side of the chamber berate the GovernorGeneral their own appointee- for applying the country’s Constitution, an action which was endorsed subsequently by the democratic vote of the people. I suggest that the will of the people has been expressed and it is time that the bitterness we have heard in this chamber ceased and we all pulled together as a Parliament to ensure that Australia is pulled out of the troubled times in which we find it today. Mr Deputy President, it gives me great pleasure to support the motion moved by Senator Knight.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Before calling Senator Sibraa, I indicate that this will be his first speech in the Senate and I ask honourable senators to extend to him the usual courtesies.
- Mr Deputy President, I take this opportunity of congratulating you on your election as Chairman of Committees. I should also like you to convey to the President my congratulations on his elevation to his office. From the remarks that have been made by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, I am sure that you will both fill your positions with credit. I should also like to congratulate other honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches.
We have now reached a watershed in our nation’s history. After 3 years of dynamic reform and unprecedented social change, we have had elected a conservative government with the largest House of Representatives majority in a generation. Yet at the same time there has been no public acceptance of this Government’s assaults on the monuments of the Whitlam years. In spite of their decision last December for apparent stability, conformity and tranquillity in government, the people implicitly recognise the value of Labor’s programs and will fight to retain them. While we on the Labor side must recognise the significance of the people’s vote last December- that social change must be introduced in an orderly fashion within a framework of economic stability and government cohesiveness- the conservatives must recognise also that the vote of last December was not a vote for reaction or a vote for social inequality. This Government, as it now faces the people, has no program for the future. In fact, it is not untrue to say that the Government has no concept of there being any future at all to consider. It has a backward- looking view of the world, marked by an obsession with outmoded ideas and snobbish customs. We have returned to a world of imperial honours and deference to one ‘s betters. With the narrow view that what is good for the Western District graziers and the Jaycees is necessarily good for Australia, this Government surely will find to its cost that the Australian people emphatically do not share those assumptions.
In spite of our turbulent history and our electoral ups and downs, the spirit of what is good and decent in Australia, the notions of mateship and a fair go, are still the property of the Australian Labor Party. The event of 1 1 November 1975 proved that if it proved nothing else. Ours is the progressive view of history. We are hopeful for mankind. We believe that man can improve his position and have a better future. We believe that the positive impulse in society is the collective, co-operative spirit of man helping his fellow man. We oppose and completely reject the conservative ideology of the jungle, where dog eats dog and the weak go to the wall. Opening Labor’s campaign for the 1969 election, Gough Whitlam put the progressive view of history as well as anyone has done before or since, in my opinion. In this time of confusion about the direction in which this country should move, I would like to refresh the memories of honourable senators by quoting his opening words:
We of the Labor Party have an enduring commitment to a view about society. It is this: in modern countries, opportunities for all citizens- the opportunity for a complete education, opportunity for dignity in retirement, opportunity for proper medical treatment, opportunity to share in the nation’s wealth and resources, opportunity for decent housing, the opportunity for civilised conditions in our cities and towns, opportunity to preserve and promote the natural beauty of the land- can be provided only if governmentsthe community itself acting through its elected representativeswill provide them. Private wealth is insufficient now to provide such opportunities even for the wealthy few. The inequalities in our community now reflect not so much gross disparities in income, but the failure of successive Liberal governments to create opportunities for the overwhelming majority of our people- the lower, modest and middle income families- opportunities which only governments can make. And increasingly in Australia the national government must initiate those opportunities.
That view of history and society is still the basic standard by which Australians view their governments. It does not matter how an election results; the Australian people have a consistent view that government is a creative force designed to serve their interests. They do not want a government that curtails services. Historically, the Australian people want those services increased and they want them improved. The Fraser Government would do well to examine its conscience and its performance to date and judge how well it stands up against that philosophy. If it believes that the decision of last December was a decision to leave the future of this country in the hands of an unbridled private sector, the Government will be turning its back on history to its own ultimate cost.
The weakness of the Government’s approach to political reality is in evidence throughout its programs, but nowhere is it more apparent than in those areas on which I want to comment this evening, namely, foreign policy, industrial relations and electoral reform. One of the first acts of major significance taken by this Government when it achieved office was to re-orient completely Australia’s foreign policy with regard to the Indian Ocean. By its hasty and ill conceived decision to support an escalation of the arms build-up in the region, by encouraging the United States Government to increase its military presence on the island of Diego Garcia and then proceeding to offer the United States naval access to Cockburn Sound for its nuclear armed and nuclear powered vessels, the Government at almost a single stroke has brought to an end the rational and productive foreign policy of the previous Labor Government. Labor initiatives between 1972 and 1975, which had resulted in a relationship of trust and confidence between Australia and other littoral states of the Indian Ocean, have been replaced by a policy which seeks to ignore, indeed more accurately to reverse, the passage of time in order to return to the futile era of confrontation between the major powers- the United States and the Soviet Union. In this conservative scenario Australia has only one function to fulfil, that of a loyal, obedient, unthinking minor partner of the United States, a minor partner failing to identify and hence failing to take advantage of the many available opportunities which require independent initiatives.
Such a policy as that being pursued by this Government in the Indian Ocean may be described accurately as one of total reliance on and acceptance of decisions taken outside this country. It restricts Australia’s ability to manoeuvre and negotiate freely in the international area, so firmly committed are we to American national interests on this question. The salient point of whether a time will emerge when Australia’s interests will not coincide, perhaps will even clash, with those of the United States is not even considered. In place of Labor’s reasoned approach to the question, which sought strenuously to encourage mutual restraint in military commitment to the region by the United States and the Soviet Union, one now discovers that the present Government has adopted the curious position of both encouraging the United States to increase its arms strength in the region while at the same time asking that the super powers display mutual restraint. Such a glaring inconsistency in our foreign policy might simply appear ludicrous and laughable, were not its ramifications so serious for future Australian diplomatic endeavours in this area, so vital to Australia’s security and prosperity. Assuredly the Government by its intrepid mismanagement of our foreign affairs gives every indication of wishing to see Australia recognised in the world at large as it was prior to 1972, as, in the words of Mr Patrick White, ‘ a nation of rustic clowns ‘.
This philosophical trait of the conservative parties, of exclusive reliance on but one element of foreign policy consideration, that a great and powerful friend will always stand ready and able both to conduct Australia’s international affairs and to assist Australia should a crisis arise was the central guiding aspect of our foreign policy standpoint of generations long past. It stems from a conclusion that Australia is not able to act, nor should she act, independently in international diplomacy. Australian foreign policy, according to this present Government, should simply follow a course dictated by others. This view is not suited to the conduct of our foreign affairs in this decade, where it will have the effect of setting unnecessarily rigid and constricting parameters for our foreign relations, especially with Asia. Nor was such a policy ever wise. Conservative inflexibility in developing foreign policy has previously led Australia into the political fiasco and moral shame of our intervention in Vietnam, to an unrewarding and unnecessary era of hostility towards the People’s Republic of China, and caused undue friction in our relations with our other Asian neighbours. Labor ended that, and the merit of Labor’s more rational foreign policy attitude was acknowledged publicly by the former United States Ambassador to this country, Mr Marshall Green. This is surely the case at present with regard to the issues pertaining to the Asian region where Labor’s reasoned approach is attuned to the progressive elements within the United States Congress and the United States Administration and is not, unlike our conservative opponents’ policy, the product of an outdated irrelevant ideology.
Mr Deputy President, the present Government, whilst unable to undo entirely the achievement in foreign policy of 1972-1975, will also prove unwilling and unable to take Australia further forward in the development of worthwhile relations with Asia. Its attitude reflects past perspectives. Already it has demonstrated much of that supreme indifference towards the concerns and problems of the people of Asia which one would have hoped no longer characterise official Australian attitudes. This is most clearly evidenced by its ill-considered, even reckless, decision to reduce our foreign aid program.
Lest it be said, Mr Deputy President, that my comments on the impact of entrenched conservatism within the Government are relevant only to the conduct of the nation’s foreign affairs, it may be readily demonstrated that this philosophical premise is also the guide for its direction of Australian domestic affairs. Already, after only a short space of 2 months in elected office, the
Government’s dismal record in industrial relations begins to rival those of preceding conservative governments. Assurances which were given to the Australian people during the election campaign of November-December 1975 on the future of wage indexation have now been revealed for what they always were- shabby lies. The Australian trade union movement has been further deceived. Having been prepared to accept the word of the responsible Minister, to the effect that legislation which is designed to interfere in matters which are strictly internal concerns of the Labor movement- my colleague, Senator Donald Cameron, commented on this aspect this afternoon- did not have a high priority in the Government’.s program and would not be introduced before consultation with union leaders occurred, the union movement now discovers that such ministerial assurances are worthless.
This intended legislation is to be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity, regardless of the outcome of discussions between Government and trade unions, that is if such discussions were ever intended to take place. Little wonder then that the trade union movement feels obliged to act with extreme caution in dealing with this Government. Indeed, it is a credit to the perseverance of, and the restraint exercised by, the industrial Labor movement in this country that there still exists the opportunity for discussions. Few within the Australian community would blame the union movement if it already regarded the process of talking with the Government as meaningless. As a matter of fact, public positions on industrial relations questions which are adopted by this Government should be interpreted not as a reflection of its true attitude but more as an indication that it intends to do exactly the opposite.
This state of affairs leads one to doubt the worth of the promise that tax indexation will be introduced in the next Budget. Already there are signs that this promise will not be honoured. It is stated that indexation shall be introduced in return for support for the Government’s economic program. However, as Professor Russell Mathews commented recently, to state that the introduction of tax indexation is contingent upon other factors, as the Government has done, is to have the emphasis wrong, seriously wrong. Tax indexation is a pre-requisite for economic recovery. Further, as Andrew Clark wrote in the National Times of 16-2 1 February 1976, its own action in the recent wage index hearing: has left the Government bereft of a wages policy, and with little prospect of developing one in the future.
Wages policy surely constitutes the cornerstone of any economic program. The Government, of its own volition, is without one. Therefore, precisely what Government economic program remains to be deserving of support? It is certainly not the crude approach of drastically reducing expenditures, with its resultant unemployment and hardship. Only the most deluded disciples of Ayn Rand and the Liberal and National Country Parties would support such draconian measures. Clearly, then, in the area of industrial relations this Government has displayed little capacity and much ineptitude.
However, there is one approach on which the conservatives believe that they may constantly rely. That is that of confrontation, of provoking the Australian trade union movement into an industrial dispute through the process of creating an intolerable economic situation. The Government now appears henton this destructive course of action, by sabotaging wage indexation and by misleading the trade union movement, by vacillating on the introduction of tax indexation and, finally, by seeking to direct the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission away from its primary function, that of conciliation.
Mr Deputy President, these moves illustrate the point which I made earlier, that the Government seeks consciously to revert to a situation which existed under previous coalition administrations when industrial relations in this country were marked by hostility, suspicion and rancour. It is to this bitter industrial past that the Government now desires to return, for, in the simplistic, conservative political analysis, the Government should harass and finally attempt to emasculate the trade union movement of this country in a decisive confrontation. This could mean only that all Australians will suffer. The industrial Labor movement should not be regarded, as this Government apparently views it, as a rival to its authority which must be bested in a display of strength; rather, Australian trade unions should be considered an integral part of our economic community, able and prepared to contribute to the processes by which industrial and social decisions are made. Unions were considered in this light by the former Labor Administration; I believe that it should remain so. As the British political commentator, Mr Paul Johnson, wrote on the question of Australian industrial relations:
The Whitlam years cannot simply be erased. The clock cannot be put back to Menzies-time.
Finally, with regard to the present unjust and inequitable electoral system which operates in Australia, one finds the Government uninterested in reform, reform which is necessary in order to guarantee the future viability of Australian parliamentary democracy. An electoral system, such as the one which now exists and which is weighted so demonstrably against a major Party, will not be tolerated indefinitely by the Australian community. To be sure, if the Australian people have made one point abundantly clear to governments over the last decade, it is that they wish their opinions to be considered, their aspirations to be acknowledged and their demands to be met. In these circumstances, an electoral system which denies office to the Party that enjoys majority support at the polls, as the Australian electoral system did to the Australian Labor Party in 1954, 1961 and 1969, should undergo significant alteration to end injustices. If the electoral process does not properly reflect the commitments of the voters but rather frustrates them, then it can only serve to bring the entire concept of parliamentary democracy in this country into disrepute.
However, as I have observed, the Government remains indifferent to the pressing need for electoral reform. If the conservatives’ past record of implacable opposition to such reform is any indication, and there is no reason to suggest that it is not, then the Australian people should anticipate a perpetuation of the present system of unfair electoral boundaries, and redistributions based on those boundaries, solely designed to entrench the Liberal-National Country Party coalition in office. Moreover, there exists in a related area an obvious and growing need for legislation to be introduced both to regulate and to provide for the financing of election campaigns. Labor tried to achieve the first of these aims while in government but it was prevented from doing so by a conservative majority in this place. Without doubt, there will be little enthusiasm on the pan of the Government for carrying on with this program the worth of which has already been acknowledged in some measure by the New South Wales State Liberal-National Country Party Government. It becomes even more vital, therefore, to state that reform of the existing electoral machinery, together with other iniquities which mar Australian political democracy, should occupy a higher priority for any administration which is honestly concerned with Australia’s future as a democratic country. It is my intention, as well as the intention of my Party, to pursue this course of identifying and then eventually removing those unfair practices and abuses which render our electoral system poorer. In doing so I believe our Party, unlike our opponents, looks to the future not to the past.
A lot was said during the last election campaign about socialists and socialism. A lot has been said on this subject by honourable senators opposite during my short period of time in the Senate. I consider myself to be a loyal socialist. The Labor Party believes in socialism which is pragmatic, democratic and humane, a socialism which is not a prisoner of any doctrinaire ideology and which is uncompromisingly opposed to any form of totalitarianism. I thank honourable senators for allowing me the privilege of making this speech in silence.
– It gives me great pleasure to support the motion which the Senate has been debating for the third week. The motion expresses our loyalty to the Crown and thanks the Governor-General for the Speech which he delivered in this chamber when he opened the Thirtieth Parliament. The Speech sets forth the program of the Government which was elected on 1 3 December. It also expresses in a very interesting and forthright way the philosophy which guides the Government and which was the basis for its great electoral support on 13 December. However, before expressing my reasons for supporting the motion I congratulate Senator Laucke on his election as President of the Senate and you, Mr Deputy President, on your election as Chairman of Committees. These 2 elections gave me particular pleasure because Senator Laucke was one of the first new friends I found when I came into the Senate and of course you, Sir, are an old and valued friend and colleague from Western Australia. I also congratulate the new honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches. It is interesting that I have the opportunity of following one such maiden speaker in Senator Sibraa who has just resumed his seat.
I believe that the speeches that have been delivered by new honourable senators in the course of this debate have been of a very high standard. In fact, I think these speeches have given the major interest to this debate. If it had not been for these many interesting and, indeed, some excellent speeches that we have heard I am afraid this debate would have been very dull and uninteresting. As I have said, we are now in the third week of this debate. It appears to me that the Labor Opposition has not made any attempt to raise issues of fundamental importance as far as the nation’s future and the Government’s direction are concerned. Whatever else may have been said about the Liberal Party and the National Country Party Opposition in the Senate for 3 years, I believe it raised fundamental issues. We constantly raised those issues for debate in this chamber. But in this debate we have not even had from the Opposition an amendment to the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General ‘s Speech on which these issues could be raised and which ought to be raised for debate in the national Parliament.
– Yes, you have.
– We have, certainly. I pay tribute to Senator Harradine for having moved an amendment. I do not necessarily agree with every word of it. I certainly would not be likely to agree with any of the words in an amendment which may have been moved by the Opposition. The fact is that the Opposition has failed dismally in this debate. It has not raised the sorts of issues which one expects to have raised and debated in the national Parliament. As far as I can see all the Opposition has done in the course of the 3 weeks of this new Parliament is to carry on its private war with the Governor-General. We have heard ad nauseam in this place and in another place speech after speech reiterating the same old personal vendetta which is being waged not only by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) but also as far as one can see by all his supporters in Parliament.
The only other activity in which the Opposition has engaged is the one which is at present tearing the Labor Party apart and that is the moves which have been made and the discussions which have been held about the sources of its election funds. I do not want to engage in that debate this evening. I believe it is fundamentally a debate to be held within the Labor Party. But what concerns me is the vendetta which the Labor Party is running against the GovernorGeneral who is no part of the Parliament. He is not a member of Parliament. If the Labor Party would like to carry on its argument with the Governor-General outside the Parliament, that is its affair, but it is certainly not a matter for worthwhile debate in the Parliament. One of my colleagues in an earlier stage in this debate said- I think it was Senator Rae- that if the Labor Opposition believes there is a real political or constitutional issue raised, let it bring forth a proposed amendment to the Constitution or let it raise the matter as an amendment to the motion which we have before us. Let it raise an issue that will be a matter of debate and concern for the future; but, for goodness sake, do not let us waste any more of the time of the Parliament in carrying on a personal vendetta about something that happened in the past. As I have said, the other matter of deep concern- I have no doubt that it is a matter of very deep concern for the Australian Labor Party- is the source of its funds. This applies to the last election and. indeed, to future elections. Once again that is a matter for the Labor Party to debate within itself.
What is worrying me- it has been perfectly clear from the nature of the debate that has gone on here over the past 3 weeks- is that the Labor Party has no capacity to act as an Opposition and to raise in the great national forum the fundamental issues that are posed for the nation and the debates that can be very properly instigated in regard to them. It is not the fact that the Government and the Government Parties have failed to raise such issues. I believe that one of the striking features- indeed the striking featureof the Governor-General’s Speech is the fact that it has raised in a very clear and unmistakable way the fundamental issues that the Government and the nation are facing. It has raised them and has expressed the Government’s own philosophy about them. The Speech also states clearly the steps that the Government intends to take about them. A striking feature of this speech by the Governor-General- striking in comparison with others I have heard in this Parliament and others that were delivered in this Parliament before I became a member of it and that I have read- is the fact that it does raise questions of deep and important political philosophy as well as set out a program of government legislation. So it is all the more surprising that the Labor Opposition should remain so silent and so ineffective in the light of the issues raised in the Governor-General’s Speech.
The Governor-General’s Speech is distinguished in particular by two very important statements of principle that will, of course, lead to very detailed policies during the life of this Parliament and of this Government. The first principle that it raises and that it clearly espouses is the statement by the Governor-General that during the life of this Government there will be a major direction of resources away from government and towards individuals and private enterprise. The second principle is the statement that the Government intends to make the most important reform of the federal system since Federation and that it will re-establish a pattern of co-operation in national affairs and reverse the excessive centralising of power in Australia. Those are the two basic philosophies that are expressed in the Governor-General’s Speech. I intend to address my remarks this evening primarily to those 2 points.
I refer firstly to the direction of resources away from government and towards individuals and private enterprise, and the expression by the
Government of its philosophy of government as being the reassertion of government’s role in establishing an appropriate legal framework for economic life rather than for government itself to take over the responsibility for the production and direction of wealth in the community. This is a most courageous statement to be made by government today not only in this country but also in any parliamentary system, because it has been a distinguishing feature of political debate in Western democracies for several decades now that the direction of the economy should be away from the private sector and towards the government sector- towards public expenditure and so on.
It has been a feature of political debate in the Western world that goes back, I suppose, to the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930s and that certainly was given accelerated force by the Labour victory in the United Kingdom in 1945, that there should be greater participation by government in not only the control but also the production of the resources of the economy. There has been a greater concentration on satisfying greater and growing expectations in all sectors of the community about the role of government and the achievements that government can make. It was rather interesting to hear Senator Sibraa expressing just that very point of view in his maiden speech tonight. It is one that I believe is already being questioned, one that I think must be questioned and one that, as I have said, the Governor-General’s Speech, the Speech expressing the view of this Government, very clearly questions and says the Government intends to reverse.
It has become clear to many of the thinkers in the Western world that this philosophy of growing government activity, growing attempts to satisfy the ever increasing expectations of everybody in the community, has simply proved to be self-defeating because the only way in which there can be any satisfaction of” the various demands that are increasingly being made in a rising standard of living and in a rising community sophistication is by the production of greater wealth, and it has become more and more apparent that it is not governments that are going to be able to create such wealth but only the efforts and initiatives of private individuals.
Nobody on this side of the chamber or on our side of the political sphere in Australia or in the Western world is saying for one moment that there is not a very important role for government in seeing that fair play takes place in the production of this wealth and in seeing that there is a fair distribution of it and that, as far as possible, the wants and needs of the community can be satisfied. What we are saying is that there is a very real limit at any point in time to what a government can do because what a government can do is restricted by 2 important factors. One is how much wealth is being created and produced in the community, and the other is how far government intervention and activity will have not a stimulating effect on the production of that wealth but .in fact a depressing effect.
– What about obstruction?
-Senator McAuliffe, that is exactly what we found for the last 3 years under your Government. The previous Government came into power in 1972 with a program of social reform designed to satisfy the needs of people in the community. That Government proposed to pay for the program by increased wealth over that period. The Leader of the Labor Party made it clear that he would not increase taxes. He intended to pay for the program by the increase in the annual growth of the economy. Of course, it was found that because of the policies of that Government, policies which were completely contrary to the ones that are being espoused by the present Government, there was this depressing effect on the economy. Instead of enabling wealth to be increased, in fact the policies of Senator McAuliffe ‘s Government resulted in a negative movement in output. As I have said, this has been observed in many other countries.
Some years ago Pierre Trudeau became the Prime Minister of Canada. He was the first person of whom I am aware who not only made it clear that there was a very real limit on what governments could do and that people such as ourselves who are responsible for passing the laws which make the provision of such services available to the community must observe that fact, but also that citizens must observe it and understand the limits within which governments can work in the economy, no matter how strong that economy may be. We have seen a very interesting White Paper put down by the socialist government in Great Britain. It was presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Denis Healey. That program represents a striking reversal of the policies of the Labour Party in Britain in 30 years. At last it has found the truth which, of course, honourable senators are not understanding or seeing. The British Labour Party and Mr Healey have understood this fundamental truth. What he is proposing to do is to cut government expenditure not by the relatively small sums by which this Government has so far cut it, not even to the extent outlined in our alternative Budget presented last year, which was a 5 per cent cut, but Mr Healey, the socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain, is proposing a 10 per cent cut in government expenditure. Well may he do so because I would be the first to agree that Britain, under its much more prolonged Labour governments in the last 30 years than we have suffered under, is in a far worse state than we are in in Australia. That is the stage which Britain has reached by accepting the philosophies that have dominated the thinking of Western democracies for the last 30 or 40 years. It has suddenly reached the moment of truth and discovered that that type of policy must be reversed. Of course, it will have to be reversed dramatically. I believe that we are fortunate in Australia that we have had only 3 years of Labor government. We are fortunate that we now have a government which sees so clearly the need to reverse these policies which, as I have said, have so dominated the thinking both of politicians and of the people they have been governing in our Western democratic systems for the last 30 or 40 years.
I congratulate the Government on its espousal of this first of two very important principles. The second principle is one to which I have referred already, namely, to reverse the steady progress towards centralised government in Australia which also has been going on for 30 years or more. It is a process which, I regret to say, whilst not so accelerated as it has been in the last 3 years under the Labor Government, existed even during the period of 20 years in which we were previously in office. There was a slow, steady progress towards centralism. I think it is another important feature of this Government and the Governor-General’s Speech that is has recognised the dangers of adopting centralisation of power in Australia and that it will put that policy in reverse. The Government will endeavour, as far as possible, to put power back into the hands of the people at the lowest possible unit of government at which it is economically feasible to do this. Senator Carrick has spoken at length on this matter today and I do not propose to go over the ground again. But I wish to congratulate the Government on adopting a philosophy and taking some very practical steps which it is proposing to put its policy in this area into effect.
There are a couple of other matters which I would like to mention before I conclude my remarks tonight. The Government has made it clear that it is concerned not only with the production of wealth but also with fair play in the way in which that production is carried on. Of course, it is concerned also with a fair distribution of the wealth. The Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser) has made that statement over and over again. I have already read from the Governor-General’s Speech the re-assertion by the Government of its role in establishing an appropriate legal framework for economic life. I also note a very important statement in the Governor-General’s Speech where he states on behalf of the Government:
It will ensure that business activity is regulated by law to prevent exploitation of consumers.
The Speech goes on to say what general steps the Government intends to take in that general direction. I hope that the Government will take steps at any early date, in the implementing of this philosophy and these principles, to re-draw, re-draft and re-present to the Parliament a Bill to establish a National Securities Commission of some kind. I reiterate my concern that there should be introduced early in the life of this Parliament a Bill to regulate one particular aspect of our economic life, that is, the securities market in Australia and that that market should be regulated by a national body. Such a Bill was introduced by the previous Government. It was referred to a Committee of the Senate. It was being examined closely when the double dissolution occurred. As I have said in the Senate before, this Bill would have been a totally inept and inappropriate instrument for carrying into effect these principles. Instead of providing a sensible basis of regulation it would have provided nothing but a stranglehold on the life of the securities markets and all those participating in them. But that does not mean to say that appropriate legislation is not necessary. I say that it is necessary and I fully expect that it will be introduced by this Government.
The other matter to which I wish to refer relates to the implications in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in respect of the decision of the High Court of Australia that the Seas and Submerged Lands Act passed by this Parliament in 1973 is valid. It, of course, provides for the sovereignty by the Commonwealth of Australia, the sovereignty of this Parliament, over the areas of Australia seaward of low water mark; in other words, the whole of the offshore areas of Australia is under the sovereignty of this Parliament and not, as has hitherto been the case, under the sovereignty of the respective States adjacent to the area. This not only covers the territorial sea as we have known it which may, as a result of future international conferences, extend to even 200 miles beyond our shoreline, but also to the sea bed and marine life both on the sea bed and in the reefs. It covers all the fisheries that are in this vast new province which has now been acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia and which, as I say, may well be extended further as a result of international conventions.
Questions have been raised by Senator Young and by myself in the Senate on this matter. The decision has caused great confusion in regard to the application of State laws; not only State laws concerning the sea bed itself- the ownership of the sea bed or mining activity on the sea bedbut also State laws relating to fishing. Confusion could even arise in relation to State laws concerning navigation and even pleasure boating and other leisure activities which are increasing in the sea, off the reefs, on the reefs and on the. islands around our shore. The decision may even raise questions of the application of State criminal laws in these areas. So important is this matter that I believe the most urgent action will need to be taken by this Government to clarify the situation. I note that the Government is proposing to consult with the States to work out an appropriate basis of co-operation not only for particular industries but also for protection of the marine environment.
I point out that for the reasons I have given the problem is much greater than one simply concerning particular industries or the marine environment. It covers many other activities regulated by State laws. I hope we will not be presented with the sort of legislation put forward by the previous Government in regard to these areas in which it simply sought to apply the laws of the Australian Capital Territory offshore of Australia. These are very complex matters. I believe that the policies will take a long time to be implemented. It may well be necessary for the Government to pass some interim legislation giving temporary force and effect to existing State laws in these areas so that we will not be in a position of having no law operating, considering the opportunities which this gives for people to evade very clear and proper responsibilities which they have under existing State laws and which should be maintained by this Parliament in respect of these areas. I hope that the Government will give some urgent consideration to legislation of that character.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I suggest that Senator Durack be granted an extension of time of 5 minutes. The continual interjections from the Opposition took at least 5 minutes of the honourable senator’s time. I suggest that as the Labor Party has made so many interjections Senator Durack be given another 5 minutes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Young, you must move that leave be granted.
– I will not persist.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Before calling Senator Robertson I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Robertson’s first speech to the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend to him the traditional courtesies. I have pleasure in calling Senator Robertson.
– Before I address myself to the motion let me through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, congratulate our President on his election to that high office. Other speakers in this chamber have drawn attention to his courtesy and impartiality; I can add that his service on committee in the Northern Territory reinforces their statements. I welcome the opportunity to work under his direction and will be looking to him for guidance in the sessions to come. I congratulate Senator Drake-Brockman on being elected as Chairman of Committees and those other honourable senators who have been chosen to fill positions of responsibility in the chamber. I also extend my congratulations to those honourable senators who have already made their maiden speeches. It is obvious that each one brings considerable talent to this chamber and each one should make a significant contribution during his or her term of office.
The first session of the Thirtieth Parliament will go down in history for a number of reasons; the events leading up to it, the stand taken by Labor during the opening ceremonies and the fact that for the first time in our history the two territories were represented in this chamber. Historians will record details of the struggle Labor had to win Senate representation for the territories and they will document the rejection of the Bill by this chamber, the Joint Sitting held to debate the issue and the subsequent appeals to the High Court by the 2 State Premiers. To introduce a lighter note, one might ask whether the traumatic birth pains were justified, whether the quadruplets were really worth the effort. I personally am reassured by the calibre of my 3 siblings and I certainly will make every effort during my time in this place to ensure that I am not found wanting.
There was a good deal of discussion during the debate on the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act concerning the role of the Senate and whether or not it could still claim to be a States House. As a new senator I would certainly not attempt to define the role of the Senate but I am particularly attracted to a quotation from Quick and Garran where the authors speak of the Senate as being the vehicle ‘to give them (the States) every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances’. As a territory moving towards statehood, we certainly have peculiar and special problems, and it will be the task of my colleague Senator Kilgariff and myself to bring them forward in this chamber. Last year Senator Kilgariff, then deputy leader of the majority party in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and his leader met with senior officers of the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Labor Party at their request and assisted in the drafting of a letter to the then Minister seeking transfer of powers to the Assembly. I trust that this sort of relationship will continue and that at times Territory needs will transcent political boundaries and we will speak with one voice. Private discussions with the honourable senator and also with members of the Assembly encourage me to think that this will be so. We would then be filling the role of members of the States House as envisaged by the framers of our Constitution.
Unlike his colleague from the States, the territory senator will be called upon to service his constituents in much the same way as a member in the other place. The population is not large, about 100 000, but spread as it is over approximately 1 400 000 square kilometres its needs cannot adequately be met by one member. Given the normal political climate of the Territory regardless of to which Party the member of the House of Representatives happens to belong to, roughly half the population feels that it is not being represented. It is an important and significant step forward to have territory representation in the Federal Parliament from both of the major parties.
It is customary in a maiden speech to pay tribute to one’s predecessors. This is obviously not possible in my case but mention might be made of 3 people from amongst all those who have fought for the constitutional development of the Northern Territory. I refer to Dick- now Mr JusticeWard, Jock Nelson and Dr Rex Patterson. Mr Ward served a record number of years in the Legislative Council and later the Legislative Assembly and on many occasions led delegations to Canberra seeking autonomy for the Territory. Mr Nelson, like his father before him, served as a member for the Northern Territory and fought for voting rights, an elected assembly and Senate representation. As to Dr Patterson, it might be said of him that he sacrificed his own political future by the conscientious way he handled his portfolio while responsible for the Territory. Territorians generally owe a debt of gratitude to these men and those who went before them.
Other Opposition speakers in this debate have dealt effectively with the general and much of the specific detail of the Governor-General ‘s Speech. My task is to fill out further the picture by outlining areas of concern as they relate to the Territory. The past 3 years have seen a period of dramatic growth and achievement for the Northern Territory and we are anxious to make sure that none of the achievements are placed in jeopardy or the advances negated. Since the former Government assumed office in 1972 great forward steps have been taken in the field of constitutional development. We have achieved a fully elected Legislative Assembly, Senate representation and the development of local government in both European and Aboriginal communities. The present Government has set up a committee to investigate the transfer of powers to the Legislative Assembly. This committee, to be fully effective, must consider the staffing of positions created to service the functions passed to the Assembly. Consultations must be held with the Public Service associations to ensure not only that the Northern Territory Public Service attracts the best possible people but also that the rights of all public servants are protected. Free and open movement between the Australian Public Service and the Northern Territory Public Service, if only for the initial transition period, would seem to have many advantages. I understand that the attempt made by the previous Government to provide staff to service the members of the Assembly was frustrated by the requirements of the Public Service Board. It is important then that discussions be held with the Board so that arrangements can be made to second or appoint officers of appropriate level to provide the nucleus of a later expanded service.
There has been a good deal of discussion about the granting of statehood to the Northern Territory. Honourable senators may recall that during the election campaign the caretaker Prime Minister visited Darwin and promised statehood within 5 years. This arbitrary figure was not well received by local members of his Party who, in evidence before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory, had spoken of statehood being a possibility when the Territory had the population and development to support it. They suggested a population of about 250 000 and thought that this might be attained in 20 to 30 years. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech introduced another note of caution and I feel that honourable senators need not fear the influx of 10 senators from the Northern Territory for some time yet.
One of the most pressing tasks facing those responsible for the Territory is the rebuilding of Darwin, cruelly ravaged by cyclone Tracey just over 12 months ago. The former Government met the challenge of the moment by evacuating 36 000 people in 5 days and, with commendable support from the voluntary agencies, catering for their needs by organising emergency services, by establishing the Relief Trust Fund and, within a week of the cyclone, taking the decision to set up the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. Before the end of March 4000 damaged homes had been re-roofed and, where necessary, given temporary repairs to make them waterproof. At all stages the community was involved in planning the new Darwin, and citizens’ action groups were sponsored and supported both in Darwin and elsewhere in Australia.
But that is history. The task which lies ahead is to carry on the work which has been started. I have already expressed some concern over the freezing of contracts for the repair of damaged homes and the decision taken not to embark on new projects. The building trade is heavily dependent upon government contracts and if these are not forthcoming we could well see massive unemployment and an exodus of men whose expertise we can ill afford to lose. The Master Builders Association of the Northern Territory, a group which gave strong support to the present Government’s campaign last year, has expressed grave concern. Its executive officer, Mr M. Elliott said in the Northern Territory News of February 26: ‘There will be catastrophic consequences if the Government does not reverse some of its decisions ‘. Mr Elliott went on to say that the Government could not expect to turn off the tap for 6 months without some substantial ramifications developing.
The situation has been compounded by the Government’s freezing of low interest loans promised to people wishing to build their own homes. Some people are suffering extreme hardship because they have embarked on a program having been assured that they would get assistance. It is difficult to understand how a government committed to private enterprise can stand by and see building contractors go to the wall for the want of what is a fairly simple decision. A similar situation exists with the road making and bridge building companies. Unless work is forthcoming men will be stood down, equipment disposed of and experienced supervisors deployed elsewhere. This will mean that when funds are again available there will be no experienced work force ready to apply for contracts. We urge the Government to give careful consideration to this matter.
As already indicated by my colleague, Senator Kilgariff, the cattle industry in the Northern Territory has been hard hit in recent years by a collapse of the world market. In response to requests for assistance the former Government gave generous support to the industry in the form of financial assistance to the Katherine meat works and low interest loans to pastoralists. There is an urgent need to develop overseas markets and provide adequate transport facilities to enable the producer to get his beasts from the station to the consumer at minimum cost. Research is needed not only in pasture improvement but also in management techniques. Work already started should be continued and expanded.
The mining industry is the major contributor to the income of the Northern Territory. Again my colleague, Senator Kilgariff, spoke of the problems within the industry, blaming them on nationalisation and suggesting that taxation deductions would need to be reintroduced before the industry could again become viable. I have no knowledge of the nationalisation of any mines in the Northern Territory but certainly our Party maintains that the exploitation of Australian resources should be carried out by companies that are predominantly Australian-owned. We make no apology for that. We could also see the Government taking out some shares in a company if other investors could not raise sufficient funds to provide the equity. Many Australians are reluctant to subsidise the activities of foreign exploration companies, particularly when they hear stories of the abuse of the system. Senator Kilgariff spoke of the Territory becoming the warehouse for the rest of Australia. I support that view. It is commendable. What I fear is that the Territory may become a hole in the ground to satisfy foreign investors. That must not be allowed to happen.
Discussions at the moment, of course, centre around the rich uranium fields which have been discovered in the Northern Territory. Those of us who have regard for the environment were encouraged by the assurance given in the other place that mining would not proceed until after Mr Justice Fox had completed his investigations.
Mining should be undertaken only when we are confident that the waste material can be disposed of safely and that those involved in the extraction or treatment of the ore suffer no ill effects from exposure to it. If those guarantees cannot be given mining should not be undertaken and the Government can be assured that there will be massive and concerted resistance should it attempt to do so.
In the past few years support has been given for the development of smaller properties. There are good markets locally for vegetables and tropical fruits. I urge the Government to continue support for smaller producers through not only research stations and advisory services but also financial assistance, especially for those prepared to join together in co-operatives. Local production of foodstuffs would solve many of the difficulties faced, particularly during the wet season.
Prior to 1972 government policy in respect of Aboriginal Australians was to assist them to become facsimiles of their European counterparts. For the past 3 years the emphasis has been on helping the Aborigine to establish his own identity and assisting him to implement the decisions which he himself has made. It is generally agreed that to establish his identity man needs the security of his own land and his own language. In what was probably its greatest contribution in this area the Labor Government set up machinery to give Aboriginal people control of their own land. It is gratifying to learn that the present Government supports the Land Rights Bill and intends to proceed with it. It was envisaged by the former Government that the Bill would be referred to a committee of this chamber. It is vital that this be done as there are a number of matters which need further investigation and discussion. I refer here particularly to the clause dealing with the 2-kilometre limit and access to fishing grounds by non-Aboriginal Australians.
A suggestion has been made that the Land Rights Bill should be enacted by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly rather than the National Parliament. I must report that the majority of people to whom I spoke on this matterthey were mainly Aboriginal people- would prefer to see the Bill proceed through the National Parliament. A number of reasons were advanced for that decision, many of which I could not repeat without being cautioned under the provisions of standing order 418. The general feeling is that the Bill should be referred to a committee and in due course should be presented as planned initially.
The success of the bi-lingual program introduced by the former Government is so well known that I need not elaborate on it here. However, mention might be made of the support given to the preservation of Aboriginal culture in both the Northern Territory and the States. I refer to the programs developed in Aboriginal schools, the introduction of Aboriginal culture into the curricula of European schools and the support given to theatre and dance groups. It is to be hoped that the Government will continue with the implementation of the Woodward report and the Gibbs report, keeping to the spirit of their recommendations. Without due care the Aboriginal people could well fall back to the feudal system of bygone days. The Government’s intention to ‘promote self-management and selfsufficiency’ is applauded. Let us hope that the former Government’s other enlightened policies, particularly those relating to law enforcement and community development, will also be retained and pursued.
Territorians will be pleased to learn that the Government believes that an education system must be based on equality of opportunity. They will interpret this to mean that the Darwin Community College, the transitional colleges and the SEBAC program introduced over the last 3 years will continue to be supported. They will accept the present cutbacks as temporary measures only and will look for that equality which is promised in the Governor-General’s Speech. Some honourable senators may not be aware that the Government’s economic measures have forced the Darwin Community College to limit the courses it can offer this year. In the general interest field of studies dozens of people were turned away hours after enrolment opened because the College did not have the staff to mount the courses called for. In the vital area of teacher training many Territory teachers wishing to upgrade their qualifications are unable to do so because of staff shortages. Many local apprentices have to be sent interstate because training is not available for the same reason. Educational facilities for children in the Territory have improved considerably over the past few years. I make a strong plea that any economies which must be imposed do not lower that quality of service which was being offered at the end of last year.
I am particularly concerned that the highly successful home liaison officers who gave such valuable service during 1975 have not at this stage been re-appointed. They are badly needed particularly as so many children are living in temporary accommodation. There is a need for more special teaching aides to support the Department’s policy on educating the physically or mentally handicapped in the normal classrooms. If these officers are not appointed the whole program will be put at risk and the children concerned, as well as the others in the classroom, will not receive appropriate education.
While the term ‘unique’ is perhaps overworked it is important to realise that, as I indicated earlier, the Territory has special problems, special needs and a situation that is different from that in the States. An across the board decision may well bring special hardships to students and teachers particularly in remote areas. I give but one example- that of travel. In southern States travel may well mean little more than the desirable, but perhaps not essential, movement of senior officers interstate or interregion to discuss common problems. Travel in the Territory means the movement of teachers to outlying areas. It means the provisions of gas to a remote school. It means the movement of special advisers to assist teachers who are isolated from their peers and tackling problems which are, without a doubt, unique. The vote for travel in the Northern Territory division is less than 0.3 of 1 per cent of the total appropriation. Since this amount has been frozen, 60 advisers with their support staff are sitting virtually idle, occupied but not doing the job for which they were employed, at a cost perhaps of $500,000. Surely this is false economy. As one senior officer put it: You have to pay the bus fare to get to the bank’. Let us not cut out the bus fare. Let us have a little more understanding of the situation and some realistic decisions.
If the present Government wishes to make a significant contribution in the field of education it might look to the area of vocational training of Aboriginal and other rural youth. The whole system of post-primary education of Aboriginal children is in danger of collapse because of the lack of both employment opportunities and appropriate training. Some ground work has been done and some guidelines set. The challenge is there to be taken up. The Government’s stated intention of continuing financial assistance to voluntary welfare organisations will be welcomed by the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Northern Territory Council for Social Services and other agencies at present operating in the Territory. We would welcome assurances that Australian Assistance Plan funding will be continued. Three regional councils for social development have been established in the Territory, and each is at a critical stage of growth. Unlike their sister councils in more populous areas the Northern Territory councils rely heavily on Federal funds, and if these are withdrawn the councils would not be able to offer the assistance which they are providing at the present time.
My colleague, Senator Kilgariff, in his maiden speech likened the Territory to an adolescent. The analogy is a good one. The Territory is young, fast growing and full of potential. Like most adolescents it is impatient to stand on its own feet and make its own decisions. The future of the Territory will depend upon the help given to it at this particular stage. A great deal has been achieved over the past 3 years, many initiatives have been taken and many worthwhile projects commenced. While it is accepted that, as the Governor-General reminds us, ‘decisions have to be made’, my plea is that the Government will recognise the ‘peculiar and special’ problems faced by the Territory and push forward along the path blazed out for it by its predecessors. I thank honourable senators for their indulgence.
– The result of an election at which a government changes is very much like the aftermath of an auction. The buyers now have to pay the price for the goods that they have purchased. In some ways, of course, the result of the election was not a vote for the Liberal Party so much as a decided vote against the Labor Party. It may very well be that the front bench of the new Government recognises this fact quite clearly in that it is constantly referring to the mistakes of the Government that the new Government has displaced. As time moves on swiftly in political terms, the front bench of the new Government will obviously have to develop a style of its own. I find it extremely interesting, looking and watchingquietly so far- to see what sort of Government it will be that now occupies the Government benches in this Parliament.
The manner in which the election was held is something that will have a pivotal effect on the development of the Australian parliamentary system. I cannot agree with those Government supporters who charge members of the Opposition with whinging because they constantly refer to the manner in which they were dismissed. One fact looms quite largely in political thinking in Australia immediately as a result of the manner of the dismissal of the Labor Government by the Governor-General. That is, that we cannot have a successful and democratic trial of this Government at the next House of
Representatives election. It will be a no-election. Twice in the last several years the LiberalNational Country Parties have shown that they will not allow the Labor Party to govern unless it has a majority in this Chamber. The Labor Party will be unable to obtain a majority in this Chamber at the next Senate election. Therefore there will be no democratic test by the Australian people for at least 5Vi years. This is a direct consequence of the manner in which the Labor Government was dismissed. It immediately destroys any argument that to refer to such an important aspect of Australian political life is simply a personal vendetta by members of the Labor Party.
Of course, at the last election there was an extreme polarisation, which was evident to those in smaller parties such as my own. This happened particularly in the last fortnight and the last week of the election campaign. In South Australia the Liberal slogan ‘Turn on the Lights’ was eminently successful. I understand that it was not so successful in other States; it was successful in South Australia. However, despite all the details, the polarised effect showed the anti-Labor feeling in the community and the success with which the Liberal-National Country Parties were able to have their story told to the public.
– Do you believe in slogans?
– I do not want to be distracted into making an assessment of the value of slogans. In this case in South Australia, the Liberal Party slogan helped to concentrate a vote which had already swung far away from Senator McAuliffe ‘s Party. There were some humorous moments in a somewhat serious campaign. I was given a copy of the minutes of the rather numerous meetings held by the Liberal Party Senate Campaign Committee in South Australia. I will not read them all here. There are some humorous aspects to them, as Senator Messner would know as he attended some of these meetings. I will mention one part of the minutes for the benefit of National Country Party senators. They might be interested to know that their Liberal colleagues in the Senate from South Australia put into their minutes the statement that at all times National Country Party Ministers must be shadowed when they were in South Australia. I thought that that was some recognition of something. In fact, I would agree with the attitude of Liberal senators. I found it rather amusing that that was included in the rather voluminous minutes of their meetings which were delivered to my table. There is much left to be desired, of course, in the conduct of the election, in many ways; some of this is still occupying the headlines of Australian newspapers.
In South Australia a number of smaller events occurred which I believe were important. I remember that on the day of the election that a person who, I believe, was an active supporter of the Labor Party, had arranged to copy a Liberal Movement how-to-vote card. He intended to distribute it in identical form to that of my own Party except for the preferences, which were switched to favour his Party. It was a deliberate attempt to deceive- with all the expense and effort required in copying how-to-vote cards. In other circumstances- for instance in the 1974 election which had a close result- it would have had a bearing on the result. As it was, in this case it had no bearing on the result of the election. After several hours of discussion with the Chief Electoral Officer in South Australia we were able to have the giving out of this card stopped. When one reads the Electoral Act it is quite obvious that there are insufficient penalties for this type of attempt to deceive and defraud. I believe it is time that all Parties examined the possibility of making limited changes to the Electoral Act to make sure that penalties are sufficient to prevent this sort of abuse and other abuses occurring. Other cases, outside South Australia, are the subject of more serious charges and are subject to adjudication by the law.
I believe the case that has been mentioned in relation to the contribution of funds clearly shows the hypocrisy of the 3 Parties in the House. Whilst the Labor Party was in office it introduced a most comprehensive Bill to change the rules affecting elections. It was so comprehensive and so damaging to so many people who would like to make use of the electoral system that it was obviously framed not to pass, and any person in the Labor Party who brought that into a Senate dominated by Labor’s opponents, in that form, would be a fool if he thought it would pass. I have no doubt that the important, simple changes which were required to make the Electoral Act a fair Act were never seriously proposed by the Labor Party. What do we find now? We find the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Cabinet deploring the alleged attempts by the Labor Party to bring money into this country from foreign countries. Yet the Liberal Party will take no action to amend the Act simply so that major contributions to political parties are named for public perusal. Why?
– You would not support it.
– I would support it. Senator McAuliffe knows that I would not support the other Bill because he had it designed to destroy all small political parties in Australia. That was the objective of that Bill. But let us not be drawn aside. There is a tremendous need, when both major Parties are so hypocritical about this question- and at present the Liberal Party fulfils that role admirably- to see that this does not occur. The Liberal Party feigns disgust at the proposed Labor Party policy but is quite happy to allow the Act to remain as it is. It is quite happy to let such breaches occur again. The Liberal Party is quite happy not to change the law. It is- obvious, Mr Deputy President, that your Party is hypocritical about this matter.
As I said earlier, as a result of the GovernorGeneral’s action important results will accrue as time goes by. Before I leave that point I should like to say that I do not hold any personal view about the Governor-General. I take no vindictive view whatever. I believe that the argument about the Governor-General’s action will mount more widely and fiercely when he is no longer the Governor-General. I do not believe that what happened should be seen as a cause for attacking the Governor-General personally. It is a sorry state of so-called democracy in Australia when the deposed Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), is unable to speak about the detail that surrounded the negotiations, or whatever, which involved the downfall of his Government. The present Prime Minister is unable to speak because of convention and obviously the Governor-General himself is unable to explain his action. This is a so-called democracy yet, despite the action that has been taken, no reasons have been given for it. No simple reasons are apparent to the Australian people. This is not my conception of the operation of democracy.
As I mentioned earlier, we shall all be looking with interest at the emerging style of the Government. No government is perfect. We have just lost an imperfect government, and I am sure the present Government will also be imperfect. There is no such thing as a government without blemish or a government that does not make mistakes. I have been a little concerned at the very abrupt answers by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and one or two of his fellow Ministers in this place to what I thought were quite proper inquiries by the Opposition. I have never heard such a response as that of the Leader of the Government today in this chamber when he said to an honourable senator that if he did not like his answer he could go to law. I do not find that helpful. No matter how provocative a question from an Opposition senator may be- provocative questions must be expected from an Opposition- it does not deserve that sort of retort. If that is continued it will quickly bring disrepute on those who use the technique.
I refer again briefly to the problems and concerns of the Labor Party at present. The matter to which I shall refer is allied to the action of the Governor-General, the facts concerning which are unknown to the Australian people. As I understand it, Commonwealth police- at a time of great stringency in money management in Australia by this Government- are being sent overseas to investigate allegations that have been made of possible breaches of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations in the bringing of money into Australia. Senator Withers said today- I paraphrase his remarks, but the paraphrase is accurate- that it is reasonable when allegations have been made, albeit that they are in the Press, that the police should investigate. Does that mean that any front page story of possible infringements of exchange regulations will automatically be investigated, or is only this case to be investigated?
– Only this case is to be investigated.
-Only this one-or all? Who made the allegations? We are not told. The story which flows freely around the corridors of Parliament is that the allegations were made by the Prime Minister himself. There is no secret about that. That is what is said, and we do not know otherwise. I say this to the new Government: It is not a good start for open government in Australia for the Government to proceed in this matter, especially when so many charges were made against the outgoing Government that it was secretive about its decisions on behalf of Australia. I give the benefit of the doubt in this matter. As I said, government must develop its style. This subject is of very great moment. The public of Australia have raised the question of possible police harassment of a deposed Prime Minister. I found in the electorate of South Australianot in the corridors of Canberra- that that is a very widespread feeling in the community. It is no secret. It has probably saved the skin of Mr Whitlam. Therefore, it is a duty of the Government to tell us all it knows, to tell us the basis on which its actions were taken. If that does not happen Parliament will have to demand a public inquiry not only into the actions of the Labor Party but also the Liberal Party’s actions which have brought about this matter.
The Government is beginning, no doubt, to consider its framing of the next Budget. When it is introduced we shall see how far the Government intends to go in its attempt to control the rate of inflation and, of course, the consequent high rate of interest in Australia. There have been a number of contradictions in this matter. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) entered the election debate saying that it would be a fragile matter if we were to look for a consumptionled economic recovery and that the recovery would have to be based on increased productivity, not on consumption. That was a clear, definitive statement. In Melbourne on the weekend Senator Cotton said that recovery would have to be based on consumption.
It seems to me that we are going to have a very great confrontation of economic theory if we have in this country an expansion of productivity and a diminution of consumption because they are two impossibles. If that proceeds there will be a fulfilment of Mr Allan Barnes’ comments early this week in the Age when he reported that the Prime Minister had told his Party that by the end of the year he would be the most unpopular Prime Minister in Australia’s history because of the dire actions that he was going to take. I hope that is not the situation. Certainly it is not the situation for which commerce and industry in this country are looking. These things had better be said now before the Budget is finally framed. In relation to the consumption and productivity argument, I remark in passing that a leading article in the January issue of Rydge’s, a journal which is not known to be unfavourable to the Liberal Party- I say this on behalf of Senator McAuliffe, who is interested in this questionclearly states:
Every businessman will be hoping that the economy performs well under Fraser from the start (in which case a debt will be owed to former Treasurer, Bill Hayden) because this will give him the fortitude to carry out the really major planks of his platform relating to the corporate sector . . . in particular implementation of the Mathews Committee recommendations. He will need all the fortitude he can get because the opposition to the Mathews proposals from Treasury, in particular, will be strong.
With all of this developing style of government and ideology- we are interested in and trying to recognise the force and extent of its application I trust that nothing will be done to upset those areas of Labor policy which have proven so useful to this country. I mention in particular the trade practices legislation, which is the greatest protection that small business has ever had given to it in Australia. Any diminution of the powers of the trade practices legislation which would allow the law of the jungle to apply and enable billion dollar traders in this community to squeeze small producers as far as they like, would be a blow to the general economic sector. I would not like to see the land commissions in this country diverted, nor would I like to see the development of land in the metropolitan communities of Australia again become the province of land hopping millionaires, and we ali know of them. They have jumped development in 10 and 1 5 year hops, on each occasion to the cost of the small home-owner, who goes into debt for the rest of his life. The developer stands off, at times in some foreign country, a millionaire because of his foresight. It is for that reason as much as for any other that I support the land commission concept.
In conclusion, I want to mention something about the return of powers to the States and the talk of a new financial deal for the States. There seems to be a belief in Liberal circles that if it is the Australian Government it is central and evil, if it is a State government it is somewhat better, and if it is a local government it is better still, but the further away it is from Canberra then obviously and automatically the better is that government. I say, as a representative of a small State and therefore not as a centralist in an ideological form, that the real question is one of too much government, wherever it is, not just in Canberra but at State level and at local government level. If there is too much of it and if people are overregulated, the very liberal concept will be destroyed by any government at any tier.
The return to the States of taxing powers and the upgrading of local government, which I support in the context of our economic capacity, mean higher taxation for every Australian. Many examples are available of what States will do when they receive increased capacity to tax. I remember the payroll tax imposition, in which I was involved at the time. Payroll tax was returned at 2Vi per cent. It now stands at 5 per cent, with some State governments making some minor adjustments to smaller operators for electoral purposes. Mr Dunstan is one of those people who aims to deceive his community by making out that he is giving some worthwhile concessions while still riding along with the general rate of 5 per cent.
It will be the case that any tax that is returned to the States will go up, and if local government is upgraded its taxes too will go up. That may not be undesirable, depending on what the community wants from government at the 3 tiers, but we should not delude the public into believing, as I believe some Liberal speakers are doing, that there will be less burden on the taxpayer because of this so-called alteration. I for one am so cynical about this matter that I do not believe it will occur. The most recent Premiers Conference ended with a great back-slapping procession, and even Don Dunstan agreed with Mr Fraser that perhaps it was not such a bad thing that this new deal was to be implemented. Yet who was the greatest proponent? It was Sir Eric Willis, the new Premier of New South Wales, who said quite openly that he expected to get a better percentage out of the deal for New South Wales. But that is not the real crux of his action. Last week- on Wednesday, 25 February- this great proponent of the new independence for States said that he is going to the Commonwealth for $150m for his transport system at the rate of $30m a year. How is that for a man who has just welcomed his new-found independence, to be gained formally in June? Senator Walters, in making a case for her State, quite properly said tonight that she wanted vast new subsidies for transport. I have been involved previously with Premiers of other States in the most comprehensive compilation of a new approach to a Liberal government in Canberra to return taxing powers to the States. The operation took place over 9 or 12 months, with many Premiers meetings and more meetings of Under-Treasurers and their experts. The case is printed and is available in this Parliamentary Library, as it is in any other parliamentary library. The stage was never reached where the Commonwealth agreed to test whether the States wanted it because at the conference one of the larger States sold out within 20 minutes.
– You say it will not happen?
– It will not happen in the concept as it has been put forward now by this Liberal Government. It may be something that is watered down, some face-saving device, some regulated factor that does nothing more than raise the taxes in another fashion. But there is no way in which the small States will give away their breadline, which is the subsidy inherent in the uniform taxation system. We will not give it away and neither will the people of South Australia nor the people of Tasmania, as has been evidenced tonight by the representations of their senators. It is not on to talk of letting the States choose and fight it out amongst themselves and let the strongest win. That is a denial of the Australian ethic of one basic standard of living around Australia, whichever State one lives in. Everybody should live at an Australian living standard and not at a Tasmanian living standard or a Western Australian living standard or a deep north living standard. Everybody should live at an Australian living standard, and the uniform taxation system stands behind that.
I am not against change in the system as long as it does not destroy that concept and as long as it does not delude the Australian people into thinking that they will pay less tax. One remark which has been made often- I think it is contained in the Governor-General’s Speech- is that resources will be turned away from government to the private sector. In a strict commercial sense, I could not approve more wholeheartedly. I read with interest only the other day of the building of the new highway between South Australia and Western Australia. I am reminded how the three private contracting firms have carried out a tremendous job in most difficult terrain at a cost which, I would bet my boots, would be no more than half what it would have cost the Government using its own road gangs. Possibly the cost would have been one third. It is to commercial enterprises of that type that we can certainly turn to do away with government enterprise itself.
Who are the big government commercial people in Australia? They are not the Commonwealth. They are the States. The expansion of government in Australia in a physical sense has been going on for years through Liberal Premiers. There was one Labor Premier for a period; now there are two. I do not exclude them. I mention the Liberal Premiers only to emphasise that the problem that this Government faces in reducing the size of government activities is not one that will be achieved by attacking someone with strange ideologies. The Government must deal with people of its own beliefs.
Last year Premier Lewis of New South Wales, I think it was, announced a plan to build a multimillion dollar furniture factory in New South Wales. It would be a government furniture factory to manufacture furniture for the Government. We have one in South Australia. Why was it established? It was established because a previous Liberal government thought it was a good venture. We have no right to have that factory. I am quite sure that we pay more for our furniture because the Government manufactures it. If we look at the State governments- and it does not matter which ideology they follow, in a sense- in relation to the size of their government activities they are all expansionist. Water supply operations are carried out by government gangs instead of by using private enterprise gangs.
– Better quality work is produced, senator. No short cuts are taken.
-Senator McLaren and I could easily have a long argument on that aspect, if we had the time. I emphasise this point because, really and truly, what the community says in regard to this ideological aspect of more government or less government simply means: ‘I want less government for you and more government for me’. I have found that to be the attitude of people in the community, whether they be at the top of the economic structure or at the bottom. So soon after the new Government has been elected these types of views are rammed home, for example, by those representing sporting groups who, I presume, have written to all honourable senators saying how bad it is that they are missing out on sporting subsidies that they were to receive from the previous Government.
– What about funeral benefits for pensioners?
– We will deal with that matter when the relevant legislation is presented. I would like honourable senators to think of that point. My representation on behalf of the public for 1 7 years, with the many contacts that I have made during that time, has not led me to believe that the public is demanding less government. I believe that the public must get less government in the commercial areas which I have mentioned. I think that is an admirable thing to do; but it is not easy to accomplish. The new Government will delude itself if it thinks that the public is waiting for this new policy of a diminution of government. It is not. Each member of the public wants more. I cannot name one person who to my knowledge does not.
As I said, we will await with interest the development of the Government’s ideological emphasis. I hope that it will reverse an early trend of secrecy in government. 1 hope that it will reverse that trend because any emphasis on an extension of democracy, which were the brave new words in the Governor-General’s Speech, in this era, or whatever it is called, will be simply nothing- it will be ashes- if it is not accompanied by the opening up of government and a participation by people instead of the Government ruling them. I leave the Address-in-Reply motion and my support for it on that basis.
– I join with other honourable senators in congratulating the new senators on making their maiden speeches. A maiden speech is quite an occasion. It is an experience now behind those honourable senators. Likewise, Mr Acting Deputy President, I join with all honourable senators who have spoken today in congratulating the President and the Deputy President on election to their offices. I concur with all the sentiments which have been expressed by various speakers in respect of the 2 gentlemen concerned. For obvious reasons, I must say, without reflecting on the personality of either one or the other, that 1 trust that they will hold office for a short duration.
I turn briefly now to the main purpose of this debate. It is to consider the substance in the Governor-General’s Speech- that is if one could describe it as containing anything of substance. The Opposition has been criticised by members of the Government for, as they see it, failing to function as they believe an Opposition should function. I can assure Government senators that we appreciate the gratuitous advice that is being given. But they will become aware of the strength of this Opposition at the appropriate time when the matters contained in the Governor-General’s Speech are translated into the Government’s legislative program.
The words of Senator Rae, of all people, in an article which he wrote for the Australian and which was published on Thursday, 1 9 February 1976, summarise so succintly and so perfectly what I feel about the Governor-General’s Speech. That Speech purports to represent the legislative program of the new Government. Senator Rae said:
Back I went to full concentration on the Government’s policy speech to realise that perhaps its greatest significance was in what it did not say. I leave the analysis to others . . .
I invite honourable senators to dwell for a moment on what interpretation can be placed on those words ‘what it did not say’. It is true that the Speech did not say a lot of things, in the same way as the caretaker Prime Minister, now the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), did not say a number of things in the course of his policy speech in the election campaign prior to 13 December 1975.
The only satisfaction that I can find in this Speech is to be found in the last paragraph. The Governor-General said:
I now leave you in the faith that Divine Providence will always guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of Australia.
I sincerely trust that Divine Providence intervenes to protect the welfare of the people of Australia because that is about as much as they can rely on with respect to the present Government.
Let me say in passing that the opportunity will be afforded to me and my colleagues to debate the issues which will emerge, such as social welfare and repatriation matters and the like, as they are brought forward in legislative form. We will be able then to express in no uncertain terms our views on those issues. On behalf of the Opposition, 1 move the following amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Harradine:
At the end of the proposed amendment, add:
The Senate is also of the opinion that, because of the financial plight of local government organisations throughout Australia, your advisers should take action immediately to re-institute hearings by the Australian Grants Commission for the purpose of assessing appropriate untied and unconditional grants to local government. ‘
My amendment refers to another one of those measures that the Government has announced but which to my knowledge was never indicated previously by the Prime Minister. I cannot find anything in the Governor-General’s Speech which gives an indication that this Government intended to discontinue the hearings by the Australian Grants Commission concerning local government. The Government may have an answer to this charge on the basis of the proposed new federalism policy, so called. This is one of those beautiful vagaries; frankly nobody seems to understand what it is all about.
– Including the members of the Government.
-Yes, that includes the members of the Government who are highly critical of what this in fact does mean. I point out that, during its term of office, in the financial year 1973-74 the Labor Government allocated no less than $56m for local government purposes. It was untied and unconditional. Incidentally, the first allocation of $56m was the first since Federation, to my knowledge. In the 1974-75 year the allocation was increased to $79m, untied and unconditional. These were grants to local government. That makes a grand total over the 2 financial years of no less than $135m. Anybody who has even a limited knowledge of the financial difficulties of local government will appreciate the tremendous value and worth of those grants to the functions of local government. Clearly, this is something which the present Government has decided will no longer be made available. Therefore I have moved this amendment. Other speakers will not only speak to it but also will elaborate upon the principal reasons why I have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
I now move to a matter which seems to give rise to great concern of honourable senators on the government side when we mention it. Senator Durack in his speech was good enough to suggest that we had not made any worthwhile contribution to the debate on the AddressinReply. He suggested that we had not acted as an Opposition, as he imagined we should. In other words, we had not raised any matter which I think he referred to as a fundamental issue. I cannot think of anything more fundamental in terms of the democratic processes of our total Australian political system than the events prior to and on 1 1 November 1975. At the risk of encouraging or inviting criticism from the Government I propose to deal with some facets of those events when a democratically elected Government, twice preferred and twice elected within 18 months, was summarily dismissed by the Governor-General. That in itself is a momentous and extraordinary action to be taken by the Governor-General of the day. I am concerned not only about the decision which he made and the action which he took but also about the Governor-General’s role prior to and on 11 November.
If I did not raise this matter I would feel recreant to my responsibilities, not only to members of my own party but also to some 43 per cent of the Australian community. I assure the Senate that many more people than the 43 per cent who voted for the Australian Labor Party at the last general election are concerned and worried about what happened, how it happened and why it happened. During the period when the Senate first deferred consideration of the Appropriation Bills Mr Ellicott issued a Press statement on 19 October 1975 entitled The GovernorGeneral’s Powers. In the statement which he issued, among other things he said:
The Governor-General’s basic role is the execution and maintenance of the Constitution and of the laws of the Commonwealth. He performs this role with the advice of Ministers whom he chooses and who hold office during his pleasure.
He went on to state:
The Governor-General has at least 2 clear constitutional prerogatives which he can exercise- the right to dismiss his Ministers and appoint others, and the right to refuse a dissolution of the Parliament or of either House.
Of course the key reference there is to the right to dismiss his Ministers and appoint others. Further on Mr Ellicott stated:
The refusal by Parliament of supply, whether through the House or the Senate, is a clear signal to the GovernorGeneral that his chosen Ministers may not be able to carry on. In the proper performance of his role, he would enevitably want to have from the Prime Minister an explanation of how he proposed to overcome the situation. If the Prime Minister proposed and insisted on means which were unlawful or which did not solve the problems of the disagreement between the Houses and left the Government without funds to carry on, it would be within the GovernorGeneral’s power and his duty to dismiss his Ministers and appoint others.
He was referring to the current situation which he stated was then facing us. The major burden of that statement was to give quite strongly an opinion that the Governor-General was obliged to exercise certain powers within the meaning of the circumstances with which we were faced at that time. On 11 November the GovernorGeneral did, in fact, dismiss the Prime Minister and his Ministers who formed the Government of the day. A letter of dismissal was handed to the then Prime Minister. A document which accompanied the letter contains a statement by the Governor-General which purports to be a statement of reasons for the Governor-General’s actions. I shall quote 2 passages from it because they are pertinent. One reference is found on page 2 where the Governor-General stated:
Once I had made up my mind -
I ask honourable senators to remember that this is the document which the Governor-General handed to the Prime Minister at that time on 1 1 November- for my own part, what I must do if Mr Whitlam persisted in his stated intentions I consulted the Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick. I have his permission to say that I consulted him in this way.
I would like to know when, in fact, the GovernorGeneral saw Sir Garfield Barwick. That may emerge later on.
– It is not in there.
-It is not included in the document. On page 4 of the document the Governor-General stated:
I should be surprised if the Law Officers expressed the view that there is no reserve power in the Governor-General to dismiss a Ministry which has been refused supply by the Parliament and to commission a Ministry, as a caretaker Ministry which will secure supply and recommend a dissolution, including where appropriate a double dissolution. This is a matter on which my own mind is quite clear and I am acting in accordance with my own clear view of the principles laid down by the Constitution and of the nature, powers and responsibility of my office.
The key emphasis I make is that the GovernorGeneral said:
I would be surprised if the Law Officers expressed the view that there is no reserve power . . .
Of course the law officers of Australia were the then Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, and the Solicitor-General, Mr Byers. In a Press report on Friday, 15 November- 4 days after the Governor-General’s statement- this appeared in the Melbourne Age:
The former Attorney-General. Mr Enderby, last week gave the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, a legal opinion which said he did not have power to dismiss the Prime Minister.
Mr Enderby said last night the opinion had been prepared by the Solicitor-General, Mr Byers.
On 1 8 November an article appeared in the Melbourne Sun under the caption ‘Kerr calls in top PS men’, and the date line showing Canberra, in the following terms:
The Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, yesterday summoned the Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood -
That would have been the caretaker AttorneyGeneral and two top public servants to Government House
The public servants are the Solicitor-General, Mr Maurice Byers, and the Secretary of the Attorney-General ‘s Department, MrC. W. Harders.
The summons followed publication of advice given by the Labor Government to Sir John before he dismissed Mr Whitlam from office.
The advice, prepared by Mr Byers, told Sir John he would contravene the Constitution if he sacked Mr Whitlam.
It also said Sir John had no constitutional authority to dissolve Parliament on the advice of the minority party in the House of Representatives.
A Government source said last night that Sir John told Mr Byers and Mr Harders yesterday that he was ‘seriously embarrassed’ by publication of Mr Byers’ comments.
It is understood that Sir John discussed the matter with Senator Greenwood, Mr Byers and Mr Harders.
Earlier the former Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, said the advice was given to Sir John on 6 November -
Make note of that date- 5 days before Mr Whitlam was sacked.
In his statement accouncing his decision to dismiss the Government, Sir John said he -
This is a quote from something from which I quoted earlier- should be surprised if the law officers expressed the view that there is no reserve power in the Governor-General to dismiss a ministry which has been refused Supply by the Parliament’ and to commission a caretaker ministry.
One always has reservations about the authenticity, about the veracity, of a newspaper comment, but I have in my hand a copy of the opinion of Mr Byers. It is dated 4 November 1975. Incidentally, it was commissioned by the Government and it explains precisely why the opinion was sought. It states:
Mr R. J. Ellicott, Q.C., M.P., at the Attorney-General’s request made available to him a copy of a Press statement relating to the Governor-General’s powers. We have been asked by the Prime Minister to provide an opinion upon the legal propositions which that statement contains or assumes.
It then paraphrases the legal proposition. The opinion continues:
The statement expresses Mr Ellicott ‘s view that His Excellency is legally obliged to take certain steps because of, and as a result of, the current dispute between the House and the Senate.
I do not propose to weary the Senate with all the detail, but this is the actual document that was handed to the Governor-General on 6 NovemberI repeat, 6 November- 5 days before he issued his statement of reasons. In paragraph 9 on page 13 of the opinion Mr Byers said:
The Senate’s resolution indicates an intention to defer passage of the Appropriation Bills until either the Ministry resigns or the Governor-General acting against its advice dismisses it and, upon advice of Ministers in a minority in the Representatives, dissolves it. The Ministry has not resigned and will not do so. That leaves only a forced dissolution. Dr Jennings (Cabinet Government, 3rd ed. 1969) observes (at page 403) that ‘No Government has been dismissed by the Sovereign since 1783’, and points out that there was no dismissal in 1834 of Lord Melbourne’s Government (pages 403-405) . . .
The opinion goes on to describe the forms of dissolution that had take place during the period between 1861 and 1932. Paragraph 10 of the opinion reads:
We have referred to forced dissolutions only to indicate that their very rarity and the long years since their exercise cast the gravest doubt upon the present existence of that prerogative.
I interpolate that the word ‘prerogative’ in fact means reserve power. Further on Mr Byers said:
If such be the section’s purpose and intended operation, how is it possible consistently with the Constitution that a reserve power of uncertain existence and unknowable constituents must be exercised in a way necessarily denying effect to the one constitutional provision expressly directed to the solution of deadlock between the Houses? We do not find it possible ourselves to accept that view and to the extent that Mr Ellicott does so he is, we think clearly wrong.
Those short extracts that I have quoted from the actual document that was conveyed to the Governor-General by Mr Enderby make it quite clear that at least there were grave doubts raised by at least one law officer in respect to the action that was ultimately taken by the GovernorGeneral.
I spoke to Mr Enderby about this matter last Thursday and I have his permission to convey to the Senate the substance of our conversation. First, the Government asked for this opinion on Mr Ellicott ‘s statement because the main thrust of Mr Ellicott ‘s statement was in fact, as it transpired, coincidentally the very action that was taken by the Governor-General on 1 1 November. Mr Byers was asked by the AttorneyGeneral to draw up an opinion and this is the voluminous opinion that Mr Byers drew up. On the morning of 6 November- I understand that it was in the mid-morning- Mr Enderby, the then Attorney-General, received a telephone call from the Governor-General asking him to present himself to Government House that day for the purpose of discussing alternatives and, of course, Mr Enderby agreed. Mr Enderby met the Governor-General in the afternoon. As Mr Enderby was about to leave his office to go to see the Governor-General, Mr Byers walked into Mr Enderby ‘s office with this opinion. Mr Enderby looked at it and said that he disagreed quite strongly with a number of the views, which I have already retailed to the Senate that were conveyed in Mr Byers’ opinion. Mr Enderby said that he would take the opinion with him and present it to the Governor-General but that he would also express his own views because it would have ultimately been the joint opinion of the two senior law officers, namely, the AttorneyGeneral and the Solicitor-General, to the Government of the day and that advice would have been subsequently conveyed to the Governor-General. Subsequently that was cut short.
– This was on the sixth.
– This was on 6 November. When Mr Enderby arrived at Government House and met the Governor-General he wanted to give the original copy of the opinion to Sir John Kerr. Sir John Kerr did not want to take it, but Mr Enderby pressed it on him. Incidentally Mr Enderby struck out the signature of Mr Byers on the document because there was provision on it for his own signature as Attorney-General. Mr Enderby struck out Mr Byers’ signature and pointed out to the Governor-General that while this was the personal opinion of the SolicitorGeneral, it was not a joint opinion and that he himself expressed strong views in terms of, first, the powers of the Senate and, secondly, the powers of the Governor-General in the circumstances that then existed which were diametrically opposed- I repeat, diametrically opposed- to the action that the GovernorGeneral in fact took. Yet the Governor-General was prepared to say in his statement of reasons: 1 should be surprised if the Law Officers expressed the view that there is no reserve power in the Governor-General to dismiss a Ministry . . .
I am attempting to find the correct words to use. There is a grave discrepancy or a grave inconsistency between what the Governor-General says in his statements of reasons for his decision and facts which can be authenticated. This is a very grave matter indeed and one which cannot be fobbed off by the Opposition members or by anybody else outside the Parliament as being of no moment. I ask honourable senators to remember that the action taken by the
Governor-General to dismiss an elected Government was a serious one, unprecedented in modern history. Therefore, it is critically important. It is critically important that this matter be probed in respect of the Governor-General’s conduct prior to 1 1 November and his actual conduct on 1 1 November.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I want to direct your attention to an article that appeared in the Melbourne Age newspaper of Friday, 14 November 1975. It is written by Allan Barnes and is entitled ‘Critical look at Kerr documents’. I want to refer briefly to only 2 sections. It is a critical analysis of the position. It gives the reader some background information to the events leading up to 11 November and then analyses particularly the reasons stated by the GovernorGeneral for his decision. This is what Mr Barnes says, among other things:
The fact that Sir John had the letter ready to hand to Mr Whitlam- and had Mr Fraser waiting in a nearby room to be sworn in as caretaker Prime Minister- indicates that Sir John had made up his mind well before he saw Mr Whitlam.
Then there is Sir John’s statement of his reasons for sacking a Prime Minister- who still, incidentally, had a majority in the House of Representatives- and appointing a man who could not command that majority.
In his summary of reasons, Sir John said: ‘If the Prime Minister refuses to resign or to advise an election, and this is the case with Mr Whitlam, my constitutional authority and duty require me to do what I have now done- to withdraw his commission and to invite the Leader of the Opposition to form a caretaker Government . . .’
The questionable point about that sentence is Sir John ‘s use of the present tense- ‘This is the case with Mr Whitlam’- in a document clearly prepared before he had met Mr Whitlam on Tuesday and, on Mr Whitlam ‘s statement, when he had never been asked if he would resign.
What right did Sir John have to presume that Mr Whitlam would have refused to resign if it was put to him bluntly that the Governor-General thought that was the only course?
Why didn’t Sir John put his point of view to Mr Whitlam on Tuesday and allow him to consider other options including a double dissolution or resignation?
Later in his explanation, Sir John said ‘it is most desirable ‘ that the cartaker Prime Minister should guarantee Supply. He said Mr Fraser would be asked to give his guarantee.
Yet Sir John dismissed Mr Whitlam before he even saw Mr Fraser to seek this guarantee. Surely he should have received that assurance first. Or was there, in fact, prior consultation with Mr Fraser on that point? If so, why isn’t it mentioned in the statement?
I know that my time is short. I propose to proceed with this matter further on another occasion. I say that the Governor-General cannot expect to be immune and hide behind the office that he holds to avoid questioning and the obligation to answer these pertinent points that must be raised in the interests of the future of this nation. When I said that there was a grave inconsistency between what Sir John Kerr said on the one hand in his statement and the facts as I have presented them, that is a very soft way of saying what is said by the Anglo-Saxon people in the courts of this country, that is, that the GovernorGeneral in fact lied to this nation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Order! I think that the honourable senator’s time has expired. Is there a seconder to the amendment that has been circulated on behalf of the Opposition?
– I second the amendment.
- Senator Brown closed his speech on a subject of the highest importance with a remark that was lower than the dignity of the Senate should permit, even when referring to an honourable senator. But to make such a statement in regard to the Governor-General is contemptible. We are speaking to a motion that we present to His Excellency, the Governor-General, an AddressinReply to his Speech outlining the Fraser Government’s program of legislative action. That means that it is fitting and appropriate that we should recognise that this is no formal procedure. On this occasion the Parliament assembles after a very severe testing of the Constitution and the democratic processes which underline the Constitution. Now the Senate has the opportunity to make the appropriate response to seal the series of steps by which one Government has been defeated and another Government has come into power.
– What a process!
– Yes and let us examine the processes because any inattention to that does less than justice to the parliamentary institution which we uphold.
This is the season for congratulations. I endorse heartily all those congratulations that have been offered. I think that they are incomplete. I think that congratulations are due to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) for achieving an abysmal minority, having paraded himself around the country vaunting his caption as the majority leader of the House of Representatives and whimpering that he had been unconstitutionally sacked. Be it remembered also that one of his complaints was that he had been interrupted in the course of the normal time permitted by the Parliament for a government to govern. Those dreadful Liberals were the people responsible for such misconduct. I want to congratulate the Labor Caucus which saw fit to follow our example and elect the Leader of the Opposition specifically for a half-term as Leader of the rump Caucus. Not only did the Caucus do him that credit; it is also fitting to offer him congratulations on the Deputy Leaders that the Party provided. They are Mr Tom Uren in the House of Representatives and Senator Keeffe in this place. After the mentioning of 2 such names, it is appropriate to pause to consider the great compliment that was done to the Leader of the Opposition who had swashbuckled through the previous 9 months dismissing Ministers here and pulling the feathers out of the tails of the cockerel Ministers there and making the vaunting boast when we were electing a Leader: ‘Whoever they elect, I will beat him’.
So let us examine the processes and analyse the position. Some people are still criticising on most inadequate considerations. We had an election in which Mr Whitlam ‘s majority of three in the House of Representatives was converted to a minority of fifty-five. Among those whom the country banished from the Parliament of this country were not less than 6 Ministers. Such an abysmal defeat is beyond the recollection of any one of us practising politics today in Australia. So decisive was the verdict of the people that the new Government- the Fraser Government- was confirmed as their choice with a majority of 55 seats, Labor having 36 seats and the Government, I think, 92 seats. Yet there are people who will cavil at the Governor-General’s participation in this matter. There is in the GovernorGeneral’s statement of his reasons for the dissolution of Parliament a section which precisely puts the democratic point of view. He said:
The result is that there will be an early general election for both Houses and the people can do what, in a democracy such as ours, is their responsibility and duty and theirs alone. It is for the people now to decide the issue which the two leaders have failed to settle.
Despite that express, clear statement we have such stupid, stubborn obstinate adherence to the mania that possessed Mr Whitlam when he tried to defy the Constitution. We have all this rubbish about undemocratic processes in this crisis. The ultimate affirmed by the Governor-General on the day on which he issued the commission to Mr Fraser to form a caretaker government and told Mr Whitlam to step aside, was:
The result is that there will be an early general election for both Houses and the people can do what, in a democracy such as ours, is their responsibility and duty and theirs alone. It is for the people now to decide the issue which the two leaders have failed to settle.
– A decision which he had no right to make, and you know it, Senator.
-I ask Senator Georges to pause to permit the possibility of a little logic to enter. When this crisis came on us on 11
November it followed debate. It is useful to remember the sequence of events. In October when we said we were going to defer and not pass the Budget it is on record in Hansard that Mr Whitlam himself was the first next morning to proclaim that we were taking a thoroughly irresponsible course. Why? Because he said it would throw the country into utter financial chaos. His Treasurer followed by saying that public servants would not be paid, default would be made on contracts and the whole of the responsibility of government to pay its way in the provision of the services of the Crown would collapse and there would be chaos.
– That is right.
- Senator Georges says that was a proper assessment.
– Through your obstruction.
– Those were good debating points and if we had been terrorised by the statements a different course of events would have guided history. But Mr Whitlam went on in his mania and got to the stage where he was actually resorting to private channels and private banks to give backing to certificates of employment; in other words, IOUs to be honoured at some time when Mr Whitlam succeeded in destroying the parliamentary processes and getting a Parliament that would pass authority to pay.
So the Senate has a description of the Government’s picture of financial chaos almost as pitiful, diseased and near death as Senator Georges’ turtle farms in northern Queensland. Enough is said. One only has to mention them and the smell comes up. I have outlined the financial predicament that the Prime Minister was offering. He said that the Senate did not have the power to defer or to reject appropriation. He said: ‘I will never go to the country at the behest of the Senate ‘. He disputed the Senate ‘s power to reject a money Bill. Section 53 of the Constitution has been canvassed so often, and since that ignorant, impulsive conclusion of the then Prime Minister only one opinion that I know of which usually would be worth respect has emerged to deny the Senate the legal power to reject or defer supply. Within a few days we had an express confirmation of the power from no less a jurist than the Governor-General himself supported, as it was, by a plain, succinct and clear opinion without qualification by one of the most eminent constitutional lawyers who has ever practised or presided over a Bench in this country, Sir Garfield Barwick. Honourable senators will remember that this impish Prime Minister trotted out for our consideration a letter written by Sir Robert Menzies about 30 years ago in relation to the Game situation and the rejection of a money Bill by the upper House in New South Wales. So Sir Robert Menzies felt impelled himself to depart from his usual habit and offer his opinion upon the situation. Of course those who quoted the 30-year-old opinion quote the 1975 opinion with distaste. Having examined the section Sir Robert said:
Let me repeat, the Senate may not amend these measures, but it may reject them, or, of course, in the ordinary course of debate, it may adjourn them. It would be absurd to suppose that the draftsmen of the Constitution conferred these powers on the Senate with a mental reservation that they should never be exercised.
That was published and a few days later there was published an opinion by Sir Richard Eggleston, which is the only opinion worth calling an opinion that has emerged from anybody who asserted that, on the proper legal construction of section 53, the Senate did not have power to reject Supply. One can read the text how one will and to find that conclusion justified by the text is a matter of the utmost difficulty. Some said that it was the result of a projection of the author as a possible alternative Governor-General. That must be the only explanation of that aberration.
In that situation, who is there now in this place who expects this Senate to be persuaded that under section 53 of the Constitution this chamber has not the power to reject or defer an appropriation or Supply Bill? Of course we have that power. It is all neatly summarised for us in the document which the Clerk of the Senate, through the President, laid on the table at the opening of this session when he succinctly put forward a view of the striking steps made in constitutional development during the 3 years of Labor challenge. The words of the Clerk are as follows:
There are other matters in this work that has been prepared by the Clerk and they should go into the annals of the debates of the House. I make sparing reference to them. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard certain portions of the work.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Of most importance was the assertion of the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive Government, demonstrated by the exercise of the power of the Senate to withhold Supply and the dismissal of a Prime Minister who refused to advise an election or resign when denied Supply by Parliament.
There is nothing new in the Australian Senate deferring a money bill to discipline a Government. The Senate was very quick to recognise its powers and, when the Executive Government first sought funds in 1901, the Senate deferred the passing of Supply until the Government acknowledged that the provision of Supply was a joint grant of the two Houses.
For anyone to argue that the Senate should not have the power to withhold Supply is to misunderstand Constitutional intent. The Senate was given its great power so that it could in a real sense be the checks and balances of the Australian federal system. Any criticism of the exercise of the power brings to mind the devastating comment of a man who knew what he was talking about in 1902 when the Senate’s financial powers came under serious challenge. Replying to a claim by the Government of the day that the Senate could only suggest amendments to money bills but not insist on them, Mr W. M. Hughes, M.P., later Prime Minister of Australia 1915-1923, said:
If any man had dared to stand up and tell the smaller States that the Senate had only such a power, the Constitution would never have been accepted.
Similarly, if any man had dared to stand up and tell the Constitutional Convention of 1 897-98 that the Senate could not reject or defer Supply the Constitution would never have been accepted.
Recognition that Supplies are the joint grant of the two Houses (1901).
The right of the Senate to press requests for the amendment of money bills until the requests are granted by the House of Representatives. (1902, 1908,1921,1933,1936,1943).
A proper classification of what are the ordinary annual services of the Government in order to protect the Senate’s Constitutional power of amendment in respect of certain money bills (1901-2, 1924, 1952, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1968).
A prohibition against “tacking”, which means the inclusion in a money bill of any extraneous provision in an attempt to secure its passage through an Upper House which cannot amend the bill ( 1943).
The assertion of the power of the Senate to reject or defer Supply until a Government agrees to submit itself to the judgment of the people (1974 and 1975).
Those powers are checks and balances against any concentration of unbridled power in the Executive Government, or against any misuse of power or mismanagement by a Government. Without the assertion of those powers, the Senate could not effectively fulfil its role as the safety valve of the Australian federal system and of the nation. In the age-old struggle between Parliament and the Executive, the Senate must continue to be vigilant in safeguarding its powers. Fortunately, the Senate has always been rich in institutional members, in whose hands the powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate have been, and are, in safekeeping.
As at 1976 the Senate is at the zenith of its powers. It enjoys a good electoral system in proportional representation, a successful committee system has been established and the Senate’s responsibilities and great financial powers are recognised.
– I hope that any purposeful student of this situation will now ask himself seriously whether this Senate has the legal constitutional power to reject or defer an appropriation or Supply Bill. If the proper constitutional course of a government whose appropriation of Supply Bill is rejected or deferred is then either to advise a general election or to resign, let us consider the propriety of the exercise by the GovernorGeneral of the powers that he exercised on 1 1 November. I think it was a contemptible and disgraceful spectacle to which we were treated when we heard members of the GovernorGeneral’s confidential Executive Council, admitted to his confidential advisings, with the privilege of discussing matters of the highest confidence in the government of the country- some of them personal friends of years of long standing and, therefore, attracting a degree of more intimate confidence than the official relationship would establish- retailing those conversations with a friend and confidant of the GovernorGeneral, having regard to their oath of office and the position of mutual trust. I have nothing but contempt for people who expect us to be eavesdroppers to that sort of malicious and cowardly innuendo because they know that a GovernorGeneral, observing the decencies of the situation, is not able to reply or enter into debate and certainly has no forum to do so. So they kick him when he is not able to make any response.
When one examines the substance of the matter, Senator James McClellandgave us a conversation and thought that he would be making headlines the next morning. Having failed to emerge even into the shadows of the Opposition Cabinet a day or two before he thought he would burst out like a ray of sunshine into the headlines next morning by breaking this confidence. So far from there being any evidence that the Governor-General was entering into an arrangement with any body or any party, as Senator Brown said tonight, as early as 4 November- a whole week before the double dissolution- Mr Byers, Q.C., had had time to prepare an opinion of about 22 pages in collaboration with the then Attorney-General on the very subject of whether the Governor-General had the power and, if so, whether it was proper in the circumstances for him to dissolve the Parliament. That very issue, so far from being relegated to an incidental agreement with other than the Government, was so posed before the Government of the day that 2 law officers of the Crown had had time to prepare a 20 page opinion on it by 4 November- a full week before the day that the Labor Government was dismissed. So much for this despicable and bantam sort of prattling on the part of Diamond Jim. When we talk about the GovernorGeneral’s power people ask whether the Governor-General has the power to dissolve the Parliament. The Governor-General’s power to dissolve the Parliament does not depend upon the prerogative. It is expressly written into the Constitution. Section 5 of the Constitution says:
The Governor-General may appoint such times for the holding of sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also from time to time, by Proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Representatives.
One should take that in conjunction with section 28 which states:
Every House of Representatives shall continue for three years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
Has Gunn Point Prison Farm in the Northern Territory been forced to close due to a shortage of staff brought about by the Government’s economy measures; if so, will the Minister advise where the fifty inmates previously housed at Gunn Point are at present and whether the shortage of staff poses any threat to security.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Gunn Point Prison Farm in the Northern Territory has been closed because of staff shortages. It is hoped these difficulties will be resolved and Gunn Point reopened shortly.
The fifty (50) prisoners formerly housed at Gunn Point are at present located at the Fannie Bay Gaol. With the amalgamation of the staffs of both Fannie Bay and Gunn Point institutions satisfactory security precautions have been instituted.
Aid to Developing Countries
– On 18 February, Senator Davidson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs the following question, without notice:
The following information has been provided by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Food Aid- Grain Shipments
The reduction in the potential shipment of food aid by $5.3m to $29.7m will permit Australia to honour her commitment to supply 225 000 tonnes of wheat equivalent under the Food Aid Convention.
Bilateral Assistance Programs
Although there will be a reduction in the budget of $3.25m for the bilateral program on-going aid projects will not be cancelled or delayed. There will be no reductions in aid to Papua New Guinea.
Multilateral Aid Savings and Deferments
The savings of $ 12m in multilateral aid consist largely of temporary deferments until 1976-77 of Australian contributions to international organisations and will not impede the operations of these organisations. The main organisations involved are the World Bank Group and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Savings include$1m for the UN Special Fund (which is not yet operational) and $150,000 for humanitarian assistance for African Liberation Movements.
Bilateral Aid Training Program
The money available for this program in the current financial year has been cut by $1 m to $ 1 5.07m.
Awards will not be offered to individual developing countries above the quotas offered at the beginning of the financial year. Offers not taken up or awards not utilised will not be re-allocated to other countries seeking extra awards, as has been the practice in the past.
Planned increases in living allowances for sponsored overseas students have also been deferred.
In short the Government has preserved the integrity of its development assistance program while effecting some economies.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760303_senate_30_s67/>.