30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform honourable senators that I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply to his opening Speech at Government House today at 5.30 p.m. I extend an invitation to all honourable senators to accompany me on the occasion of its presentation. For this purpose it is proposed that the sitting of the Senate be suspended at 5 p.m. Cars will be available at the front of Parliament House at 5.15 p.m. for the purpose of taking honourable senators to Government House.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, by saying that on 18 February last in answer to my question the Minister stated that, under new arrangements for assisting local government, municipal councils throughout Australia would be better off. I accepted this as a categorical statement that the Government had reached definite conclusions as to how this was to be achieved. On 4 March, nearly 3 weeks ago, in response to the Minister’s request I placed a question on the notice paper which invited the Minister to provide the Parliament with details. This question is yet to be answered. What is the reason for the secrecy?
– There is no secrecy about this matter at all. It is still under discussion and is still with a working party consisting, as I understand it, of both Commonwealth and State officials. As soon as its conclusions are arrived at, an announcement will be made.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I draw to the Minister’s attention current Press speculation regarding the future independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s taking advertising and changes in the composition of the Commission. Is the Minister able to comment on the accuracy of these Press reports? Can he give any indication of future intentions regarding the role of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
- Senator Baume asked his question in 3 parts. Yes, I have seen comment in the Press regarding the future independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and discussion on advertising. It is the policy of the Federal Government to maintain the true independence and objectivity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In saying that I make these points: Independence in itself is not a goal. It is not in itself a final end. It is, if properly used, the instrument or the environment in which a statutory body being not the master but the servant of the people of Australia discharges its duty with fairness, objectivity and a sense of comprehensiveness of programs. I stress this emphatically: Those who talk of independence often seek license and that is fundamentally wrong. Statutory bodies -
– Stop the lecture, for goodness’ sake.
– The intervention of Senator Button reminds me that those who argue about the independence of the ABC in fact practise continual intervention. There was no greater day-to-day intervenor than the previous Minister for the Media, who was in and out of the Commission and the staff, seeking to influence them day by day. Of course, what the Opposition wants is independence to intervene itself to make the ABC its political captive, but it wants every time -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. It is obvious that the Minister is using the opportunity of answering this question as a forum to debate something that is not contained in the question. I think that what he is saying is quite irrelevant. I suggest that he ought to stick to the basis of the question.
– Keep to the question, Senator Carrick.
- Mr President, I am well aware of the tactic of the intervention of a point of order. Of course, we know that what I am saying hurts. Yes, the Government believes in, and will bring about whatever reforms it can to maintain, true independence, objectivity and fairness. One of the things that everybody in this Parliament and, indeed, the ABC must understand is that it is the Commission’s duty to serve Australians fairly and objectively. The question of advertising is no doubt one of many that have been canvassed over the years as one of the possible reforms of the ABC. I have no specific comment to offer on it at the moment. The whole of the ramifications of broadcasting and television in Australia, including public broadcasting, ethnic broadcasting, commercial broadcasting and national broadcasting, are now under review. One would hope that instead of using broadcasting as a political weapon under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, as the previous Government did, this Government will be able to bring all radio and television under -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. If the Minister seeks to introduce that matter into his reply, perhaps he can give us the opportunity to debate what he is saying by making a ministerial statement on it. He is using question time to make a statement which is full of inaccuracies and debatable material. It is to our disadvantage not to be able to debate what he is saying because he is making what is virtually a ministerial statement at question time.
– Continue with your reply, Senator Carrick.
- Mr President, as honourable senators will know, the aim of the Opposition was to have this material struck off the tape for broadcasting because the truth was hurting.
– I rise to a point of order on that aspect, Mr President. I believe that the Minister should withdraw his statement that the purpose of the point of order was to remove the question and answer from the broadcast of question time. That was not the point of the objection. The Minister is now being objectionable and I ask that he withdraw those remarks because they are offensive to me.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr President. If something is a fact it cannot be offensive. The remarks on which -
- Mr President, the Minister has no right to interpret what he has said as a fact. He has been offensive in what he has said and he ought to be asked to withdraw it.
- Senator Carrick.
- Mr President, I was asked by Senator Baume what reforms the Government would take and I said in reply, and in specific reply, that we would look towards commercial, ethnic and public broadcasting so that the issue of licences in the future would be done objectively and non-politically and not in the way in which, under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, the former Government sought to exploit it.
– As to the point of order you raised, Senator Georges, there was no reflection upon an individual; it was a general comment.
– I was on my feet raising a point of order when the Minister reflected upon what I was doing. Therefore it was directed towards me.
– Not in a personal sense.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether the inquiry into the alleged Khemlani loans affair which was instituted by the Premier of Queensland, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, cost the Australian taxpayer more than $250,000? Is the Minister aware that Mr Wiley Fancher, who was involved in the investigation, had all his fares, etc. paid by the taxpayer? Will the Minister also advise whether the Mr Wiley Fancher referred to arrived in Australia from America on or about 24 December 1965 because, to use his own words given in this country, he desired to avoid living beside negroes? A newspaper report of that date quoted him as saying: ‘I like a negro in a negro’s place’. Is the Minister also aware that at the time Mr Fancher was investigating the Khemlani loans affair his own company, Mount Mulgrave Pty Ltd, was declared bankrupt? In view of the fact that the Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, has declared that there is no evidence to support the allegation of the Queensland Premier, will the Australian Government now take the initiative in recovering from the Premier and Mr Fancher the costs of the so-called investigation?
-I think that series of questions should appropriately be placed on the notice paper.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister will be aware that primary producers receive the benefit of a taxation averaging system which at present has an upper limit of $16,000. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether any consideration has been given by the Government to extending such a provision to small businessmen? In view of the present economic climate, can it be expected that consideration will be given to increasing the upper limit of $16,000 in keeping with the inflationary rate over past years?
– The honourable senator was good enough to tell me that he would require some information on this matter, and I am able to inform him of the following: The Prime Minister announced in his policy speech the Government’s intention of providing taxation relief for small businesses and private companies. Consideration is now being given to the most appropriate way or ways in which this might be done. The honourable senator’s suggestion and question will be taken into account in this process. The question of increasing the upper limit of $16,000 applicable to the averaging system raises issues which normally are considered in the Budget context; so I will forward that part of the question to the Treasurer for his consideration.
-I draw the attention of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development to the remarks of Mr Justice Fox when he adjourned the Ranger uranium impact inquiry. The judge was concerned at the absence of some material or submissions from the Government. In the light of that, can the Minister overcome the fears of the conservationists that this might be undue stalling in order to let the conservationists feel that everything is all right until, all of a sudden, the case commences again?
-Mr Justice Fox, who is conducting the inquiry into the exploiting of the Ranger uranium deposits, adjourned his inquiry last week. At the time he adjourned the inquiry, I understand he expressed the view that there was material or information which ought to be forthcoming from Government sources on a number of matters. I understand that he had some indication that this information would be available. At the moment the Government is considering the matters that he has raised. When the Government has concluded its examination of those matters, we trust that the inquiry will resume.
-I shall certainly take on that suggestion and put the matter to the Prime Minister in whose area it properly resides. I assume the honourable senator was alluding to Press reports this morning about the launching of a book. Even before this book was launched one of the alleged facts contained in it was denied by the Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales. This only points up, of course, that the Leader of the Opposition in another place -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. Standing order 99 states very definitely that we cannot canvass or debate a matter at question time. The question was: Would the Minister consider putting down a White Paper? Senator Withers replied that he would take up the matter with the Prime Minister for the purpose of seeing whether the Prime Minister would put down a White Paper. We are now listening to a canvassing of what the White Paper should disclose. The question has been asked and the answer given but the Minister is now going into political history for the purpose of paying to the questioner the kudos which the Minister thinks he owes him for bringing this matter up for debate. I suggest that this is quite outside the realm of question time. The question has been asked and answered and the Minister is now only providing political propaganda for the purpose of ridiculing someone in connection with a statement published in a newspaper today.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr President, I can understand the sensitivity of Senator Cavanagh. But I say with respect that I did not know the question was to be asked by the honourable senator who asked the question.
-Does the honourable senator doubt my word?
– It was not an unexpected question in view of the newspaper publicity given to the matter this morning. Whilst I said that I would take up the matter with the Prime Minister, in whose area the matter properly resides, I was attempting also in my answer to make certain that I knew the exact area to which the honourable senator was referring. For that reason I was attempting to open up the question so that the honourable senator could give me a nod to indicate that I understood properly the matter which was to be taken up with the Prime Minister. For that reason I was answering as 1 was. I submit that there is no point of order.
– The point of order is not sustained.
-If I may continue my answer, Mr President, I take it that the honourable senator’s question arose out of the newspaper publicity this morning concerning a certain book. It is even more important, perhaps, that a White Paper ought to be prepared in view of the fact that, as I see it, a part of that book which was published in a newspaper- I think it was the National Times- and which alluded to a certain incident concerning the Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales in fact was denied categorically by that person before the book was launched. I take it that that is the matter to which the honourable senator is referring. Because of these fact I shall certainly take the matter up with the Prime Minister.
-Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the promise made by the Queensland Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen, to ease the tax yoke by removing death duties? Does the Minister consider this to be a forward step and can he confirm reports that the Queensland Premier’s progressive outlook is to be rewarded with the loss of Federal revenue equivalent to the amount of death duties relieved? Is it true, as reported, that the Commonwealth will take from Queensland the $30m Mr Bjelke-Petersen intends to save for Queensland taxpayers?
-Like the honourable senator, I read about this matter. That is the limit of my knowledge. What might happen in any of these areas is a matter for the Budget at Budget time.
-Can the Minister for Social Security explain to the Senate why the term ‘given name’ is used on Medibank forms and not ‘Christian name ‘?
- Mr President, I am asked for an explanation in regard to the Medibank card. I have no particular statement to make with regard to the Medibank card but it may be of interest to honourable senators that in my own Department the term ‘given name’ has been used on official forms for some years. For example, in my department it was decided several years ago to use the term ‘first and other names’. In January 1974 the then Prime Minister wrote to departments asking them to stop using the term ‘Christian name’ and to substitute given names’. In the case of my Department this meant substituting the term ‘given name’ for the term ‘first and other names’. I am advised that there has been no official complaint with regard to the use of the word ‘given’. I understand that the Health Insurance Commission has received no official complaints about it. I point out to the honourable senator that there are within Australia people who would not recognise the term ‘Christian name’. For many years my Department has adopted the policy that I have mentioned and I understand that the term ‘given name’ is used uniformly on government forms. Implicit in the honourable senator’s question, perhaps, is the question of why the substitution was made. That was something that occurred in 1974, and it is not something that I shall canvas at this stage.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate or to any other Minister who accepts some degree of responsibility for the situation of the creative arts in Australia. Was the chairmanship of the Film and Television School terminated on 1 1 November 1975? Has the Government given consideration to appointing a new chairman of the Film and Television School? Further, what are the Government’s intentions regarding the continuing independence of the Film and Television School?
-I think that this matter resides within the responsibility of the Prime Minister, for whom I answer in this place. I could not inform the honourable senator from my own knowledge whether the chairman of the Film and Television School has been replaced or whether the position is vacant. I certainly will seek the information for the honourable senator.
-Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate when we can expect legislation concerning the maritime college at Launceston to be brought before the chamber?
-I am hopeful that within the course of the next week the legislation will bc introduced into the Parliament. I am also hopeful that very shortly the interim council to plan the college will be set up. There is every reason to believe that there will be expedition in both these cases.
– Will the Minister for Education give an undertaking that he will honour an assurance given by the then shadow Minister for Education, presently the Minister for Social Security, to students at the University of New England on 15 September 1975 to the effect that a Liberal-National Country Party government would immediately review the tertiary education assistance scheme with a view to increasing allowances paid to students?
– I have no knowledge of what is alleged to have been said by a colleague at the University of New England. I will certainly have a look at the contents of the statement. In regard to the tertiary allowance, the honourable senator will know that the specific statement in the policy speech of the Fraser Government was that we would maintain the 1976 education programs, which include the tertiary education assistance scheme. We will do so. With regard to a review, the previous Government set up a committee which made some recommendations. Those recommendations were not implemented by the previous Government. I freely acknowledge 2 things: I acknowledge that because adjustments have not been made to the allowances, increases in the cost of living have eroded the allowances. I acknowledge also that there are some anomalies in the scheme. I give an undertaking that the Government will look at both these matters in the preparation of the Budget immediately ahead.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to the concern expressed in Whyalla about the future of the Australian shipbuilding industry. Is the Minister aware that 1850 people are employed at the BHP shipyard at Whyalla and that another 1 800 people rely on the shipyard for their employment? Is he aware also that a total of 6000 people are directly employed in shipbuilding throughout Australia? Is the Minister able to say when he will be able to make a definitive statement on Government policy with respect to this industry? Will he undertake to send a senior member of his Department to Whyalla on Thursday of this week to attend a public meeting called by the Mayor, Mrs Ekblom, to discuss this important matter?
-I think the honourable senator knows that I have been to Whyalla to look into this particular problem. He is probably aware also that I have seen a number of people in the industry and from the trade union movement about shipbuilding in Australia. I think the figures he gave as to the number of people directly employed in Whyalla in the shipbuilding area are fairly correct. I cannot vouch for his figures as to those who are dependent on that industry. My figures show that in Australia fewer than 4000 people are employed in shipbuilding. I know there will be discussions about this matter in Whyalla next Thursday. I cannot attend that meeting myself but I am endeavouring to see that someone from my Department attends.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether he was in New Zealand during the parliamentary recess in the week before last. Was he in that country at the same time as were the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs? What was the necessity for the visit to New Zealand of 3 Ministers at the same time? Who accompanied the Minister to New Zealand? Was his visit connected with the future activities of the British Phosphate Commission? Does he intend to communicate to the Parliament the results of any discussions that he may have had with the New Zealand authorities?
-I was in New Zealand. I was there with both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As to the necessity of the trip, I was there to discuss with Mr Duncan MacIntyre, the Minister for Agriculture, I think he is called, the problems Australia has in relation to our joint interests in phosphate in both Christmas Island and Ocean Island. The head of my Department, my private secretary and my wife accompanied me. At the moment there arc proposals for further discussions to be held at officer level. I would hope to be able, as soon as those discussions have been concluded, to inform the Parliament of the joint policies of the 2 governments in this matter.
– I address my question to you, Mr President. I refer to your statement last week that the Press Gallery accreditation of a photographer had been withdrawn by you and the Speaker of the House of Representatives because of a breach of the rules of the parliamentary Press Gallery. I ask: Do the rules of the parliamentary Press Gallery contain any requirement about accuracy and standards of reporting? Are Clem Lloyd and Andrew Clark accredited to the parliamentary Press Gallery? Have you, Mr President, seen reports of a book written by Mr Lloyd and Mr Clark entitled Kerr’s King Hit which contains allegations that the Governor-General approached and obtained advice from the Chief Justice of the New South
Wales Supreme Court, and reports of a categorical denial of such allegations by the Chief Justice, Sir Laurence Street? Will you examine this matter to see whether some action with respect to the accreditation of these authors is appropriate, particularly in the light of the fact that by the nature of the allegations and the resultant denial they could not have been verified by the authors before publication?
– I shall give consideration to the question asked by the honourable senator and will bring in a reply to him as soon as possible.
– I should like to ask you a supplementary question, Mr President. When you take into consideration the matter raised by Senator Chaney, will you also take into consideration the fact that the views which have been partly expressed by Senator Chaney in his question are not the views of the whole Senate? In particular, they are not my views. I ask you, Mr President, to take this into consideration because any such investigation on your part, not knowing that there are many honourable senators who disagree with Senator Chaney ‘s views, may lead indirectly to some limitation of the freedom of the Press in this place.
– I will couch my reply as factually as I possibly can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. In November of last year, under the previous Government, steps were taken to set up legal aid offices at some 32 additional sites. To date there appears to have been no further work done on this matter. Can the Senate be advised whether there is likely to be any cut in the number of offices to be opened and if so, which offices will be cut? Can the public be assured that all other offices will be opened with all speed?
-The AttorneyGeneral announced earlier this year that he was discussing the provision of legal aid with representatives of the Law Council of Australia and would be taking the matter up with the State Attorneys-General. I think it was indicated also, when the Prime Minister made an announcement of certain savings which were to be effected out of appropriations for this financial year, that a small amount of the $16m appropriated in regard to legal aid offices could be saved. I am not aware of the outcome of the AttorneyGeneral’s discussions but I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to him so that I can provide her with an up-to-date reply. It must be recognised that there are so many areas of expenditure in respect of which savings arc capable by avoiding duplication and by avoiding excessive costs. There is an area of legal, aid provision to which that applies. It must be accepted therefore that there would be some restrictions in the provision of legal aid throughout the country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to a joint statement made on 15 January 1976 by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Social Security, and subsequently reported in the Canberra Times of 16 January 1976, that information provided by the Taxation Office is available to and would be used by the Department of Social Security to prevent abuses in the unemployment benefit system. I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is information provided by citizens to the Taxation Office used for any other purposes apart from this and apart from those related to taxation?
– I am under the impression that the information in Taxation Office files is confidential to that Office and to the people concerned in lodging returns. Beyond that, I cannot say. But I think that this is a proper question for a clearly definitive answer from the Treasurer.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. As full time members of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee have not had a wage variation since 1974 and are now paid less than the clerk, will the Minister have a review made of their salaries and allowances? I mention that at the time of the 1974 variation the NACC was informed that it was Government policy that future variations in salaries or allowances would have to be considered by the Remuneration Tribunal and that the necessary machinery would be commenced whenever it was desirable for a review of the salaries and allowances of members of the NACC. Therefore, will the present Minister, as requested by the NACC, issue the necessary regulation to permit the Tribunal to give consideration to a fair and just remuneration to the 4 1 representatives of Aboriginal people? As it is thought that these representatives are suffering an injustice not encountered by most Australians who can get claims for salaries and allowances decided by impartial arbitration, will the Minister rectify this injustice by treating the matter as one of some urgency?
– I am unable to answer fully the honourable- senator’s question, but I understand that at the recent meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee in Canberra the Minister had this matter referred to him. I am assured by the Minister that he has the matter under close consideration. I think he would share with the honourable senator the view that appropriate remuneration should be available to these people who give their services to the Aboriginal communities. I can say only that I will seek an urgent reply from the Minister, and I assure the honourable senator that active investigation is taking place at present.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I preface it by saying that no doubt the Minister has had his attention drawn to the article on the front page of a newspaper last week which indicated that postage may have to be increased to 23c if the userpays principle established by the Labor Government continues. Does the Government agree with the user-must-pay principle? Is the Minister yet able to say whether it is proposed to subsidise the Australian Postal Commission so that postage fees will not be allowed to increase unduly because of the undesirable effect that such rises have on inflation, the number of letters posted and the consequent employment prospects for those in the Australian Postal Commission?
– I did see in one or more newspapers what was a purely speculative comment on postal charges. I am able to say that it can be no more than speculation. The matter is one for the Budget and Budget deliberations and will be dealt with then. It is true that the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission now have wider authority in determining these matters; but there still remains a final discretion with the Government, and this would be a matter of Government policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In view of the fact that some optometrists and opticians are attaching footnotes to their accounts requesting payment on receipt of spectacles because, among other reasons, there are delays in Medibank payments, can the Minister say whether in fact there are delays in payments to these professions? If so, what are the reasons? Could this footnote be only a device to discredit Medibank in the eyes of the patients?
-I have no information from the Minister for Health that would enable me to answer the question that has been directed to me. I will refer it to the Minister and obtain information on whether there is any undue delay in Medibank payments at present. I also will refer to him the comments that have been made with regard to accounts from optometrists.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to a series of crashes involving light aircraft and loss of life which have occurred recently. With the increasing need for this kind of transportation and the increasing use of it, has the Government any plans for appropriate inquiries relating to possible improvement in standards of reliability and safety and, above all, the maintenance of public confidence in charter aircraft and small aircraft transportation?
-It used to be the practice, and I am sure it still is, for every aircraft accident to be investigated very carefully to ascertain whether the accident was due to an overload problem, a bad mechanical problem, a failure of type, error by the pilot, the pilot perhaps taking undue risks, or a problem related to the aircraft and its general airworthiness. These matters arc all investigated and are the subject of report. The honourable senator can be assured that, to the best of my knowledge, when this matter was my responsibility this was the case and I am sure that this practice would not have been changed since; but I will have inquiries made because it seems that the number of light aircraft accidents is increasing.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. I refer to the answer he gave earlier in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and ask him: Am I correct in saying that I heard the Minister state that certain broadcasting licences were issued during the term of the previous Government for political reasons? What were the licences to which he referred and which, presumably, were issued by the Postmaster-General under the Wireless Telegraphy Act? Will the Minister name the people to whom they were issued?
-I said that under any reforms which a Federal Government of our philosophy would bring in, licences would be the subject of investigation and objective recommendation by a non-political body. I referred to the fact that some licences were issued under the Wireless Telegraphy Act by direct decision of the Minister concerned. Therefore, this was a direct decision which did not arise from recommendations. I understand that the licences were issued in the general public and ethnic areas, not in the commercial field.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In view of Senator Carrick ‘s further answer, I ask him again whether he will name the persons or firms to whom he has referred in this reply?
-I will be very happy to get for the honourable senator the names concerned and let him have them.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I may be permitted to say that perhaps it would appear unfair, even if an ex-Prime Minister has made only one political mistake in his life, to emphasise it. But the importance of this matter is such that I should direct a question about it. Has any fact yet come to public notice at the instance of Mr Whitlam or of anyone else as to why Mr Whitlam, having engaged with Mr Hartley in a proposal to the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Iraq as early as 16 November, concealed that fact from the President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hawke, until early February when Mr Hawke, as a known ally and supporter of the PLO’s enemies -
– Order! A point of order is being raised. I call Senator Wriedt.
– I raise a point of order. I know we have been through this matter last week. As long as Senator Wright is in this chamber he will endeavour to upset the normal processes of the Parliament. During the time which we have for asking questions when we seek information about Government policy, I think it behoves all of us to use the proper procedures of the Parliament to solicit that information. Senator Wright is making a mockery of question time in pursuing this matter. He knows that this is not within the responsibility of the Minister to whom he has directed his question. Mr President, I ask you to rule now that the honourable senator’s question is out of order so that we will not have a repetition of it during every week we are sitting here.
– In relation to that point of order, Mr President, I submit that my question is directed to a most fundamental matter which affects the security and foreign relations of this country. The security of Israel depends primarily upon peace in the Middle East. It is a known and avowed policy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to subvert Israel and to exclude it from all Palestine. If a Prime Minister enters into an arrangement which commits an important political party in this country to friendship with Iraq or with the PLO, and conceals it, that is a matter of the most important relevance to the public interest in this country.
– As far as I am aware no fact has come to public notice as to why Mr Hartley and/or the then Prime Minister concealed the fact of these negotiations from the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party. It is not for me necessarily to put a judgment on this matter. Mr Whitlam ‘s peers put a judgment on the matter- if they are his peers- when they condemned him in the strongest possible terms. The fact that his own colleagues took 2V6 days- no doubt after listening to pleas of mitigation and to all the other evidence which may or may not have been adduced- to come to that conclusion, I understand, without dissent, speaks for itself.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to the proposed pension rises which she announced last week. Does the Minister accept the fact that the value of pensions relative to average weekly earnings will have dropped by the time the first payment is made in May and will have been reduced considerably by the time the next payment after that is due in November? Will the Government modify its apparently rigid policy of increasing pensions strictly only twice yearly to allow for further increases to maintain the true value of pensions throughout the year?
– The Government’s policy is that at 6-monthly intervals it will review the levels of the basic pension rate and will apply to them the movements in the consumer price index. Last week I announced the rises that will apply to pensions from the first pay period in May to take account of the last 2 quarters of the consumer price index which resulted in a 6.4 per cent increase -
– The last 2 quarters of last year.
– The last 2 quarters available to our knowledge at the present time. It is of interest that when we apply those rises the basic rate of the pension will be equal to 25.2 per cent of average weekly earnings -
– You do not have the average weekly earnings for March.
– At the December quarter. I take it that the honourable senator is referring to a lag in the passing on of the consumer price index to the basic pensions. We are following a pattern of payment which was set by the previous Government, and 6 months from the last rise in pensions the consumer price index rises for the last two quarters will be applied. The pattern of increase, as set, is well known to the Senate and to the Australian public. I draw the attention of the honourable senator to the fact that every dollar in every week by which we increase the basic pension will add $100m to social security benefit payments each year. At the present time that is a matter of great significance in economic management and it was one of the considerations taken heavily into account in the rises we announced last week. The other matter to which I draw the honourable senator’s attention is the fact that the Income Security Review group is looking at all payments from my Department. I will undoubtedly refer to that body the matter that has been raised by the honourable senator, that is, the lag in passing on the increase in the consumer price index.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. As some confusion exists over the publicity given to the expression of ages in matters of social welfare will the Minister please explain the position?
– The present policy with regard to the payment of pensions is that the pension is free of means test for residentially qualified persons 70 years of age and over. There has been no change in this policy. That is the existing policy. The Government has a commitment in its own policy to abolish the means test for all people over the age of 65. Last week in Melbourne it was stated that because of the economic difficulties which now beset us it was highly unlikely that we would be able at the present time to relax the means test in respect of people within the 65-69 age group. I reiterate that the present policy is that pensions are payable to people 70 years of age and over free of the means test and there has been no change in that policy. Any change in that policy will be announced at the appropriate time. I hope this clarification will eliminate any confusion which may exist in regard to the matter.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether widows and women who receive supporting mothers pensions will receive the 6.4 per cent increase recently announced by the Government? If so, will a similar increase be made to the present allowance of $7.50 for each child?
– The increase of 6.4 per cent will be applied to the basic rate of the pension and not to any supplementary benefits or to any children’s allowances that are paid at the present time. It is an increase only to the basie rate of pension and not to any other entitlements under the provisions of the Social Services Act.
- Mr President, I wish to ask the Minister of Social Security a supplementary question.
– I call Senator Colston.
-What was the rationale for the decision not to index such allowances as the ones I mentioned?
– The rationale is that the announcement stated that the basic standard rate of pension would be increased in accordance with the movements in the consumer price index. No decision was taken with regard to any supplementary payments that exist or with regard to any payments that are made on behalf of children. It is a matter of policy whether these movements are related to supplementary benefits or whether they are related to the standard rate of pension. The decision that was taken by the Government was that they would relate to the standard rate of pension.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it the intention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to fill all vacant positions, including those of industrial and ancillary staff, in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs?
– I am unable to answer that question from my own knowledge. I shall refer it to the Minister and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is it a fact that 2 Ballarat valve manufacturers, namely, M. B. Johns Ltd and Eureka Valve Manufacturers Pty Ltd are in financial difficulties due to the importation of cheap valves from overseas? Is he aware that these 2 companies employ some 800 men, all of whom are in danger of retrenchment unless some form of protection by way of increased tariff or quotas is applied?
-The Australian valve industry, of which these 2 firms are a very important part, has sought increased protection against imports of valves. The Department of Industry and Commerce has been in touch with both of these firms and other firms. The industry has been asked to supply additional information and much more detail in support of its claims that the current difficulties are a result of import competition. We have not received all that information yet. We are trying to obtain it as quickly as we can to see whether or not a case can be made to help the industry in any way.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact, as reported in the daily Press, that Telecom Australia is to abolish the 15c lodgment fee on phonograms and printergrams? Will Telecom Australia, by doing so, be providing a better service to users and at the same time be reducing its operating costs? Will this also save money for those Australians who use the services of the Commission?
-It is my understandingmy source is the Press and Press statements- that what Senator Lajovic says is correct and that the steps taken are aimed at both a better service and a cheaper service. If there is any technical aspect of this question that has escaped me, I shall obtain an answer and let the honourable senator have it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. The Minister may be aware that the Health Education Council in Western Australia has a publication entitled, ‘How Clanger Molloy caught the clap and gave it to his girlfriend’. As reports indicate that the incidence of venereal disease is increasing throughout Australia, as the Premier of Western Australia has declared the publication pornographic without reference to the State-appointed Indecent Publications Committee and as there is a great need for constructive advice to be made available to all sections of the community on this matter, will the Minister give consideration to approaching the Health Education Council in Western Australia to obtain the ‘Clanger Molloy’ series and assist in the distribution of the same on a national basis through the Department of Health?
– I am unaware of the facts that have been related by the honourable senator. I shall refer them to the Minister for Health. He may feel that they are also matters for the consideration of his State colleagues. I have no knowledge of the matter raised and can suggest only that it be referred to the Minister.
– I address a question to Senator Webster as Minister for Science and as Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. It follows a reply that he gave to a question last week relating to European carp. Can the Minister at this stage indicate the extent to which European carp are present in the rivers and lakes of the Australian Capital Territory and give some indication of the sort of impact those fish might have on the ecological systems of those waters? Can the Minister also indicate what research is being undertaken on this question which might assist in preventing the spread of the European carp in the A.C.T. and elsewhere in eastern Australia? In particular, can the Minister indicate whether it is true that European carp can have an adverse effect on the efficiency of water supply systems? If so, will he undertake to see that measures are taken to try to prevent any adverse effects on the A.CT.’s water supply, including that which will be provided by the new Googong Dam?
– The honourable senator has asked a number of important questions relating to European carp.
-And you have the answers to them.
– I certainly do, which is something that the honourable senator was never capable of doing when he was a Minister. European carp have been found in Lake Burley Griffin. Eight were netted on 2 1 March. The netting indicated that the carp are distributed throughout the lake. On 22 March of this year
Senator Knight, Mr Haslem and I visited the lake ecology laboratory of the Department of the Capital Territory, where we spoke with a Dr Pratt, who gave us a great deal of information on the carp problem in the A.C.T.
As I have mentioned previously, there is no known totally effective barrier to the spread upstream of the carp. Our understanding is that it will be found in the Queanbeyan River and downstream to the Molonglo River and the Murrumbidgee River and most of its tributaries. I am advised that there is every possibility that the carp will colonise in the waters of the Googong Dam, which is presently under construction, and that they will come in via the Queanbeyan River. The carp probably will negotiate the Queanbeyan weir. It has been noted that they can jump more than 3 feet in height from a lying position. That is not part of the answer, but it is quite interesting to know how high they can jump. I can assure honourable senators that they can really leap. One should realise that this fish is of such enormous size that it grows to at least 60-odd lb and in some waters it has been known tobe 100 lb in weight.
Senator Knight queried what may occur to the waters in Canberra and the filtration system. As he noted yesterday, the carp is an unusual type of fish in that it continually ingests mud from the bottom and squirts it out in a mucky spurt. That has the effect of delaying the growth of other fish, particularly trout. It has been found that eventually the muddied waters can affect a filtration system. The carp has affected filtration systems in other areas and has been particularly harmful to some. I am advised that total eradication at this stage is not practical. I shall take up the problem with my State colleagues who have their departments viewing this matter. I mentioned last week that the Victorian Government is in negotiation with the British Government to see whether there is a possibility of inducing a virus. There may be other means of eradicating this fish from Australian Capital Territory waters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Did the Minister, in answering a previous question, state that the Labor Government had issued broadcasting licences to ethnic or publicly-operated organisations on purely political grounds? If he did, was he aware that the announcements of the Labor Government’s proposals in respect of both the ethnic stations and the community-involved stations were made publicly in the Parliament and that, in addition, the Minister who issued the licences gave an indication that their operations would be very strictly controlled? Was he aware that nobody in the Parliament, including his own colleagues and his own shadow Minister, objected to the setting up of such stations or to the issuing of the licences? Was he also aware that in the formative stages members of his party, including I think Senator Davidson who was a member of the first committee, considered what the Government would do in respect of the new licences? If that is the position, I take it thai the Minister might either give me the chance to make a point of explanation later on or admit that- if his answer was framed as I am advised- in view of the information I have given his answer was incorrect?
-I think that Hansard will show that what I said was that the previous Government used its ministerial power under the Wireless Telegraphy Act to issue licences. I think that is a matter of fact, and I said that that was so. In so doing I did not reflect at all on any of those persons who received either ethnic or public radio licences. I was very specific in what 1 said. The previous Government indicated its intention, through the Minister himself, of seeking ways of taking the investigation out of the ministerial sphere and putting it into a nonpolitical sphere. What I said was in parallel 1 think with what the honourable senator, when a Minister, said here. I was saying that we were looking towards a system of reform under which all licences- radio, television, public, commercial, ethnic and community- would have an orderly system of prejudgment, public exposure and recommendation. I make it entirely clear that I was in no way reflecting upon those who got the licences but merely upon the system itself which used a ministerial control.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a newspaper report of the address by one Mr John Halfpenny, a member of the National Industrial Committee of the Communist Party of Australia, to an accounting convention in Melbourne yesterday, in which Mr Halfpenny reportedly said: ‘The Australian economy had the support of a massive protection racket that would have turned Al Capone green with envy’? Did the Minister note that one of the examples used by Mr Halfpenny to support his claim was the assistance to the Tasmanian apple industry and that he claimed that Tasmanian apple growers had a rate of subsidy around $15,000 a grower? Is the Minister aware that the subsidy paid to the Tasmanian apple growers is not meant solely for the grower but is shared also by the packing and manufacturing industries and others and that the apple industry in Tasmania provides employment to many people in that State through associated industries such as shipping, packing and transport? What steps will the Minister take to expose this type of anti-working class propaganda which strikes at the base of an industry which is struggling to provide jobs in an economically depressed area?
– I listened very carefully to the honourable senator and to the best of my knowledge his elaboration of the facts of this position is correct, just as I believe that Mr Halfpenny’s elaboration, as I read it, is incorrect. It is also fair to comment, I think, that in a great number of areas in Australia the general body of revenue moves to assist people who have difficulties either long term or short term. I think it is totally consistent in Australia that those people who are able to do so, in a sense of the total contribution to revenue, should be assisting various people who cannot help themselves. Apple growing in Tasmania is such a case. I have been concerned about the matter for quite a long time. I think that what is being done is both wise and sensible. It has my support. I shall put the viewpoint of the honourable senator to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health able to say whether it is proposed to cut back on community health programs as part of the current economy drive? Is the Minister aware of any cuts in the current community health program which is operated at present by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission?
– As Minister representing the Minister for Health, I am unable to give information to the honourable senator on community health centres, but I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Health and obtain an answer as soon as possible.
– Pursuant to sub-section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1975 I present a copy of a Remuneration Tribunal determination relating to the Administrative Review Committee and the independent inquiry to determine the fees for medical benefit purposes, 1 January 1 976 to 3 1 December 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present copies of the directives that set out the responsibilities to the Minister for Defence of senior Service and civilian officers of the Defence organisation and relationships between various areas of responsibility of these officers. These directives came into force on 9 February 1976, with the implementation of major provisions of the Defence Force Re-organisation Act.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Education Council meeting held in Sydney on 12 and 13 February 1976.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 19(2) of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Act 1970-1973 I present the annual report of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board for the year ended 30 June 1 975 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of the Capital Territory for 1 974- 1975.
– by leave- I wish to inform the
Senate of certain matters concerning the unemployment benefit and the work test. The following statement was made in another place earlier this afternoon by the Honourable A. A. Street, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Honourable senators will understand therefore that when I use the first person singular this represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
Honourable senators will recall that during the election campaign last year the Government emphasised the importance it attached to the need to eliminate widespread abuse of the unemployment benefit system. Honourable senators will also be aware of” the action to implement this promise in mid- January last, when the Minister for Social Security and I announced a number of measures designed to tighten the unemployment benefit work test. I now want to announce some further measures which the Government has recently decided to adopt. However, before doing so, I should like to acquaint honourable senators with some brief background details.
Currently, there are still nearly 200 000 persons receiving unemployment benefit in Australia, and the cost to the taxpayer of unemployment benefit payments is in the vicinty of $480m per annum. Furthermore, it should be noted that in February 1972 about 30 per cent of unemployed registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service received unemployment benefit and this had increased to 70 per cent in February 1976; about 70 per cent of male recipients at the latest analysis last year were unmarried; some two-fifths were under 2 1 years; threequarters of them had been on benefit for more than 1 month.
Between May 1975 and January 1976 some 112 000 beneficiaries were selected for field officer visits by the Department of Social Security. As a result of these visits 30 per cent of cases were terminated, though there is no suggestion of deception or fraud in every case. Often the beneficiaries have only recently obtained work and have had little time to notify the Department of Social Security; their domestic circumstances have altered in a way which disqualifies them from benefit; they may no longer satisfy the work test requirement; or they have left their normal address and have not notified the Department. Of course, in some cases there is blatant misrepresentation. In these instances a prosecution is considered and in most cases appropriate action is taken.
A person shall be qualified to receive unemployment benefit who satisfies the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security that he:
The Department of Social Security is responsible for the determination of eligibility for, and the payment of, unemployment benefit. My Department, through the Commonwealth Employment Service, acts as agent for the Department of Social Security by reporting on whether or not suitable employment is available for individual claimants. The work test is the process of determining whether applicants for employment who claim, or are in receipt of unemployment benefit, are prepared to accept suitable employment.
Suitable employment’ is defined as work in the person’s usual occupation, or work of an equivalent kind. Work of an equivalent kind is work of a type or nature in which the person ‘s experience, qualification and training could bc used. In the case of school leavers and others not previously engaged in employment, and those seeking to rejoin the work force, suitable employment is work which is in keeping with their personal preferences as far as is practicable, and their abilities, aptitudes or experience, qualification and training.
To assist CES officers to administer the work test in a consistent and fair manner, guidelines have been laid down to cover various situations which may arise in day to day dealings with applicants for employment.
Changes introduced in January 1976
The Government took early action aimed at eliminating abuses which had become all too common, as follows:
Applicants have not satisfied the work test if:
This Government will not tolerate these devious devices to have the taxpayer support indolence. While seeking to avoid misuse of taxpayers’ funds we have, however, also sought to avoid hardship for the genuine job seeker. For example, guidelines also point out that it is not reasonable to expect a person to accept a position if no public or private transport is available, or if excessive time would be spent in travelling. We do not want to impose conditions which involve a person leaving home very early in the morning and returning home late at night, or where travelling costs are excessive in relation to wages received. Persons with their own means of travel, however, are expected to use it to travel to work if no other transport is available. One and a half hours travelling each way generally is not regarded as excessive. Nor are claimants required to accept employment where the cost of weekly return fares is in excess of 5 per cent of the basic salary offering for the position. Where, however, a number of people in one centre regularly commute to another centre, refusal of a claimant to do likewise could, of course, result in rejection or cancellation of benefit. CES Officers are required to inform clients that any refusal to accept a referral to employment or an offer of suitable employment will be reported to the Department of* Social Security and that this could affect eligibility for unemployment benefit or, alternatively, result in benefit being postponed for a period. CES managers are required to provide Registrars of Social Security with comprehensive information concerning reasons why they consider claimants for unemployment benefit have failed to satisfy the work test. Appeal can be made to an independent tribunal for review of a decision to refuse unemployment benefit. CES officers seek to attempt, through counselling, to persuade long-term beneficiaries and others, as appropriate, to undertake retraining or rehabilitation or to consider alternative types of work. CES managers are also encouraged to be alert to the personal situations of individuals and to consult, as necessary, with such people as parents, welfare officers and ministers of religion in difficult cases. Whilst some other form of social security payments might be more appropriate, CES managers are required to report this to Registrars of Social Security for their attention.
In addition to revising the guidelines for the administration of the work test the Government also introduced in January last:
All of these measures were not aimed at the genuine work seeker; they were designed to remove what many saw as a Government financed incentive not to actively seek work and to keep other abuses of the system to a minimum.
It was apparent to the Government when conducting its initial review in January that further measures might be necessary. It therefore directed the interdepartmental working party to continue to explore what additional action might be necessary to further reduce abuses. This working party, comprising officers of the Department of Social Security and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations had previously reported on other aspects of the administration of unemployment benefit. Following the Report the Government has decided that:
As to the definition of ‘suitable work’, the Government has taken the view that while a skilled person should not be expected to accept an unskilled job for a reasonable period, this period should not be indefinite as it can be now. In the future, where after a reasonable period it has not been possible for a person to obtain employment in his usual occupation or work of an equivalent kind, the range of suitable jobs to which he or she may be referred will be extended to all which are within the person’s capacity and available to him or her even though a change in status or wages may be involved. The Government has decided that a period of 6 weeks after registration for employment will constitute a reasonable period. However, this period may be extended up to 3 months in total where to do otherwise would be detrimental to the person finding employment in his usual occupation.
In summary, all those receiving unemployment benefit will be free to prospect for employment in their usual occupation, or work of an equivalent kind, for a period of 6 weeks and the CES will also be working to this end on their behalf. Extension beyond this point, up to a total time of 3 months, will apply in those cases where a person’s efforts to find suitable employment in keeping with their qualifications or experience would be prejudiced if they had to accept prematurely less skilled work. A similar approach is adopted by a number of overseas countries. The reintroduction of personal lodgment of income statements with the CES on a fortnightly basis is considered necessary to overcome situations where people have, in fact, been working while lodging income statements by mail.
The situation with regard to school leavers is quite simply that in the past many school leaver claimants have said that they are not going back to school, have been paid unemployment benefit and, for one reason or another, have returned to school. Some, of course, have claimed benefit without any intention of being dishonest, and have later gone back to school. It is apparent, however, that others have merely sought benefit for the holiday period, knowing that they would be returning to their studies. This has meant that they have received benefits to which they would not otherwise have been entitled. I would like to add that, in relation to school leavers, if the applicant demonstrates hardship as a result of the non-payment of unemployment benefit during the periods mentioned, sympathetic consideration will be given to the case and the payment of special benefit will be made in appropriate cases. Section 124 of the Social Services Act allows the Director-General a discretion to make this payment where, because of age, physical or mental disability, or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, a person is unable to earn sufficient livelihood for himself or his dependants, if any. The rate of special benefit is equivalent to the rate of unemployment benefit.
A further matter which is designed to improve the administration of unemployment benefit concerns the position of people who voluntarily leave work and immediately expect to receive unemployment benefit. The Government believes that in many cases these people are not without resources of their own, or, in the case of teenagers, from their parents, and that it should be made generally known to those people that if they voluntarily give up their jobs, particularly in these times of high unemployment, they cannot expect immediately to receive unemployment benefit. The Government has accordingly decided that people who voluntarily give up their jobs will be required to wait 6 weeks before being granted unemployment benefit. This will bring the Australian practice into line with that of Canada, where under the Canadian unemployment insurance scheme there is a waiting period of 6 weeks where a person has voluntarily left his job. As with school leavers, the Department of Social Security will give consideration to the payment of special benefit to a person becoming voluntarily unemployed, and who demonstrates hardship.
It will be evident from what I have said that the Government is not making changes to the unemployment benefit system to the disadvantage of genuine work seekers. Nor is its aim to compel people to work; that would be forced or compulsory labour, which is not acceptable in Australia or elsewhere, quite apart from the fact that it would be contrary to the International Labour Organisation conventions on forced labour which Australia has ratified. Equally, however, the Government has no intention of supporting at public expense those who are fit and able to work, who by registering for employment signify that they are seeking normal work, yet who by their actions make it evident that they do not wish to do so. The Government is no less concerned that these abuses of the system are kept to a minimum consistent with the cost involved. I am confident that these efforts will have the wholehearted support of the overwhelming majority of our community.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion ‘That the Senate take note of the paper’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr President, I was unaware that thisministerial statementwastobepresentedthisafternoon. I gather that my colleagues were unaware of it also. Let me remark that, in the past, many organisations such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence and, recently, the Victorian Council of Social Service- which produced a very interesting document on the employment situation that 1 hope the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) as read- have pointed out that, every time a rigid work test is introduced in this country to limit the number of unemployed persons in receipt of benefits, the workload of voluntary organisations such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence inevitably increases. In attempts such as this, in which the Government is attempting to exclude from benefits everyone whom it considers to be a dole bludger, inevitably large numbers of people, especially those with large families, are caught up in the net, cannot receive their benefit entitlements and must go to voluntary social security agencies for help.
At the moment this Government has a policy of strict ceilings on staff numbers in respect of all departments, including the Department of Social
Security and the Commonwealth Employment Service in the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. I believe it is known to the Minister and to many honourable senators opposite that the Department of Social Security in particular and also the Commonwealth Employment Service are having a very difficult time keeping up with their work because the present staff ceilings seems to be applied across the board. No attempt has been made to transfer people from departments where they may not be necessary at the moment to other departments where they are needed. Some officers of the Department of Social Security and the Commonwealth Employment Service are merely able to keep cheques going out on time. They are not able to do investigations of the type about which the Minister was talking. I and other Opposition senators are concerned that a lot of innocent people will be caught up in this hysterical effort to take up what the Government chooses to call dole bludgers.
– It is window dressing.
– This to me is another example of what Senator Button has called window dressing. It is a cosmetic attempt to demonstrate to the people how economically sound this Government allegedly is. No one on this side of the Senate condones people cheating on the dole. No one condones people having several names and addresses. No one condones people working and also collecting the dole. However, we all accept that this does happen. I point out that the Henderson report, the recent report of the Victorian Council of Social Services and the reports of the Brotherhood of St Laurence have consistently shown that these people are a very small minority of those on the dole. It is all very well for the Minister and honourable senators opposite to say that these people are fit and should be out working but I point out to them, as they already should know, that a comparison between the number of unemployed and the number of jobs available in this country shows an enormous gap.
At times of economic difficulty such as this it is not appropriate to be indulging in Draconian measures to take up the few people who, the Government imagines, are cheating, or as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) always puts it, bludging on the dole. The Opposition hopes to have a detailed look at this statement. We hope to look at the new measures and how they will work. We are fearful of what will happen and hope at a future date to be able to debate this statement. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I refer to the business paper which was distributed. It states:
A list of Reports to be presented by Ministers is circulated.
The list of reports was circulated and unless I have a different list from other honourable senators it shows reports by the Minister for Administrative Services, the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Science and the Minister for the Capital Territory. There is no mention at all of the very important statement that has been made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I express concern about that because of the nature of this statement. Furthermore, I would be very concerned if the Senate were to accept this statement as being properly tabled without there being adequate discussions with the trade union movement and others concerned with this vital issue. The Senate will recall that the Australian Council of Trade Unions at its February meeting adverted to the fact that decisions were being taken by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations in respect of this very matter without consultation with the trade union movement. The ACTU asked the Government to bear this in mind and, particularly on this subject, to consult with the trade union movement. I am quite sure that some of the matters which were causing the Government concern could have been ironed out with mutual consultation. I am apprehensive that the tabling of this document, without any consultation whatsoever, will be counter-productive and will not achieve what is desired by the Government. I thank the Senate for giving me leave to make this statement.
-I seek leave to make a statement in connection with the statement put down by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle).
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I echo what Senator Grimes has said. Over the years, in connection with very important statements, particularly one such as this which I suggest is most serious and incorporates a new method for the payment of the unemployment benefit, it has been the custom for a warning to be given to the Opposition spokesman so that the Opposition may consider what motion should be moved. We have had no warning at all about the new strictures which have been announced and we have not considered whether they are reasonable. It is clear that before such matters become established Government policy there ought to be consultation with the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
-Of course there should be.
– The ACTU is not the second Government of this country.
– No, it is not. This is where the Leader of the Government in the Senate is out of step with his Leader. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Government spokesmen during the election campaign claimed that they would do what they could to obtain belter relations with the trade union movement and that they would consult with the ACTU at all times.
– On industrial matters, naturally.
– That is the clear position. Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate now saying that he does not want to do that?
– No. I said that on industrial matters we certainly would.
– This is an industrial matter. Is not employment an industrial matter?
– This matter relates to unemployment benefits.
-I put this to the honourable senator: Is not the transfer of an electrician from Newcastle to Port Hedland an industrial matter? The man in question was about to get married and he was offered a job at Port Hedland. He was not sure about accommodation. He was told that he could not get the unemployment allowance because he could not go to Port Hedland. Is not that a matter of employment, a matter associated with the work force and with the ability of the nation to cope with the lack of productivity? Of course it is. An important case has been brought to my attention. It has been to appeal. It is the only one of a number about which I have heard. A young man got into trouble with the police and lost his car licence and had a short term of imprisonment. He had to get accommodation at Victor Harbour in South Australia which was some 30 or 40 miles from the nearest source of employment which he was offered. He was offered a job a Noarlunga. He tried it for one day. It took him 4 hours a day to get to his place of employment by public transport. For the reasons I have given he could not get employment in the town where the abattoir was. He appealed to one of the appeal bodies to which the Minister has referred but his case was rejected. He has been refused the unemployment allowance. That is a shocking case. I am presently putting it to the local authorities for examination.
I am told by my colleagues that there are many other cases like this. This is a clear example of the appeal cases to which the Minister has referred. It seems to me that it would be competent and appropriate for the Minister to ask the appeal bodies to report to her about some of these circumstances. I am more concerned about the general tenor of the paper which we have not had time to study properly. Reference is made to a person who, because of his own resources, voluntarily gives up a job. Even if people do not have resources but their parents have resources, they could be refused the unemployment benefit. To me this is a most drastic step to take. I suggest that if the Government starts on the sort of bureaucracy that it will have to build up to examine these applications, instead of getting away from the bureaucratic controls which it talked about in its policy statement it will have a much worse situation. In addition, there are many other aspects of the document about which we have heard but which we have not had time to study.
I think the best course would have been to list the matter for debate in the next day or so to give honourable senators a chance to properly examine it. It seems to me that because of the way in which this matter is framed, the Commomwealth Employment Service and a number of ancillary Public Service bodies will be set up as determining authorities to say whether an applicant is genuine. We do not want the situation in Australia where a man behind an office counter will be the sole judge of whether a young man or young woman applying for the unemployment benefit is getting the correct treatment. We want a system which is just.
It is true that to some slight extent the unemployment figures have dropped but at the same time, as honourable senators know from recent records, clearly the number of vacancies also has dropped. These are off the cuff suggestions. Maybe the Minister did not formulate the policy but I suggest that before she embarks on this drastic re-organisation which will give bureaucrats greater power to determine whether people should be paid unemployment allowances she should do what the Liberal Party said it would do, that is, find more jobs for people. If the Government finds more jobs for people it will not need to place strictures on the individual rights of the person. If the Government sets up, as it seems to me it is doing, a large, organised officialdom which will see many ordinary persons penalised, then it is doing a bad thing for the country. There should be no arbitrary controls over the employment rights of a person. No person who is working should be at the beck and call of the employer if that person has a reasonable excuse for giving up his job or for taking some action with which the boss does not agree.
– Of course he can. That is fair enough. But do not expect me to keep him.
– I have referred to 2 cases. I do not suppose the Minister has ever been employed in a factory where he has been subjected to a boss. It seems to me that the Minister has a pretty free hand today. I suggest that he should look at the 2 cases I have mentioned. If he tells me that that is a reasonable way in which to enforce the non-payment of a benefit, then there is something wrong with his modern thinking.
- Mr President, may I have leave to make a statement on how the ministerial statement came into the Senate. I do not want to debate the subject matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I apologise to the Senate, and the Opposition in particular, because the normal 2-hour notice was not given. I am still attempting to find out why it was not given. There has been a defect somewhere in the system. I apologise to Senator Douglas McClelland, who is the manager of the Opposition business in the Senate for not giving the normal 2 hours notice on which I always insisted when I was the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that the Opposition is quite entitled to insist upon notice. I make one other suggestion without debating the subject matter. We ought to close this matter off, otherwise everybody will debate it by leave and it will not be a proper debate as nobody has had time to look at the statement.
- Mr President, I draw attention -
- Mr President, does he have leave?
– I do not need to have leave.
– That is the method by which honourable senators so far have spoken.
– What is the position, Mr President? Do I need to ask for leave?
– The honourable senator must seek leave to make a statement.
– May I have leave to make a statement?
– No. We will have a proper debate. We will not do it by leave.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
- Mr President, I seek to speak to the motion moved by Senator Grimes which is before the Chair.
– He asked for leave to continue his remarks and he was given leave.
– He withdrew it.
– He did not. He did not get leave to withdraw it.
– The motion before the Chair is for Senator Grimes -
– I take a point of order, Mr President. I ask: What matter is before the Chair? As I understand the procedure, Senator Grimes asked for leave to move a motion. I am speaking, Senator Cavanagh. Will you please resume your seat? Who has the floor, Mr President? I am on my feet speaking on a point of order.
– Please be seated, Senator Cavanagh.
– I am taking a point of order to seek an explanation of what is before the Chair. As I understand it- I am open to correctionSenator Grimes asked for leave to move a motion, that the Senate take note of the paper. Leave was granted. He moved his motion. He then asked for leave to continue his remarks. Leave was granted. He said somewhere along the line that he would ask for leave to withdraw that. I did not hear the question put. I understand that it was not granted. I understand that that is the reason why everybody else has spoken by leave. Mr President, I have risen merely to get your ruling as to what is the matter before the Chair at the moment.
- Mr President, I seek leave to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate which might clarify the position.
-Is leave granted?
– No. Question time is over.
– The situation is that Senator Grimes sought leave to continue his remarks after he had made certain statements. That meant that the debate would automatically be adjourned to another day or hour. Each honourable senator who has spoken since then has spoken by leave of the Senate.
– I take it then that I cannot speak.
– Not without leave.
– I move:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day or sitting.
– I oppose that.
– The question is: That the motion be agreed to. I call Senator Georges.
– First of all I want to make the strong comment that the statement was brought into this place unexpectedly and, although the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has explained why, such explanation is now not acceptable because the rest of us have been gagged and not given an opportunity to express an opinion. I know that if the forms of this place as laid down were followed, eventually there would be a debate on this very important matter but, knowing just what importance the Government will place upon its own business, I think that it will be quite some time before this very important statement is debated in this place. This is one of the most important changes in policy that have been made in the area of employment. Unemployment is a form of employment- a form of industrial relations. The Leader of the Government endeavoured to say that this has nothing to do with industrial matters. It has very much to do with industrial matters.
– Come to the point or I will take a point of order. Speak to the motion.
– I am about to speak to the motion. The motion is that the debate bc made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. My purpose in rising is to oppose that motion. I believe that this matter should bc debated forthwith, and that brings me right into order, does it not, senator?
– I beg your pardon?
-Of course it does. It brings me right into order because I am suggesting that this statement is so important that it should be debated now. I want my National Country Party colleagues, if I can call them that, to take special note of this paper because it will affect many of their supporters. It will affect the sons and daughters of their supporters in many of those areas in which people are finding great difficulty in maintaining industrial or employment activity. What this will mean to their supporters is that if this proposal is carried to its logical conclusion -
– You are debating the paper and not the motion.
– I am debating the reason why this matter should be debated right now. I must state the reasons why I consider it to be important. The Government cannot delay the debate on this statement for another 1, 2, 3 or 4 weeks. It is important to people that it be debated now. It could have been debated if the Government had been prepared to give leave to speaker after speaker to rise to their feet. But the Government denied members of the Opposition the right to speak. For that reason we must now take the opportunity to impress upon the Government the reason why we oppose the motion.
This matter takes me back to the days of direction of labour by the manpower officers in 1938. After all these years I did not think that I would see a similar proposition being brought before the Parliament or similar legislation being enacted that would lead to the direction of labour and to the intimidation of people. The concept which is revealed in the statement is intimidatory. I wonder what will happen when it is applied to the people of the Torres Strait Islands who are unable to find employment. If this policy and these guidelines are imposed upon them they will be forced to leave the remote areas and seek employment elsewhere. Their families will have to follow them. The statement contains the ingredients of very great hardship for very many people. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, more so than the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), expresses opposition to what we are doing here today and in fact expresses support for the principles of the statement.
– I certainly do, totally and utterly.
– I will say that he does. He has never felt the power of the boss. I am not talking about all bosses; I am talking about the bosses who are endeavouring to obtain greater productivity by the discipline and fear of unemployment. To honourable senators opposite the only cheats are the cheats at the lower level; the only cheats in the community are the cheats who seek to obtain social security or unemployment payments. But the real cheats are at a higher level- those who avoid and evade tax. The sums involved amount not to one or two dollars but to millions of dollars. Let us not talk about cheats who deprive the Commissioner of Taxation of revenue. If the Government is looking for cheats it should look at those at the higher levels. There are ways and means by which the so-called dole cheats can be brought to account. They were undertaken by the previous Government. What the present Government has done now is to go to the furthest extreme. The Government has gone to the very extreme. This extreme will bring economic servitude to many. That might sound like an exaggeration; but this ministerial statement is an exaggeration.
– They will have to work for a living.
– Work for a living?
– Do not let the argument turn turtle.
-No. Let me talk about that hoax of a scheme which was commenced by honourable senators opposite when they were in government and which caused great social distortion in the Torres Strait Islands. The reason honourable senators opposite set up that schemewas to give people money without the people earning that money. If honourable senators opposite want to refer to that scheme, let us say that that was a -
– Are you saying that the Thursday Island people are cheating?
– No. The previous Liberal-National Country Party Government made them cheats and distorted the social conditions there. It was the great old Indian blanket trick all over again. The honourable senator knows it as well as I do. That was not the way in which the scheme should have been devised. I am saying now that this ministerial statement which has been presented is worthy of considered debate. It is worthy of our having some opportunity to look at the consequences of what the Government has brought down so that we can debate it thoroughly and completely. We are now forced to do it on an ad hoc basis. We are now forced to rise and speak in generalities. The Government has forced this upon us. We could have completed the debate on this matter quite easily and quite sensibly. We could have made our points. But, by refusing leave to speak, the Government has endeavoured to gag our opinion on this matter. We refuse to be gagged.
- Mr President, I think that we ought to get a few facts straight about the procedures of the Parliament.
- Mr President, I rise to order. Is the Leader of the Government speaking with the leave of the Senate?
Senate WITHERS-I am speaking to the motion ‘That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, as did Senator Georges. We ought to get a few facts straight. One of the practices of the Senate for a long time has been that, when a ministerial statement is put down, a member of the Opposition- I did it myself on innumerable occasions, as did my colleagues when we were in Opposition- asks for leave to move a motion That the Senate take note of the paper’. Invariably leave is given on the Government side. This has happened for a long time in this place. The practice has been that the Opposition spokesman says some words about the paper, then seeks leave to continue his remarks, and that is that. Today we have had an unusual situation. I have been challenged to say when the Government is prepared to bring on this matter for debate. If honourable senators opposite knew the procedures and Standing Orders they would know that, Senator Grimes having moved the appropriate motion, the matter is placed on the General Business paper. I am prepared to concede to the Opposition some right to determine what it likes to have debated during the General Business debate on Thursday. If the Opposition likes to make this matter its priority for the General Business debate on Thursday, that is its business and not mine.
I want to say this: I am not prepared now or in the future to have the Opposition take over Government Business or take the running of the Senate out of the hands of the Government; nor am I prepared to give up Government time just at the mere whim of the Opposition. I think that this ought to be put down quite clearly and bluntly. Opposition senators ought to learn that they are the Opposition and we are the Government. I do not want to be too abrasive about this. It would have been quite sensible to have a reasonably short debate on this matter. Perhaps that would have been the right thing to do. It is quite obvious that there are at least 3 to 5 honourable senators opposite who wish to speak on the matter. We could have the same number of speakers on our side. The program for the business of the Senate was notified last week. I intend to keep to it as far as possible.
– The presentation of this statement was not notified.
-I am just saying that the normal practice is that when a statement is put down there is a short response from the Opposition and we debate the subject matter of the statement later. Opposition senators seem to think that they have the right- some sort of total entitlement- to have a full scale debate on this matter this afternoon. As Leader of the Government in the Senate I have no intention of letting that happen.
– What do you intend to do?
– What do I intend to do? I think that the sooner this matter is cleaned up. the better. Therefore, I move:
- Mr President, I rise to order. My point of order relates to the gag motion that Senator Withers has just moved. Normally the motion ‘That the question be now put’ must be put without debate; but, after speaking on the subject, Senator Withers gave reasons why we should put the question -
- Mr President, I rise to order. My understanding is that when the motion That the question be put’ is moved the question must be then put.
- Mr President, I am questioning the validity of the motion ‘That the question be now put’. I seek your ruling upon whether it is possible for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to move the motion ‘That the question be now put’ when his speech gave reasons why the question should be now put. I suggest that he put affirmative reasons why the question should be put and that he then moved the motion. As there is no debate on the motion ‘That the question be now put’, I say that it is inappropriate and out of order for the Leader of the Government to move that motion.
– Order! No point of order arises.
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority tabled last sitting day and the report of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission tabled on 2 March.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keeffe) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the provision of land in the Northern Territory for Aboriginals.
Motion (by Senator Keeffe) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to provide for the Constitution of Aboriginal Councils and the incorporation of Associations of Aboriginals and for matters connected therewith.
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.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide financial assistance by way of loans to the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia for on-lending to co-operative canneries to enable them to raise cash payments to growers for 1974-75 season deliveries of apricots, peaches and pears for canning. At the present time, the canned fruit industry is facing such acute financial difficulties that the major co-operative canneries have been able to pay growers to date only 40 per cent to 60 per cent, depending on the cannery, of the prices declared in 1975 by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee - FISCC- for peaches and pears delivered for canning early in 1975. The traditional lending authorities are unable at this stage to finance the canneries under accepted banking procedures to make further payments for this fruit, given the current marketing situation. Further payments by canneries depend on receipts from sales of canned fruit.
The canned fruits industry has encountered difficulties at various times over a long period. The 1974-75 season has been particularly difficult. There was a serious ‘price-war’ between the canneries on the Australian market which lasted for some months in the first half of 1975. with disruptive effects on that market and a marked reduction in returns from domestic sales. I find such behaviour by canneries very disturbing. No canner gains. In fact, all major canners report or expect losses for the year, and it is the grower who suffers at the end of the line. I am pleased to note, however, that canners have very recently agreed upon an arrangement for the orderly marketing of canned fruits for 1976. I trust that this will be complied with. In addition, export sales are significantly down in quantity and value, because of reduced overseas demand, increased competition, especially from Greece and South Africa, and higher marketing costs, particularly higher freight costs. Returns from sales have also been reduced by currency variations and increased tariff charges on imports into Britain and other countries which have acceded to the European Economic Community. To make matters more difficult, an unseasonably large crop of peaches for canning came forward in 1975 beyond pre-season expectations. The general inflationary climate has also aggravated the industry’s circumstances.
Following consultations between the Commonwealth and the 3 State governments concerned, it was assessed that immediate cash assistance was required for growers in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia to avert the very serious consequences of the canners’ financial difficulties. It has been agreed between the Commonwealth and the 3 State governments that this assistance would take the form of loans and that the Commonwealth would contribute on a dollar for dollar basis with the State governments concerned. To this end the Bill authorises financial assistance to the States of an amount equal to one-half of the amount expended by each State in making advances to the various cooperative canneries. The Commonwealth’s total commitment is limited under the Bill to $2,456,567. Such an amount will provide funds sufficient, with those from the States, to enable co-operative canneries to increase their cash payments to growers for 1974-75 season peaches, pears and apricots purchased for canning to 70 per cent of the FISCC prices. The State governments concerned are to administer these arrangements to ensure that the loans to canneries are to be passed to growers.
As provided in clause 4 (1) of the Bill, the loans are to be subject to such conditions as are determined in writing by the Minister. Clause 4, sub-clauses (2) and (3), provide that the funds provided to the States will bear interest, and repayment of principal and interest will be required in instalments over a period of about 2 te years. Interest will be at the rate of 10 per cent per annum. Clause 4(3) also provides that the conditions may permit an extension of the period of repayment in special circumstances. Clause 5 provides that payments to the States may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund or from both funds. Clauses 6 to 8 provide authority to borrow, for the application of any moneys borrowed, and for reimbursement of Consolidated Revenue from the Loan Fund. Clause 9 appropriates the necessary funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund.
Because of the severe downturn in the industry’s financial position since the 1974-75 minimum prices were determined by FISCC in January 1975, it is one of the conditions of the loans that canners and growers request action by the FISCC to reduce by 15 per cent the declared prices for canning peaches and pears. FISCC recently took action to reduce the originally declared prices accordingly. Individual canneries and their supplying growers are, of course, free to make any payments of amounts for 1974-75 fruit beyond 85 per cent of the original FISCC 1974-75 prices. Canners have also agreed to limit the intake of fruit in the 1975-76 season in line with sales prospects and have undertaken to cooperate fully in industry rationalisation and restructuring proposals directed to long term industry viability.
Finally, in an endeavour to ensure that the industry can overcome some of the causes of its present difficulties, the governments concerned have agreed to examine the situation jointly to see what steps might be taken to promote the greatest possible degree of stability in the industry. The Minister for Primary Industry has already commissioned the Australian Industry Development Corporation to update the report it provided last September on future restructuring and rationalisation of the canned deciduous fruit industry. The Minister has now received the report, which is being given his urgent consideration. This report should provide the basis for in depth consideration of this matter. It is essential that all parties concerned with the industry use their best endeavours to place the growing, canning and marketing sectors on a firm footing to ensure that in the long term an economically viable industry will be established. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt ) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
This second reading speech is being delivered on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and it covers the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1976 and the Bill which is dependent upon it, the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1976. The purpose of these Bills is to extend the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme which was in force from 1971 to 1975 for an additional year to cover the 1976 crop. The Industries Assistance Commission’s interim report on dried vine fruit stabilisation support was released on 19 November 1975. The Commission recommended extension of the existing dried vine fruit stabilisation scheme for the 1976 season on an unchanged basis. These Bills give effect to the Government’s decision, announced on 10 February this year, to accept this recommendation of the Commission. The opportunity has also been taken to convert quantities and units referred to in the legislation to metric units and to bring the language in the existing legislation into line with current drafting practices.
The dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme provides for the establishment of an annual base price for each variety of dried vine fruit, calculated each season according to movements in grower cash costs as assessed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Stabilisation funds for the 3 dried vine fruit varieties are maintained, into which Government and industry contributions are paid, and from which payments to growers are made. When the average return to the grower is within the range of $10 per tonne above or below the base price, no payment will be made into or out of the fund. When the average return is more than $10 per tonne above the base price, all of the excess over the $10 per tonne with a limitation of $20 per tonne will be paid by growers into the fund, subject to the crop exceeding a minimum tonnage. Conversely, when the average return is more than $10 per tonne below the base price, payments from the stabilisation funds are made to growers. Commonwealth Government contributions to the funds which may be necessary to meet these payments are subject to a limit of $23 per tonne on maximum quantities of fruit.
The scheme is linked to the industry operated system of equating returns from export and domestic markets for payment to growers. These equated returns, and the base prices, are the yardsticks which determine whether payments into or out of the funds are required each season. The IAC noted that while the scheme has historically had little impact on the stability of grower returns, the international dried vine fruit market is likely to be over-supplied in 1976, while grower production costs are expected to increase further in 1976. Consequently, although Government contributions to the funds were required only in 1971 and 1972, a significant Government payment in respect of sultanas is expected in 1976.
The Government accepts the Commission’s view that this stabilisation support, while deficient in some respects, is a useful bridge to subsequent seasons when different policies may apply as a result of Government consideration of the Commission’s final report on the dried vine fruits industry. This final report, which was preceded by the interim report referred to earlier, is expected to be tabled shortly. The dried vine fruits industry is a labour intensive and export orientated one. Because of this, it has been particularly affected by the severe inflation of the past 4 seasons, while its international competitors have a lower cost structure and compete vigorously in the industry’s Northern Hemisphere export markets. There can be little doubt that considerable adjustment will be required in the industry in the next few seasons. Because of the importance of the industry to areas along the Murray River, this adjustment will have regional implications. It is the Government’s intention that this process of adjustment should be orderly, and should not be accompanied by unnecessary individual hardship.
These Bills provide Commonwealth Government support for the 1976 dried vine fruit crop, which is already being produced. As such, they provide interim support for the industry for the period during which longer term and more comprehensive proposals for the industry can be considered. I commend the Bills.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through ull its stages without delay.
– I move:
I mentioned when I was speaking to the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1976 that the second reading speech covered this Bill also.
– A money Bill is an occasion when one has the opportunity to speak on things relevant or irrelevant to the Bill. It is my intention to take the opportunity on this occasion to speak on an important matter which occupies my mind. I cannot get any information as to whether anything has been done on a particular question.
– The honourable senator will indulge in the usual exercise of irrelevancy.
– Sometimes we can be serious without engaging in all the frivolity in which the honourable senator engages. He thinks this place is a joke. There are important questions of state to be dealt with and I think that this is the occasion for bringing them forward. I refer to question No. 74 appearing in the notice paper in my name. It was put on the notice paper on 25 February but, although I thought it was a most important question, I have not yet received a reply. I would have thought that the reply would have been easily forthcoming and that the Government would have decided by now the action it should take. I referred the question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General as follows:
What has been done by the Government to rectify problems disclosed in the report of two senior police officials who conducted an inquiry into the dismissal of charges laid against two Aboriginals from Papunya for allegedly having murdered Perla Sweet.
I am unable to give the detailed facts of this case because of the lack of co-operation of the Government in helping a previous Minister who, I think, should have access to the particular files. I have always been of the belief that the files which had been kept by a Minister while holding a portfolio were available to him even after someone had superseded him in that portfolio. Without mentioning names, on many occasions during the time that I held portfolios I made available to the person who had held the portfolio prior to myself files which related to the time in which he had had that particular portfolio. I have always understood that this was the procedure to be followed. Since our Government was defeated and the Parliament resumed I have sought departmental files on 3 occasions. I think it is important that an ex-Minister should have access to the files which relate to his particular term as a Minister as he could be defamed or it could be claimed that certain things happened while he was Minister and he might not remember the actual situation without being able to go back to the appropriate files to check what actually did happen.
I made a request to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for a file and the Minister advised me that he would make arrangements for the Department to show me the file. My second request was to the Department of Police and Customs, and I was informed after some days that it was necessary to obtain the consent of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the release of the file. I wired the Prime Minister for the release of the file and I think Senator Withers said it was the next day that I brought the matter up in the Senate. Permission was given to me to obtain access to the file. Concerning Perla Sweet, 2 police officers were sent to the N.T. on my instructions. I ordered the police officers to go to Alice Springs to inquire into a charge of murder. They submitted a full report to me on their investigation into the matter. When I ceased to be a Minister this file was returned with other departmental files. I wrote to the Prime Minister over a week ago asking him to request the appropriate Minister to make the file available to me. I have received no acknowledgment of my request to date.
Last Wednesday I rang the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) as I believed that the report on the incident which I had received as a Minister had been submitted by 2 Australian Capital Territory policemen and I was advised that the file had gone over to that particular Minister. I asked the Minister for the Capital Territory for the file and said that I had written to the Prime Minister seeking access to the file. The Minister for the Capital Territory said that he would look into the matter and would see what he could do. I told the Minister that I wanted the file last Thursday. On Thursday his secretary rang me up and said that the Minister had an important meeting to attend and that he could not attend to my request then; also that the Minister wanted to speak to the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) before deciding whether he would make the file available to me. I still have not received the file. So whereas I could have detailed times, places, dates, names, etc., if this file had been made available to me, I am relying now purely on my memory, which is not the best of memories. As 1 remember the case, Perla Sweet was a young Aboriginal girl living on the outskirts of Alice Springs in a de facto relationship with a European.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I do not wish to interrupt the honourable senator but I submit that even the Minister in occupation of the relevant office is not accustomed to disclosing police reports to the Senate.
– What is the point of order?
– I am coming to the point of order. Secondly, the honourable senator is speaking as a senator with the knowledge of a Minister at the time he was in office. I question whether the disclosure of this matter by this means is in order. Thirdly, if this matter relates to murder, until I am satisfied that the matter has no reasonable chance of becoming subject to adjudication by the courts, I submit that we have to consider whether it is proper that this matter be ventilated in this way. I assure the honourable senator that I take this point of order on a purely objective basis and with no political aspect whatever in mind.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr President, let me say that the document in question was a report to the Minister on a police investigation and therefore a report that could well be made public. Two Aborigines were charged with murder. They were acquitted. Unless someone else not mentioned in the police report is to be charged- I know nothing of such an event taking place- no further charge will be laid. Even if the report places some doubt upon the innocence of the 2 Aborigines, they cannot be charged again. The charge has been heard in open court. The matter has been telecast on national television stations on the program Four Corners. If anything is going to be said in this Senate that will make the matter more public than it is already, I do not know what it is.
– I ask you to proceed, Senator Cavanagh, but I leave it to your good judgment to be mindful of the remarks expressed by Senator Wright.
– I think that the final matter I wish to raise could well be verified by Senator Kilgariff who knows the facts of the case. I think that he has expressed some desire for a ventilation of the case but I might be misrepresenting him there. As I said, the story so far is one of an Aboriginal girl living in a de facto relationship to which a child has been born. One night in August last year the Aboriginal girl went out to the local hotel where the Aborigines drink. I suppose she had too much to drink and as a result her de facto husband found a number of Aborigines indecently assaulting her that night in Woolworth’s area of Alice Springs and he took her back to their home. She complained of pains and next evening she was taken to the hospital. Subsequently- 12 hours later, I think- she died in the Alice Springs Hospital. The police made inquiries and as a result they charged some half a dozen Aborigines with rape. That may not be the correct number but a number of Aborigines were charged. The Aborigines pleaded guilty. Two of the Aborigines were charged with murder. The police had from the 2 Aborigines signed confessions which were initialled on each page. When the case came up for trial the 2 Aborigines were defended by the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, which brought a Mr Baker, Q.C., from Darwin for the defence. There was a question of the admissibility of certain evidence- the sworn statement of the 2 Aborigines.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to Governor-General
– For the purpose of presenting the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General, the sitting of the Senate will be suspended until 8 p.m. Cars will be made available at the front steps of Parliament House at 5.15 p.m. to take honourable senators to Government House.
Sitting suspended from 5 to 8 p.m.
– I have to inform the Senate that this day, accompanied by honourable senators, I waited upon the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to the Speech by His Excellency on the occasion of the opening of Parliament which was agreed to on 1 8 March 1 976. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Mr President, thank you for your Address in Reply which you have just presented to me. It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Majesty the Queen the message of loyalty from the Senate to which the Address gives expression.
JOHN KERR Governor-General
– My task of trying to associate my remarks now to the remarks I made prior to the suspension of the sitting is made difficult by the adjournment period of some 3 hours, many drinks and the calling of a quorum. However, if I recall correctly, at 5 o’clock this afternoon I was speaking about the death of Perla Sweet in the Alice Springs Hospital after her being subjected to violent rape in Alice Springs 36 hours to 48 hours prior to her death. I said that a number of Aborigines had pleaded guilty to a charge of rape and that they were duly convicted according to law. Two of the Aborigines had appeared on charges of murder and were defended by the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service which had engaged Mr Baker, Q.C., to defend them.
The prosecution relied at that time upon the fact that it was alleged the Aborigines had made confessions to inflicting brute force on the individual on the night of the rape. Mr Baker, Q.C., raised the question of whether the confessions were admissible evidence, whether they were made voluntarily and whether they were true confessions of the accused. The legal argument then proceeded without the jury. The question of the admissibility of the confessions was raised. During the course of the examination, Mr Baker called as a witness the Reverend Jim Downing of the United Aboriginal Mission in Alice Springs. I believe this gentleman has spent a lifetime among Aborigines. He knew very well the Pitjantjara language which the Aborigines spoke and gave strong evidence that on no account could these confessions be the confessions of the 2 accused who were illiterate Aborigines with a very slight knowledge of the English language. The phraseology of the confessions was not the type that the Aborigines would use. It was stated in the confessions that one Aborigine weighed 16 stone and had jumped on the girl’s guts because she resisted. As the Reverend Downing pointed out, no Aborigine would know his weight. They are not interested in weight. Therefore, the confessions could never be accepted as complete, voluntary and true confessions of the 2 accused.
The magistrate made certain statements in his final judgment. The words I used may not be the correct words because, as I said, I am deprived by the present Minister of the use of the folder which contains the complete transcript of the evidence. However, the magistrate said that he did not put convincing weight on Reverend Downing ‘s evidence because he thought that he was too much involved with the Aborigines. Mr Baker also presented a medical report from the hospital which stated that Perla Sweet died as a result of loss of blood which was caused through a split spleen, which in turn was caused by physical violence having been applied to her. However, it also stated that the injury causing her death could not have occurred more than 4 or 5 hours prior to her admission to hospital, otherwise she would have bled to death in that time. As this was some 48 hours after the rape assault occurred, the accused could not have caused death- this was all they were accused of then- as a result of that violent rape on the girl some 48 hours previously.
The evidence was very clear that the only person she had seen since that time was her de facto husband who had rescued her and had taken her home. Therefore, to anyone who has knowledge of these matters, the evidence clearly points to one individual. The evidence did not indicate any violence at any time being inflicted by the dc facto husband. In fact, it indicated a sympathetic understanding of his desire to take her to the hospital for medical treatment long before she was prepared to go, of his preparing a meal for her and looking after her welfare.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission television program 4 Corners devoted a segment of its program to this matter. It asked how the police could obtain confessions from Aboriginal people under our system of justice when in fact those Aborigines could not make the confessions despite the fact that they had signed them. Therefore, confessions which were presented as evidence to the court could not on any account bc true confessions. On the program interviews were conducted of the Reverend Jim Downing and the little blind fellow who did the interpreting in the district -
– Jim Lester.
– Yes, they interviewed him. They interviewed the Aborigines concerned. They denied any knowledge of the whole question. When I saw this program on television- I was Minister for Police and Customs at that time- it gave me concern. I asked myself: How is the system of justice working when this can happen? I spoke to officers of my Department. We decided to send 2 senior police constables of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force to Alice Springs to make a full inquiry into how these events came to occur. I received their report in early November last year. It stated that the police reported the confessions to all intents and purposes to be true confessions. It was said that the phraseology used may have been more that of a policeman than an Aborigine. For example, the weight of one of the Aborigines was shown as 16 stone. The interviewing policeman probably said: ‘You would be about the same weight as I am, would you not?’, and the Aborigine said: ‘Yes’. The Aborigine was probably then asked: ‘Would you say that you would be 16 stone?’, and replied: Yes’. That would be put down as being a statement by the Aborigine that he weighed 16 stone. But the police officers believed that it was the confession of 2 people who had committed a brutal assault upon a particular girl. The police officers then interviewed a senior medical officer -
– That is your 2 police officers?
-Yes. They then interviewed a senior medical officer of the Division of Veterinary Science at the University of South Australia who had higher qualifications than the Alice Springs doctor and who had undergone a longer period of medical practice. He was in disagreement with the Alice Springs doctor in relation to a split spleen where haemorrhaging occurs. He said that on many occasions there is reliance on a congealing of the blood to stop the haemorrhaging and that therefore the patient could survive despite the bleeding. When this woman was admitted to the Alice Springs hospital the doctor gave her a blood transfusion which could well have increased her blood pressure and caused the haemorrhaging in the split spleen to recur. He said that he has known cases where people have lasted for many hours after a split spleen and haemorrhaging because of the congealing of the blood.
When I received this report it brought up in my mind the fact that there were 3 departments involved. Firstly, I wondered what the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service was doing. It is supplying the best legal aid for an accused before a court but it does not have an organisation or a branch that is considering the penalties inflicted upon Aborigines. It gives the best counselling for an accused, which I suppose is the duty of a legal aid service, but there was nobody in the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service who offered any assistance to the girl who was violently raped- which possibly resulted in her death- or made any provision for her young child, the child of the de facto relationship. Of course, if there was negligence on anyone’s part that child could well have a claim for compensation for the loss of her mother. But the only concern of the Service is putting up the best defence for accused persons and obtaining their acquittal if possible. It is possible that that is the only thing for which such a legal aid service has a responsibility, but there is nothing else making provision for the victims of the action of such accused persons.
– Are you suggesting that the Aboriginal welfare organisations in the Territory took no interest in this matter?
– I think the Legal Aid Service took a great interest in it insofar as it supplied possibly one of the best Queen’s Counsel in Australia for the purpose of defending the 2 defendants. It is possible that there may have been arrangements made for the burial of the victim, but I know of nothing else that it has done in the Territory. I think that this is something that we must take into consideration.
I turn now to another thing about which I was concerned. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I had a great affection for the tribal Aboriginesthe Pitjantjara are tribal Aborigines- and their honesty and sincerity. When such Aborigines offend against tribal law they admit it on all occasions. They are prepared to be punished for their actions. They know they have offended and are prepared to accept punishment. They are also prepared to accept the white man’s law when they have done wrong and are prepared to accept punishment for it. I have never heard of an innocent man being convicted in a tribal court. If there is any truth in the confessions that the police officers obtained, the accused, in expressions which I will not use here, honestly said what they did to the girl and were prepared to accept the penalty for their actions; but in white man’s law we are building up a different psychology because when the television interviewers interviewed them they denied everything. No matter what one has done, if one lies and one has good counsel one has a hope of getting out of it.
– But AttorneyGeneral Enderby could have re-opened the case at your request.
– I am glad of that interjection. I will come to it in a moment. I am glad I have Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s support on this matter. As I have said, I received this report early in November- possibly on 9 November. I immediately rang Mr Enderby and the then Minister for Health. Before I go off the trail let me say the 3 things that occurred to mc. Firstly, there is the question of what we are doing for Aborigines in relation to Aboriginal affairs. Secondly, there is the presentation by the police officers of something that the Aborigines in fact did not say as a true and voluntary confession. The third matter to which we must give consideration is the standard of medical treatment in the
Alice Springs area, particularly if what the head of the Division of Veterinary Science in South Australia said is correct. There could be a great possibility that the death was caused through the medical treatment given at the Alice Springs hospital. The person from the Division of Veterinary Science in Adelaide condemned the fact that there was no autopsy for 14 days because of a strike and that the organs of the body were destroyed without their being sent down to any other greater authority for sampling. This raises the question of whether an inquiry into the field of health is needed to ascertain whether there was some negligence. I am not accusing anyone of negligence. I am just raising doubts as to whether the best treatment possible is available at the Alice Springs hospital to those who need such treatment.
On getting this report I discussed it first with Dr Everingham, who agreed with the opinion of the person from the Division of Veterinary Science in Adelaide. This, of course, raises the question of whether there may have been some urgent need for blood transfusion. I raised the matter with Mr Johnson, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and I raised it with the AttorneyGeneral. We decided to hold a conference on it on 10 November, but we could not hold a conference on that day because Mr Johnson could not be present at it as he had an Aboriginal lands Bill before the other place and had to be present during the discussion on that Bill. The conference was adjourned until the afternoon of 1 1 November. Before we could meet we were thrown out of office and I had no further jurisdiction over the matter. Senator Greenwood took over the portfolio of Police and Customs. I handed over to him all that I had in my office. He was accompanied by 2 officials from the Department of Police and Customs. I said to him: ‘This is urgent. I think you should do something about it’. He said: ‘I will look into it’. I told him that it was my opinion that there should be a discussion between the 3 departments involved to see whether the position could be rectified so that there was no repetition of this sort of thing. I have heard nothing since. The report has gone over the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. Senator Greenwood is not in the chamber now. On 25 February I put a question on the notice paper about this matter, but I have received no reply to it.
I come now to Senator Cormack ‘s earlier interjection to the effect that the AttorneyGeneral could reopen this case. He has not done so. I agree that he could do so. This is not a slur on the Labor Attorney-General. The AttorneyGeneral of the honourable senator’s Government had done nothing in the matter. 1 join in unity with the honourable senator in saying that the Attorney-General is neglecting his duty by doing nothing in this matter. The world is crying out for action to be taken. The case has been publicised on television. An accusation is hanging over the head of a man whom Senator Kilgariff knows personally. Senator Kilgariff will tell us that that man is the last man likely to do the injury to the woman with whom he was living.
I have wanted for some time to bring these facts forward. I look forward to the day when wc will get some reply from this Government. Fred Daly in his newspaper column said today that the people in Canberra were saying that the Government must be doing something somewhere because nothing was happening in Canberra. For God’s sake let something happen when human life is in danger. For those reasons I bring this matter before the Senate, hoping that we can get something achieved as a result.
– Unfortunately I was not present before the suspension of the sitting for dinner to hear the commencement of Senator Cavanagh ‘s speech. However, I am aware of this case. I think it was round about this period, when I was a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, that I took up the position of Executive Member for Finance and Law. Some weeks after.-my attention was drawn to various matters relating to this case. I was given a transcript of the evidence; it was quite a long document which took some time to read. I became concerned with some aspects of the evidence as I went through the transcript. Because I was dissatisfied with the situation I asked, in my role as Executive Member, for further action to be taken. I think I may have written- I do not have the file before me- to Senator Cavanagh when he was Minister for Police and Customs. I certainly wrote to other people requesting that the matter be reviewed and perhaps further investigation could be carried out.
As I said before, I am most unhappy about the situation. In the last few weeks of my membership of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly I felt one of my duties was to clear up this matter and I asked a person who had taken over my duty in the Legislative Assembly to pursue it. I believe that the matter requires further investigation. The evidence that the doctor gave relating to the woman’s death indicates, to my mind, that there is every reason to believe that injustice has been done. Reading this evidence I felt it was a likelihood that a person was at large who was responsible for this crime. Probably the fact that stuck in my mind the most was the medical evidence of Dr Hawkins from the Alice Springs Hospital. I have a note in front of me which states that the medical evidence given by Dr Hawkins also ruled out the possibility of the men inflicting the injuries from which Perla Sweet died, the injuries having been inflicted at least 14 hours later. I think from reading the evidence that that is an accurate statement. As I said before, I have not my file before me and so I am not able to discuss the matter at length, as it is very involved. Let me repeat that I am unhappy about the situation. When I was the Executive Member for Finance and Law 1 asked the authorities to further investigate it. I am not prepared to support the charge because I think it is a serious one and it needs further evidence.
– I would not think it was a charge.
– No, perhaps not a charge. It has been said that perhaps the medical authorities in the Alice Springs Hospital were at fault. Knowing the people involved I can say that they have done remarkable work in the Territory. I think it would be most unusual in these circumstances if they gave the wrong treatment. However, that is just my opinion. I support Senator Cavanagh in his request that the matter be continued to be reviewed. I asked the previous Government to ensure that this matter was reviewed. It was not then reviewed. The matter now comes in front of a new government, the Liberal-National Country Party coalition, and I would expect it to pick up this case and further investigate it.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill in order to refer to a matter of concern to a great number of Australian people. These people are the students who are now being caused great hardship because of this Government’s action on the National Employment and Training scheme. I refer to the news release by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), titled: ‘New NEAT Arrangements ‘. I believe that it is important that we look at the reasons why the NEAT scheme was originally established. The NEAT system was originally established to allow unemployed people an opportunity to develop new skills and permit them to re-enter the work force more readily. The skills that were to be taught had to be required by industry and most of the people training under NEAT have been retrenched or made redundant or are the victims of industrial accidents.
I have received complaints from 30 students at the Sydney Technical College who are taking courses in mechanical engineering and business and administrative studies. The vast majority of these complaints come under the headings I have listed. Special consideration was also given to the difficulties encountered by women, particularly deserted wives and unmarried mothers, who were unskilled. In fact in August 1975 nearly 53 per cent of those people training under the NEAT scheme were females. Also, people had to have been unemployed for 4 months prior to joining the scheme. Allowances were set at $96 a week and adjusted according to increases in the national wage. I think it is extremely important that we realise that the NEAT trainees entered their courses on the assurance that those figures would remain unchanged. The allowance was set because the Labor Government realised that people who were to be students under NEAT would have to be well established in view of their domestic commitments for home, families, schooling, etc. It was basic to the scheme that no person would suffer hardship in order to take on courses.
NEAT was geared to assist the unemployed to adapt to changed circumstances, to better equip them for future employment and to provide general industry with a more highly skilled and educated workforce. This was to be accomplished without economic hardship. I believe NEAT was working well under the previous Government. Some 14 000 people were in training in the last months of 1975. It was succeeding in its aims. I also believe that the program encouraged people to acquire skills which were in short supply in industry. In other words NEAT was an integral part of Government manpower policy and all Australians would ultimately have benefited from such improvements in skills and education in the work force.
What is the situation in which we find ourselves now? As a result of the action of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in reducing the training allowance for independent students from $96.80 to $23.40 a week a majority of these students will be forced, due to financial reasons, to discontinue their courses. They will be simply unable to meet their commitments.
I should like to give some relevant information that I received on this subject from the 2 schools that I have mentioned. There is the case of a gentleman who was 40 years of age and in the catering business. Ill health forced him to discontinue his trade and that is the reason for his being in NEAT. He has to pay rent of $25 a week and repayments on a car of $16.50 a week. We have the case of a 34-year old taxi driver who was a victim of assault while driving a taxicab which resulted in his being unable to drive a cab. That is his reason for being in NEAT. He pays $82 a week in rent and fixed commitments. We have the case of a 36-year old cleaner with a wife and 3 children. His wife earns $120 a week. He was injured and unable to do labouring work. His expenses are a mortgage of $ 1 80 per month.
There is the case of a 44-year old nurse who was forced to retire from nursing due to ill health. That is the reason for her being in NEAT. She has medical expenses of $41.55 a week after payments from Medibank, $25 per week for a car which is necessary because of osteoarthritis of the spine, $4.80 a week for parking because she is unable to carry books and further commitments of $9 a week. We have the case of a 37-year old boilermaker with a wife and one child. He suffered a back injury and could not follow his trade. He pays rent of $45 a week, fares of $6.50 a week, and hire purchase payments of $ 1 8 a week in respect of his car and $4 a week for furniture.
These are only some of the instances from the 30 letters I have received on this matter so far. Many of the students concerned either will be forced to return to their previous occupations which they were attempting to leave or they will be unable to find work at all. Australian industry generally will be affected adversely because of the shortage of skilled workers. I find it quite incredible that the Minister refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of his action in this matter. I quote from an article which appeared in the National Times for 15 to 20 March 1976 in which the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, stated: no Government can be held responsible when it changes a scheme instigated by another Government.
I ask: Can this Government be held responsible for any such actions involving programs of the previous Government? Apparently not, according to the Minister. I believe also that a number of contradictions appear in this news release. The Minister stated:
The Government accepts that it is its responsibility to provide and maintain the conditions in which the individual can develop his skills for his own and the community’s benefit.
I do not believe that by reducing independent trainee’s allowance by $70 per week the Government is providing or maintaining such conditions. I believe that precisely the opposite will ensue. I quote again from the Minister’s statement:
Underlying the Government’s action is a determination to restore the nation to full industrial activity and economic prosperity. Training has a critical role to play in this process. The opportunity for individuals to develop their skills and capabilities to the fullest possible extent is basic to our economic wellbeing.
Again, I believe that Australia’s economic wellbeing will not be served by forcing many of the present 7300 NEAT trainees out of their courses. Such action as cutting the allowance constitutes a failure to acknowledge the importance of this training and it will in no way assist in restoring this nation to prosperity. I believe also that there is no guarantee that the 3000 unemployed people mentioned in the statement will be sufficiently comfortable financially to take advantage of the Minister’s proposals. Any new trainees will be beginning their NEAT courses at the expense of others, such as those to whom I have referred.
I believe that the Government should take urgent action on this matter, that it should restore the NEAT allowance to $96.80 a week and that it should continue to adjust it in line with movements in the national wage. I believe that the Government should provide for expansion of the NEAT system if it is desired that more trainees should be given the opportunity to develop skills. I think that we should encourage rather than discourage the unemployed and unskilled to undertake training by continually reviewing the system to improve facilities for the trainees’ study and working course. I believe that by following this course the Government at last will give evidence that it is genuinely concerned with the difficulties of those workers who have been made redundant by technological developments, those who are handicapped and those without skills in the advanced industrial economy we have in this country today. The Government’s action so far demonstrates that it is not aware of the original objectives of the NEAT scheme nor is it concerned with making progress towards the achievement of these goals. I hope that the Government will take notice of some of those cases that I have cited tonight.
– I desire to raise a matter before the Senate on this the first reading of the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill. Firstly, in relation to the matter that has just been raised by Senator Sibraa 1 want to say that I think that there are just causes for the re-investigation and change of the National Employment and Training scheme under this Government. I think there is a need for more people to be dealt with under that scheme. Apparently that is what the Government has in mind in making its changes. In addition, I think it is important that those various examples quoted by Senator Sibraa of anomalies whereby we all know that the NEAT scheme has been abused over the last few years should be taken up by the Government and that money should not be spent in the wrong way. At the same time, I find I have sympathy in a particular sense for what Senator Sibraa said, and that is in the sense that retrospectivity comes into this issue. People have certain claims when they try to get further training through a scheme that they have entered. The situation is made difficult when the terms of that scheme are changed. I think that from that point of view the matter raised by the honourable senator is important.
The point which I raise tonight in a completely different field is one which is concerned also with retrospectivity. It is the case of claims being made by people after they have taken certain action and then found that the Government has changed its policy and adopted a certain procedure. The particular matter I refer to tonight is in relation to the structural adjustment assistance scheme. My complaint arises in the first place in respect of a Mr K. B. Turner of 25 Park Crescent, Bentleigh, in the State of Victoria who has had correspondence with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. This case relates to the retrenchment of a lot of people as a result of the previous Government’s very unfortunate across the board changes in tariffs. This had an enormous and most unfortunate effect upon industry and upon a lot of people, including people who for many years had been in business and had found that that business fell from under them. This of course was a development which we knew of some year or so ago.
I took the case of this particular gentleman as an example because he would be one of many who may be affected in the same way by this measure. He was employed by a company called Max Wilson Buttons Pty Ltd. It was a small private Australian company which manufactured buttons and buckles for the clothing trade. It was owned by 1 man who carried on business at Moorabbin. He employed approximately 50 people. (Quorum formed) I am grateful to my friends for providing a larger audience in the Senate to enable the important facts that I am endeavouring to display to be made known to honourable senators. Before the quorum was formed I was telling honourable senators that the man for whom I speak- I am sure that he is one of many who are affected- was working in a small company which made buttons and buckles for the clothing trade. During 1 974 some 50 persons who were employed by this company were progressively retrenched because the company was unable to produce goods which could be sold. It was not so much that the buttons were not being produced; it was the fact that the companies that were hit by the former Government’s policies on tariffs were unable to buy the buttons. Therefore, this particular button company went to the wall and was completely closed down by 1974.
The then Government paid to Mr Turner, the man of whom I spoke, and to other employees of the same company who were retrenched, maintenance assistance to enable them to make their way elsewhere in industry. This company had gone to the wall, and the clothing manufacturers in Victoria and New South Wales to whom it supplied goods also had gone to the wall during this period. From that time Mr Turner and other employees of the company were paid certain amounts by way of maintenance assistance. In fact, a sum of $2,895.36 was paid to Mr Turner. Mr Turner was paid this income assistance from that time until 15 March 1976 when he received a letter from Mr M. Gould, writing for the Director of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. The letter reads:
Dear Mr Turner
I am writing to you in connection with your application Tor Structural Adjustment Assistance following your retrenchment from Max Wilson Buttons Pty Ltd on 1. 10.74.
The Government’s original decision provided income maintenance assistance to persons whose employment was terminated as a direct result of tariff reductions.
It has recently been established that Max Wilson Buttons Pty Ltd was dependent on another company or companies for business, and it was the effect of lower tariffs on those companies that in turn, affected your employment.
This means that your retrenchment could not be directly attributed to tariff reductions.
The Government, after a careful consideration of persons like yourself who experienced these ‘secondary effects’, decided not to extend its original decision beyond paying persons directly affected.
Accordingly, I regret that the income maintenance of $2895.36 paid to you was in error, and must be repaid in accordance with Treasury Regulations.
However, you may have been entitled to Unemployment Benefit during this period. If this is so, the amount of Unemployment Benefit that you would have otherwise received can be off-set against the present overpayment figure, thus reducing the amount to be repaid.
To this end, please complete the enclosed Unemployment Benefit claim in relation to the period 2.10.76 to 1.4.75 and return within fourteen days direct to Mr M. Gould, SAA Sub Section, Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, 151 Flinders Street, Melbourne.
I wish to put to the Senate the proposition that this is an outrageous claim for a refund of money. I do not know how many people are affected by this matter. I have advised the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood), who in this place represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), of” the situation and I have sent a copy of this letter to him. I hope that 1 will receive an answer in respect of this matter. This is the case of a man who lost his employment. He did not know that it was a secondary matter. He knows that he lost his employment, as did everyone else employed by this company. Apparently, the purpose of the letter was to say that the money must be repaid because his was a secondary effect, not the primary effect, and therefore he must repay this money.
I ask honourable senators to consider the position of the person concerned. He has received the money. He has spent the money. He has in fact paid tax on the money that he received by way of income assistance. Now he is told that maybe he will receive some money back as unemployment benefit, but that he has to repay the rest of the money at this stage. I do not know the basis upon which these demands are made. I do not know the nature of the claim that is made against this man. Whatever the legal claim is, I think it is an outrageous claim, it is an unfortunate claim and it should not be persisted with. People who have lost their jobs and have suffered unemployment should not be expected to repay money that they have received by way of income assistance because in this month of March 1976 it is now considered that a mistake was made in the assessment of the particular way in which this company went out of business and this man lost his long-standing job.
I suggest that, irrespective of any legal claim, it is most unfortunate that the Government or this Department should now seek to get back money which unquestionably has been spent by this man on his particular needs. The money should not be claimed at this stage. This is one of those retrospective demands. Generally, whenever a retrospective claim is made it is an unfortunate one and one that involves injustice. We see this happen many times. We see it in this case. Suddenly a government department does some sums, makes a determination as to legal claims and then makes a demand for a very substantial sum on somebody who, I submit, should not be expected to meet it. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the chamber some reason why this claim is being made and some idea of how many people in the community, as a result of some reassessment of structural adjustment assistance, are now receiving demands of this nature. I suggest to the Government that, irrespective of the rights of claim, it should not make or attempt to make this type of claim on people who have suffered the misfortune of the loss of their jobs. I hope that the Government will give the whole matter a complete reconsideration. ( Quorum formed.)
– I take advantage of the first reading of this money Bill to speak on a number of matters that are of concern to members of the Australian community. The first matters to which I shall allude are the problems of the dairy industry throughout Australia and particularly the decision of the Government of New South Wales to establish a committee to inquire into the dairy industry. Being a party parliamentarian and a politician, I realise that a by-election is due to be held in Monaro- an electorate of the New South Wales Parliament. Because the dairy industry will play an important part in that by-election, the Government of New South Wales has decided to establish a dairy industry inquiry. It was announced, as reported in the Australian of 1 1 March of this year, that the New South Wales Government is to set up a wide-ranging committee of inquiry into the State’s ailing dairy industry. The Australian of that date further reported:
State Cabinet - that is, the New South Wales Cabinet- also decided to allow milk quotas to be sold outside the Base Market Quantity Area- the zone which supplies milk to Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
I say at the outset that in normal circumstances I would welcome such an inquiry, particularly in New South Wales. I believe that the industry and particularly the dairy farmers of New South Wales believe that the Government is no longer trying to sort the wheat from the chaff but more or less the cream from the milk. It was as long ago as 8 April 1974- nearly 2 years ago- that the then Australian Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, decided to refer the problems confronting the Australian dairy industry to the Industries Assistance Commission for report and advice. After having received direction from the then Prime Minister to inquire into the problems and make recommendations, the IAC conducted a long, wide-ranging and detailed inquiry into the dairy industry which lasted some 20 months. It resulted in a report being presented on 31 October 1975 by the Secretary of the IAC, Mr Davey, to me in my capacity as Special Minister of State. This report was presented after detailed investigation. I think it was received by me on 4 November 1975 which was about a week before the then Government was dismissed from office. Shortly after that Government was dismissed, the present Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, early in December, after the election, released the report of the IAC into the dairy industry. He suggested that submissions from various parties, bodies, corporations or persons arising from the report of the IAC would be welcomed by the Commission which was to report to the Government in January 1976. Since that time, the Australian Parliament, the Australian people and particularly the people of New South Wales have not received one word of advice or one recommendation from the Government flowing from the recommendations in the IAC’s report on the dairy industry. I can understand the problem of Sir Eric Willis in New South Wales.
– What did the Commission recommend?
-The Commission made many recommendations in its detailed report. If the Minister for Administrative Services, who was the Special Minister of State at that time, has not seen the report -
– I cannot recall the recommendations.
– I can recommend his consideration of the report. If Senator Withers would like me to refer to the problems that confront -
– I would like the honourable senator to give me the IAC ‘s recommendations.
– If Senator Withers would like particularly to refer to the problems that confront the fluid milk industry in New South Wales relating to quotas I strongly recommend to him that he examine the IAC report. A number of recommendations are contained in the summary of that report. If Senator Withers wishes me to delay the Senate further, I shall be quite happy to refer to the details of the report at length. The summary of the report in part states:
Recommendations regarding assistance for adjustment in rural industries including dairying, will be contained in the Commission’s separate report on Rural Reconstruction. Among other things, recommendations will be made to assist farmers who are assessed to be viable in the long term, but who require: assistance for debt reconstruction; assistance for farm build-up and improvement to technical and managerial efficiency; and carry-on finance made necessary, on occasions, by a short-term crisis in the industry.
That report will also discuss assistance measures for farmers who are assessed to be non-viable.
Those recommendations will meet most adjustment needs of dairy farmers and a separate scheme for them will not be necessary. The general provisions in that report, however, will be an important pan of the Commission’s total recommendations for assistance to the dairy industry.
– Which have not yet been published.
– That is the whole point.
-That is the point to which I am coming. This report was received by the previous Government on 4 November 1975. When the present Government came to office, it made a statement through the then Special Minister of State on 19 December that as the report had been published, it would call for submissions from various sections of the community which were expected to be presented to the new Government by January of this year. We are now reaching the end of March. I dare say that the IAC has given consideration to the further submissions that have been put to it as a result of the voluminous report that it presented to the Government in November 1975. Whilst those recommendations are in abeyance- the IAC reported on the dairy industry after considering the matter for21/2 years- and because of the indolence of the present Federal Government in failing to announce any recommendations to the Australian people arising from the report of the IAC into the dairy industry, the New South Wales Government has decided to hold an inquiry into the state of the dairy industry in New South Wales. It has decided to do so because a by-election in the electorate of Monaro, which is just outside Canberra, is to be held. I suggest that it is an indictment of the present Australian Government not to have considered in detail the recommendations which were made by the IAC.
– Which recommendations?
– If Senator Withers asks me to seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the entire report of the IAC which contains its recommendations I will do so. I will not be fobbed off by him. All I am saying to Senator Withers is that the report was presented in October and received by me on 4 November. Statements were made by Senator Withers, in his capacity as Special Minister of State, early in December, some 4 months ago. Not one word of advice or one recommendation has been acted upon by the Australian Government. The New South Wales Government now has been forced, purely for political reasons, to ask that a further inquiry be conducted into the state of the dairy industry in New South Wales.
It is all right for the present Government to establish committees of inquiry chaired by Sir Henry Bland and others into such things as the duplication of government expenditure, duplication of government finances and duplication of government activities on the part of public servants. Here is a report which was received by the Australian Government and presented to the Australian Parliament as long ago as 23 October 1975- some 6 months ago- but not one recommendation has been made by the present Government to the Australian Parliament. Is it any wonder that people who are employed and engaged in the dairy industry in New South Wales are at a loss to understand why, in all these circumstances, the New South Wales Government finds it necessary to appoint a committee of inquiry into the dairy industry, particularly bearing in mind that the IAC has foundsince the last report of a committee of inquiry into the dairy industry in 1 960- that the industry generally is in a viable and economically sound position? This is so, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania. The dairy industry in South Australia is picking up considerably. Those involved in the industry, therefore, are querying the necessity for the New South Wales Government to set up another inquiry in the dairy industry. I would suggest that but for the indolence of this Government the New South Wales Government, which is a party principal and of the same political persuasion, would not be required to establish another expensive and duplicative body to inquire into and report upon the dairying industry.
Having made my point on that matter, I suggest quite frankly that had the present Government taken some heed of the report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the dairying industry the New South Wales Government would not have acted in the manner in which it has. The New South Wales Government has acted in that way only because a by-election is to be held in the State seat of Monaro. Had the Australian Government acted with expedition in dealing with the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission, the establishment of an inquiry in New South Wales would not have been necessary.
I turn to the recent publicity that has been given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In recent times there has been a lot of talk about that body, its administration and its future. Today I heard, amongst other things, our friend Senator Carrick, as the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), express the opinion on behalf of the present Government that whilst there should be freedom of expression and freedom of independence on the part of the Commission that did not mean ipso facto that there should be freedom of expression and licence. I would only say to my colleagues opposite that if they adopt that attitude with respect to the ABC over which, by ministerial edict and statutory obligation, they have some jurisdiction they also should adopt the same attitude in respect of the private commercial media.
There has been a lot of talk on the part of a number of people in the Australian community, including some members of the Opposition, that some commercial advertising by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be allowed. As we all know, amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act would be necessary to enable that to happen. When I was the Minister for the Media in the Whitlam Labor Government it was put to me, on one or two occasions at the least, that I should consider bringing in amendments to the Act to allow commercial advertising on the ABC. I think my colleagues will recall that at one time it was raised with me by some members of my own Party. But I would not agree with the proposal at the time because, amongst other things, I thought that the adoption of such a proposition would very much compromise the independence of the ABC. Now, quite obviously, there is a grab on the part of commercial operators and commercial advertisers to get the sinews of war of the ABC. But the Labor movement will not take such a grab lying down.
I can say quite sincerely and in good conscience that when I was the Minister for the Media in the Australian Government I not only fought for but also at all times insisted upon the strengthening of the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I challenge any honourable senator opposite or any member of the Australian community to show where at any time I, as the Minister for the Media in that Government, did not insist upon and indeed demand the strengthening of the independence of the ABC, whether that be in relation to the political, sporting or programming aspects of the Commission’s service.
– Did you think that Mr Phillip Adams was a fair appointment, in view of his politics?
-To what has Mr Adams been appointed? Senator Greenwood asks me whether I think Mr Adams was a fair appointment in view of his politics. I ask Senator Greenwood: To what has Mr Adams been appointed?
– Was he not appointed to the ABC?
-That interjection shows the abysmal ignorance of honourable members opposite. Certainly Mr Adams was not appointed by me, as Minister for the Media, as a commissioner of the ABC. Indeed, I say quite frankly that I would never have appointed him in 100 years. Certainly my colleague, Dr Cass, did not appoint Mr Adams as a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Who did- the Holy Ghost?
-The interjections from honourable senators opposite indicate the abysmal ignorance of the present Government of the affairs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Senator Greenwood, a very senior member of the Government and a member of the Cabinet, interjects to suggest that a person known as Mr Phillip Adams is a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. However, Mr Adams was not appointed by me. He was not appointed by my colleague and successor as Minister for the Media, Dr Cass. As far as I am aware he has not been so appointed by the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Garland, or his successor in that Ministry, Mr Eric Robinson.
Returning to my original theme, I point out that I fought very strongly in my own Party and in the Cabinet of which I was a member for additional finance for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and for the strengthening of the independence of that body. May I say with quite some pride that it was no mean feat on my part in the 2’/i years that I was the Minister for the Media to see the amount of money made available by the Government for the activities of the ABC increased from $70m in 1972 to $130m in round figures, or nearly double, in 1975. 1 repeat: I can proudly say that in the 2¥i years that I was the Minister for the Media I was able to see the expenditure by the ABC nearly doubled from $70m to $130m. At the same time, as a result of very close co-operation from my friend, Senator Bishop, who was then Postmaster-General, we saw the complete elimination in Australia of television viewers’ licence fees and broadcasting listeners’ licence fees.
I can tell honourable senators opposite that I believe that no Minister in the Labor Government was subjected to more abuse and to more criticism in relation to Australian Broadcasting Commission programs than I was at the time when I was the Minister for the Media. I believe that there are some honourable senators opposite who were here at that time who will be prepared to accede privately, if not publicly, to the views that 1 have expressed. For the sake of Senator Greenwood, who is now sitting at the table, I can mention programs like ‘Late Line’, of which I understand he has some knowledge, and a number of others.
Not once when I was Minister for the Media did I interfere or attempt to interfere in any way with any of those programs put on by the ABC that were critical of me personally because I knew that if as Minister I did interfere I would be involving myself and the Labor Government of which I was proudly a member in the very thing that I had fought against, that is, interference with the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Now that I am no longer the Minister I believe that I am entitled to say one or two things about some of the ABC programs. One was called ‘Double Take’ and was broadcast on 3AR Melbourne on Saturday, 28 February 1976. It was condemnatory of me in particular, and I do not object to that, and condemnatory of officers of my former Department, the Department of the Media. Among other things it suggested as a result of an interview with some person who had been a Press secretary at some time that I had been a failure as Minister for the Media and had brought disrepute upon the Labor Government and the Australian Labor Party because very little had been done by me or by my Department during the time when there was a Department of the Media.
Prior to the Labor Party’s coming to office in 1972 there had been not one radio station added to the broadcasting spectrum in any of the capital cities in Australia for some 40 years. In the period in which the Labor Government was in office- some Vh years- we were able to add another commercial radio licence to the city of Adelaide; we were able to add radio station 2JJ in Sydney; we were able to add radio station 3ZZ in Melbourne; we were able to call for another commercial radio licence in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney; we were able to call for another metropolitan licence in the outer areas of Melbourne; we were able to call for a community broadcasting licence in Campbelltown; we were able to delve into the area of frequency modulation and to give a licence to the Music Broadcasting Society of New South Wales under the frequency modulation band, a band that had been ignored, disowned, forgotten about and put into the pigeon-hole by the previous Government for some 25 years. Also, we were able to offer a licence to the Music Broadcasting Society of Victoria. We were able to extend a number of rural broadcasting outlets throughout Australia. All this was done in21/2 years and the activities and policies of the Labor Government exploded the myth that for ever and a day the broadcasting spectrum in Australia would be fully occupied and fully exploited. Those who had previously enjoyed the complete monopoly of commercial operation suddenly realised with the advent of the Labor Government that the myth was being exploded and the whole spectrum opened up.
I mention those matters merely to indicate that there was more done in the broadcasting area and in the media generally in the21/2 years during which I was Minister for the Media than had been done in the 30 or 40 years since the Scullin Government left office.
– It would have more force if someone else made that judgment, would it not?
– It may have more force but I am just stating what was done. I hope that Senator Baume will listen to me because I have great respect for his perspicacity, and that he will realise that because there was a Minister for the Media in a Labor Government who was able to take submissions to a Labor Cabinet and to meetings of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, these things were achieved by a Labor Government in21/2 years. While ever honourable senators opposite say that the Department of the Media was established merely as a weapon of propaganda and for the purpose of not giving publicity and freedom of expression to the people of Australia the sadder and sorrier this nation will be.
Only yesterday I had discussions with a radio programmer from San Francisco and another from Los Angeles. San Francisco is a city of comparable size to Sydney. Sydney has a radio outlet of, I suppose, 12 stations at the most, including ethnic broadcasting stations. I interpolate that ethnic broadcasting was another thing that the Labor Government introduced in its21/2 years. Compared with 12 stations in Sydney in 1975, the comparable city of San Francisco had about 65 broadcasting stations of different nomenclature. Therefore I regard as complete hypocrisy all the remarks made by honourable senators opposite about the Labor Government taking action to politicise the air waves of this nation. They know as well as I that in the years preceding the advent of the Labor Government most
Ministers with responsibility for this area were members of the National Country Party and that those who occupied the rural air waves of this nation were indirectly or directly associated with the activities of the National Country Party.
That brings me to my third point. I noticed today in the Australian a statement attributed to the Federal Director of the Federation of Australian Radio Braodcasters, Mr Des Foster, that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the former Department of the Media and the Australian Broadcasting Commission had been stacked with people whose political sympathies or affiliations were obvious even to the casual observer.
– Hear, hear.
– Quite right.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Wright and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack say Hear, hear’. The article states:
The cronyism and cynicism in some of these appointments has made a mockery of the notion of independence and must be embarrassing to the bodies concerned.
I regard that as an affront to the people who were appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board by the Labor Government and particularly to those people who were appointed by the Executive Council in the time when I was Minister for the Media. I challenge Mr Foster or any honourable senator on the Government side to stand up and state inside the Parliament, or outside the Parliament in the case of Mr Foster, the name of any such individual who is regarded as a crony of the Australian Labor Party.
– He was challenged tonight on television and he went to water. He is not worth a bumper.
– I did not know that. True it is that during the time I was Minister for the Media I adopted the policy of the Labor movement of appointing people- in addition to others- who were representatives of the trade union movement to boards or commissions which were established by the Government. I have no hesitation- in fact I have great pride- in saying that I recommended to Cabinet, and Cabinet agreed to, the appointment of Mr Harold Souter, the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as a part-time member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I challenge honourable senators to go to any of the proprietors of television and broadcasting stations in Australia and produce one proprietor who docs not agree with the appointment of Mr Harold Souter to that Board.
– Why did he resign?
– I am not worried about why he resigned. He resigned, among other things, because Senator Greenwood took a bogus case to the Royal Commission into Petroleum and Petroleum Products. Since Senator Greenwood was elected to Government, he has not been prepared to further take that case to the Royal Commission into Petroleum. That is the simple reason why Mr Souter has resigned, and Senator Greenwood knows that. If Senator Greenwood, now a Minister of the Crown, acting with the force he now has and not as he did when in Opposition, were prepared to put money up as he was prepared to talk up when he was in Opposition, he could take the case, which he put in the Parliament and to the Royal Commission, once again to the Royal Commission. Mr Souter, being an honourable man, resigned from the Broadcasting Control Board for that reason. Again I say to Senator Greenwood and to all honourable senators who criticise: Produce one person- any proprietor of any commercial broadcasting or television station or any member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board- who disagrees with the appointment of Mr Souter as a member of that Board.
As far as the Australian Broadcasting Commission is concerned, I was one of the first Ministers in the Labor Government to have the honour to appoint a member of the trade union movement to a commission. I appointed Mr Hal Lashwood, the President of Actors Equity of Australia to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Mr Lashwood undoubtedly has done a tremendous amount for the performing artists of Australia. No one can assert that Mr Lashwood did not do a job of service for the Australian people on the ABC. He did an outstanding job. I say that it is to the credit of the present Minister, Mr Robinson, that he has seen fit to follow the Labor Party’s stand by appointing a unionist to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The attitudes adopted by Mr Foster in his statement that there was cronyism in the appointments which were made by the Labor Government to the Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission do not stand up to examination. I challenge him to make the accusation personally or individually against any member privately, outside Parliament, and I assure him that he will have action taken against him.
I have mentioned Mr Souter and Mr Lashwood. I could mention a number of others. Mr Neary, I say openly, is a close personal friend of mine. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It happens that he was recommended to Her Majesty the Queen by the Gorton Government for the award of the Order of the British Empire because of his service to the entertainment industry. He is a man who has given outstanding service to the Australian people and to the entertainment industry. I could mention Mr Eddie Williams and Dr Earle Hackett, who is the Acting Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I could mention a number of others whom we appointed. But, in relation to Mr Foster, as far as I am concerned it is a case of money up or shut up. I believe that the matters to which I have alluded- the dairy industry in New South Wales, the problems confronting the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the present time and the statements made by Mr Foster- deserve consideration by the Australian Parliament. That is why I have raised these matters during the first reading debate on this Bill.
– I am delighted to be able to take this opportunity to raise a matter again this evening during the debate on the first reading of this Bill as it gives me a great deal of latitude. I can speak on matters other than those pertaining to the Bill. Honourable senators will be aware that during the Address-in-Reply debate I brought to the attention of the Senate, and hence of the Australian people, a matter which has concerned me and many other Queensland people for some considerable time; that is, the Aurukun Associates Agreement Bill which was introduced by the Queensland Government some time ago. As I said at that time- I reiterate it this evening- I believe that the Aboriginal people of Aurukun were given a raw deal. Since then in the Parliament of Queensland another Bill, called the Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act Amendment Bill, has been introduced. A number of people made contributions during the debate on that Bill. Some strayed a little from the subject matter of the Bill and took time out to refer to the Aurukun Associates Agreement Bill. They made some rather caustic comments concerning my contribution in the Senate during the Address-in-Reply debate.
– Did Tom Aikens come in on that one?
– If Senator Mulvihill will bear with me he will hear what I have to say concerning that ‘honourable gentleman’- in inverted commas- later in my address. One of the members of the Legislative Assembly who spoke on the Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act Amendment Bill and who referred to the
Aurukun Associates Agreement Bill was none other than the Aboriginal member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, Mr Deeral. All I can say in relation to that gentleman’s contribution is: ‘My brother, where were you when they crucified our race?’ I think it is sufficient to say that much at this stage of the debate. .
Contributions were made by quite a number of the members of the Queensland Legislative Assembly during the debate on the Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act Amendment Bill. I shall quote from the debate passages in relation to what some of them had to say, particularly concerning myself. I turn to page 2624 of the Queensland Hansard of 9 March 1976 which records the debate on the Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act Amendment Bill. I refer to a contribution made by a gentleman who presumes to be the representative of Townsville South. Before I read from Hansard what he had to say, let me say that this gentleman reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago outside Hughenden with a stockman friend of mine, Nickelpenny. He was the Crown ranger at a place called Pentland in Queensland. He had a camp horse, perhaps one of the best camp horses over which I have ever had the opportunity of throwing a leg. I asked him about the breeding of this particular horse and he said to me: ‘It is out of a scrubber by something off the common’. And that reminds me of the person who claims to be the honourable member for Townsville South. He had this to say:
I throw out a challenge to Senator Bonner, who is alleged to be a Queensland Senator. I have yet to hear Senator Bonner say anything that could not be truthfully construed as a speech on behalf of Black Power.
That is what the ‘gentleman’ had to say about me in Hansard. I would like to draw to the attention of the Senate and perhaps to the attention of that ‘gentleman’ a book of which I was a coauthor, entitled Black Power in Australia, published by Heinemann Press in the On Trial series. In the introduction to the book the following appears:
The first point at issue in this debate is the meaning of Black Power. Senator Bonner sees 2 kinds of Black Power: One which says, ‘Be proud of your race . . . help yourself in the white man’s environment and beat him at his own game’ -
I am not alone in that belief-
Further on in the book at page 33, when writing about Black Power and condemning it I had this to say:
My brief is to write against the concept of ‘Black Power’. Now there are at least 2 types of ‘Black Power’. There is the type which says ‘be proud of your race, you are as good as the next person, get out and help yourself in the white man ‘s environment and beat him at his own game’. This is what 1 see as ‘good Black Power’, for, until my fellow Aborigines gain the confidence and pride which is rightfully theirs, they will be at a permanent disadvantage in the world they now find themselves.
On the other hand there is what I term ‘bad Black Power’. This is a philosophy with which 1 will have no truck. Its adherents claim that the present system will not cater for Aborigines, that it never will represent Aborigines and that Aborigines will continue to lack political power until the present system ‘ is removed, if necessary by violent means.
I have condemned this kind of Black Power. I have never advocated that kind of black power. So Mr Tom Aikens, who claims to represent Townsville South, is totally wrong in saying that either in this Parliament or anywhere in Queensland I have advocated Black Power of the violent and nasty type.
– He is an old imbecile, senator. You do not want to worry about him.
-He took the opportunity of using the forum of his own Parliament, under parliamentary privilege, to say these things about me. If he had said outside the Parliament some of the things which I will read from the Hansard I would have slapped a writ on him so quickly that it would have singed his hair. I will quote Mr Aitkens- again I use the words ‘ Mister’ and ‘gentleman’ in inverted commas- from page 2625 of Hansard of 9 March 1976.
– You are over-rating him, senator. He is a degenerate.
– Order! I must indicate to Senator Mulvihill that any reflection on a member of parliament in this place is not countenanced.
– I defer to you, Mr President. While I am on my feet let me make the point that it is time the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament reciprocated the high sentiments which you have espoused.
– The question concerns a reflection upon a member of another parliament. Mr President, if you remember the point of order raised today by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack you will recall that you ruled that a statement cannot be ruled out of order if it is factual. What Senator Mulvihill maintains is factual. I think that everyone agrees, including Senator Bonner. So how can it be out of order?
-Standing order 4 1 8 says:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House -
– He is a crook. 1 do not want to interrupt Senator Bonner but I have great sympathy with him tonight. The gentleman to whom he refers has been guilty of making some of the most obscene statements against this House that any member of parliament could utter. When Senator Mulvihill says that he is degenerate, he is stating a case which is to my mind a fact. Mr Aikens has made statements about this House without any discipline being imposed upon him by his own Speaker. So if anyone in this House says that he is degenerate he is merely stating the case clearly. Mr President, surely you must accept that honourable senators in this place have the right to answer the things Mr Aikens has said. What Mr Aikens has said about Senator Bonner is reprehensible. Surely he or any other senator should be able to use the word degenerate ‘ to describe the person in question.
– I take a point of order, Mr President. Last year during an adjournment debate Senator Georges chose to raise the subject of certain conduct and certain speeches made in the Queensland Parliament. That debate was allowed to go on. I believe that in that context it was quite in order because it was a topic of debate. But on this occasion Senator Bonner was making certain references to allegations that had been made about him. It is quite out of context now. Senator Mulvihill may well have his own personal reasons for making the asides which he has made but it is quite out of order in the context in which it has arisen. It is quite fatuous for Senator Cavanagh to try to engage the Senate in a debate on whether or not the statement is factual. Senator Mulvihill certainly has not established that. If it is to be established, I suggest that this is not the time to do so and it is not relevant to this debate.
– Order! I must point out that it is incumbent upon us to observe our own Standing Orders. I appreciate what has been said, but we must keep within the parameters of our own Standing Orders, and that is final.
-Thank you, Mr President. I have a great regard and a great respect for our own Standing Orders but I am sure that you and other honourable senators will forgive me if I become rather emotional when referring to some of the things that this ‘gentleman’ has had to say. I refer to page 2625 of the Hansard record of 9 March 1976 of the Queensland State Parliament and again to what Mr Aikens had to say concerning me:
There are many problems in Townsville and one that I have is in Hubert Street. The Mayor of Townsville knows of it. I challenge Senator Bonner to put his feet where his mouth is and come to South Townsville with me so that 1 can show him some of the things in which he should really be interested instead of blowing out his bags like the Black
Power men and horning into Aurukun and similar places. Let him come up and deal with some problems that need to be solved and can be solved as long as we apply ourselves properly to them.
Mr President, with great respect to yourself, I appreciate your interposing on behalf of a member of another House of Parliament. However, I wish to refer to the comments of the Temporary Chairman of the Queensland State Parliament who interjected from the Chair in relation to the comments made by Tom Aikens. The Temporary Chairman, Mr Row, said, following Mr Aiken’s comment:
Order! Would the honourable member ask him -
Referring to me- to bring some relices with him to justify his remarks?
That was the remark from the Temporary Chairman of the State Parliament of Queensland which implied that I, as an Aborigine, would need to bring some Aboriginal relics to prove my case in relation to matters that I raised in this Parliament regarding the people of Aurukun.
With all due respect to you, Mr President, you took up the cause of members of another parliament this evening, as I knew that you would in any case. But in the State Parliament of Queensland, the person who occupies the position of Temporary Chairman was not so kind to a member of this Parliament. Mr Aikens went on after that interjection and added insult to injury with these remarks:
I would say that as long as Bonner -
Not Senator Bonner, not Mr Bonner, but Bonner- brought himself he would be bringing up the prime relic of all. Let him just come up himself and we will have probably the best Aboriginal relic.
After those remarks he said this:
I am not saying this to denigrate him or to be derisory, but he himself is only half Aboriginal, as honourable members know. But that does not make him any worse or any better. With his half-Indian blood, he could still be the man . . .
These were the words of a member of the Parliament of Queensland. Can he, any man in the Senate, or in this nation tell me how much blood of what race I have? I am an Aborigine and I have lived the life of an Aborigine. I have suffered the discriminations and the prejudices of an Aborigine. I fought tooth and nail and I entered the Senate by dragging myself up by my- Mr President, I was going to say by the shoelaces but I could not because I never even had shoes. Yet a member of parliament, with all the privileges given to him by a parliament, said these things in that parliament. I would hope that he would have the intestinal fortitude to say them outside the parliament or in some place where I could act in the way that Aborigines acted and meted out justice prior to 1 788.
Other members of the Queensland Parliament made contributions, if one can call them such, to the debate on the Bill. They strayed quite con- siderably fromtheBill.Anyonewhoreadsthe Hansard record of the debate would understand why the Presbyterian Church, the Church of England, the Catholic Church and the Methodist Church today are coming out in support of the people of Aurukun. It is because there has been no true and meaningful discussion with the Aboriginal people of what has been proposed by the Queensland Government. The Aboriginal people have not been given the true rights to which they are entitled. The pages and pages of contributions made by members of the Queensland State Parliament show that they never really and truly understood the situation themselves. They never read the agreement, or even looked at it. They had no understanding of it, nor did they have an understanding of the people, their wishes and their desires. I wish to quote what was said by the honourable member for Flinders, Mr Katter, a young whippersnapper who has recently entered the State Parliament.
– What Party does he represent?
– It is irrelevant.
– Yes, it is irrevelant as my colleague, Senator Baume, says. It is quite irrelevant what Party he belongs to or of what nationality he is. If a person has no understanding of the problems facing Aboriginal people and does not have the decency to consult and listen to them, it does not matter two hoots what political party that person belongs to, what nationality he may be or what church he attends. All that is important is whether a person is prepared to identify and prepared to listen. They are the most important things.
This gentleman says that there has been no dispossession of Aborigines in Queensland. He says that Aborigines have never been dispossessed and that they have all the opportunities of every other Australian. I say to this gentleman: If there has been no dispossession, where is the land owned by so many Aboriginal tribes in Queensland? Where is the land that is owned in Queensland by the tribe known as the Jagara, by the tribe known as Waka Waka, by the Giabel tribe, by the Koren Goren tribe, by the Kabi Kabi tribe, by the Kokojelandi tribe, by the Kokimudji tribe, by the Jubambe tribe and the
Gidabug tribe? Where is the land owned by all these tribes in Queensland? Where is the land owned by the Ulangi and the Kokangi tribes? Honourable senators opposite claim to know so much about Aborigines. How many of these tribes do they know? I say none. Of course, they do not know any of them.
– But does Mr Fraser know them?
-I know them and that is the most important thing. I belong to the Liberal Party of Australia and I am able to tell my Party of what happens. I am able to influence the decisions made by my Party wherever they affect Aborigines. I will repeat some of them. There arc the Kabi Kabi, the Waka Waka and the Jubambe. Do honourable senators opposite want me to repeat all of them again? Honourable senators opposite did not think that I knew the names of the tribes. If they want me to do so I will repeat them again and again. It may be better if I were to do so because a few of them would then understand what I am talking about and would listen to what I have to say when I stand up in this chamber and talk about Aborigines because I am an Aborigine.
– We are listening to you and have sympathy for you, but you are destroying it now.
-People talk about these things and do not have the slightest conception of what they are talking about because they have never lived the life of an Aborigine and do not understand it. Let me read from a paper that gives some of the facts in relation to the people about whom we are talking in this part of Queensland:
The place of Aborigines in Australian society has changed considerably.
Oh boy, it has! It continues:
The consciences of many white Australians -
Some of them are piping up here tonight- have been disturbed by the past history of oppression of Aborigines, and by their consequent present condition. Frank Stevens’ article, ‘ Weipa: The Politics of Pauperization’ (Australian Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, 1969) on the impact of Comalco’s mining at Weipa on the Aborigines in the area, showed that the process begun in 1788. and described by C. D. Rowley in his ‘The Destruction of Aboriginal Society’, is not remote history, but a present reality. A desire to atone for the past has become incompatible with acquiescence in its repetition.
At the same time, the Aboriginal movement -
In Australia- has emerged, building solidarity, overcoming resignation and the sense of powerlessness. Through the struggles of the Yirrkala, the Gurindji, the Aboriginal Embassy, the Medical and Legal Service, the NACC, there has been growth.
Aurukun emerges as a crucial battleground in the continuing struggle.
That refers to the struggle of Aborigines for justice. The paper says a little about the history of Aurukun between 1860 and 1968.
Between the Dutch incursions of 1606 and the 1970s, much has happened to the peoples at Aurukun. In the 1 860s, the early European settlers in the area conveyed to them by brute force, if not by words, the message that the land was not ‘ legally ‘ theirs: that 90 years before it had been ‘claimed ‘ for the British Crown.
The resistance of the Aborigines to white invasion in northern Queensland was among the most spirited in Australian history. The extent of their suppression corresponded. The ‘Battle of Mitchell’ (River), some 180 miles south of Aurukun in 1864; the guerrilla-type campaign sustained over 7 years against the gold miners on the Palmer River, a tributary of the Mitchell, from 187S on; and other incidents, led ‘The Queenslander’ (May 1, 1880) to refer to ‘a sickening and brutal war of the races, requiring either improved police methods, or the delaying of settlement -
The delaying of the settlement of this part of Queensland- till the work of extermination is completed ‘.
This is some of the history of the people of Aurukun that I am talking about:
By 1895, Aboriginal society seems to have been shattered everywhere but in Cape York. The Colonial Secretary sent the new Commissioner of Police to tour the area. His 1897 report indicated that it was the considerable remnants of tribes which needed protection from the white settlers, whom he described as numbering ‘some of the blackest scoundrels alive’.
He was not referring to the Aborigines; he was referring to the settlers of this particular part of northern Queensland. The church that has been maligned by the State Parliament, by the Premier of Queensland and by the Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement in Queensland as being activist and radical because it has taken up the cause of the people of Aurukun is the Presbyterian Church.
The paper continues:
In 1891, the first Presbyterian Mission in the area was established at Mapoon, at the mouth of the Batavia River. Weipa Mission followed in 1898, and Aurukun in 1903. About this time, the coastal strip from the Mitchell to the Batavia River, stretching some 30 miles inland, was set aside as an Aboriginal Reserve. Defeated and demoralised, Aborigines were more easily brought in and kept on the Mission. Others held out, and in the 1950s, Aborigines were still coming in from the country to live at Aurukun Mission.
It is the Presbyterian Church that has come out in support of the claims of the people of Aurukun. It is the Presbyterian Church that claims, along with myself and the tribal elders of Aurukun, that there has not been any meaningful discussion with the Aboriginal people in relation to the mining venture that is going to take place. The Premier of Queensland, the Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement and the
Minister for Mines and Energy in Queensland, Mr Camm, say that there has been. But the church that has been there taking care, training, educating, administering and encouraging the Aurukun people since 1895 says that there has not been. Who is lying? Others as well as the Presbyterian Church have now come into the fray. The Church of England, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Archbishop Rush, and his Church, the Methodist Church, the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church have all come out in support of the people of Aurukun, saying that there have not been any discussions that have any meaning and understanding to the Aboriginal people.
– Thousands of decent Australians.
– Yes, thousands of decent Australians have come out in support, but the Queensland Government, in a statement by the Premier no later than last Friday in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, still says that there will be no change in the Aurukun mining agreement.
– He is a Lutheran.
– In answer to Senator Georges, I can only say in conclusion that I pray- I hope God will hear my prayers- that some time in the very near future valuable minerals will be found in Queensland on a Lutheran Church Aboriginal mission.
– I take the opportunity on the first reading of this money Bill to refer to some matters which are causing great concern in the community. First of all, I would like to refer to some of the remarks of Senator Bonner. It is very interesting, having listened to the remarks of Senator Bonner, to find that he has brought into serious question the credibility of the Queensland Government under the leadership of Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen. I think he has illuminated very ably here tonight what members of the Labor Party have considered to bc true for many years regarding the credibility of Mr Petersen and his Government. I congratulate Senator Bonner on the way that he has highlighted tonight some of the matters which have been exercising the minds of many people in my own Party. I refer to the way in which the Country Party or the National Party, as it is now called in Queensland, has treated the Aboriginal population in that State over many years. I was very interested to hear Senator Bonner refer to young Katter as a whippersnapper in the Queensland Parliament. Of course, if he had been taking lessons from his illustrious father we would know that what Senator Bonner said tonight would be quite true. I vividly recall the night that Mr Katter came into this chamber, when we were in government, and threatened Senator Keeffe over the balustrades. He threatened to knock Senator Keeffe ‘s block off and ordered him outside. It is no wonder that Senator Bonner has taken the opportunity to denigrate young Katter and to call him a whippersnapper.
I am concerned at the ability of the LiberalNational Country Party Government when it allocates portfolios to various people in its Cabinet. I wonder why the Government has not given Senator Bonner the portfolio of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs instead of giving it to Mr Viner. After listening to the remarks of Senator Bonner here tonight, I think that he would make a very capable Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. We recall that at one stage when the Government Parties were in Opposition the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was the now AttorneyGeneral, Mr Ellicott, who knew nothing about the portfolio. At one stage Senator Rae was the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Government does not see fit to give the ministry to a man who has first hand knowledge of Aboriginal problems. I am sure that if Senator Bonner had that portfolio he would do a far better job for his people than the 2 persons who were shadow Ministers and the person who is now the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
I want to refer tonight to the Government’s savage moves to bring about savings in health areas. I will quote from some of the Press statements which have been issued in past weeks by the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt. I refer to a Press statement which Mr Hunt put out on 6 February dealing with the savings which his Government intended to make. They are all areas of great need in this country. The Government of which I was proud to be a supporter did a magnificent job in trying to spend money in order to bring about a better health situation in Australia. Mr Hunt’s Press statement of 6 February read:
Mr Hunt said another $ 1.75 m per annum would be saved by discontinuing the free issue of radioisotope kits which are used in medical diagnosis. At present the Australian Radiation Laboratory- a Health Department body- procures and distributes the kits which are mainly used for examination of the thyroid. As from July 1 this year, the Radiation Laboratory will discontinue the service, and users will be required to obtain their kits direct from suppliers.
This is one of the avenues which this Government is using to save money. It is a very necessary area of spending. Under our Government these kits were free; yet the Fraser Government has decided now to make a charge. I think this is one illustration that the health of the community is of no concern to the Fraser Government. Its main concern is giving subsidies to wealthy people who are not in need of them. I refer, of course, to the superphosphate bounty. Let us look at the savings- money that has been taken away from the needy people to provide a bounty to the wealthy farmers. I will be having a lot to say about this when the superphosphate bounty legislation comes into the chamber. 1 will be pointing out to the chamber and to the public at large just who are the recipients of these amounts of money- people who in my view and in the view of many other people are not deserving. In his Press release Mr Hunt announced that a charge of $10 was to be made for hearing aids provided by the Government, except for those supplied to repatriation beneficiaries and members of the Defence Force. He went on to say:
The National Acoustic Laboratories, another Health Department body, supplies aids to pensioners and young people under the age of 21 as well as to Repatriation beneficiaries and Defence Force members. Mr Hunt said the $ 1 0 charge would represent a saving of $270,000 in a full year. The Minister said that while he regretted the need to make the change, he believed it would not place an undue burden on people requiring new aids, particularly when the charge was compared to the cost of commercial hearing aids. He pointed out that under previous Liberal-Country Party Governments there had been a charge of $10 for pensioners’ hearing aids and that, despite inflation the new charge had been kept at the same level. The charge would be introduced after appropriate legislation had been passed.
Under the Whitlam Labor Government hearing aids and batteries were free. On many occasions I was able to make arrangements for the personnel of the National Acoustic Laboratories who toured the country areas to call at the homes of pensioners who were unable to travel from my area in the country to Adelaide, Mount Gambier or Loxton where the consultations usually took place. On receipt of a doctor’s certificate that these people needed hearing aids, the representatives called, gave the pensioners a test and, if necessary, provided them with the hearing aids. We now find that these concessions are to bc swept away. I am doubtful, even though I will refer to a further Press release a week later in which Mr Hunt changed his mind, that these concessions will be available now to pensioners in country areas who are unable to travel to the areas where they should be tested. Of course, we know that it would be difficult for pensioners to go to Adelaide from the country area in which I live. There would be a cost for overnight accommodation because they could not make the return trip on the same day. These were concessions which my Government, I am proud to say, brought about to help these elderly people.
I have read the statement put out by Mr Hunt on 6 February. He put out another Press statement, headed ‘Hearing Aids for Pensioners’, on 1 1 February. Here we find one of many somersaults by the Government. The Press statement reads:
The decision taken last week as part of the Government’s campaign to cut Government waste and extravagance was not intended to deprive pensioners of the benefits of free hearing aids. The Minister for Health, Mr Ralph Hunt, said today the $ 1 0 charge for hearing aids implied by the decision would not be imposed because it would cause undue hardship. Although the Government was looking at all areas in an effort to cut costs, it was also important wherever possible to avoid causing hardship.
What hardship did Mr Hunt cause to the many pensioners in this country by the Press statement which he put out on 6 February and which he repudiated 5 days later? How much concern did this Government cause to the many elderly citizens who had expected to be provided with free hearing-aids, as they were provided with under a Labor Government, and then had the service taken away from them because of a government that wanted to save a few miserable dollars-$270,000 to be precise? The Government then decided in its wisdom to restore this benefit. (Quorum formed). The Government said that the cuts were necessary to combat the excessive spending of the previous Government. I have referred to what this Government intended doing in taking away the hearing-aid benefit to pensioners. I want to refer now to a further Press release issued by Mr Hunt dated 24 February. It states:
The Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, said today that he had asked the Medibank Review Committee, chaired by Mr Austin Holmes, to pay special attention to diagnostic services in the course of the committee’s review of Medibank. Mr Hunt said that he had taken this step because of the high Medibank expenditure on diagnostic services, including both pathology and radiology.
I have had discussions with people in the medical profession who have been very grateful for the Medibank plan which was brought in by the previous Whitlam Government, particularly in the area of diagnostic services which relate to pathology and radiology. In the past if a patient came in to see a medical practitioner and there was some doubt as to the complaint of the patient rather than put the patient to the expenditure immediately of a pathology test or an X-ray, the medical practitioner in his wisdom would give the patient some medicine and tell him to come back in 10 days or a fortnight. Then, if he had the same symptoms the medical practitioner would put the patient to the expense of a pathology test or an X-ray. But with the advent of Medibank the medical practitioner has been able to have a pathology test or an X-ray made immediately if there is any doubt, particularly in the case of children, instead of the patient’s having to wait for up to a fortnight or 3 weeks before these tests could be carried out. This has been of great benefit to the underprivileged and to the people on lower incomes.
– What nonsense!
– It is not nonsense. 1 have consulted people in the medical profession and this is what these people have told me. We now find that this Government is looking at the situation to see if it can do away this service because the Government wants to save a few miserable dollars. In the same Press release Mr Hunt stated:
In a previous Press statement dated 4 February, in referring to another area in which this Government is trying to save money, Mr Hunt said:
In the Hospitals Development Program, a saving of $ 10m will be made by not meeting increased costs of approved State programs.
We find that in one Press statement the Minister has stated that this Government is going to save $10m by not meeting the increased costs of approved State programs yet in a Press statement released about 20 days later the Minister stated that hospitals had reported difficulty in maintaining both services and training programs because many salaried specialists were resigning to enter private practice. So we see contrary statements made by a Minister in 2 Press releases. I am sure that the people who need the health program do not know where they are with this Government putting out Press statements on the health services willynilly. I am sure that the State Governments which are attempting to provide some of these services- previously with the help of the Whitlam Labor Government- must be in a quandary also as to how they are going to cope when the present Fraser Government does not know where it is going.
We come back to the latest Press statement issued by Mr Hunt on 1 5 March dealing with the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and the box-on that Mr Hunt is having with them because they claim that they are not receiving a great enough return for their products. Mr Hunt was reported in this Press release as follows:
But in spite of those difficulties … the Department of Health still had a responsibility to ensure that the Government (and hence the taxpayers) paid fair and reasonable prices for drugs listed as Pharmaceutical Benefits.
Mr Hunt was commenting on media reports that some manufacturers were considering ceasing local production nf pharmaceutical products unless they received immediate increases in the prices of benefit drugs.
What did the Whitlam Labor Government do when we were in office to try to offset this and to try to obtain a consensus of the real cost of pharmaceutical drugs? We set out to purchase the
– For $6m.
– The honourable senator is quite wrong again, as he so often is in this chamber.
– It was $8.4m.
- Senator Cormack said $6m and if it had not been for assistance that he received from another senator he would not have been able to give the correct figure which I was going to give when quoting Mr Hunt’s Press statement. Mr Hunt at the present time is engaged in an argument with the pharmaceutical companies over the price that the Government ought to be paying for pharmaceutical drugs. As I was saying, the Whitlam Government set out to provide the people of this country with a company that could provide drugs at a fair and reasonable price rather than the people being exploited by private enterprise. In another Press statement Mr Hunt stated in respect of Government savings:
I referred previously to the Government’s cutting back on that by $10m. Of course, the health of this nation does not mean as much to this Government as a few bags of superphosphate for the wealthy primary producer does. Mr Hunt’s statement continued:
The Government would take immediate steps to sell the Fawnmac Group of pharmaceutical manufacturing companies which the previous Government purchased to give an Australian Government presence in the pharmaceutical industry.
That is not the only company that this Government has decided to sell out. We could talk about Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd which the present Fraser Government is now going to sell out, just as previous Liberal Governments sold out an oil company that we had. Referring to the Fawnmac group of companies, Mr Hunt’s statement went on to say: the present Government saw no reason at present for the continuation of this project and felt that greater benefits would accrue in returning this group to private enterprise.
Of course, private enterprise is the god of the Fraser Government. If one looks at the supplementary election speech made by Mr
Fraser- I have referred to it before in this chamberit is seen that every second paragraph refers to private enterprise. Mr Hunt’s statement continues:
The Fawnmac Group of companies was purchased at a cost of $8.4m by the previous Government.
This is where Senator Cormack had not done his homework because he said $6m in his interjection. He was $2.4m out. That is a large amount of money, particularly when one considers the savings of a mere $270,000 that this Government is trying to make by taking away the hearing-aid benefit from pensioners. Yet Senator Cormack can just brush off as rubbish a misstatement of $2.4m, which was 25 per cent of the overall cost of the Fawnmac group of companies. I wanted to raise these matters tonight to point out to the general public in Australia the attitudes and penny pinching methods being adopted by the Fraser Government in order to try to bring, as it says, this country back into economic stability. If one adds them all up they amount to practically nothing. As Mr Fraser said the other night when he was interviewed on television, the savings amount to a little more than $300m. Of course, that is practically nothing.
What about the suffering that this Government is causing to the people who can ill afford not to receive the benefits which were given by the previous Government? I know that many of these people are very concerned that their benefits are being taken away by the Fraser Government. I wish to quote a comment made by the shadow Minister for Health, Dr Cass, who would know more than Senator Cormack about the medical benefits and the need for them by the people of this community. When Dr Cass was speaking in the House of Representatives on 25 February last he issued a warning to Mr Hunt, and I hope that Mr Hunt in his wisdom will yet take some cognisance of the warning. Dr Cass said:
I offer one tip to the Government apropos the cost of drugs and the claim by the pharmaceutical companies that they are having a very hard financial time. It strikes me that it would be tactically unwise for the Government to sell the drug company that was purchased during the term of the Labor Government. The point of the exercise was not to produce all the drugs that the country wants and put every other drug company out of business any more than the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have done that in the area in which it has expertise. But the point is that it will permit the Department of Health to better advise the Government on the real cost of pharmaceuticals in this country. We found, and I am sure the Government will find the same, that it was exceedingly difficult to find out the real cost to the drug firms.
I come back to the Press statement put out by Mr Hunt, to which I have referred, in which he criticised some of the arguments advanced by the drug companies when seeking a higher price for their products. He is throwing away the very weapon with which we provided him when we were in government; that is, the purchase of the Fawnmac group of companies. If the Government were to purchase this group of companies it would have some measure of control over the prices of the drugs which are used by many members of this community. Yet we find that under the Fraser Government in its haste to do away with all government owned projects and to hand them back to private enterprise, Mr Hunt is throwing away the greatest weapon that he has with which to find out what are the true costs of the pharmaceutical benefits that are provided to the Australian community. I hope that Mr Hunt has taken a lot of notice of what Dr Cass said because I place a lot of faith in Dr Cass as a medical practitioner.
I see that Senator Baume is making a lot of notes. I take it from his interjections that he will put the opposing view, that those engaged in private enterprise are the only people with the expertise who can provide pharmaceutical benefits to the users of those products in this country. As Dr Cass has pointed out, there has never been any argument against the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and the work that those laboratories are doing. During all the years when the Liberals were in government they made no effort to sell out the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I agree with the work that those laboratories have been doing. They have set a standard for other companies. They have kept other companies within a decent price range, which is the same thing as a government enterprise, such as the Fawnmac group of companies that we had taken over, would have been able to do. It would have been able to set a standard price for those very expensive drugs which are on sale to the community.
The people who will have to pay the most for the drugs are those on low incomes, not those on high incomes. It does not matter 2 hoots what the person on a high income has to pay for his medical attention. He has plenty of wherewithal to pay for the medical attention that he needs at any time. My main concern is with the pensioners of this country in regard to their hearing aids and to the people on lower incomes in regard to the cost that they have to pay for their pharmaceutical benefits.
Only recently this chamber passed a Bill which provided for increases in the cost of pharmaceutical benefits. These people now have to find more money if they want the medicine or the treatment which is necessary to alleviate some of the problems from which they suffer. I hope that the Government may yet see its way clear to make some further changes, such as those which Mr Hunt made in the space of 5 days. Firstly he said that he was going to take away free hearing aids and impose a charge of $10. Then 5 days later, for reasons best known to himself, he reversed his decision. The second statement certainly does not get him off the hook because it is a very contradictory statement. But I congratulate him for withdrawing that charge of $10 to pensioners and to people in need.
I hope that in the case of the pharmaceutical companies the Government will yet see the error of its way in selling out the Fawnmac group of companies and will decide that it will be of great benefit to the Government and to the Australian people to have an interest in a drug company. In that way we will have some control over prices and we can keep a watchful eye on the exorbitant charges that are being imposed on the poorer people of this nation.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to respond to some of Senator McLaren’s comments. One of the principles that I have had since I have been in the Senate is that I never respond to Senator McLaren’s speeches. On this occasion I depart from that principle. I welcome his concern for health. I was unaware that he was expert in these matters. I was interested to hear him commence his speech, but it quickly became obvious that he did not know what he was talking about. In regard to at least three of the matters that Senator McLaren raised there were serious errors of fact and serious errors of logic, and 1 will take just a few minutes to place some of those matters in perspective.
The honourable senator commenced his speech by drawing attention to the need for more pathology tests. What an over-simplification. I have practised medicine in 3 countries- in Australia, in the United Kingdom and in the United States. The practice of medicine is completely different in each country. In America, where time counts for everything, people use a lot of pathology tests. They say that the high cost of the tests is worth it because they think that they save time. They put a high value on time. Clinical medicine is practised in England. One makes a judgment, and one holds off doing a lot of tests because time is not seen as being the main concern. In this country we have a balanced practice, somewhere between the practices in those other two countries.
I will tell Senator McLaren something about pathology tests and about the fact that more pathology tests can be done in such and such a situation. There is considerable doubt as to how much information one gets from a lot of pathology tests. One of the criticisms which many of us have is that too many tests are done for too little yield. I will give an example. There are the health screening organisations to which people go and have a lot of tests done on themselves. We see reports that so many per cent of people have been found to have some abnormality. I submit that in most of those cases the abnormality does not matter. The information is not useful; it cannot be turned to the advantage of the patient. It is a waste of money and a lot of the money is paid through the health insurance system. If Senator McLaren knew something about these tests he would understand that the carrying out of some procedure does not necessarily bring with it any benefit whatever to people. A lot of pathology tests are expensive, a lot of them are dangerous and a lot of them are invasive; that is to say, they require some invasion through the patient’s skin. A lot of them do not give results which are worth while.
One of the problems that we have, particularly in the big teaching hospitals, is that patients are subjected to a whole battery of assaults- it is nothing less than a battery of assaults- for information which too often is wanted by some young academic in training.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I had intended tonight to ventilate 3 cases of immigration injustice. What I was going to say has been fortified by a letter I received this afternoon from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). In justifying the separation of the Department of Immigration from the Department of Labor, the Minister made the point that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs as a single focal point would provide efficient methods of effectively handling various immigration problems. My submissions tonight, about which I alerted the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), concern applications by a Spaniard, an Italian and a Portuguese to enter Australia.
In October 1975 there was a great demand in the building industry for Spanish architecture. This applied equally to Melbourne and to Sydney. I should like to refer to a Spanish national, Mr Vida! from Madrid, who is a stonemason. The Austral Artistic Stones company of Zetland, Sydney, endeavoured to have him brought out to Australia quickly. Whatever might be our attitude to relating the wants of the Department of Labor to those of the Department of Immigration, the fact of the matter is that job security is important. I shall seek leave later in my remarks to have incorporated in Hansard the letter written to me by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which I refer to as document A. Document B is a letter written by me, in my capacity as the Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council, to the Australian Financial Review. (Quorum formed). I was referring to what I regarded as undue procrastination in the processing of a number of migrant applications. In each case, the person concerned had special skills.
I mentioned a Spanish stonemason and pointed out that in October 1975 the then Department of Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland being the Minister, had investigated the matter. In early December 1975 1 was informed that there was a distinct demand for stonemasons who were particularly skilled in Spanish architecture. I simply put it to the Senate that since that date, due to the sloth fulness of our embassy in Madrid, no action has been taken to bring this man to Australia. The Government has been talking about employment opportunities. This is an area in which a man with this skill would need at least four assistants. The point I am making is that this man would have been an acquisition to our work force.
The second case I raise is that of a Miss Maria Leombruni- not on the basis of job skill but for humanitarian reasons. Her file number from Rome is 75/49884. I think the Minister will appreciate- this could apply to the earlier case I mentioned- that it is the usual practice for X-rays to be dealt with in London. It is now late March. Both of these cases were dealt with and approved, in principle, in December. There is something wrong with an immigration program when it takes so long for such matters to be dealt with. I think all honourable senators would agree that, when we are approaching the end of u financial year, whatever target was agreed upon the program to taper off irrespective of which Party was in government. (Quorum formed) I was pointing out in each of these cases a 3-month lag is unnecessary. If a person coming from Europe has passed his various immigration tests then there must be some reason for this delay in the clearance of X-rays which have been sent to London for attention.
The third matter concerns the Portuguese community in Sydney. I refer to the application of a Portuguese baker to come to Australia. Honourable senators will note that in two of the 3 cases I have mentioned those concerned have job capabilities which will be of benefit to Australia. I have a declaration from a baker in Sydney who specialises in the bread demands of the Sydney Portuguese community. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard Document A, which is a letter from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs addressed to me; Document B, which deals with a letter sent to the Australian Financial Review, and Document C which is a letter sent by me to the New South Wales Regional Director of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, supported by a declaration from a Portuguese baker in Sydney.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 18 March 1976
Dear Senator Mulvihill,
I understand that Senator James McClelland when he was Minister for Labor and Immigration agreed last year to reform the Immigration Advisory Council, and appoint you as its Chairman.
The new Government has since created a separate Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs as a single focal point through which matters of interest to migrants can have prompt and effective attention and to assist the many migrant welfare organisations.
Consistent with this initiative the Government has also decided to amalgamate the various Federal advisory bodies in the migrant welfare field into a single body. It will therefore not proceed with the reconstitution of the Immigration Advisory Council as envisaged by Senator McClelland and as a consequence the position of Chairman is being abolished.
I am aware of your personal interest in the welfare of migrants and I should like to express my appreciation of the constructive association you have had with the former Immigration Advisory Council as its Chairman.
M.J. R. MacKellar
Senator J. A. Mulvihill,
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Sir, I am afraid the new Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, oversimplifies the overseeing of an effective immigration program when he uses such terminology as ‘demographic stagnation’ (Financial Review of January 20).
While the vision of the Chifley Labor Government provided the drive for the Snowy Mountains hydro project which was a massive absorbent of our migrant intake, no forward planning was done by successive Liberal Governments which would have enabled us to have any subsequent national project of such manpower dimensions.
In any case the development of viable ethnic community associations has ensured that such groups will be effective watchdogs to see that ‘Siberia location type’ projects in Australia that lack top wage and amenity incentives arc not on in the seventies.
Since Australia rightly rejects the guest worker concept with its debasement of the worker involved, the adherence of permanent migrants imposes a lifetime obligation on governments to strive for full employment.
Most manpower experts concede that members of the Australian workforce with 25 years or more ahead of them in industry will be subject to one, if not two, retraining programs in their working life so the program of continuous job placement will become more difficult in the face of continuing technology changes with the accent in the displacement of the manual operative.
What might be termed the ‘immigration intake pause undertaken by the Whitlam Government was accompanied by overdue innovations which the various ethnic communities had sought in vain from earlier Liberal Governments, namely pension portability, removal of racial clauses from the Crimes Act, liberalisation of income tax deductions for overseas dependents, and last, but not least, ethnic radio.
Similarly when the Minister determines the total intake for the 1976-77 program a slot will have to be provided for the victims of the regrettably increasing number of bushfire wars that have become a permanent feature of today’s world. All of which limit the Minister’s options.
Immigration Advisory Council.
Response to contact: Mrs Maria Rodrigues, 16 Myrtle Street. Marrickville. 1 March. 1976
Mr W. Austen,
N.S.W. Regional Director,
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs,
Australian Government Centre,
Sydney, N.S.W. 2000.
Dear Mr Austen,
With regard to the attached application for admission to Australia of Mr Fernando Savtana Marques, who is sponsored by his family in Marrickville, N.S.W., vide Immigration file No. N75/87080.
It would appear that since the original application was made, a claim has been tendered which in effect guarantees him work as a baker which is his Portuguese occupation prior to serving as a conscript in the Portuguese army in Guinea.
Within the definition of the baker occupation it appears that like most other ethnic groups, a sizeable demand exists for particular foodstuffs that meet the desires of the ethnic group concerned.
It is in that context that I strongly advocate that a review of this case he made,mindful of the role that the applicant would play in the Australian workforce, quite aside from the current political turbulence, and the fact that the entire family, outside the applicant, have permanent residence in Australia.
Senator for N.S.W.
AGREEMENT made this day of 19 BETWEEN George Fernandes, of ‘Sydney Bakery’ of 7 Elswick Lane, Leichhardt, Baker in the State of New South Wales (hereinafter called the employer) of the one pan AND Fernanda Santana Marques of Rua dos Combatentes de Grande Guerra, N55, Loule, Algarve Portugal (hereinafter called the Employee) of the other part.
WHEREBY IT IS AGREED AS FOLLOWS:-
The Employer will employ the Employee in Sydney in the capacity of a Labourer for a period of One year commencing from the date of the Employee’s arrival in Sydney, and in the event of the Employee proving to be satisfactory the employment will be continued from week to week to be determined by one week’s notice by either party.
The employer will pay to the employee a weekly wage equivalent at least to the basic wage for males prevailing at the time, or such award rate as may be applicable to the Employee ‘s employment, which employment shall also be subject in all respect to such relevant award.
The appropriate amount of income tax will be deducted by the Employer in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The employer guarantees return passage to Portugal in case the Employee does not wish to continue to work for the Employer for reason of illness or disagreement, or if, for some legitimate reason the Australian Authorities demand his return to Portugal.
The Employee shall receive all public holidays proclaimed in the State of New South Wales and also annual holidays in accordance with the relevant award or Annual Holidays Act.
The Employer will effect such insurance as may be required under the Workers’ Compensation Act (N.S.W.) 1926 as amended.
The ordinary hours of work shall be set down in the relevant award covering the Employee’s employment and likewise over-time shall be paid in accordance with the said award for work done in excess of ordinary hours Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
In the event of the Employee being supplied board and lodging by the Employer and Employee shall make payment to the Employer as is allowed under the laws of New South Wales or in the absence of such laws, by mutual agreement.
All expenses in connection with the agreement and incidental thereto shall be paid by the employer.
The Employer shall guarantee the Employee such benefits by way of bonus, subsidies and insurance as he shall be obliged by the laws of New South Wales to guarantee.
- In case of any dispute arising out of the employment of the Employee by the Employer, the question shall be referred to the Portuguese Consulate and if not resolved then such dispute to be decided in an Australian Court of Competent Jurisdiction.
Except for reasons of illness, it is hereby agreed and declared that the Employee will remain in the employ of the Employer for a minimum period of one year.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF the parties have hereunto affixed their hands.
SIGNED by the said George Fernandes in the presence of:
David A. de Carvalho
Prepared by : Carroll and O’Dea, Solicitors. First Floor. 82 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, New South Wales.
-I thank the Senate. In conclusion, I simply say that the 3 cases do merit a prompt answer in view of the assurance of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that his new ministry is moving very smoothly.
– I have some information with regard to two of the three cases which were mentioned by Senator Mulvihill. He had advised the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), through my Department, earlier today that he would be seeking some clarification of the delay that had occurred in relation to these two cases. I think all honourable senators would agree that the delay referred to by Senator Mulvihill is an undue delay but there are reasons for this delay. I think I should relate briefly some of these reasons, first, in relation to Antonio Vidal. This gentleman was nominated in August 1975. He is a stonemason, as was mentioned by Senator Mulvihill. The Occupational Review Committee in Sydney considered the request and agreed to the forwarding of Form 40 to Madrid. It left Sydney on 13 October 1975 but the embassy in Madrid said that it was not received until 27 January 1976. On 12 December 1976 Senator Mulvihill was told that Madrid had the authority to issue a visa subject to normal processing requirements being met. Several reminders have been sent to Madrid since- several after telephone calls from Senator Mulvihill on this case. Mr Vidal had been interviewed and had to wait until 22 February 1 976 before the technical adviser who periodically visits Spain assessed his qualifications. The technical adviser qualified him as a jobbing moulder and Madrid asked whether processing should proceed. On 17 March we said yes. The current delay is due to the fact that Mr Vidal has not submitted the necessary medical reports. Apparently this is because of his wife’s pregnancy. The latest cabled reminder went off on 1 8 March 1 976. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr
MacKellar) says that it seems a little early to make a further approach in view of that cable which was sent on 1 8 March but we are hopeful that all details will be finalised as soon as possible and that Mr Vidal will be able to proceed to Australia.
The second case which was mentioned was with regard to Miss Maria Leombruni. In summary, a clearance of the X-ray is the outstanding requirement in her case. We were so informed on 24 February 1976. The current delay is probably because X-rays from Rome are forwarded to the Department of Health officers in London for clearance. We will cable today to ascertain the present position. Again in this case, the last reminder on the case went to London on 19 March 1976. Apparently, Miss Leombruni was nominated for migrant entry in 1973 and was rejected at that stage. In mid 1975 she applied for a 6-month visitor visa to come to Australia but was unable to meet the costs of that 6 months visit and the visa was not issued. She was confused at this stage because she and her parents apparently believed that the stamp placed on her passport saying ‘Visa applied for’ was in fact a visa.
Senator Mulvihill has made several representations dating back to July 1975. Following a visit to the home of Guiseppi Leombruni who was her nominator, Senator Mulvihill presented written representations on 29 September 1975. He supplied the additional information at that stage that because of Miss Leombruni ‘s ill health there are strong emotional factors in the case. A nomination form was sent to Italy indicating that subject to usual checks the visa should issue, and Miss Leombruni was interviewed on 22 January 1976. As stated already, the only outstanding requirement is the clearance of the X-ray. Again in this case, we will follow through the reminder that went on 1 9 March and hope that we will be able to obtain early clarification.
– London seems to be the stumbling block in all of these cases.
– That is right because the X-rays from Rome are forwarded to London. We have sought clarification again on this case. So, Mr President, in both of these cases there is what seems to be an undue delay. I hope that the continued representations that we are making will clarify the situation and enable immigration to proceed when all the requirements are met. With regard to the baker mentioned by Senator Mulvihill this is a new case.
– Yes, the last case is a new one.
– Perhaps we could start again to get information if the honourable senator would give me the name and other details relevant to the gentleman concerned. We thank Senator Mulvihill for drawing our attention to these matters. We hope that his representations and the energy with which he pursues them will result in these matters being finalised as soon as possible.
– I rise at this late hour, Mr President, to bring before the Senate a matter of procedure which apparently has gone astray today. When there was a Labor Government in office and I was Manager of Government Business in the Senate, there were daily conferences between me and the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. The then Leader of the Australian National Country Party in the Senate took part also in those discussions which were concerned with procedural arrangements for business that would take place in the Senate each day. I think that, by and large, in the period from 1974 until the time when the Labor Government was dismissed from office satisfactory and amicable arrangements were entered into by the three warring political parties in this chamber.
It concerns me, as it concerns my colleagues that today a motion was put that the question be now put. That motion was put by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In simple terms such a motion meant today the gagging of Opposition senators who wished to speak on a statement that had been made on behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). Let me detail the 2 aspects which concern me about that statement. Firstly, no notification was given by the Government to the Opposition that a statement of this nature was to be made by a Minister in the Senate on the matter that I have enunciated. True it is that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is in another place. I would assume, although I do not know, that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations would have notified my colleagues in the Opposition in another place that that statement was to be made there. Certainly I can say as manager of Opposition business in the Senate on my own behalf- and I know I speak also on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and the Opposition Whip (Senator Georges)- that no indication was given by the Government in the Senate to any of us that such a statement was to be made in the Senate this afternoon.
We on this side of the Senate are under the impression that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in the Senate. We would have assumed that any statement being made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in the other place would have been presented in this place by Senator Greenwood. But no such statement was made by Senator Greenwood. The statement was made in the Senate by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). So it is that I indicate that members of the Opposition express concern, as they did express concern this afternoon, that such a procedure took place. They have indicated their ire by drawing attention to the state of the Senate, requiring quorums to be formed, today. If this chamber is to work effectively and with unanimity there needs to be some rapport between the Government and the Opposition. We tried to achieve that when we were in government. To a very substantial degree, I think, we did achieve it when we were in government. But if the procedures that operated today continue to be used, we in the Opposition will continue to use all the weapons and methods that are available to us to indicate to the Government our criticism of the way in which it is handling the affairs of the nation.
- Mr President, I know that the effective working of this chamber depends on arrangements being made, which are not often publicised, between those responsible for the conduct of the affairs of the Government and those responsible for the conduct of the affairs of the Opposition. Those arrangements have been made over many years. They occurred prior to 1 973, and I know that they occurred in the years 1973 to 1975. Senator Douglas McClelland was intimately involved with them in that latter period. I know that it did happen today that the statement which was made by my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) was made without the prior knowledge, or any substantial prior knowledge, by the Opposition of what was being said. But I am aware also that when Senator Withers, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, became aware of that fact he- I think very handsomelyacknowledged that an error had occurred, that it was an error which lay within the Government, and indicated that he believed that the Opposition was entitled to receive 2 hours notice of any statement which was to be made. Senator
Douglas McClelland knows that that is Senator Withers’ attitude. As far as Senator Withers is concerned, he will do his utmost to ensure that that is observed.
– Why did you not bring down the statement?
– I will come to that. I can only regret that, Senator Withers having made the statement today in fulsome measure, the statement was not accepted. It is his wish and tht wish of this side of the chamber that the practice which has so much to commend it should be followed, and as far as we are able it will be followed in the future.
The other aspect of what Senator Douglas McClelland has said has a very simple explanation. Mr Street, as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, informed me this morning that the statement was to be made by him in the House of Representatives and said that as I represented him in this place he expected that I would make the statement here. I said to him that, as the statement was on the subject matter of unemployment benefit and the Minister responsible for the actual administration of unemployment benefit, the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfyole, was in this chamber, it would be so much better and in all respects more sensible and productive of information in any debate which might follow if Senator Guilfoyle presented the statement. Mr Street concurred in that course and, in the event of what followed, so did Senator Guilfoyle. That was the simple explanation. I hope that, I having said that, Senator Douglas McClelland knows the full account of what occurred. I do not know why the statement was not made available heforehand, but all one can say is that there arc always teething problems in the early days of government and we shall endeavour to ensure that the practices are observed in the future.
– Since I was the one who called several quorums today, let me state my reason for calling them. It was not so much that the statement was late, although we made an objection to that. It was an important statement and we felt it should be debated. The manner in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers ) imposed the gag was, to us, the offensive instrument which led us to call quorums. 1 want to make clear and definite what our response will be to such action. It will be this: Mr President, before you put the question that the Senate du now adjourn tonight I suggest that we have a quorum. I draw your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Kambah Shopping and Community Facilities (Question No. 20)
Senator Knight has asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What proposals are currently being considered and what action is envisaged to develop further retail shopping facilities and other community facilities at Kambah in the Australian Capital Territory.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What plans are currently under consideration for the provision of housing for aged persons in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator’s question:
Accommodation for aged persons at present available in the ACT is as follows:
General purpose Government accommodation is provided to aged pensioners on a priority basis and the present waiting time is only a few weeks.
Special units for the aged have been erected by the National Capital Development Commission for the Department of the Capital Territory in Hughes (4 units), Rivett ( 1 9 units) and Garran (25 units). A further 39 units in Waramanga are expected to be completed in April this year. These units have been specifically designed for aged persons and include such features as grab rails and hand rails in both bathroom and toilet and carpet throughout. Units are planned in small groups around a centrally located recreation centre.
Goodwin Centre at Ainslie provides hostel accommodation for 68 persons and self-contained accommodation for 62 persons. The hostel was constructed by the Commonwealth Government and the self-contained units by the Goodwin Centre Development Association with subsidies under the Aged Persons Homes Act (now the Aged and Disabled Persons Act). The whole complex is administered by the Association with a deficit subsidy from the Department of the Capital Territory.
Community organisations currently provide the following aged persons accommodation built with subsidies administered by the Minister for Social Security:
Mancare (Salvation Army)-15 persons
Karingal Court (Salvation Army)- 49 persons
Morling Lodge (Baptist Church)- 20 persons
Sir Leslie Morshead War Veteran’s Home (RSS & AILA)- 45 persons Ozanam House (St Vincent de Paul Society)- 36 persons
Canberra Masonic Home (NSW Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution)- 14 persons
Current proposals for the provision of accommodation for the aged are:
A site has been selected and design completed for an aged persons hostel for 64 persons to be built at Farrer. This hostel will be the centre of a complex containing self-contained units similar to the Goodwin Centre at Ainslie. Actual construction of the hostel is dependent upon budgetary considerations.
The second stage of the Canberra Masonic Home at Pearce is nearing completion and this will provide accommodation for 27 additional aged persons.
A number of church and community organisations have proposals for the construction of aged persons accommodation. The question of subsidy funding for these projects is one for the Minister for Social Security.
Storm Warning at Bundaberg (Question No. 106)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Bureau has installed at nine locations on the east coast of Australia radar equipment having weather watching capability. Six of these locations are in Queensland. Weather watching radar is used for the surveillance of rainfall associated with tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms, etc. I am advised that the Bureau’s weather watching radar at Cape Byron innorthern New South Wales was out of order for the whole of the week up to 22 February 1976. However this equipment is located about 450 kilometres from Bundaberg and I am assured by the Bureau that the Bundaberg storm of 22 February was outside of its effective range. I am advised that the remaining eight weather watching radars in question were in operating order during the week up to 22 February.
In addition, the Bureau has installed at seven locations on the east coast of Australia radar equipment having upper level wind finding capability. Six of these facilities are colocated with weather watching radars. I am advised that the upper level wind finding capability of a combined radar facility at Mackay was out of order for the whole of the week up to 22 February. Furthermore, the upper level wind measuring radar at Coffs Harbour was intermittently faulty during that period.
asked the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Offences at Sea (Question No. 120)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
With reference to a statement made on 17 August 1975 by the former Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, regarding the drafting of a code relating to offences committed at sea on Australian ships and by others subject to Australian jurisdiction.
a ) is work on this code progressing,
when will it be completed, and
who is involved in the drafting.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The whole question of the operation of laws beyond the limits of the States, including laws relating to offences at sea, is now under examination in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in the light of the decision of the High Court on 17 December 1975 upholding the validity of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
- Senator Messner asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question without notice on 19 February 1976:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications seen a report in the Financial Review of 5 February 1976 that Telecom Australia will market small PABX telephone switch systems in Australia and limit its approval for distribution of larger units to 2 private manufacturers? Will the Minister say whether this proposal has been implemented? If so, will he ask his colleague to review this matter urgently? If not, will he ask his colleague to make an early statement to that effect.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
For quite some time now, Telecom Australia has been considering ways and means of improving service to customers in the supply of PABX equipment. The proposals mentioned in the Financial Review of 5 February arc in the formative stages and certainly have not been implemented. As is usual practice with questions of this nature, joint consultations with the telecommunications industry and appropriate staff associations have already been initiated and will be completed before final decisions are formulated.
– On 24 February 1976 Senator Messner directed the following question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications:
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the considerable dissatisfaction with the quality of television reception in the Streaky Bay district of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, as demonstrated in a recent petition signed by 770 persons.
Will he ask his colleague to request Telecom Australia to consider urgently ways and means of improving this service, perhaps through the erection of a translator installation in Central Eyre Peninsula.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer:
- Senator Rae asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on 26 February 1976 the following question, without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that approximately one week prior to the 13 December election the Australian Broadcasting Control Board issued a direction to commercial radio and television stations that all decisions regarding the publication of election news items should be made by news editors and that management was to take no part therein? If so, by what right and for what reason was that direction given.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer:
It would seem that the direction to which the Honourable Senator has referred was a circular letter from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and sent to all commercial broadcasting and television stations on 18 December 197S, one week after the General Election of 13 December 1975.
The circular letter referred to the Board’s inquiry into the coverage by commercial television stations of the report of the Joint Committee on Prices entitled ‘Prices of Household Soaps and Detergents’ and other matters.
The letter did not refer to election news items but rather to the respective responsibilities of news editors and management.
In particular, it arose from paragraph 27 of the Board’s report and recommendation to the Minister, arising out of the inquiry referred to above. The paragraph in question reads:
The Board has noted the evidence given on behalf of several licensees that news personnel have been clearly instructed that news decisions are to be based on editorial judgment alone, subject to managerial direction only on questions of defamation or breaches of the Board’s standards as to taste.
It was however obvious at the inquiry that this instruction was not known to all members of staff- even to all members of the news staff. The Board would propose to request licensees to reduce the instruction to writing and convey it to all staff members. It is not thought necessary to make this u substantive condition of the licence, but rather a requirement that should be policed by the Board from time to time in its general inspections of stations.
– On 26 February 1976, Senator Button asked Senator Withers the following question, without notice:
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760323_senate_30_s67/>.