30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact, as reported in today’s Australian, that a young Hobart man, Andre Colbert, has spent more than 6 months in an Indian prison without specific charges being laid against him? What information can the Minister give the Senate on this disturbing case? Will he urge the Minister for Foreign Affairs to make direct representation to the Indian Government to ensure that Mr Colbert is not left to rot in prison? If charges are to be laid will the Minister insist that this be done as quickly as possible and that they be heard in court?
-Surprising though it may seem, my attention has been drawn to an article in this morning’s Australian and I have sought information from my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which I will read. I do not know whether it will add much to the storehouse of knowledge. The brief says this:
Mr Andre Colbert was arrested in Calcutta on 28 September 1975 and is still in prison. He is a member of the Ananda Marg. Under the proclamation of the State of Emergency on 26 June 1 975 Ananda Marg Organisation has been proscribed. Its activities have been deemed inimical to Indian national interests and its members can be detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act and the Defence of India Rules. The Australian Consul-General in Calcutta was informed at the end of February that charges would not be laid against Mr Colbert under the DIR.
Mr Colbert, however, remains in detention under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act by the West Bengal State Government. Repeated inquiries have been made by the Australian High Commission, New Delhi, and the Australian Consulate-General, Calcutta, on his continued detention by the West Bengal authorities. Officers of the Australian Consulate-General visited Colbert last week, on 23 March, and again yesterday, 30 March. They have reported that Colbert was receiving medical attention from the prison authorities last week and his state of health now remains steady with no further deterioration.
The Consulate-General in Calcutta and the High Commission in New Delhi are continuing to make representations to both Central and State Indian authorities about Mr Colbert’s imprisonment. We are awaiting information from the Indian authorities on the possibility of his being released soon.
I will certainly take up the latter 2 parts of the honourable senator’s question with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the Minister’s statement yesterday concerning consultations he is having with State governments and industry in regard to the implementation of a national regulatory body for the securities industry. Can the Minister indicate how long the Minister whom he represents in the Senate is likely to take in these consultations and how soon it may be before a Bill to give effect to this matter will be introduced?
-Apart from the fact that the Minister’s statement yesterday indicated the course of discussions which he is pursuing and certain prospects which he has, I am unable to say when it will be possible to announce these decisions. I will convey the honourable senator’s interest to the Minister.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister aware that a meeting convened by the World Health Organisation was held at Manila in the Philippines early this week and that the purpose of the conference was the consideration of medical aid for Indo-China? Can the Minister inform the Parliament who represented Australia and whether it is the intention of the Australian Government to give medical aid to Indo-China? Can the Minister also advise the Senate of the amount of that aid and the probable form that it will take?
– I have no information on this subject at my fingertips. I will seek it for the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, concerns the provision of Federal funds to the States for swimming pools in certain areas. Can he say whether Commonwealth funds are available to subsidise State, local government or community funds to enable swimming pools to be constructed in country areas of Australia? Is he in a position to detail for the benefit of the Senate guidelines under which such a subsidy could be paid?
-Under the former Government there was a program under which money for capital works could be made available to bodies throughout Australia for the provision of recreational and sporting facilities. I forget the precise amount that was made available last year. But during the term of the caretaker Government, certain announcements were made concerning funds which were allocated for specific purposes. A considerable sum of money was involved in that announcement. A question now arises of whether, in view of the financial restraints which the Government considers it must impose in the interests of our national economic recovery, those projects should be pursued. I am in the course of discussing with the State governments whether the work for which the money was allocated has commenced with a view to limiting that expenditure as far as possible.
As to the future of this whole program, I have asked my Department to provide me with a comprehensive statement as to the role of Federal involvement in these activities which it sees in the light or our new policies. I trust that in due course as a government we can evolve an appropriate community development role. I am therefore unable to give any precise indications as to what will be the availability of funds in the future
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, is prompted by his reply to my question of last week in which he claimed that Queensland conservation policy on kangaroo harvesting was meeting the same standards as the policies in New South Wales and South Australia. How does he reconcile this statement with the assertion of Mr Tomkins, the Queensland Minister in charge of wildlife, who wants such a culling out program to include red neck wallabies, swamp wallabies and other rare types of marsupials? Does the same Minister want the royalty tags reduced from 20c a head to 10c a head? Does the Commonwealth Department have any effective figures showing the actual population of these marsupials? Finally, does he agree that, failing meaningful mediation to stop this slaughter, Queensland, instead of being known under its proud title of the Sunshine State, will be known henceforth as the slaughter State?
– I think the honourable senator is hard on both Queensland and the Minister to whom he refers. In the area of the conservation and management of kangaroos and wallabies- the whole range of macropods generally- there has been a great deal of consultation between .the Commonwealth and the States. There has been a working party in which State Ministers and their officials have cooperated with the Commonwealth Government, and the relevant officers of the departments to work out harvesting programs which have general agreement. Those programs have been effective. I think I indicated to Senator Mulvihill last week with regard to certain species of kangaroos that not only are we prepared to export, but also the United States of America is prepared to import kangaroo products because it is satisfied that we do have harvesting programs which will ensure a continuance of the species.
With regard to the wallabies- the red-necked wallabies, the black-striped wallabies, the swamp wallabies and the sandy wallabies- all these rare species do present a problem. I say to my colleagues who are seeking to assist me that I am not fully conversant with all of the species. There is a specific problem in that there has been no firm policy agreed upon for the harvesting of these wallaby species. Therefore there cannot be and there is not any export of their products. But recently there was an increase in the number of these species, and this is unusual. It has given rise to concern in Queensland and Queensland is inquiring whether or not we cannot have a proper harvesting program. This is in the course of development at present. I think the way that the Queensland Minister has acted has been to bring this matter to the attention of the Commonwealth. We are taking urgent steps to have the working party look at this program. I regret that I am unable to tell the honourable senator the number of macropods involved.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– 1 call Senator Mulvihill.
– Perhaps I could equate former Attorney-General Senator Greenwood with former United States AttorneyGeneral Bobby Kennedy who, when he was not sure whether the States were collaborating over the integration of negro students, had to send in Federal marshals. Without suggesting that, let me put my question to the Minister in this way: Is there any way that the apparatus at his disposal as a Commonwealth Minister can monitor the truth of the States as to their actual marsupial populations? In other words, is it possible to put helicopters in and count them, without relying on the State Ministers?
– I am intrigued by this idea of helicopter counting of macropods. I simply say to the honourable senator that the working party arrangements which I mentioned were developed in the lifetime of the previous Government. They have worked well. I am sure that they will continue to work well. With that sort of agreement, I think we can rely upon commonsense prevailing in an area where we are all concerned to protect rare species.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Industry: What is the Government’s plan for the development of adequate communication between it and the Australian tourist industry? What part, if any, does the Government expect the Australian Tourist Commission, ATC, and the Australian National Travel Association, ANTA, to play in strengthening the lines of communication.
-The Government has adequate communications with the tourist industry with which it meets regularly. Officials of the relevant department are in contact with the tourist industry all the time. I think that ANTA can do a very useful job in encouraging domestic travel. We are hoping that it will do that more and more. The Australian Tourist Commission is responsible for overseas travel arrangements and developments. If honourable senators read its original charter they will find that it was designed to correct the imbalance between the number of people leaving Australia and those coming to Australia. The figures that I have available so far show that it has not actually achieved that result yet. It is important, I think, to study the overall effect of what we call tourism in the Australian scene. I am of the view that we ought to be looking at it as a travel industry. It is an area of potential economic growth at which we are looking quite seriously with a view to helping, as much as we can, Australians to travel more in Australia.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Will the Minister ascertain details of the financial arrangements with the New South Wales Rugy League which enable the Australian Broadcasting Commission to replay Sydney Rugby League club fixtures on Queensland television channels? Does the arrangement with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the New South Wales Rugby
League entitle the ABC to screen these matches in Queensland without payment of a fee to the Queensland Rugby League? As this source of revenue is most valuable in promoting the league code throughout Queensland, will the Minister use his good offices to ascertain whether the ABC is willing to pay a separate fee?
-I think at the outset I should suggest that the honourable senator should declare his special interest in this matter. I certainly will take it up with my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in another place. Obviously I am not aware of the arrangements but I will seek information and get an answer for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Has the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station in Western Australia been granted a licence for 1976? If so, under what conditions, if any, has the licence been granted? Can the Government give an assurance that Australian representatives on the International Whaling Commission will continue to press for a total ban on all whaling?
-Because the honourable senator has told me of his interest in this matter I have some information available. Licences have been granted to the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station for 1976 on the following conditions: Catcher vessels are to operate within a 200 mile radius of Albany; the treatment of any whale taken or killed in the area shall commence at the whaling station within 33 hours of the whale being taken; the factory shall not be used for the cutting up of any whale that has not previously been measured by a whaling inspector in accordance with the whaling regulations; being licensed to operated under the Whaling Act 1 960, the company must observe the regulations concerning the prohibition against taking certain species of whales, females accompanied by calves or suckling whales, whales smaller than specified sizes and during specified closed seasons. The Government’s policy is to support the conservation of whales based upon the advice of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee. If the Committee recommends that a moratorium be applied to a particular stock of whales which are considered to be endangered, the Australian delegate on the Commission will be instructed to press for such a moratorium.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she is aware that there are many recipients of unemployment benefits living in country towns and provincial rural centres who are paid by cheque sent through the post? Would she acknowledge that the new provisions announced last week will require these people to present themselves personally with an income statement at an office of the Department of Social Security each fortnight? Will not this changed procedure mean that recipients of the dole will now be easily identified thus leading to the embarrassment of many whose identity hitherto has not been known to their fellow citizens? Can the Minister do anything to correct this position?
– It is a fact that the new guidelines require persons to present themselves personally each fortnight with their income statements, with the proviso that people who live in isolated areas or areas from which transport is not readily available could have that requirement varied. The honourable senator suggested that this would be an embarrassment for people because they would be personally identified as they had to call at an office of the Department. I admit that this could occur but people who are in receipt of unemployment benefit undoubtedly would be identified as people who are unemployed. It is recognised by Australians that there is a scheme of unemployment benefit, subject to a work test and the other provisions of that scheme, available to those in that circumstance.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that some mailbag delivery services have been greatly reduced, even though the cost of a mailbag postal service has increased by 100 per cent in the last 12 months, due to the policy of the previous Government? As mail services, including mailbag services, are an important and necessary part of communication in rural areas as well as in urban areas, will the Minister ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he will give consideration to improving those country mail services where no great cost increase is incurred, and I emphasise, because of the economic situation, ‘where no great cost increase is incurred 1
– I am acutely aware of the vital need for good mailbag and other mail services within rural areas. I am aware also of the difficulties that have occurred in the last year or two in this matter. I will be very happy to convey the message to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– I address my question to Senator Cotton following upon the question asked by Senator Missen. Senator Missen ‘s quetion, as I understand it, was whether the Government has a policy on the moratorium concerning whaling. I understood the Minister’s answer to be that the Government had not a policy itself but will simply accept the recommendations of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Am I correct in my interpretation?
-The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has a tremendous problem now because I have given my notes on this subject to Hansard. What I can remember is that it was stated that if the scientific committee finds that there is a problem the Australian delegate will be instructed to take positive action. That is the answer as I recollect it from the Minister for Primary Industry. The honourable senator asks his question and having been a Minister he probably has the answer too.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Is it a fact that some migrants, after becoming Australian citizens and qualifying for age pension benefits, return to their country of origin and are subsequently paid these welfare benefits for the rest of their lives? It has also been suggested that children of these people are deliberately bringing them out to Australia so that after a very short period they can return to their own countries and thereafter be paid Australian welfare benefits.
– The question had 2 parts. In answer to the first part, it is a fact that a person who satisfies the appropriate residential qualification and is granted an Australian pension and subsequently returns to the country of his origin is entitled to have those payments continued while he remains qualified in substantially the same conditions as if he were living in Australia. The answer to the second part of the question, which suggested that children of these people may be deliberately bringing them to Australia so that they will qualify for benefits, is something on which I am not prepared to comment without an investigation or substantiation. The answer to the first part is that migrants do retain their benefits if they return to their country of origin.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, follows previous questions about staff ceilings and possible retrenchments. The Minister no doubt will recall that on several occasions I have pointed out that the unions have met the Prime Minister and that some targets have been modified. As far as I am aware the unions have not been told yet whether the deadline of 30 June will be altered. I ask: Does the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government in the Senate intend to make a statement in respect of the representations made by the unions about the staff ceilings? Can the Minister give any information as to where the modifications have applied in respect of statutory commissions? Also, in view of the fact that the proposed Superannuation Bill does not now provide any added incentives for people to retire at 60, will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to reconsider any policies which were announced earlier in the year?
-I certainly will seek the information. I shall pass on the request of the honourable senator.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that there is some uncertainty and delay concerning the adoption processes for Vietnamese refugees and that the problem is occurring, at least in part, in South Australia? Has the Minister received reports on this matter, especially as to the various roles of State and Commonwealth authorities? Can the Minister help by providing any information on the matter to relieve the situation?
– It should be stated that at present I am the guardian of any of the Vietnamese refugees who come to Australia and who are awaiting adoption. State government authorities are the bodies which actually arrange the adoption of these children. At present there is consultation between State and Federal governments as to the way in which State governments may more completely act as my delegates in this matter. This is something which is the subject of conference. In relation to delays in the finality of these matters, it should be understood that many of these children arrive without papers and without the necessary documentation which would facilitate early adoption procedures. I assure the
Senate that anything which reaches my Department or my desk with an urgent tag is dealt with within 24 hours. There are delays and there have been delays because of the many difficulties in State courts and with State adoption procedures.
-The Minister for Education will be aware that the Commonwealth Teachers Federation held a stopwork meeting in Darwin yesterday to protest about the shortage of single teacher accommodation in the Northern Territory. Will the Minister advise the Senate what action is planned to overcome the shortage of accommodation which threatens the quality of education available to the children of the Northern Territory?
– I am advised that a stopwork meeting took place yesterday in the Northern Territory. My advice is that, nevertheless, a substantial number of teachers attended their schools at that time and continued the teaching of students. I think this fact should be noted. I received a telegram from the Commonwealth Teachers Federation drawing my attention to the fact that there was a stopwork meeting concerning single teacher accommodation and asking for my response. The honourable senator will recall that when I was in the Northern Territory recently, on my own initiative I sought to inspect single teacher and married persons’ accommodation from Alice Springs to the far north. Subsequently when I was in Darwin, I had some conversations with the Teachers Federation on the matter, which is a difficult one.
I do not seek to be partisan political but there has been difficulty over many years and the honourable senator knows that when his Party was in government the present situation was entrenched. There was an entrenched shortage of suitable accommodation for single teachers. The same difficulty applies to all members of the Commonwealth Public Service as I understand it. The real problem relates, firstly, to hostel accommodation and its suitability and, secondly, whether the provision of the single teacher accommodation which is now available is adequate. The honourable senator must know that there are different stages of building- namely stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3- in the course of development and each of these stages has particular facilities.
The teachers also raised with me the question of whether the charges for accommodation were equitable seeing that the same formula- that is, a percentage of salary- applies to single teachers and married teachers without specific relationship to the nature of the accommodation. I make it clear that I am as eager as anyone to get good living accommodation for teachers and for all public servants in the Territory. We want to attract the very best teachers to the Territory. It is imperative that we deliver the best educational services possible. Of course I want all public servants to have good living accommodation. 1 hope that we can achieve a solution to the accommodation problems by co-operation with the teachers involved and that they will not find it necessary to resort to stoppages or a disruption of education in order to underline something that they discussed with me a week or so ago and in respect of which I have given an indication of my good intent to carry out investigations and to help wherever possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Does he agree that the delivery of mail via a post office box saves the Postal Commission a great deal of money and yet there are now considerable fees for post office boxes which benefit the Commission as much as or more than the mail recipients? Is the Minister able to confirm that due to the high charges for post office boxes, many box holders are cancelling that facility? Will the Minister ask his colleague to request the Commission to examine the charges for these boxes?
– I am not aware of the exact quantum of saving to the Postal Commission for mail delivered to a post office box as distinct from delivery to a private home or an office. It is quite clear that there must be some magnitude of saving. I am not aware of the range of fees or increases payable for post office boxes, nor am I aware, although I accept the honourable senator’s statement, that there has been some cancellation of boxes or fall off in the use of this service because of the higher charges. Because this is an important matter I will take it up with my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and get a reply for Senator Townley.
– 1 ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development: Is it true that the Government has deferred the final approvals for expenditure in this year’s area improvement program? Is the Minister aware also that local bodies base then- income and expenditure on a calendar year, ending with the September-December quarter? Is the Minister satisfied that councils which qualify under the area improvement program will not be left in financial difficulties if all the money allocated to the area improvement program in this year’s Budget, that is, the current Budget, is not released?
-The fact is that certain moneys were allocated under the area improvement program before the Government took office after the election on 1 3 December. All the commitments which have been made will be honoured. There are still some outstanding moneys in respect of which applications are under consideration. No decision has been made as to whether any of these area program applications for which money currently is available will or will not be allowed to go ahead in terms of money which the Commonwealth makes available. I hope that a decision can be made in the near future.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. In doing so I draw her attention to a report in the Canberra Times this morning which deals with a proposal by the Liberal Party leader in the Legislative Assembly in the Australia Capital Territory, Dr Peter Hughes. He asks that consideration be given to increasing child endowment benefits. I should like to quote briefly from that article to give the Minister the background. The article reports Dr Hughes as saying:
Many working wives, mothers of young children, were reluctant members or the work force, because of economic pressures. Their income was often small, after paying child care fees, tax and the cost of fares or a second car.
I leave aside several important issues dealt with in the statement, such as child care facilities and taxation. I ask: Can the Minister say whether this proposal might be considered, particularly as it would expand the degree of choice for womenand in some cases for men- as to whether they work in employment outside the family and home? I ask also whether special consideration might be given to low income families in this context, as I understand Dr Hughes has also suggested.
– All matters can be considered but whether it is possible to have them implemented is a matter of budgetary concern, particularly at the present time. As I understand it, the suggestion from Dr Hughes was that child endowment for a family with 3 children should be increased to $30 a week. On the information that has been given to me, that would represent an increase of $26.50 a week on present rates, and an amount of approximately $750m annually would be required to meet such an increase. That amount of $750m does not take into account the fact that if child endowment payments were taxable, there would be some clawback from the Government’s point of view. I contrast that sum of $750m with the present sum of about $258m which is provided for child endowment. The figures show that, whilst it may be desirable to talk about providing a wider range of choice to enable women to remain in the home, the cost of increasing child endowment to the extent suggested would have those economic consequences.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, deals with the new provisions which require recipients of unemployment benefit to present themselves personally, with income statements in hand, each fortnight at an office of the Department of Social Security. What advice has the Minister had from her Department regarding the expected number of dole recipients who will fill the offices of the Department of Social Security each day when checking in with their statements? Has the Minister given approval for extra counter staff to be employed in these offices to cope with the expected long queues of people? Finally, does the Minister agree that this new provision will result in Australians finding themselves in dole queues reminiscent of those seen during the great depression?
-Consideration has been given by officers of the Department to the requirement regarding personal presentation of an income statement. It is believed that the existing counter staff will be able to deal with these people as they arrive with their income statements on a fortnightly basis. It should be understood that this will not have the same effect as people arriving to collect their cheques on the one day. The time is more flexible. It is believed that this matter can be dealt with and that the counter staff will be able to implement the provisions which require personal attendance to present these statements. It should be understood that unemployment benefits were collected personally not only during the great depression but also at much later stages. This is not a requirement to collect the unemployment benefit but simply to present the statement. It is believed that this is administratively possible with the present staff.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. The Minister will be aware that Queensland people have experienced long periods of inclement weather so far this year. He may also be aware that last weekend Brisbane residents were rewarded for their patience with some marvellous late March weather. Following that preface, I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that in a weather bureau telex released to newspapers on Monday, 29 March, the forecast for Brisbane city read in part: ‘Fine and fantastic’. If so, will the Minister inform the Senate whether further refreshingly novel forecasts are likely to be issued in the future?
– I have been alerted to the fact that the word ‘ fantastic ‘ was used in re 1 ation to a weather forecast in Queensland last Thursday. I think that we can imagine the situation in which, after the extremely wet summer that Queensland has experienced, 2 Brisbane weather forecasters on their midnight to dawn shift saw the prospect of an excellent day coming up. They were exuberant and, in the words of one outstanding dictionary which defines ‘fantastic’ as ‘being conceived by an unrestrained imagination’, they decided that they would use that word for the weather forecast for the following day. It appeared to me that the whole proposition may have been a brilliantly conceived promotional stunt, and typical of those which the recently elected Mayor of the Gold Coast, Sir Bruce Small, might use on such occasions. We may find that he will be describing Queensland ‘s weather in that way from now on. I think the word was unusual. It is not usual for the Bureau to use such words when issuing forecasts. Probably those words will not be used in forecasts again.
-Did the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development earlier last month visit the Glebe lands housing estate in Sydney? If so, can he detail what progress is being made with the rehabilitation program being undertaken on the estate under his direction?
– It is a fact that I visited the Glebe lands housing estate which the Commonwealth Government purchased, I think, 2 years ago, for the purpose of informing myself about an area of Sydney about which I knew very little. I was very attracted by the Glebe area. I did not know that such pleasant parts of Sydney existed so close to the heart of the metropolis. Most of the houses on the estate which, I think, was purchased from the Church of England are in a somewhat dilapidated condition. A great deal of work has to be done to restore these houses in such a way that the character of the neighbourhood will not be lost. There are limitations on the amount of work that can be done because of limitations of finance. But I must say that I thought that the restoration work that had been done to some of the houses- admittedly to very few of them- was completely in accordance with the maintenance of the distinctive neighbourhood characteristics. The Government must make decisions concerning this estate which are related largely to the finance that is available. This is a matter which currently is under consideration.
-The Leader of the Government in the Senate will recall the question I asked of him on 2 March in which I sought assurance that the installation of the proposed television service for Leigh Creek in South Australia would not be delayed because of the Government’s cuts of $8. 4m in funds for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Leader will recall also his promise to consult his colleague and to get the information for me. I now ask: When can I expect to be provided with an assurance that the installation of a television service for Leigh Creek will be commenced without delay, as promised in the Minister’s Press release of 10 December 1975?
-I regret that the honourable senator has not yet received a reply from my colleague. I shall do my utmost to expedite the reply.
-My question is addressed to Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen reports that the South Australian Minister for works, Mr Corcoran, claims that a lack of communication on the part of the Federal Government is jeopardising the implementation of the $100rr water filtration scheme in Adelaide? Will the Minister request his colleague to make an early statement on the continuation of the Federal funding program for this scheme?
-I have not seen the report but I am always astonished by these observations about lack of communication. There is a telephone, there are letters and there are telegrams. Senators also can go and see Ministers. I know nothing about this matter but if lack of communication is claimed it quite astonishes me. Why can Mr Corcoran not ring Mr Lynch?
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware that the failure of the present Government to continue with plans which were in train under the Labor Government to increase benefits under the Australian Government Employees’ Compensation Scheme has caused undue financial hardship to many beneficiaries? Has the Government plans to increase benefits under the Australian Government Employees Compensation Scheme? If so, when will these plans be announced?
– It is a fact that for some time there have not been increases in benefits paid under the Australian Government Employees Compensation Scheme. The matter is being considered at present by the Government and an announcement will be made when the Government has made its policy decisions on these matters.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In view of the fact that the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission are now expected to be financially self-sufficient and to contribute to their own capital expansion, what safeguards can the Minister give that the interests of families living in remote areas which would be patently unprofitable to service are being protected?
-As I understand it, the Postal and Telecommunications commissions have a responsibility to function both as independent statutory bodies and in a profitable way, but there is an overriding consideration and that is that the government of the day has the power and the responsibility to intervene where policies may be necessary to provide equity and some form of social justice. I will draw the attention of the Minister to the question by Senator Thomas and I will ask him to respond.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and
Community Development. I refer to the answer which he just gave to Senator Baume relating to the Glebe lands. In that answer he said that the development ofthe Glebe area would depend on the finance available. I ask the Minister: Does he see that there are perhaps certain inconsistencies in his own portmanteau portfolio in regard to these matters and that it is not merely a question of provision of land for housing but also a question of the restoration and preservation of historic areas of Sydney and indeed of Australia? Does he agree that if money is not spent on these areas in the next few years the whole purpose of the Australian Heritage Commission and the whole purpose of the thrust to restore and maintain historic spots will be lost? Has he considered those matters and what are the current plans for the Australian Heritage Commission?
– I appreciate Senator Button’s interest and goodwill but I think that there is a lot of misconception and muddle in the question which he asks. The Glebe estate is essentially an area in which people are living at the present time. The Commonwealth Government purchased the lands because the Church of England could not sustain them and there was a need to maintain a characteristic neighbourhood with some heritage value and to ensure that the people could live there. The cost of restoring these homes is great. It must be a matter of what money is available in determining the progress of the work of restoration.
With regard to the other question, I do not think there is a relationship between what is done in Glebe and the broad thrust of the Heritage Commission and other aspects about which Senator Button spoke. I have said in the Senate many times that the Government is committed to the objectives of preserving our national estate and maintaining our heritage- the objectives of the Heritage Commission. But we want to avoid duplication of similar activities which are taking place in the States. We want to ensure that we get value for money. Therefore, all these matters are being given consideration by the Government with a view to ensuring in the best possible way that our heritage is preserved. I do not think that much of what the previous Government did was given proper consideration before decisions were taken, and we do not intend to fall into the same error.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. By way of introduction may I point out that the Ministers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries with portfolios corresponding to that of our Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations met in Geneva in February and March this year to discuss the high rate of unemployment in their respective countries. They recommended strengthening the unemployment benefit, the creation of programs of public works to provide more employment and that income maintenance programs be instituted. Does the Minister agree that these proposals are the direct opposite to actions taken by his Government? Does this give him some cause for concern?
– I see no inconsistency between the steps which the Government has taken and is proposing to take and the objectives of the Ministers to whom the honourable senator referred. Indeed, the concern of the present Government is to build up employment and to reduce the numbers of unemployed. It ought never to be forgotten that during the period from 1950 to 1972 when Liberal-Country Party governments were in office the rate of unemployment throughout this country never exceeded 2 per cent, except possibly in 1960 when in one month the rate was marginally above that. This record was unequalled throughout the world. When the Australian Labor Party came to office in 1972, the rate of unemployment increased in a measure which took us back to the depression days of the 1930s for a comparison. That fact ought never to be forgotten by the Australian Labor Party and by the people of Australia. The previous Government which one might suppose, if one believed its propaganda, would protect the work force of this country in fact betrayed the work force. Our policies will prevail and we will ensure that there is full employment in this country because Australia is a country which can provide full employment.
– I direct a question to Senator Cotton, either in his capacity as the Minister representing the Treasurer or as the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, whichever is appropriate. By way of brief introduction, I refer to the fact that it was announced Liberal-National Country Party policy to make long term loans available for the purchase of modern fishing vessels on the basis of a 30 per cent to 50 per cent equity. Have any steps been taken yet to implement this policy? If they have, can the Minister indicate what they are and what provision is made available for that purpose? If not, can he indicate when fishermen may be able to anticipate that such arrangements will be available to them?
-It is my understanding that that matter is being worked on now with a view to reaching a decision to satisfy the undertakings given. I can be no more precise about the time factor involved but I shall find out for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. In the light of the fact that the Government has conceded that it has no definite Federal policy on regional affairs, will he nonetheless undertake to ensure that sufficient finance is made available to the New South Wales State Government in order that the Bathurst-Orange growth centre program may proceed?
– I again reiterate that the Government is considering the various options available to it in the area of decentralised development. No project at the present time is imperilled. Certainly, the Bathurst-Orange project is not in any jeopardy as the result of Government considerations. In due course the Government will have to make its decisions and announce them to the various State governments which are looking to the Commonwealth Government for assistance. But I am not aware of any outstanding request from the State Government of New South Wales with regard to Bathurst-Orange which is currently unfulfilled. The State Government itself initiated the Bathurst-Orange project. I have been to the area. As I see it, houses have been constructed and are being lived in. There is an impetus which is growing from what has already taken place there. I think that the State Government’s initiative is exemplary.
– My question, which is directed to Senator Withers, the Minister representing the Prime Minister, concerns Western Australia. Since he has a special interest in Western Australia, I would expect him to have some familiarity with the subject. Has the Government of Western Australia sought either direct or indirect Federal financial assistance for the following purposes and, if necessary, I can supply Press references later: A $ 1.5m grant for cyclone damage at Port Hedland; a $3 8m grant to upgrade Western Australia rail services; $6m for Gascoyne water supplies; and a subsidy to maintain the State shipping service to Darwin? Has the Government of Western Australia protested about the 150 per cent increase in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority charges for 4 north-west ports? Will he find out and tell the Senate when the submissions were received, whether the Federal Government has replied to any of them and, if so, in what terms?
-The answer to the 3 questions is yes.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security as Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it correct that funds have been deferred for the proposed improvements to the facilities of the Montagu Medical Union at Rosebery on the west coast of Tasmania? Is the Minister aware that this isolated mining community of some 6000 people is served by the Montagu Medical Union and that, over the next 1 8 months, the population will rise by a further 2000 persons as a result of the Tullah hydro-electric development, and that reasonable medical services are vital?
-I was not aware of the facts referred to by the honourable senator with regard to the growth of population of this area, but I am aware that the question of funds during 1 975-76 to make a start on a health centre at Rosebery to be operated by the Montagu Medical Outfit is still under consideration by the Government. The Government has received representations from the Tasmanian Government which have emphasised the need for this facility, particularly in view of population growth. At the present time this matter is still under consideration and no decision has yet been reached.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It again refers to an answer that he gave to a previous question, this time addressed to him by Senator Melzer who asked him about unemployment. Senator Greenwood made the point, as I understood it, that there was a low level of unemployment during the last period of Liberal-Country Party Government. I take it that the view of the honourable senator is that that was due to some genius on the part of the Liberal-Country Party Government and had nothing to do with world economic conditions during that period. I ask the Minister whether he is saying in answer to that question that as a result of a return to LiberalNational Country Party Government there will not be in this country a level of unemployment above 2 per cent in the next 3 years, 4 years or 5 years.
– Say 23 years under us and you would be right.
– Or in the next 3 years or 6 years, if that be the case.
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question depends essentially on the length of time it takes to achieve the economic recovery which we are seeking. When that economic recovery returns we expect to be able to maintain full employment at the level we showed over 20-odd years we were able to sustain. It ought not to be forgotten that the Labor Party created an unemployment figure of 5 per cent. Currently the figure, be it actual or seasonally adjusted, is just under 5 per cent. Whether we can continue to bring that down progressively over the next few months or few years will depend upon economic recovery. We trust that in that exercise we will have the cooperation of the honourable senator and his colleagues.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to a report appearing on the front page of today’s Melbourne Age alleging that the Federal Government has scrapped plans to finance a centre in Melbourne to give young people contraceptive advice and sex counselling and that the Family Planning Association of Victoria which was to run the centre has been so informed by the Federal Government. Is the report correct? Does it relate to the family planning ‘action centres’ which the previous Government proposed to establish in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane? If so, can the Minister indicate when I can expect an answer to my question on this subject placed on the notice paper on 3 March 1976?
– I have no information that I can give to the honourable senator with regard to the statement in the Age of today’s date with regard to the contraceptive centres in Melbourne. I regret that he has not yet received an answer to his question placed on notice on 3 March. I will see that an answer is expedited. I hope that it will contain the information which he now seeks.
-Is it a fact that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has approved the redundancy of positions of some 70 employees in his Department into which has been incorporated the former Department of Tourism and Recreation? Is it a fact that unless these employees can be placed in other Public Service positions or with statutory authorities they will be retrenched? If that is not so can the Minister inform the Senate what efforts are being made to keep these people in employment?
– I am aware of the matters to which Senator Bishop refers. He will appreciate that my Department is a new department consisting of the former Department of Environment, the former Department of Urban and Regional Development and part of the former departments of Housing and Construction and Tourism and Recreation. The Secretary of my Department had the task of reconstituting the Department and establishing various positions. That was completed in early February this year. Work then ensued on appointing persons from the former departments which comprise the new Department to the various positions and various procedures were taken to achieve that.
There are now 125 persons who cannot be placed and those persons have been or will be given notice of that fact. I think notices either went out yesterday or will go out today. I am assured that they are also being told of their rights and opportunities. Their rights and opportunities include being able to apply for other vacant positions throughout the Public Service. A unit has been established within my Department to advise these people of other opportunities that might be available and to assist them to be placed. It is hoped that in that way the problems which inevitably have to be faced when a new department is established can be eased and, in the case of all these employees, overcome. I am unable to say what the position would be if in due course people are not placed but there are many procedures which have yet to be followed. For example, appeals may be made and will have to be decided with regard to positions which have been filled and I think the time for the lodging of those appeals has not yet expired.
-I have further information in the continuing saga of the Blackwater television translator service. Following upon
Senator Colston’s further representations last night concerning the availability of television to the people of Blackwater in Queensland, I am pleased to repeat that the translator has been completed and is on test for 2 weeks. This is normal procedure before opening which is scheduled for 12 April. However, I have been informed that in this case, in order to assist with installation of sets by television servicemen in the area, transmission on the first couple of days of that 2-week period was restricted to the colour test pattern and that may account for the telegraph that the honourable senator received from a person in the area. I am further informed that as from this evening viewers in Blackwater will be able to enjoy the programs subject only to minor technical difficulties that might arise. I hope that this is a happy conclusion to the problem, because it is important that these people should receive good television service.
– I refer to a question which was asked by Senator Harradine on Tuesday this week in respect of which I have further information to provide. Senator Harradine addressed a question to me which raised matters associated with the effect of Government financial restraints on the operation of the arbitration inspectorate in Tasmania. The arbitration inspectorate, along with other areas of Government activity, has been subject to fund restrictions on 3 occasions- firstly, as a result of the 1975-76 Budget; secondly, during the period of uncertainty about Supply in October-November 1975 and, thirdly, as a result of financial restraints imposed in January 1976. Senator Harradine ‘s question refers to matters associated with those earlier financial restraints as well as with present financial restrictions.
I state the following facts as relevant. The arbitration inspectorate in Tasmania is staffed by 3 officers, not by two. These comprise one senior inspector and 2 inspectors. One of these latter inspectors is currently on annual leave. Routine inspections have ceased in favour of directing available resources to investigation of complaints. It is also the case that visits by inspectors to the north, north-west and west coast have declined from 7 man-weeks per month to one man-week per month. However, previously much time during visits to country areas was spent in conducting routine inspections. The visits are now directed solely to investigation of complaints and, accordingly, the time devoted to investigation of complaint matters in country areas has not declined to nearly so great an extent.
With the exception of a brief period in October 1975, inspectorate staff have not been required to use public transport. Government cars are available to inspectors for the investigation of complaints, both in Hobart and in visits to country areas. The reference to dole tickets refers to travel warrants available under the fares assistance scheme to clients of the Commonwealth Employment Service who need travel assistance. A travel warrant was issued to an inspector on only one occasion during the October 1975 period and that was for one return trip to a Hobart suburb. One inspector on his own initiative undertook to use his privately owned bicycle on official business during the October 1975 period. The use of his bicycle for official purposes had not been approved and, in accordance with the Public Service regulations, his subsequent application for a bicycle allowance was refused. In addition the area covered by the use of the bicycle did not extend to a radius of 20 miles from the General Post Office Hobart. The particular question of replacement of worn out bicycle tyres was not raised. It should also be added that during the period around October 1975 no allowances were available for the use of privately owned transport in any form. The inspector who used the bicycle has not left the inspectorate but has been temporarily promoted to higher duties in the normal course of Public Service business and it is expected that he will resume in the inspectorate in July.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the letters from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition nominating the following members of the House of Representatives to serve on the following Joint Committees:
Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System- Mr Cadman, Dr Jenkins, Mr Peter Johnson, Mr Morris, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Yates, and Mr Young.
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence- Mr Armitage, Mr Beazley, Mr Brown, Mr Bryant, Mr Fry, Mr Garland, Mr Hamer, Mr Jacobi, Dr Klugman, Mr Neil, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Shipton, Mr Short and Mr Sullivan.
Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory- Mr Bungey, Mr Crean, Mr Fry, Mr Haslem, Mr Mackenzie and Mr Sainsbury.
Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House- Mr Kevin
Debate resumed from 17 March on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not oppose this Bill. It does in fact stem from efforts and initiatives which were taken by the previous Government in an endeavour to maximise the relationship between Japan and Australia. It was felt by the previous administration that certain areas of that relationship had not been explored and expanded to the extent which would be to the mutual benefit of our 2 countries. I am sure that we are all aware of the enormous expansion in trade between Japan and Australia in recent years. I think it is fair to say that that expansion has been supported and fostered by both Liberal and Labor Governments over the years. Of course this has been essentially a business relationship. It has been restricted largely to the economic relationship between the 2 countries. It was for that reason that in December 1974 the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, invited a committee comprising Mr Kenneth Myer, Professor Crawcowe of the Australian National University, Mr Munro of the Prime Minister’s Department and Mr J. R. Rowland of the Department of Foreign Affairs, under the chairmanship of Sir John Crawford, to prepare a basic outline report on the arrangements needed to advance a wider spectrum of relations between the peoples of Australia and Japan. In that letter Mr Whitlam made these points:
Extending beyond the range of the Cultural Agreement Mr Tanaka and I agreed that it was essential that Australia and Japan should increase the opportunities for the people of each country to come to know each other better and to understand more deeply the importance of each country to the other. We agreed accordingly that there should be further consultations on the arrangements needed in each country, and between them, to advance a wider spectrum of relations between the 2 peoples. . . . Basically, I would like to see a concept developed which would give Australia a base in Japan for the range of contacts we wish to develop, with Japan, of course, having the option to base a counterpart operation in Australia. I envisage that such a concept would look to the eventual establishment of a joint Australia- Japan committee of management or foundation to advise policy for both governments.
It is really from that initiative that this legislation has arisen and is currently before the Parliament. I do not wish to go at any length into the objectives of the Bill because I feel certain that there is an acceptance of the objectives of the Foundation by both sides of the Parliament. But there are some matters which I feel it is important to raise and which are pertinent to the relationship at the present time between Australia and Japan. One aspect ofthe Bill needs attention drawn to it immediately. It is something about which I hope the Minister will satisfy me during the course of his reply. When the Foundation was envisaged and when the original statement was made to set it up, the Australian Labor Party Government undertook to allocate $500,000 for the first year’s operation ofthe Foundation. It agreed to adjust funds annually to compensate for inflation.
I am not able to find anything in the Bill which suggests that a similar commitment is being undertaken by the Government in this case. Therefore I ask the Minister: Is it the Government’s intention to ensure that once the Foundation is operating at the expected level of activity it will not be restricted by lack of finance through inflation, at least in the 12 months ahead? I believe that the Government’s ostensible support for the Foundation has some factors about it which ought to be queried when we compare that support with the actions which were taken by the previous Government. For example, as a Government we increased the translation services in Japan of Australian publications in order to maximise the dissemination in that country of material concerning Australia. It is now my understanding that those translation services are to be reduced. Accordingly, although the original objective of the Labor Government will not be cut out, the effect of it will be reduced.
This seems to be contrary to the spirit and the purpose of this Foundation. Not only is it intended to be to some degree an institutional Foundation- that is, where institutions would be represented- but also it is to be a foundation for representation of individuals. I will come back to that aspect later. Again, I ask the Minister: Is it the intention of the Government to reduce the translation services which have been available in the Australian Embassy in Tokyo? Another matter of concern which is related directly to this is the Government’s decision as part of its cost cutting program to disband the Consulate at Osaka. That is another example where the contact between the 2 peoples of the 2 countries obviously must receive a setback. I assume that the Government has taken this action on a permanent basis. I ask the Minister to comment on whether or not it is the Government’s intention to keep the Consulate in Osaka closed indefinitely. Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Commission decided to continue the radio program Report from Asia, which is a program to which I listened on many occasions. If it had not been for the protests which were mounted against the discontinuance of that particular program we would have seen the end of it. Fortunately, sufficient pressure was brought to bear to ensure that those broadcasts, which included matters concerning Japan, will be continued by the ABC. I refer now to the membership of the Foundation. It is important to consider the original intentions of the previous Government, In a Press statement issued by the previous Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, on 1 3 August last year, he said:
The objectives of the Foundation will be to deepen and widen contacts between Australia and Japan in all fields, including business, academic, cultural, scientific and the trade unions.
There seems to be a suggestion now that the bodies to be represented under the present Government’s proposal in some way will be reduced. I ask honourable senators to compare that statement of the previous Prime Minister with a statement made on 30 January this year by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) relating to the Foundation in which he said:
It will promote mutual visits by selected persons, research and comparative studies in the social institutions of the 2 countries, the social and natural sciences, industrial and creative arts and the humanities.
What concerns me is that I feel the last thing that should happen is for us to see the membership of this Foundation completely restricted or institutionalised to the point where those persons who have not had the opportunity in the past to be involved in a relationship with another country will be precluded from doing so now because of a change of attitude on the part of this Government. We know that in the business community particularly and in the academic world there have been considerable contacts between the two countries. Originally it was intended- this is the reason why, for example, trade unions were to be included in the membership of the Foundationto widen contact between those 2 sections of the Australian community. But I am heartened by and I ask the Minister to comment on a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in the Canberra Times on 2 March this year. In that statement, in answer to a question about the composition of the Foundation, Mr Peacock said:
In fact, we would hope that the fellowships that would be granted under this would operate similarly to the Winston Churchill fellowships.
It seems clear from reading that comment that he also would like to see on the Foundation a fairly wide ranging composition of people who will be affected by the Foundation’s activities. As we know, the Winston Churchill fellowships cover a wide spectrum of the community, and that is one of their great strengths. I trust that the Minister will consider seriously the original intentions of the Labor Government and that we will see a wide representation of people on the Foundation and also connected with all its activities.
I also draw the attention of the Minister to an article in the Australian Foreign Affairs Record of December 1 975. It refers to the fact that funds were committed under the cultural agreement with Japan and that the Australian Government has acquired premises in Tokyo for an AustraliaJapan academic and cultural centre. As this debate concerns Japan, I ask the Minister to indicate whether the Government intends to proceed with that project. If the project is to be delayed or put off because of the cost-cutting programs that the Government has instituted, the Government should answer the contradiction that obviously is involved in taking such an action. As I have indicated, we are not opposing the legislation. The questions that I have raised are perhaps peripheral to the basic intention of the legislation but I hope that we will receive answers to them.
I believe that it would be wrong to allow this Bill to pass without referring to the quite extraordinary events that we have witnessed in the last three or four days as a result of statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). As we know, Mr Anthony, as the Minister for National Resources, was in Japan recently. He has since made a statement which one could only reasonably interpret to mean that he sees Japan as a potential aggressor against Australia if we do not see fit to supply Japan with uranium. I indicated earlier in my remarks, and I have said it previously in this chamber, that I believe that over the years both Labor and Liberal governments have endeavoured to develop and expand the trading relationship with Japan and indeed the other aspects of our relationship which this Bill is all about. Yet in one stroke the No. 2 man in the Government of this country possibly has done more than any other person to undermine all the work that has been done by so many other people over the years to build up confidence and trust between Australia and Japan. I could not imagine anything more irresponsible for a man in Mr Anthony’s position to say than what he has said in the last three or four days. Of course, he endeavoured to explain it away and to backtrack. The fact is that the thought was very clearly in his mind. Any person in a position of such seniority, who would allow himself to be so ill-disciplined in public as to make such a statement, in decency ought to resign his position. Obviously Mr Anthony will not do that.
– Ha, ha!
-Senator Withers laughs. He may not remain as a member of the Government himself because I remember his recent remarks about the Australian Broadcasting Commission which I think were equally illdisciplined. If Senator Withers and some of his colleagues continue to make statements of that nature, perhaps they ought to resign as well. I am concerned particularly that Mr Anthony should have been so irresponsible as to make this statement publicly. Only this morning on an Australian Broadcasting Commission news report from Japan 1 heard one of Japan’s politicians, I think it was, expressing disbelief that a person in a position of responsibility in Australia would have made such a remark. I trust that the damage that has been done will not be permanent and that the Japanese at least will realise that there are interests and people in this country who wish to continue to develop the relationships which have been striven for by many people in recent years. We shall not oppose this legislation. I trust that once the legislation is passed the Government will proceed with expediting the formation of this Australia-Japan Foundation and that it will be a further step in securing a proper relationship between the 2 countries which I am sure all of us would like to see.
– I welcome this legislation to establish the Australia-Japan Foundation. I would share the concern expressed by Senator Wriedt if there were to be any lessening in contact but I do not believe that there will be. I believe, of course, that contact should be on as wide a basis as is possible. Some honourable senators will recall the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence contained in a report on Japan which it released several years ago when it dealt at some length with the widening of contact between Australia and Japan. I quote initially recommendation No. 15 at page 82 of that report.
The Committee believes that the future stability of Australia-Japan relations must be based on cultural and social factors, as well as the economic relationship. The Committee is strongly of the view that emphasis must be given in the future to the further stimulation of mutual understanding between Australians and the widely differing cultures of Asia.
The Committee then proceeded to make a series of further recommendations regarding the teaching of languages and social studies at primary school level in Japan and so forth. I mention one recommendation in particular, which concerned the disproportionately high air fares which are impeding travel between Australia and Japan. I note that Mr Menadue has referred to this matter at a seminar on Australia-Japan trade relations. In the Committee we were very conscious of the need to broaden our relations at all levels.
Unquestionably, the .Australia-Japan Foundation would assist in creating a better understanding between our 2 countries. In the past the relations have been mainly economic. We should acknowledge the work of a number of organisations, such as Rotary, the Lions clubs, with their student exchange programs, the AustralianJapan Business Co-operation Committee and the Australia- Japan societies in the various States, all of which have played a significant, if small, role in increasing understanding. Certainly their efforts have assisted in broadening understanding between our 2 countries. Japan is our most important trading partner but it is also an important regional economic power and may become also a very important regional political power. Despite the mutual importance of the 2 nations to each other, Japan is still culturally a strange land. At page 74 of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence it is stated in respect of this matter.
There is evidence to show that a great deal of mutual goodwill exists at the present time arising largely from satisfactory trading, but goodwill alone is no substitute for understanding and if not nurtured by deeper understanding could wither, particularly if economic circumstances were to change. It cannot be denied that the obstacles to reaching full understanding are great- the two countries are the antithesis of each other in history, geography, language and culture.
On page 73 of the report- this is significant to the legislation- the Committee said that we cannot, on the scale needed to achieve lasting and personal relationships between the peoples of the 2 countries, do so without substantial participation by governments. Here we have for the first time, except for the Australia-Japan Cultural Agreement, participation by the 2 Governments. Our close economic relations are recent. Our search for diversified markets has coincided with what has become known as the economic miracle in Japan. In fact there was no miracle. Japan’s spectacular economic growth was based upon enterprise, hard work, a great sense -
– It was a spectacle rather than a miracle.
-Yes. I think ‘miracle’ is a very unfortunate word, Senator Button. I was saying that it was based upon enterprise, hard work and a great sense of national unity and national purpose. The late Prime Minister, Mr Yoshida, commented upon this. Those comments are worth noting and they are reported at page 8 of the Committee ‘s report as follows:
Mr Yoshida summed up these factors when he said: ‘It was the diligence, initiative and creative ability of the Japanese people that enabled them to exploit the advantages offered’.
It was not so much a miracle as the ability of the Japanese people to take advantage of the opportunities offered and to reveal the very strong and, I think, admirable characteristics of the Japanese race. Japan possesses a unique culture. She has been influenced in the past by her close neighbours, China and Korea. Japan has retained most significantly her own distinctive culture. Throughout recent times, whilst not rejecting what is good from Western nations, Japan has retained to a remarkable degree what is good in Japanese culture and society and has blended these 2 influences. The maintenance of traditional Japanese values and social forms is seen as an important source of strength and national unity. Japan has always been a culturally resilient nation. It has not been as open to Western cultural penetration as the less cohesive nations have been.
Japanese society has been affected by many changes. The traditional family structure has to some extent broken down. Japan was initially a rural society and it has changed from a predominantly rural society in a very short space of time into a modern industrial society. Threequarters of the population of Japan today live in urban areas. This traditional structure has also been broken down by economic growth, higher education, emphasis on individuality and many other factors. Despite these influences which are causing some concern in parts of Japan, that country has maintained its ancient and unique culture which was developed during a long period of isolation from early in the 1 7th century almost up to the Meiji restoration in 1868. During that period, influences upon the Japanese from outside the country were virtually unknown except in the technological field where some influences penetrated. We must understand that the gap between our culture and traditional Japanese culture remains wide. It will require effort and tolerance on both sides to bridge the gap to the mutual advantage of both countries. I think that it is worth quoting what was stated on page 11 of the Committee’s report because it highlights the problems:
To a Western person the Japanese are exceedingly complex and no doubt the Japanese feel the same way about Westerners.
Then the report quotes the evidence of a witness who had lived for a very long period in Japan. He highlighted the difference in attitudes. He said:
Japanese will try to give you the answer they think you want … To their mentality it is not lying. The fact is that as far as possible you do not do anything to hurt another’s feelings. What they are trying to do is to give you an answer and keep up your good spirits. They have a saying that foreigners- and 1 am a foreigner in Japan of coursespeak too clearly’. We tend to say what we mean and we say it too bluntly . . .
I think that that evidence highlights the different attitudes which it is necessary to understand. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence expressed the belief that the future stability of Australia-Japan relations must be based, as I said previously, on cultural and social factors as well as upon this close economic relationship. There is in Australia an increased interest in the cultures of Asia. Many of our schools and universities are taking a greater interest in teaching not only the languages but also the cultures of the 2 countries. The University of Western Australia has a unique department of Japanese studies within the faculty of economics. The course offered by that department at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level is in the Japanese language and the economics, history and culture of Japan. It is a combined course. It is still the only course in Australia, as far as I know, that combines all these various factors. It encourages the students to go to Japan, to live there and to complete their studies there. There is no doubt that the Australia-Japan Foundation will assist in the extension of this work.
We must appreciate that Japan, with far greater resources than we possess, probably will be able to do more in this Foundation than we can. Nevertheless it is necessary for the Japanese to travel because they realise that only by increasing their knowledge and the knowledge of outsiders in their unique society and culture can they overcome the reputation- I think probably today not altogether justified- that the Japanese people suffer peninsularity and isolation from the rest of the world. Certainly, in the past that was the reputation that the Japanese had. I think that this Foundation will do a great deal. We have much to learn from the ancient, fascinating and distinctive culture and social life of Japan. The establishment of the AustraliaJapan Foundation will assist both countries to understand and appreciate the value of each other.
We will be able to gain the full benefit of close economic relations only if we are able to appreciate the great cultural tradition that is the inheritance of the Japanese. I warmly support this Bill because I believe it will be of great mutual benefit to and add to the understanding of our 2 nations. I would hope that we would look to the establishment of similar foundations in the future to increase our understanding and knowledge of other nations in Asia.
– I rise to speak very briefly on this Bill having only a minute ago acquired a copy of it from my Leader, Senator Wriedt, for which I am extremely grateful. As has been indicated, the Opposition supports this legislation which was put forward in fact at the time of the Labor Government but did not reach the Senate. I was able to see some of the objectives of the Foundation which appear in clause 5 of the Bill- indeed, Senator Sim has adverted to a number of thoseparticularly the question of cultural exchange and the importance, as the honourable senator put it, of understanding the traditions and culture of Japan.
Let me put briefly to the Senate the view that, while I share Senator Sim’s enthusiasm for this endeavour, I think we ought to be fairly modest about the level of attainment which we can hope for in studying and understanding Japanese history and culture. What one in all reality suspects is behind the establishment of this Foundation is the very real fact that since 1971 Japan has become Australia’s most significant trading partner. I find it rather sordid to think that the importance of understanding and appreciating a nation’s culture should be appended, as it were, to the importance which we attach to trade with that country.
The fact ofthe matter is that in spite of all our good endeavours of this kind we must realise for example that in the last 20 years in this country where there has been much stress in public noises and utterances placed on the importance of learning Asian languages, our level of achievement in this area is indeed very low. In spite of that emphasis which people like yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President, I believe have been associated with over a number of years, we still concentrate very largely in most educational institutions on the study of European languages. The incidence of study of the Japanese language in the majority of secondary schools in Australia and indeed in Australian universities is extremely low.
– How many, Senator?
– I am quite unable to say.
– I will tell you later.
-It looks as if I will have to come back into the Senate after the sitting is suspended for lunch to hear this revealed truth from Senator Baume. But if one wanders in an impressionistic sense through Australian schools and asks how many children are learning the Japanese language or its history and culture, there is a massive void. Senator Baume will statistically reveal the extent of that void when the Senate resumes this afternoon, I have no doubt.
What I am saying is this: Let us look at the reality of this Bill. We have been a significant trading partner with Japan since 1 97 1 . We have now arrived at the situation where we feel we should establish the Australia-Japan Foundation because perhaps it will help us in our trade relations if we understand also something about the culture and history of Japan. I think that that is really the truth of the situation. We should be modest in our aspirations in this regard. I have mentioned the incidence of Japanese language teaching in Australia. I wish also to touch on another aspect of the understanding of Australians that was raised by Senator Sim.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was talking about the incidence of Japanese language study in Australia and had given an impressionistic view of it- a broad sweep, as it were. I understand that later Senator Baume is to come in with what might be described by the French as a pointillist approach. That is an expression which Senator Baume will understand but not Senator Withers, who is smiling. In musical terms I suppose it is the difference between a symphonic view and a pizzicato view, and Senator Baume I understand will give the latter. It is a pity that I was interrupted when in full flight on this issue. I had got to the point of concluding the observations I had to make about language study and was about to discuss the influence of Japanese culture in Australia to date. I suppose it can be said that I was in full flight because certain things from my own experience came back to me. I thought of the reading that one did as a student in Australia about Japanese history and culture. This really seemed to turn on the Russo-Japanese war and a study of the cinematographic merit of the film The Seven Samurias and thinks of that kind.
Since the War I suppose things have changed a lot in that regard and there is a certain commercial aspect of Japanese culture in Australia which reflects itself in the sale of bonsai trees and Japanese flower arrangements and items of that kind. The point I am seeking to make is that all these things have made a very superficial impact on Austraiian society and if our aspirations in relation to an understanding and appreciation of Japanese history and culture are as grandiose as the objectives of this Bill, as set out in clause 5, we are bound to be disappointed. I do not think that those objectives will be achieved and we are kidding ourselves if we expect that they will eventuate in Australia in the next 2 decades at least. The reason why they will not eventuate is that it is not in the natural order of things, if I may use an expression which probably was more current in medieval times than now, that Australians as a people should find the Japanese culture particularly fascinating and should find the study of the Japanese language particularly rewarding. This is because basically we are in origin a European people and should not try to run away from that fact by glossing it over with an Australia-Japan Foundation with falsely inflated aspirations.
Senator Sim made some comments about what he felt we might learn from Japan. He referred particularly to the fact that the Japanese people work hard and have a unity of purpose in what they are doing. These are virtues we often hear expounded as appropriate remedies for the malaise which exists in Australia at present, but there is an important cultural and historical difference between the development of Japanese society and the development of our society which makes a hankering for those national virtues in a place like Australia a remote fantasy. I do not think we should follow that path of endeavour. What we might learn from the Japanese is something which we seem very slow to learn in Australia, that is, that the secret of industrial success lies largely in the mastery of technology and industrial design. In some ways we tended to laugh a bit after the war as the Japanese sought, to a large degree by copying western European examples, to familiarise themselves with and become expert in these matters. They succeeded and we still find ourselves a remote European outpost without any real mastery of technology, without any real mastery of industrial design, and still a totally derivative society. Perhaps that approach in the Japanese is something we can seek to emulate.
Also there goes with it something which we can seek to avoid, that is, the dreadful consequences of rapid industrialisation which Japan has suffered. It is the result of deciding that economic growth is the mos.t important factor in human endeavour. The Japanese decided that it was and we decided that it was some 20 years ago. Japan succeeded; I do not believe that we did. However, the consequence of Japan’s success is that the Japanese society has become increasingly more unacceptable in terms of the quality of life and the environmental conditions in which the Japanese people live. We have seen the consequences of that rapid industrialisation, whatever Japan’s technological achievements are, as being appalling pollution, congestion in major cities and matters of that kind which we could well make every effort to avoid in this country.
What I am trying to say is that from the wisdom derived from experience in certain areas by the Japanese we can in turn derive some wisdom. The Australia- Japan Foundation may well be a medium for doing this. If it is felt, by any people whose basic motivations are to give a cultural gloss to what is essentially a rather sordid trade relationship, that by establishing this Foundation we can really help to interest Australian people in a significant way or Japanese people in a significant way in the respective cultures of the 2 countries, we make a very grave mistake. Our aspirations would be far bigger than the possibilities of their achievement. I believe that to be a very important qualification of the fine purposes envisaged in the functions of the Foundation as they are set out in clause 5 of the Bill.
The other point I want to make about this Foundation is that whatever happens in terms of Australian-Japanese cultural relations and matters of that kind there are certain political realities which exist and which will affect relationships between the 2 countries. In the last couple of days we have seen the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) expressing the same sort of view as a party leader in Japan about what is sometimes called the area of resources diplomacy. In this morning’s Press, Mr Nakao, a member of the Liberal Party in Japan and a director of the Japanese Government’s Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, is reported as saying that he agrees entirely with Mr Anthony’s comments that if Australia’s resources are not made available to countries like Japan- Mr Nakao went on to mention Korea and China as well- they will be taken from us in the years to come. However much past history might support that view I would have thought it was a very dangerous line for politicians of the National Country Party in Australia or of the Liberal Party in Japan to be pursuing as a public exercise. Mr Anthony has in fact attacked the Australian Press today for reporting his speech on this matter. In fact he attacked the Press for reporting what he said. He has tried to pass the responsibility for this quite extraordinary view of the role of the Minister for National Resources to the Press in Australia for reporting what he said.
The basic understanding of the sale of uranium and other minerals to Japan, especially uranium, has been exclusively on the basis that Japan would not sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The gentleman I mentioned earlier, Mr Nakao, is today reported as expressing the view that Japan ought to sign that treaty and that it ought to arm itself again because in the future it will be necessary for Japan to pursue what we now euphemistically call resources diplomacy by armed means. The point I seek to make here again is that in the time of the last Government we had a very sound understanding with the Japanese Government and Japanese industrialists in relation to the purchase of Australian mineral resources.
– That would be a surprise.
-What is the name of that fellow who has a mouth like an ‘O’ and a wheelbarrow full of surprises? If the honourable senator keeps his mouth open like an ‘O’ I will drop a couple of surprises in it for him. I was saying that a good relationship existed between the last Government and the Japanese Government and between the last Government and Japanese industrialists.
– If you say it a third time someone might believe you.
– It is a waste of my time and vocal chords to say a thing 3 times for Senator Missen. I will just say it twice. The evidence to support that is contained in a letter from Mr Inayama, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nippon Steel Corporation, dated 4 July 1975, to the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor. Mr Inayama by the way is the principal purchaser of coal and other requirements for the steel industry in Japan on behalf of the consortium of Japanese steel industries. He refers to the requirements of the Japanese industry over a number of years and concludes with this sentence:
We also appreciate your assurances of continuity of supplies and we look upon your country as the principal and reliable source of our requirements.
– The Japanese are very polite people.
-That is something I will come to in a moment.
-Will you table the letter?
-I am quite happy to table the letter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-That letter was in confirmation of a series of negotiations involving the sale of $7,000m worth of Australian coal to Japan over a period of 5 years. Those negotiations were concluded at the time that letter had been written. The point I seek to make is that we are again kidding ourselves to think that the Australia-Japan Foundation, by its stated aspirations of improving cultural and other relations between Japan and Australia, can achieve anything worth while in a permanent sense if fringe spokesmen of political parties in Australia and Japan make public utterances which will result in doing nothing but undermine the sorts of relationships which the Australia-Japan Foundation Bill seeks to create.
Senator Missen took me up on a point, clearly indicating that he had seen the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera The Mikado, and that was perhaps the extent of his knowledge in relation to Japan. He described the Japanese as very polite people. That is true, of course, and that is another aspect of the sort of understanding which may be created by the sort of purposes to which this Bill expresses itself as being devoted. It is not anything more than a peripheral understanding, the sort of understanding that we have had in this country for the last 20 years of Japanese manners, customs and history. I expected better from my Victorian colleague than the sort of interjection which he allowed himself to be provoked into making.
As I said at the start of my speech I welcome the Bill. We regard it as inherently worth while, but we raise doubts whether it is not just a sort of motherhood Bill, a sort of Bill which says: ‘We are all in favour of good relations with foreign countries and we merely have to put that in an Act and it becomes a law of the Australian Parliament and, ergo, good relations will result’. I do not believe that to be so. I believe the aspirations of the Bill are too highly stated and that it is important that the aspirations of the Bill be qualified by realistic assessment of the progress we have made in cultural exchange and in the understanding of respective languages and a realistic assessment of what this Bill is all about. It is essentially a gloss to a trading arrangement. All the goodwill in the world which is expressed by this Bill will be undone if there is not a note of caution and responsibility exercised by government spokesmen in both countries in relation to the sorts of things which this Bill desires to achieve. Having made those qualifications, I commend the BUI to the Senate.
– I rise to support the Bill which seeks to establish the Australia- Japan Foundation. I am pleased that the Opposition sees fit to support this excellent piece of legislation, the excellent objectives of which were probably started, to the Opposition’s credit, back in November 1974 when the Japanese cultural agreement was signed by the government of that day. I hope Senator Button in his support for this legislation did not really mean to indicate what I seemed to register as a measure of cynicism. I do not believe that the sort of objectives that the Foundation has before it have any hope of ultimate survival, development and fruition if we approach them with a measure of cynicism and talk about the project as being just a bit of cultural gloss. I do not believe that Australians in general and I do not feel that the Opposition when down to tintacks would feel that this was just a matter of glossing over a circumstance to try to permeate and develop a trading arrangement that has existed and grown over many years.
I believe it is significant that this piece of legislation should be debated here and agreed upon in the Senate. It seems to bear a real relevance to the recommendations and conclusions of a Senate standing committee which inquired into the extremely wide reference of Japan some two or three years ago. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence brought down an excellent report in, I think, January 1 973. We are at the stage now where we have just regrouped and re-identified a number of these committees. The work of these committees in their investigations has been fundamental and basic to worthwhile legislation. This is well known and is further evidence of the sort of contribution which such committees can make to responsible and constructive legislation in this country. Senator Sim who was the Chairman of the Committee which investigated the reference Japan’ drew the attention of the Senate to No. 15 of the conclusions and recommendations. This paragraph referred to the absolute need for the development of cultural and social relationships between Australia and Japan. It was recommended that these relationships should go far beyond the current and somewhat traditional trading relationships. I draw the attention of the Senate to No. 16 of those conclusions and recommendations which states:
The Committee believes that there are insufficient opportunities for the study of Asian Languages and Cultures in Australia. It therefore recommends that provision be made for:
a study of Japan in social studies at the primary school level, not necessarily incorporating language training;
a wider opportunity for the Japanese language to be studied in secondary schools;
specialised teaching in Japanese language to interpreter or equivalent level at a limited number of tertiary institutions, with more general courses available to those studying Japanese in association with another discipline;
adult education opportunities covering the broad spectrum of Japan and its culture.
In recommendation No. 18 the Committee recommended the negotiation of a cultural agreement between the 2 countries. This is the agreement to which I referred a few moments ago. It was signed in November 1974. The Committee also recommended: . . that the Government give consideration to the establishment of an Australian cultural foundation, with government financial support, to foster Australian cultural relations with other countries.
I draw the attention of the Senate to these conclusions and recommendations because they are clearly basic to the whole concept of the legislation which is before us. The legislation seeks to establish an Australia-Japan Foundation as an independent statutory authority with a maximum membership of fifteen and a minimum of five. This Foundation has as its functions, which are clearly stated in clause 5 of the Bill, the promotion of the study of the people of Japan and Australia across a very wide canvas. The canvas is related to social and political institutions, to language and culture and to the economic structure of the 2 countries. That is certainly a wide area for this Foundation to take as its province. Because it is wide it is just that much more important.
Clause 6 sets out the powers with which the Foundation will be endowed to further this study. It makes clear that the Foundation is to operate in Japan as it is in Australia. In Japan it is proposed that the head office will be established in Tokyo. So this is to be a 2-way operation. It is only in this circumstance that the Foundation can really expect to achieve its objectives.
This sort of foundation, which is relevant to an evolving relationship between Australia and
Japan, is an historical step and one which, hopefully, will be followed in our relationships with many other countries in this zone and around the world. It is historic because it marks a movement in relationships between these 2 countries which has been primarily, to this point, a movement in trade and commerce. This legislation marks a movement towards a cultural understanding of our histories, priorities and attitudes which alone, I suppose, can ultimately be the derivatives of a peaceful and secure situation. It must be recalled that these associations between Australia and Japan have grown from a pretty dreadful and painful exercise in a dangerous and violent war which left both countries with a great legacy of insecurity, a lack of understanding, doubt and wonderment.
It is with that sort of base that over the years which have interceded since the Second World War we have seen fit, for obvious and natural reasons, to become trading partners. It is a difficult but nonetheless extraordinarily important step that we move through from that area of activity to an area which covers a far wider and deeper concern. We move into an area which, in some way, will humanise the relationship between the 2 countries. The relationship must become relevant to our cultures, aspirations and history. It was said in the 19th century, very simplistically, that if butter does not cross frontiers the guns will. I believe that we have grown out of that circumstance and attitude today. But that was said, and history has borne it out. Senator Button confirmed that this was true. While I do not believe that that remark applies to the circumstance at which we are looking in this latter part of the 20th century, it does mean that something more than mere trade in goods and services has to pass between people if there is to be a per.manance of understanding and security between those people.
It is that circumstance which this legislation seeks to bring about. It seeks to make sure that between the peoples of Australia and Japan there will be not only trade in goods and services, but also an interchange of ideas and peoples. In the broader aspect, unless there is a passage across the frontiers of peoples, ideas and attitudes we will continue to follow the somewhat tragic course which mankind has followed in the last several thousand years. The person to person contact which is envisaged and the depth of research which this Foundation seeks to establish are basic to the ultimate total relationship between Australia and Japan in this case and between Australia and virtually any other country in the ultimate. This Bill strengthens and widens the legislation which was brought down in November 1974 when the cultural agreement between our 2 countries was signed.
This legislation seeks to expand what was started then. It seeks to develop a real measure of continuity of contact. I suppose that is the most important safeguard that there can be between any countries. It is our hope, and no doubt the hope of the Opposition, that that will be the circumstance which follows the establishment of this Foundation. Of course, the economic relationship has been the predominant relationship between Australia and Japan in the years that have followed the Second Word War. Indeed, it was significant before that time. I need hardly bore the Senate with a mass of statistics. It is sufficient for me to remind the Senate that Japan is easily Australia’s biggest export market and that she is the third largest source of our imports. In 1974-75 Japan took from Australia 28 per cent of her total exports. Australia, in turn, took from Japan 18 per cent of Australia’s total imports. Australia was the second greatest across-the-board two-way trading partner of Japan. Trade with Australia represented some 6.5 per cent of Japan’s total imports and 3.5 per cent of her total exports. That, of course, is a significant economic relationship.
I think we have to realise as we consider this legislation that the hopes for its success in the future that it will in fact consolidate and develop a proper relationship. We have to recognise that Japan does desire a real measure of involvement, certainly in Australian economic circumstances and perhaps in our social circumstances. I do not believe it is unreasonable that this should be the case. I believe that if there were a measure of participation it would be to the mutual benefit of both countries. It is recognised today by Japan that Australia will, of course, require and insist upon a majority of ownership and control in any venture. This is basic to the relationship between our 2 countries in the trading field. I believe it is essential that we establish a measure of involvement and a measure of participation with the Japanese who already are participating in areas such as the coal industry, and in significant decentralised industries in my own State of New South Wales at Orange and Cowra where there are wool tops operations. The measure of Japanese participation and involvement in the motor industry and in other areas is well known. It is to our mutual benefit that such an involvement with a proper and real measure of control, should continue. I believe that the widening of understanding that ultimately must come from the operation of this Foundation will help to establish a further area of participation and involvement.
In today’s circumstances, Japan represents a market that is fundamental to the development of the Australian economy. It is even more fundamental than it was perhaps 10 years ago. As a result of the barriers that surround the European Economic Community, we have been forced to look far afield for new and potential markets. In that area, Japan has been perhaps the most significant. Indeed, her significance is added to by the fact that in her own estimates she is looking at a growth rate of 7 per cent. Even if this is too optimistic an estimate and if it were to be three, four or five per cent, it would be enormously significant in the development of trade potential with the Australian community. Australia is a supplier to the Japanese of raw materials and of the traditional primary products of beef, wool and meat. Australia is a source of minerals- of iron ore, coal and uranium. It has fantastic opportunities, I believe, in the area of natural gas which must be of great importance to the development of the Japanese nation. It is important that with this involvement we have a real understanding of each other that goes beyond the mere passage of goods and services across the sea.
Japan has perhaps fewer similarities to Australia than to most countries. Japan is an island and we are an island people, but there the similarities seem to end. Japan is a relatively tiny island with savage topographical character and features. Australia, on the other hand, is massive. Japan has a population of 120 million or more. Australia has a population of 13 million. Japan has cultural and religious differences which are quite dramatic when compared with those that exist in Australia. Perhaps the most dramatic and total difference is that of language. The widespread differences between our peoples and our circumstances is all the more reason why the undertaking involved in the establishment of this Foundation should be followed with enthusiasm. There is no doubt, I believe, that the conception of this Foundation is so wide that it can be related- as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) said- to the conception of the Churchill scholarships. It is so wide that it will cover virtually every area of human activity.
The authority that we seek to establish with this legislation is the result of a number of things. Not the least of those is the intense involvement of the Committee headed by Sir John Crawford who carried out in-depth research into this matter and, indeed, the promotion, the activity and the involvement of Australia’s Ambassador in
Japan, Mr Shann. I hope and I believe that by financing this sort of operation the primary and secondary industrial and commercial enterprises of Australia, as well as the Government, will take a real measure of responsibility. I hope that the projections and the ideas of this Foundation between Australia and Japan will become ideas and projections that emanate from Australia to many other countries in this zone and to other countries so that they will become, indeed, the objectives of relations between other countries themselves.
In closing my remarks I wish to refer for a few moments to the importance of language which was referred to in the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Committee in its report of 1973. It has often been said- it is commonly said- that money is the medium of exchange. Of course it is. It is the medium of exchange of goods and services. Likewise, I believe that perhaps the most important medium of exchange in the long term, is language. Without language there is no real depth of understanding between peoples within a country or between countries. Consequently, I believe that of all the avenues of attack that must be taken constructively- they are difficult, they will take time and they will be costly- the development of a wider understanding of the language of Japan becomes absolutely essential if the operation of this Foundation is to succeed in its real and ultimate objectives. I commend the Bill.
– I shall not speak for long on this Bill, although I fear that the interruption of the debate to allow General Business to proceed will occur in the middle of the few remarks that I intend to make. I think that most of the things that need to be said about the Bill have already been stated by honourable senators in this chamber and by members in the House of Representatives. This piece of legislation grew out of the Australia- Japanese cultural agreement of 1974. It was incubated last year under the previous Labor Government. In fact, it was listed on the notice paper of the House of Representatives on 1 1 November last year. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the House of Representatives, and I think Senator Withers in this chamber, said the same thing in introducing the Bill. They described the objective of the Bill in these terms:
It is the policy of the Government to strengthen, deepen and broaden the relationship which already exists between Australia and Japan.
That objective is not to be confused with the other somewhat obscure objective of the Prime
Minister, which was stated last week- to broaden the depth of the quality of life around Australia.
The purpose of the Bill is to deepen or strengthen the mutual cultural comprehension in the 2 countries through the process of reciprocal education. Senator Button’s timely remarks drew attention to the fact that the passing of a piece of legislation such as this in the Australian Parliament is no panacea or does not provide any mystical formula for achieving adequate or complete understanding between 2 countries with such dissimilar cultural and historical backgrounds as Australia and Japan.
It will be difficult to improve communications and understanding between a great number of the people even without having imposed between us and that objective the intemperate comments which are made from time to time by Australian politicians. Apart from the recent remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), which have been referred to at some length by Senator Button and which were referred to at some length by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in the House of Representatives yesterday, we in Australia also have to carry the burden of politicians such as the Premier of Queensland who, as far back as 8 November 1974, asserted that unless the Japanese were willing to buy beef from Queensland he would cut off the supply of Queensland coal to Japan. Not content with that initial effort on 8 November 1974, Mr BjelkePetersen followed up with another broadside on 14 February 1975. On the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program AM on that date he stated:
It cannot continue this one way traffic as far as selling justerour minerals here in this State indeed Australia. We, we’ve got other things and I believe if they need meat and I’m sure they do they should think in terms of their good friends and their good customers in this area where they buy this vast quantity of coal that is so vital to them, that they should think of us to buy our meat, not New Zealand, noter Tasmania- This is all I’m trying to . . . the message I’m trying to get over to them, they, they recognise that they . . . I’m quite sure.
That, by the way, was a completely accurate transcription of the remarks of the Queensland Premier on that occasion.
Debate interrupted. (General Business taking precedence of
Debate resumed from 25 February, on motion by Senator Coleman:
That the Senate take note of the Report.
– Before dealing at any length with the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade on prospects of trade between Indonesia and Australia, there are some important remarks that I made on the presentation of the report on 25 February last that I wish to reiterate. I wish to stress that all the evidence had been received and considered and that the report had actually been compiled and was being prepared for presentation to this Parliament before the situation between Indonesia and East Timor developed. Whether that situation would have had any bearing on the decision of the Committee to look at Indonesia or whether it would have affected the findings of the Committee is a matter of sheer speculation at this point of time. I make that statement simply because I want to avoid the possibility of any misinterpretation by this Parliament, by individual members of either House of the Parliament or by members of the Australian community.
The decision of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade to look into the prospects of trade between Indonesia and Australia was not one which was taken lightly. The Committee was aware of some of the problems which had been encountered by the previous Committee under the chairmanship of a fellow Western Australian, former Senator Laurie Wilkinson, when it decided to look at the prospects for trade between New Zealand and Australia. Senator Wilkinson said in his report that the Committee had found that because it was not possible to travel to the country under investigation, it had had to base its observations mainly on information derived from secondary sources. I assure the Senate that the Committee which I had the pleasure to chair during 1974 and 1975 experienced the same difficulties. Perhaps in our case those problems were emphasised because we were looking at a country where there are no similar cultures, no similar life styles and few similar industries. Yet we were commissioned by the Parliament to undertake a most important study and to bring down a most important and highly relevant report.
If Senate committees, or parliamentary committees for that matter, are to operate effectively and to bring down constructive reports which will be taken notice of by the government of the day, the contribution that those committees ultimately will make in the various areas under scrutiny must take into consideration the fact that sometimes it is necessary or even essential to travel to other countries. It has been stated on any number of occasions- I doubt very much whether any member of this chamber or of the other place has not been told of this at some stage- that politicians are always wanting jaunts overseas. Of course, it is generally said by unenlightened people who are selfish enough to imagine that a parliament can operate totally and effectively within its own country. No parliament can do this effectively. It cannot exist just for itself. Each country has a responsibility to contribute to the world situation, and each country has to be concerned with trading relations between it and other countries, as much as it is concerned with the welfare and the wellbeing of the people of its own country. I hope that the present Government will look at the problems of committee work, especially of those committees that are investigating other countries. The Government should determine that if there is sufficient justification the committee as a whole should have the opportunity of obtaining at first hand the necessary information and possibly the short term expertise to enable it to bring down the most effective report, which would then be given the most serious consideration by the Government.
The Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade endeavoured, under its terms of reference, to take into account as wide a variety of trade and trading prospects as possible, as well as the different life styles in 2 nations. I think I speak for all members of the Committee when I say that we were heartened by the response of individuals, of companies already operating in Indonesia, of companies which saw the potential for operating in Indonesia and of companies which were interested in investing in that country. The number of submissions that were received, the number of submissions that were given personally and the wide variety of industries that were covered indicated to us that there was a need for an investigation of this nature and substantiated the investigation that we had undertaken. Unfortunately, because of the extended sittings of the Parliament last year it was not possible for the Committee to undertake hearings in all States, although we did hold public hearings in both Victoria and New South Wales. But I feel that perhaps it would have been more enlightening if we had been able to take the Committee to all States to investigate the situation there in relation to problems that were being experienced by industries and by individuals who were desirous of entering into the Indonesian-Australian market.
I should like at this stage to acknowledge the invaluable help of the Committee secretariat. Mr Peter Dawe, the secretary, who has now been lost to that particular Committee, Mr Claus Ducker, who was our original research officer but who was eventually replaced by Mr Ken Bone, all did a tremendous job and it would be remiss of me if, on behalf of the Committee, I did not acknowledge their assistance. I should hate to think of the number of times that public hearings that had been set up had to be cancelled at almost a moment’s notice, yet it was carried out, as one of the airline companies said, with a minimum of fuss, as all of the other duties of the secretariat were carried out.
Many important organisations appeared before the Committee, either in camera or in public hearings. Perhaps because it could be the most contentious part of the Committees report, I shall deal first with the area relating to what is termed in the report as ‘unorthodox practices’. We heard a great deal about this from a number of sources and were concerned that it appeared necessary at times, in order to obtain the slightest assistance or service in Indonesia, to pay a fee, a commission or a percentage of a tender. But if we place that in its true context perhaps it could be said that we in Australia, as in most other countries, contribute also in this area. We do not see anything wrong, for instance, in paying levies or service charges for services rendered. Perhaps it is only because no regular charge- no regular fee or regular percentage- is sought in Indonesia that the procedures there look irregular. However, from the evidence that was given to the Committee it would appear that this was a major complication and a major deterrent to some businesses that had a desire to operate in that country. It was considered by some as a major impediment even to their conducting surveys or feasibility studies that could have enabled them to set up industries, either capital intensive or labor intensive, in Indonesia. Whilst the Indonesian Government is aware of the situation and is making every endeavour to combat the problem- that in itself is commendable- I think that it will have to go a little deeper than that.
If it is anticipated that fees will be payable, for instance, for consideration of applications for joint ventures or for industries to become a viable proposition in that country, then the Government of Indonesia has to make a more serious contribution and a more serious effort to combat the situation that exists at the present time. The Government of Indonesia has to be prepared to stand up and say: ‘This is wrong and we will not countenance it’. The Indonesian Government has to have the strength to say: ‘We will not condone it, neither will we participate in that activity’.
I believe that the Australian Government itself can play a vital and most significant role in this area through discussions with the Indonesian Government and with the people who are already operating there, and by concrete action which could be taken from Australia against companies which actually participate in and condone these actions by being prepared to make payments of unorthodox fees. As far as I can see there is no value in being prepared to say: ‘Yes, we know it exists but companies here in Australia are not complaining about it too much so let us not do anything about it; we can sweep it under the carpet and pretend it is not there’. If a company in Australia is prepared to pay an extra S per cent, 10 per cent or whatever the going rate is at a particular point of time, to gain a tender or a contract, it does not necessarily mean that it is right. It does not necessarily mean that this practice will make it easier for other companies and industries to be involved in either joint ventures or individual investments in Indonesia.
I had forwarded to me this week by the new secretariat ofthe old Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade an article from the Financial Review of 29 March entitled ‘World corruption commission is coming’. Because of the airline strike this piece of information had not been made available to my research officer. Because of the relationship of this article to the statements that I made previously, I should like to quote some sections from it. The article was written by Nicholas Leslie of the London Financial Times and it states:
A group of influential public figures from different parts of the world will meet in London next month to embark on a study of corruption in business.
They form a commission set up by the International Chamber of Commerce to look at ‘unethical practices’ at a time when the way some companies obtain business is coming under close scrutiny, particularly in the U.S.
Britain’s Lord Shawcross has been appointed chairman of the commission. From his background as an international lawyer, businessman and former politician, he intends to elicit evidence from countries, companies and individuals and may call on the United Nations for support. A code of conduct might then be drawn up.
Seven people have so far been appointed to the commission, embracing countries such as Belgium, Sweden, India, the U.S. and the U.K. This still leaves three places vacant, which it is hoped will be filled by representatives from France, the Middle East and Latin America. There is also a small secretariat and the advice of a firm of accountants and solicitors will also be sought.
The recent announcement of the commission by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), whose general aim is to foster fair trade and competition, has brought only a low key response in the U.K.
I should have thought that because the incidence of bribery and corruption in foreign ports, particularly in the area of shipping, and in the transportation of goods inside countries, would appear to be fairly high, this announcement would have brought a much larger response, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Australia. I am concerned that there has not been a repeat of the publishing of this article or of an article identical to this one in any other paper. Certainly if this article has been republished it has not come to my notice. The article continues:
It seems likely the situaion will remain that way despite the sharper interest in the U.S. current investigation into the same issue. Unless some instance of corruption emerges in the U.K., the commission will carry out its investigations well away from the public gaze and any report of its findings is unlikely to emerge before the end of the year.
It is reprehensible that, when the International Chamber of Commerce has gone to the trouble of setting up such an important Committee to look at a situation which is preventing true and free trade between countries, as far as I can ascertain no one is really going to do much about the matter. If in actual fact the International Chamber of Commerce is setting up such a committee then surely the findings of that Committee will be most important, not only to the countries represented on the Committee, but also to any countries throughout the world which find it necessary to trade with other countries.
The items that were discussed by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade are too many to mention here, but I feel that some of them are of great importance. For instance, we felt that one of our recommendations should be that if requested by Indonesia Australia should give consideration to providing assistance in the establishment of a stock exchange. I personally was concerned that in Indonesia where the annual income averages out at something like US$ 120- I think my figures are correct but without referring to the report I could not verify them- I think something like 4000 banking facilities are available, a great number of which appear to be inside the village communities where people, I presume, bank goods, services or, when possible, money. It was felt by the Committee that, to enable the small income earnerthe person most disadvantaged in the Indonesian community- to participate to a greater degree perhaps Australia should make an approach. It was considered that that was a little unethical, that the approach would have to come from Indonesia and that perhaps the Indonesian Government, having been forwarded a copy of the report, would give serious consideration in the very near future to requesting Australia to give assistance with the establishment of a stock exchange.
The Committee also felt that it was necessary to set up a double taxation agreement between the 2 countries. The evidence that was received in this area was vast and covered a great number of industries which are finding problems because no double taxation agreement exists. It was also found that there are problems when tenders are taken up by Australian companies for whatever reason. Some banks ia.Australia are apprehensive about issuing credit on letters of credit from the Indonesian Government. This causes the companies involved some financial hardship. To my way of thinking, there is no value in tendering to dredge a harbour which will cost the Indonesian Government, say, $1.5m, having a letter of credit for that amount to a bank in Australia and not being able to draw funds to maintain in employment the people needed actually to dredge the harbour. So perhaps we should look at the banking system in Australia to see what can be done to assist in the development of other countries, particularly those in close proximity to Australia. Perhaps the Government should be suggesting that where a letter of credit exists from a government to a banking corporation in Australia, credit should be extended.
The Committee also looked at the problem of education. During the parliamentary recess of July-August last year I took the opportunity to spend 12 days of my vacation in Indonesia. I must pay tribute to the Pertamina oil company for extending to me as Chairman of the Committee the greatest courtesy and in providing me with facilities to travel to areas that were inaccessible by road or rail so that I could see parts of the country that had been mentioned in evidence before the Committee. I was concerned to find that in Indonesia there was no obvious intention at this point of time to endeavour to educate the young people. In Singapore now there is mandatory free education for 7 years but this does not exist in Indonesia. Great problems will be created for families who may never see any cash as such and who are accustomed to dealing only in goods if they suddenly find that they have to provide 100 rupiahs a week to ensure that their children receive some form of basic education.
One hundred rupiahs is approximately 25c Australian. In an affluent society that is not considered to be a great amount of money but I assure honourable senators that for the Indonesian people it is a great problem. In the short time that I spent in Indonesia some concern appeared to be expressed by the low income groups about the availability of facilities for educating their children.
To a person who has been brought up in a society where child labour is not permitted, the child labour situation was most disturbing. Perhaps the Government could look at the situation that exists in most of the towns and cities of Indonesia where it is found that young people were not fully aware of their date of birth or how old they were but they were the most astute bargainers and they knew exactly the value of the United States dollar and the Australian dollar in Indonesian rupiahs. I had a great amount of difficulty with the conversion. I think it is important not only from the Australian point of view but also from an Indonesian point of view, that the Government take stock of the situation and realise that Indonesia has to develop its own country to a large extent and particularly in the area of education.
The Committee looked at the situation which exists in the field of tourism. Whilst the consumers of tourism in the eastern States are not badly off, I assure honourable senators that the consumers in Western Australia are extremely badly done by when it comes to easy accessibility to places in Indonesia such as Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bali. I note with interest that over the last few months, since the report was compiled, we now have a direct airline service from Port Hedland via Darwin to Bali. Perhaps later it could be extended to Perth. I hope that the Government will look seriously at this situation and make it possible for more people to tour inside Australia and for more Australian people to tour in the territory of our nearest trading neighbours.
In October of last year the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill came before the Senate. The remarks that I made at that time were relevant to the report that was being compiled by the Committee. I would like to refresh the Senate’s memory. Honourable senators will remember that the purpose of the Bill was to establish a trading corporation which would be responsible in part for the trading between countries. I was interested in the submission made to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade by the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers
Association which was in favour of the establishment of an Australian overseas trading corporation. The Association saw it as being even wider than that envisaged in the Bill that was introduced last year. It saw it as being a vehicle for the location of tenders and for advising Australian companies of tenders that were available not only in Indonesia but in all other countries. One of the biggest problems appears to be that companies operating in Australia are not always aware of what tenders are being called and what facilities are available in other countries. The HEMA group put forward the theory that an organisation similar to the Overseas Trading Corporation could be the medium to be used.
There was no attempt by the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association or by any of the other witnesses who appeared before the Committee to denigrate the present role of the trade commissioners in Indonesia. In fact I could go so far as to say that all of the comments made were favourable. It was felt that the representation by the Department of Overseas Trade was perhaps not as strong as it should be and that there was a need to make more expertise available and also a need for more trade displays to be arranged to enable people in Australia to know what is happening in the area of production in Indonesia and for people in Indonesia to know what we have to offer. The Overseas Trading Corporation Bill was almost identical with the Bill which was passed by the previous New Zealand Government to set up the New Zealand Export-Import Corporation. I presume that, as I have not heard anything to the contrary, that Corporation is still operating under the new Government in New Zealand. I was interested in a report that appeared in the New Zealand Herald Financial Review. A small article appeared in the Canberra Times on Wednesday, 13 August last year. However, the basis for the article was another article which appeared in the Herald Financial Review newspaper in New Zealand. I do not know the date on which it appeared in that newspaper. It stated:
Controversy and dire forebodings attended the birth, tittle more than a year ago, of the New Zealand Export-Import Corporation.
Some manufacturers, and the Opposition, were quick to spot the big brother of socialism in Government moves to set up a corporation which would compete in trade on an equal footing with private enterprise.
This was not the intention of the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill. It was not intended that the Corporation would be competing on an equal footing with private enterprise. Perhaps with some amendment, the Bill could have been justifiably adjusted to suit the situation that had been envisaged by the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association in that it would become an organisation to obtain information and to dispense information on projects in other countries. I was rather disappointed that the then Opposition decided that the Bill was not a worthy one for consideration. I am rather sad now that the Bill was unsuccessful because I believe that it would have contributed a great deal to Australia and to its overseas trading with other countries.
One of the big problems in Indonesia would appear to be a lack of design information with regard to the cottage industries which are an essential part of particularly the Indonesian village way of life. I mentioned very briefly a little while ago the subject of child labour. There is a lot of child labour in that country. I am concernedthe Committee was also- at evidence that was presented to us. It would appear from that evidence that there is no design information centre so that cottage industries can adjust their designs to suit markets in other countries. One, of the recommendations of the Committee is that the Australian Development Assistance Agency should investigate the possibility of assisting in the establishment of an institute in Indonesia aimed at overcoming deficiencies in management and design techniques. This has particular relevance for handicraft and cottage industries. The institute could also play a part in the development of technologies appropriate for local conditions.
I found as I went through Indonesia that there were a great number of young people working in areas to fill a market which they believed existed in Australia but which in actual fact did not exist. As a woman, perhaps I should explain that the majority of women who I know wear stoles or scarves that would be approximately 5 feet to 6 feet in length. Unfortunately, the cottage industries in Indonesia manufacture them for the people of Indonesia to wear. These stoles or scarves are only 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet in length and are totally unsuitable for the Australian market. But nobody has ever bothered to explain to the manufacturers- these cottage industry workers- that they are not acceptable on the Australian market. The same remarks apply to wicker work and basket weaving that is being done in a variety of fibres. The shape of the baskets in the first place is not conducive to the Australian needs. The strength is not always as the Australian people are accustomed to it being. When I pointed this out to a number of the people who were presumably in charge of that area of the cottage industry, they said: ‘How do we know what you want if no one tells us?’ My reply was: ‘How will you know if you do not ask?’ But if we look at the position, we realise that there is no one they can ask and there is no one we can tell, apart from the trade commisioners, the representatives of the Department of Overseas Trade. However, it is not possible for those officers to go into every single cottage industry in Indonesia to ensure that the information reaches the right people.
As a Committee, we looked also into the problems involved in shipping. This was the area which perhaps took up most of the time of the Committee. A number of people wanted to tell us about the problems of shipping goods to and from Indonesia. There are 3 recommendations on this subject in the report. I will not read them but they are items 10, 11 and 12 in the recommendations on page 6 of the report. It is quite incredible to fly over the port of Tanjung Priok in a helicopter as I did and see the number of ships that are docked and unloading, loading or simply waiting to come into the port to be unloaded. I wondered just what type of goods those ships were carrying. If they were perishable goods, the possibility of them being at least of any nutritional value by the time they arrived at their destination was quite remote. The Committee members were told of instances in which there were something like a backlog of 32 ships waiting to discharge their goods at Tanjung Priok. It is a great problem because if we speak about shipping these days we speak almost automatically about containerisation. There are no facilities for containerisation in any of the ports that I looked at in Indonesia. But even if there are containerisation facilities, there are the problems of offloading the containers. This in itself creates even bigger problems in a congested port. I suppose that it could be said that we should be looking at the establishment- certainly, the Indonesians should be- of new port facilities which can accept containerisation, including freezer containers. However, if we were to introduce freezer containers, we would also have to accept the fact that in Indonesia very few people have any facilities to keep frozen goods. There are very few facilities to store the perishable commodities that we find so readily available to us and which we use so readily in Australia.
It is extremely difficult for an Australian parliamentary committee to take evidence from people in Australia who have operated mainly out of Australia and to say: ‘This is the solution; we have the answer to all of the problems; we will tell the people how to go about doing it’. It does not work that way and I do not think that any committee would deign to presume to do things like that. Because we have a problem in the area of shipping in Australia as well as in Indonesia, I am concerned that there does not appear to be a great deal of activity from governmentsfrom the Indonesian government or from the Australian Government- to ensure that the situation is rectified in as short a time as possible. Recommendation 12 from the Committee is as follows:
Inspection by Indonesian Port Authorities of Australian port installations, including facilities for containerisation, may be of mutual benefit.
This is all very well. But do we bring the Indonesians to Australia and say to them: ‘Look, is this not marvellous? We have our ports of Fremantle, Sydney and Melbourne. We are doing all sorts of wonderful things up in the north west of Western Australia to ship out the iron ore. Take the knowledge you have gained in a week back home to Indonesia and do the same.’? The Indonesians perhaps could be said to be slow thinking. By virtue of their environment, they have to be basically slow moving. Things do not move fast in Indonesia and solving the shipping problem will not be achieved faster than solving the problems in any of the other areas that the Committee covered during its investigations. We endeavoured to cover a wide variety of problem areas or what we saw as being problem areas. They were propositions that were put to us as being problem areas by various industries throughout Australia. We endeavoured to go just a little further and examine problems inside the country itself.
Of course, one of the big problems in Indonesia is its over population. I read with interest the remarks by Senator Sheil in the Senate in a first reading debate on 25 March this year which indicated to me that Senator Sheil has no idea whatsoever of the problems of instituting, policing or even proposing birth control programs in any other country. It would appear that Senator Sheil would have us believe that we have the right and the responsibility to tell what he calls Third World countries to control their population growth but that we should not seriously think of doing it in the way that perhaps the women who are not only physically and emotionally involved but also financially involved in this area would wish it done. I am concerned that Senator Sheil obviously does not think that the women in those countries have any rights to determine what methods of birth control will be used.
The Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade looked at the problem of the binh control programs that have been undertaken by the Indonesian Government. It is heartening to know that those programs are being undertaken. I think I can only reiterate what Senator Ryan had to say in reply to Senator Sheil on 25 March on the first reading stage of, rather inappropriately I feel, the Dried Vines Fruits Levy Amendment Bill. Perhaps it could be said that it is the women who are withering on the dried vine. Senator Ryan said:
I would like to add to the remarks of Senator Sheil some of the reasons given for the failure of these programs in Third World countries, reasons which really had nothing at all to do with the ubiquitous influence of Fabian socialism. The women of the Third World became very angry at the kinds of population control programs that were being inflicted on their sisters because those programs were based on Western values and Western technologies and completely ignored the spiritual and cultural values of the women who were supposed to fit into those programs. It was from many tragic experiences where women involuntarily were subjected by visiting specialists to forms of birth control that were totally alien to their values of family and child rearing and child bearing that opposition to Western-type population control grew to the extent that there was a massive political rejection of these programs at the Romanian conference. I think if Senator Sheil had considered what was said by women delegates at that conference he would be better informed as to why some of the population control programs in the Third World had failed.
It was the view of those women, women who were intimately involved in what is happening to their sisters in the Third World countries, that if population control is to be successful, it must be something that the women themselves want and understand and which does not destroy their whole fabric of family life.
The whole fabric of family life in Indonesia is based on the system that perhaps we would do well to look at in part. That is that each supports the other to the best of his or her ability and that no one wants. If anyone wants, they all want. But everything is shared. The Committee looked at this aspect and we asked questions on the birth control programs that were being activated by the Indonesian Government. But we did not deign to suggest that birth control programs should be instituted if that was not the wish of the people.
The problems run a little deeper than that. We must look at what is happening with respect to transmigration. That is what is going to happen if the country continues to populate as it is at this time. A transmigration program is under way where whole villages are just taken up and moved to Kalimantan and other islands. But this cannot go on for any length of time. Indonesia will soon run out of land. I know that there are 6000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago but they will not be sufficient to sustain the
Indonesian population if its growth continues at its present rate.
Perhaps as an aside I could comment while we are talking on binh control about a statement that appeared in the Melbourne Age this morning in an article by Michelle Grattan. The article states:
The Federal Government has scrapped plans to finance a centre in Melbourne to give young people contraceptive advice and sex counselling.
I find it most disturbing and rather remarkable to think that the Commonwealth Government of Australia- I almost made a faux pas and said the Australian Government’; I need to keep reminding myself that we have returned to the neo-colonialist age where we say the ‘Commonwealth Government of Australia’- in this day and age when there is a need for more instruction on sex, when there is a desperate need for more instruction on diseases that are transmitted from one human being to another, and when there is a desperate need for people to be informed of these matters, would plan on preventing finance or any further finance going to a centre in Melbourne. I understand that the centre is already set up. It has been purchased and furnished. It has been set up already to commence work as an action centre.
I wonder whether the answer to the question that I asked some weeks ago relating to family planning centres and specifically those in Western Australia will in actual fact be that they are not to be continued or that they are not to continue receiving funding from the Commonwealth Government. I would express as much concern on that matter as I am expressing now about the situation which exists in Indonesia. I would not presume to suggest to the Indonesian Government that it should have an enforced birth control program. I would assume that the Indonesian Government would see it as essential and that it would be doing everything in its power not only to inform people what birth control is all about but also to make sure that birth control is what the people themselves want. Society in Indonesia is based on the family unit as a whole, which is a slightly different concept from that which we have in Australia.
Madam Acting Deputy President, I cannot conclude my participation in this debate without thanking all those people who participated in the work of the Committee. I refer to those who made themselves available, either by coming to Canberra or attending in Sydney or Melbourne, appeared before us and gave their submissions in person. A great number of them went to the trouble of putting in highly relevant and extremely detailed written submissions. A great deal of time, energy and money was expended by a number of organisations who saw the need for an investigation of this type.
My one hope is that, a report having been prepared and that report having been debated in this chamber, we will have a government which may take notice of it. I have looked at the situation in the past and I have found that a lot of reports are introduced, debated and then go into limbo, sometimes for many, many years. No one ever bothers to get a copy. The situation in the Journals, Records and Bills Office of the Senate downstairs is becoming fairly drastic. That office is running out of room. Perhaps it might be time to move out copies of this report and to make sure at least that every member of Parliament has a copy and reads it. I approve the recommendations and conclusions in that report. I commend it to the Senate.
– As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade, I am very pleased to be taking part in this debate. Excluding Papua New Guinea, Indonesia is Australia’s closest neighbour. It is a nation comprising some 6000 islands with a population of approximately 130 million people. It is a country that is the fifth most populous of any nation in the world. It does represent a great potential for future trade not only with Australia but also throughout the regions of South-East Asia and the rest of the world. I say that with a view to long term prospects. But there is a need that we do develop trade with Indonesia. There is a need that we encourage the development of production and trade within Indonesia, as must apply to all partly developed and underdeveloped countries throughout the world. One of the best ways in which to establish international friendships is through development and trade between countries. Indonesia is a member of the ASEAN groups of nations- that is, the Association of South-East Asian Nations- which includes Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. This is a very important area of the world and Indonesia plays a very important part in it. lt is important that Australia as a neighbouring nation should also give encouragement and support to the nations within the ASEAN group, and by support I mean more than just verbal support and platitudes. There is a need to continue both physical and moral support because the whole structure of ASEAN is one of socioeconomic respect and development. If this development can continue and if we as one of the neighbouring nations can play our part in the area, we can look hopefully to the future and see unity in the region and regional security, which is most important. As time goes on this area will develop as one of the important areas, particularly in terms of trade.
For that reason I was particularly pleased to see that taken up by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade was a reference dealing with the prospects for the development of trade between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia has had an interesting and rather traumatic history. As we all know, it was originally a Dutch colony whose history goes back for centuries. Development did take place but a great deal of the product of that development left Indonesia. There was some benefit to Indonesia in monetary terms- though one could say that there was not a great deal of benefit- and eventually we saw independence come to Indonesia. However, in the fight for independence we saw the rise of President Sukarno whose regime tragically as time went by brought economic and political instability and a great rundown in what had been the structural developments of that country- the roads, the railways, the ports and other infrastructures. They literally ran down and jolly near collapsed. In 1964-65 Indonesia saw a change in leadership when President Suharto took over. Indonesia then was facing great economic problems. It had made heavy overseas borrowings, was heavily in debt and economically run down. Since then we have seen political stability within that country and the development of 5-year plans. In addition we have seen economic stability. In fact, the economy today in Indonesia is possibly brighter than it has been for a long time or has ever been.
There are factors that have played an important part in this development and one must look to the part that the oil industry has played. Indonesia has been a major producer of crude oil and the big increases in oil prices over the last two or three years have brought great benefit to Indonesia. No longer is she troubled with the external balance of payments problem which plagued her for many years. However, Indonesia cannot rest solely on her oil resources because at this stage her known reserves of oil are approximately 20 years at current production levels. It is necessary, therefore, that Indonesia should broaden her economic base and diversify her economy if she is to develop as a trading nation and increase her trade not only with her neighbours in the region of South East Asia, including Australia, but also throughout the world. Having said that, oil still will play a big part in her export earnings for many years to come.
There are other areas of production in Indonesia which also play an important part. One of these is her deposits of hydro-carbons. I refer particularly to natural gas, the dry hydrocarbons of which Indonesia has an abundance. This has enabled her, during the critical periods in the energy crisis and despite high costs, to produce fertilisers at a price cheaper than the price of fertilisers produced by other countries. This has greatly assisted the development of agriculture, and through the use of sulphate of ammonia and urea, Indonesia has been able to increase her production of one agricultural product in particular- her staple diet, rice. There are other areas in which Indonesia can benefit from development of hydro-carbons and I refer mainly to by-products such as plastics and synthetics. Here there is a great opportunity for Indonesia eventually to develop a textile industry from her locally produced synthetics. One would hope that as time goes on, with the assistance of other countries in the areas of technology, finance and investment on a joint basis and a say in management, Indonesia will see the development of some of these industries related to her base products.
Whilst there has been a big expansion in the production of rice in Indonesia, she is still a long way from self-sufficiency and will continue to rely on the importation of rice for quite a while. Earlier we heard comments about one of the problems resulting from the great population increase in Indonesia and I relate that problem to the need to increase production of the staple food, rice. But one does not stop there because with economic development one does not refer just to increased population. Hand in hand with economic development goes social development and a greater opportunity and demand for people to live at a higher standard of living with better and bigger diets. As time goes on and development takes place in Indonesia greater demands will be placed upon her local products if she is to be anywhere near self-sufficient in the supply of foodstuffs.
Indonesia exports some livestock, not in any great way but it is an area of potential. I refer to the production and export of cattle, pigs and seafood. There is much more that can be done in this area. Australia can play a part by assisting the development of Indonesia with our technology and by making available some of the breeds of cattle that we have that would be suitable for production and development in that country. Indonesia has quite a diversity of minerals and a significant potential for their development. In tin alone Indonesia is the third largest producer in the world. She is developing into one of the major producers of copper in the world and still has major deposits which are as yet underdeveloped. Bauxite production today is in the vicinity of one and a quarter million tonnes and proposals are under way for the establishment of an alumina plant which will take Indonesia into the more sophisticated area of refining and the establishment of an aluminium industry, for which there is so much demand. Indonesia has been blessed with quite high grade deposits of bauxite but as a result of the production that has taken place over the years these deposits are becoming depleted. However, there is an abundance of low grade bauxite in Indonesia. One can look also at coal, nickel and iron ore. But iron and steel production in Indonesia is still extremely small and she is, as a matter of fact, importing from Australia some 48 500 tonnes annually which is assisting in the development of that country and in the development of many of the industries. With the assistance that is being given and the policies introduced under the 5-year plans by the Suharto Government, Indonesia is now making plans to increase greatly its own steel production.
I mentioned earlier that Indonesia has promising mineral deposits. In discussion with various witnesses the Committee was told that a great deal ofthe country still has not been prospected, but there is evidence that rich mineral resources are scattered throughout the country. Granted, some are not in very accessible spots, so great costs would be involved in extraction. Nevertheless with all the richness of some of these deposits the future for mineral development in Indonesia is very encouraging and has great potential.
I turn now to other areas of production and export. I refer to tea and coffee which are still major export commodities for Indonesia. There are problems which the export of tea from Indonesia similar to those which apply to many of the other tea producing countries because of the saturation of world demand at present. Indonesia is a major producer of palm oil which brings in quite a deal of revenue. I have been dealing basically with raw material production within the country. The same does not apply to the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing is basically on a very small scale and the bulk of the production is mainly absorbed within Indonesia ‘s domestic or local market.
Earlier reference was made by Senator Coleman to the cottage industries within Indonesia. These play a very important part. They have been encouraged because they are labour intensive, localised and diversified and thus are playing a very important part in the small scale production in Indonesia. There is room for greater encouragement and assistance in this area, as there is in the areas of design and so on, to let these industries know what the demand is in other countries where an export market can be developed. It is no good producing a type of good that is not suitable for an export market. There is a need for greater communication and assistance in the development of export markets for cottage industries. A lot of encouragement is being given to the development of large scale manufacturing which in turn must lead to the development of export markets for Indonesia. The Indonesian Government, whilst being very conscious of its national needs at the same time is giving great encouragement with taxation and other concessions to overseas investors to come in and assist in the development of the country in the fields of manufacturing and minerals processing. At the same time the Government is making sure that Indonesia will retain its assets in the long term for itself. From what we gathered on the Committee there has been quite a good response in this area, even though problems have occurred in many cases because of misunderstandings through lack of communication between those who are interested in the development of industry within Indonesia and not fully understanding the way of life of Indonesians and the way they go about their discussions. I will mention a bit more about this later.
There is very little heavy industry at present. One could say that the motor car industry is nonexistent. All motor vehicles are imported into Indonesia. There is one great restriction. All motor vehicles imported into Indonesia must be on a knock-down basis. In other words they are brought into the country unassembled and are assembled in Indonesia. This creates an opportunity for employment for many people. Australia herself plays quite a big part in the export of motor vehicles to Indonesia. In fact with the exception of Japan, which is by far the greatest exporter of motor vehicles to Indonesia, Australia would be regarded as one of the major suppliers. At the same time the Indonesian Government is keen for development in the hope that perhaps one day it can have its own viable motor industry. Programs and plans have already been made for the production of component parts for the motor industry in Indonesia, not just for spare parts for the vehicles used within that country but with the aim that eventually component parts can be supplied to the major manufacturers of motor vehicles in the region. I refer to Japan and perhaps the United States of America and Australia.
It is interesting to see the increase in trade between Australia and Indonesia. No longer can Australia be regarded as one of the minor trading partners with Indonesia. Figures for 1969-70 show that Australia imported from Indonesia goods valued at some $48.9m and exported goods to the value of $3 5. 2m. The figures for 1974-75- these are only preliminary figures; I was unable to get the full figures confirmedshow that Australia’s imports in 1974-75 were valued at $18. 8m. I remind honourable senators that in 1969-70 imports were valued at $48.9m. Exports in 1974-75 stood at $ 173.5m. There has been a great upturn in exports from Australia. The reason for the increase in the development of trade between the 2 countries is that Australia is developing and expanding her exports whilst at the same time imports from Indonesia are unfortunately gradually being reduced. I appreciate that Australia earlier imported quite a bit of crude oil from Indonesia and hence this would have made a great difference to the figures. I hope that as time goes on we can see more of a balance of trade between Australia and Indonesia- a 2-way trade- than we are seeing at present. It would appear unlikely that in the short term we can see any big increase in exports from Indonesia to Australia.
It is unfortunate that at present Indonesia virtually does not produce many commodities which have a great Australian demand. The products that are produced and are suitable for Australia are also produced in other developing countries in South-East Asia and so there is competition between the countries in South-East Asia in trying to develop and capture the Australian market. I wish to quote from page 4 of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade which deals with some aspects of items of trade between Australia and Indonesia. Conclusion No. 7 reads:
It is not easy to identify commodities imported from Indonesia for which any very considerable growth in trade can be predicted. Timber probably shows the greatest potential, followed by coffee and rubber. Other imports may be expected to show unspectacular but steady increases. In the long term, petroleum-derived chemical products and low cost manufactured goods may become significant. The resumption of imports of Indonesian oil is also possible.
One other area where there is quite a deal of potential is tourism. Witnesses came before the Committee and spoke encouragingly of the potential for tourism between Australia and Indonesia. There is a need for greater advertising and better communication to be given to Australians so that they will have an understanding and an appreciation of the tourist attractions in Indonesia. I feel that if this is done it is one way of getting towards the goal of a balance of trade between our 2 countries. Of course, as time goes on I hope that the reverse situation will also apply and that Indonesians will come to this country to see our attractions. Also I hope that Australians will go to Indonesia in greater numbers. If this situation obtains, the people within our 2 nations will have a better understanding of each other which comes only from working together. This is essential. I hope that tourism will be expanded within Australia and Indonesia because it can play a very important part, far beyond its revenue earning capacity.
As time goes on and as we see the various 5-year plans which have been introduced and which are in operation in Indonesia, we hope that we will see an expanding economy within Indonesia which will automatically parallel economic developments. This will give greater opportunities for increases in Australia’s exports. This is where Australia can play an important part. We should look on Indonesia not just as a revenue earner; we should give assistance in its development. I refer to areas of capital equipment. Australian machinery can be used for the development of agriculture in Indonesia. Australia, as it does in other countries, can play an important part with the sophisticated machinery which we have today for the clearing of scrub, the development of land and in cultivation and production. Again, in the field of mining, in the construction of roads and in the upgrading of the rail and other systems throughout Indonesia, Australia can play an important part. This is so not only in producing and selling to Indonesia heavy capital equipment but also in the usage of that capital equipment. This will help in the development of the country.
– Do we provide any education opportunities for them?
– Yes, we do. I will make reference to our overseas aid later on when I come to that area. I have spoken about the areas of potential for the development of trade between Australia and Indonesia. There is an unfortunate factor which greatly inhibits trade. Senator Devitt ‘s comment to me a moment ago will bring this matter home to him. It is the problem of shipping with the high cost of shipping freight rates. This is a great problem. I do not know how we will solve the problem while the volume of trade is not very great. The situation is that there is an infrequency of service with very high freight rates. On top of this, Indonesian ports do not have modern port facilities. They are unable to handle containerisation. Additionally, Indonesia is a nation of some 6000 islands so one can appreciate that there are problems with outlying pons to service the central ports and to work in with the main shipping companies, both inwards and outwards.
There is a great need for port modernisation. This will cost a terrific amount of money. Plans and processes are under way at the present time for the improvement of port facilities. But one wonders how long it will be before the ports are improved and developed to the stage of sophistication which exists in Australia and in other major trading countries and which can easily and effectively operate with containerisation. One appreciates that there is a high volume of labour in Indonesia. One appreciates that Indonesia probably does not have the industrial problems which we have on our waterfronts. Indonesia would not have the high cost of labour which we have on our waterfronts. So as Indonesia perhaps sees it there is not a great need for containerisation. That is all very well for Indonesian ports but it is an entirely different story when it gets to the other side of the shipping run in which trading partners are involved. So one wonders how we will overcome the great problems in the area of shipping between Indonesia and Australia. As I said before, one hopes that one will see the modernisation of ports with amenities and facilities which will enable a quicker turn around of ships.
As trade develops we hope that we will get a more predictable round trip pattern of shipping so that trade between Australia and Indonesia will flow more easily than it has in the past. At times it is very difficult for exporters to be able to predict when their goods will arrive in one of the Indonesian ports because of the infrequency and, in the past, the unreliability of the service. One runs into other problems because there is a great need to upgrade transportation away from the ports into the inland areas of Indonesia. While many roads were developed in the colonial days when the Dutch were in control of the country, many of those roads have deteriorated. This has happened with some of the rail systems. The roads are being upgraded and there are plans to develop more road systems throughout Indonesia. But this costs money and it depends on how one allocates the priorities within the country.
There are social needs within the country besides the physical needs of developing and upgrading the road and rail systems. Indonesia is faced with grave problems. They will continue for a long time. All these things are directly related to the economic development of Indonesia. It has the potential to become an exporter and a trader. These matters, in turn, greatly affect trade between Australia and Indonesia. It will take a lot of assistance from a lot of countries to help Indonesia. Earlier today I said that Indonesia does not have the great problems it once had with its overseas balance of trade. In fact, today it is sitting in quite a favourable position due to the high price of oil. Nevertheless, overall Indonesia can still be regarded as only a relatively poor country which will require continued assistance for its development. Australia has played and is continuing to play its part in the area of aid to Indonesia.
It is interesting to note that much of our financial assistance which was given a few years ago and which is continuing to be given today has changed from assistance to help in the balance of payments. Indonesia was running down so badly because of its adverse balance of payments position. Today Australia is giving assistance in the area of infrastructural development and education. Australian aid to Indonesia has grown considerably in the past decade. Indonesia is now the second largest recipient of Australian aid after Papua New Guinea. Australia is now involved in some 30 development assistance programs covering telecommunications, roads, railways, port rehabilitation, irrigation schemes, plant quarantine, animal husbandry, water supplies, public health, education and so forth. Australia has been giving assistance- I hope it will continue to give assistance- in these important areas of need within Indonesia. Whilst there are encouraging signs for potential development within Indonesia, there is a great need for all countries to continue to give assistance. A need to assist other under-developed countries still exists. I refer particularly to the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations group. As I said earlier, if we can assist in the economic development of these countries to bring about a sound economy and opportunity for people within those countries, we will find that economic development and, particularly, economic stability will assist greatly in the maintenance of political stability within those countries. If these countries can continue to work together in the harmonious way in which they have done in the past- I hope they will- in supporting the ASEAN group we can look forward to having regional security within the ASEAN group. Indonesia has many great problems. Whilst all under-developed countries have problems, many are peculiar to Indonesia only. It is a nation of 6000 islands. The problems it has to face are those of communication, high cost of the development of transportation, the cost of shipping between the islands themselves and the cost of developing the many outlying areas. All these are grave problems that Indonesia has to overcome. I hope that we, as a nation, will continue to play our part in giving assistance in an honest and earnest endeavour to overcome some of those problems.
I should now like to refer in particular to Australian trade with Indonesia. I should like to pay a high tribute to the Australian Trade Commission in Jakarta. Many witnesses came before the Committee and spoke in very high terms of the assistance that was given to them by the Australian Trade Commission. In one of the Committee’s recommendations, the suggestion was made that there should be an increase of staff in this area because of the great load that appears to be placed on these people and the need for further assistance to be given to various Australians who go to Jakarta in the process of developing trade between our 2 countries. Numerous Australian trade displays have been held in Jakarta. These are mentioned in the report. I shall not deal with them now as I am sure I will only bore the Senate ofl do so.
One must also pay respects- in a complimentary way- to the Australian Department of Overseas Trade. Again, many witnesses spoke highly of the work done by that Department. One could go on in detail about so many other areas of assistance not only in the area of trade with Indonesia but also within the area of trade with other countries. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation, the banking services, the Australian tariff preferences for under-developed countries and so on, all play a part. I do not have time to deal with all those. I should like to mention 2 organisations in particular. Firstly, the Australia-Indonesia Business Co-operative Committee which was formed in November 1971 but which today has about 200 members. This Committee has done an outstanding job.
One of the great problems we have to face is that in the Western way of life- with our systems of developing business and operating businessour practices are somewhat different from those of other countries. Senator Coleman referred today to ‘unorthodox practices’, as they are called in Indonesia. One has heard it referred to in other countries, including Indonesia, as corruption. We had witnesses before the Committee who, when questioned about these unorthodox practices, said quite frankly: ‘Yes, we have heard it referred to as corruption’. But what is corruption? When they spelt this out to us it was made quite clear that there are problems which have to be overcome. The Government is endeavouring to make and must continue to make every endeavour to wipe out some of these unorthodox practices. On the other hand, as some of these businessmen said, many of the problems do not emanate from Indonesia. Some of them are encouraged by outside businessmen and flow on to Indonesia. On many occasions there is a 2-way flow of unorthodox practices.
One of the other problems, of course, is that because of the different approach in the overall operation of the establishment of business in Australia from that which may apply in Indonesia, many people have become rather frustrated and disenchanted. The AustraliaIndonesia Association is doing all it can to give assistance to anybody who wishes to develop trade between Australia and Indonesia. The Australia-Indonesia Association has met to discuss its problems and proposals. In turn, discussions are held with the Indonesians. I can only speak in the highest terms of this group of businessmen who have given and who are willing to give so much of their time to offer assistance to other Australians who wish to be involved in the development of trade between our 2 countries of Australia and Indonesia. I hope that the Association will continue to make the great contribution that it is making to the development of trade between our 2 countries. I am confident that it will do so. The Indonesian Business Co-operative Committee, which is based in Jakarta, is the counter organisation in Indonesia. This Committee, likewise, is making an endeavour to play its part in Indonesia.
I should like to pay tribute to the Indonesian Embassy in Australia for the amount of interest, assistance and excellent co-operation it gave to our Committee. Its economic counsellor, Mr Abdul-Latief, was present at every public meeting that we held, irrespective of whether it was in Canberra, Melbourne or Sydney. It is interesting and encouraging to see that people within the Indonesian Embassy itself are prepared to give assistance and to play their part in greater cooperation for the development of trade between the 2 countries. Finally, I should like to say how much I enjoyed working with the Committee. I extend my appreciation to the secretariat for the part it played and the assistance it gave to the Committee during its investigations and also in the preparation of the final draft of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4 March on motion by Senator Wood:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-As Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee I presented the report to the Senate. I referred at that stage to some of the details of the report which related, of course, to the work undertaken last year. The Ministers to whom I referred in the report were Ministers in the previous Government. In the short speech I made when presenting the report I paid tribute to the excellent work of my predecessor as Chairman of the Committee, Senator Devitt. I paid tribute also to the Committee itself for the diligent way in which it handled the reference before it. I think that over a period of years we have been very fortunate in the composition of the Committee. I should like to pay tribute to those who have been on this Committee in the past for their ability, their qualities and the way in which they have applied themselves to the work of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. When I presented the report I omitted to thank the Secretary of the Committee. We are very fortunate to have Mr Harry Evans now as Secretary of the Committee. I should like to pay a tribute to the keenness which he displays in the Committee’s work and to the study which he gives to every aspect of it.
The Senate is aware that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee operates under 4 rules. They are, firstly, that the regulations and ordinances are in accordance with the statute; secondly, that they do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties; thirdly, that they do not unduly make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent upon administrative rather than judicial decisions; and, fourthly, that they are concerned with administrative detail and do not amount to substantive legislation which should be a matter for parliamentary enactment. I think that those rules have to be kept clearly in mind. Quite often people want the Regulations and Ordinances Committee to look at a regulation when it would be going outside the ambit of those 4 rules to do so. We do not consider the policy associated with a particular regulation.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to one aspect of the report to indicate how one of these important rules was, according to the Committee’s view, infringed by the postal services regulations and the Postal By-laws. The Committee stated:
These Regulations and By-laws contain provisions empowering officers of the Postal Commission to open and dispose of mail in certain circumstances. The Committee regards these as unduly infringing the rights and liberties of citizens. The Committee considers that the right to privacy of mail is an important right of the individual and ought to be abridged only pursuant to law, and with proper safeguards against misuse of the powers conferred by law.
As a result of the Committee’s consideration, the Minister agreed to alter the regulations to comply with the Committee’s views and requests. This is an indication of how the Committee, through its excellent legal adviser who scrutinises regulations, is able to pick up these particular points. I mention that matter to indicate the closeness with which the Committee has to look at regulations and the way in which they affect individuals.
One of the very fine principles that has been established by the Committee over a number of years is that the Committee acts on the highest parliamentary basis. It is entirely free of any Party political views. 1 think that that speaks volumes for the honourable senators who, over the years, have comprised the Committee. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee takes a view based on an absolutely parliamentary basis, because it is a parliamentary committee. That is why I have always been proud to be a member of this Committee and to have been its Chairman for so long. I believe that the work of the Committee has been of such great value that the Committee has achieved not only credit in this country but also an importance in the view of people who understand this work.
I remind honourable senators that it is not so many years ago-about 3 years ago- that the British House of Commons wrote to me as the then Chairman of the Regulation and Ordinances Committee and asked whether we would set out a complete charter of the work which a similar committee in Britain could do. We all know that the British Parliament is regarded as being the mother of all parliaments. That is the Parliament to which most other parliaments write to obtain advice. But on this occasion the British House of Commons asked us for advice. The members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and myself got together and set out what we thought a similar committee in Britain should do.
Because of the work done by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee over the years, other parliaments outside Australia and also within Australia have set up similar committees. I know that Victoria and one or two of the other States have set up similar committees. Recently we had a visit from the new Queensland Subordinate Legislation Committee, which is similar to our Regulations and Ordinances Committee. That Committee has just commenced to function in this area in the Queensland Parliament. I know that over the years, because of the merit that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has earned in the eyes of the parliaments in Australia and in the minds of the people who realise the great value of the Committee’s work, efforts have been made by private members in the State parliaments to set up similar committees. We have had visits from similar committees when they have been set up in other States. We have talked to those committees and have provided them with material to help them in their work in this very important parliamentary area. This is the report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee for 1975. I hope that honourable senators will read it and will realise more than ever that it is important that this Committee should carry out its functions on the basis on which it has operated for so many years.
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I appreciate the opportunity to follow Senator Wood in this debate and to make some comments appropriate to the subject that is now before the chamber. Firstly, let me say how much I appreciate the comments made by the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances concerning the period when I was the Chairman of this quite outstanding and tremendously important Committee of the Parliament. People in this Parliament and elsewhere refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances as being perhaps the most important Committee of the Parliament. That, I imagine, is a question which could be debated, depending upon one’s approach to these matters. However, the Committee has built up for itself a reputation and a standing in the parliamentary system which I think does it great credit. The Committee also has done a great deal to sustain the reputation of the parliamentary system in Australia, and that is how it ought to be.
Senator Wood touched on an extremely important aspect of the deliberations of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee when he said that the Committee deliberates on matters within the 4 criteria that have been laid down and strictly followed since the Committee’s inception, to the extent that Party political considerations do not enter into the Committee’s deliberations. I suppose that I could write a book about some of the matters on which
I have seen members of the Committee bring their own independent judgment to bear when the Committee has been considering questions before it. Members of one Party will take an attitude which sustains the position of the Government even though those members belong to the Opposition. The reverse situation also applies. To me this is a quite enlightening thing to see and it gives the lie to the claim that is sometimes made that all the deliberations and all the activities of the Parliament are based upon strict Party political lines. Those of us who have had the privilege to serve on committees of the Parliament, and on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in particular, will know that there is no substance in that claim. I suggest that the area in which perhaps the most important work of the Parliament is done- in the committee area- the views of individual members are brought to bear upon important questions. For instance, I can claim knowledge of a quite unique situation. When I was a member of the Opposition I gave to a Minister an opportunity to take an attitude on a matter. He would have found great difficulty in expressing this attitude if the judgment of the committee had been a unanimous one. It was not the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. In this instance I was the only dissenter on a committee comprising 9 members. The Minister upheld my view and through the legislative process the particular attitude that I took was eventually written into the law. I was under some pressure to relent in my attitude, to change my view, but I believed the circumstances were such that I could not do that and that I would be doing an injustice to the system and would be belittling the whole process if I were to lower my horizons and were to submit to the inducements that were being offered to me to change my attitude so that a unanimous report could be presented.
– That epitomises President Kennedy’s view that a man does what he must irrespective of the consequences.
-I am grateful for that comment. It really sustains me in the attitude that I took. I shall return to the report. The Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee was good enough to refer to my 3-year term as chairman of the Committee. It was a most rewarding and most educational experience and one which I think would be of tremendous benefit to any member of a parliament. I do not want to dwell on that but before I move from that particular aspect I must comment on the very great loyalty and tremendous assistance that was given to me by every member of the Committee. I would not be able to single out any individual member for any special credit in that regard because all the members of the Committee during my term of 3 years- membership of the Committee changes from time to time because of certain circumstances- were tremendously loyal and of very great assistance to me. Of course, this made my job as Chairman of the Committee very much easier than might otherwise have been the case.
The report that is before the Senate is simply a summary of those issues which came under notice of the Committee and upon which we had to act within the limits of our responsibility. We acted upon advice which more often than not we received from our legal advisor, who is a man versed in constitutional law, but we did not act upon advice on all occasions. On occasions various members of the Committee raised particular issues and I remember one very important issue being raised by Senator Brown concerning the export industry for apples and pears- a tremendously important matter which affected the industry right throughout Australia. But the Committee reported to the Senate only on those matters on which the Committee felt it necessary to get further advice and to take certain attitudes.
Although on many occasions the members of the Committee indicated that the attitude adopted by the Committee infringed upon a particular political attitude which they held, they accepted that it was a matter of policy and that the Government of the day had the right to have its policy prevail in these regulations. It was not part of our responsibility to move to reject some particular measure in the area of subordinate legislation simply on the grounds that it was not according to our own particular policy. We were at very great pains to preserve that position. I think that it needs to go on record, particularly when we have a lot of new senators in this chamber, that this particular Committee, whose duty is the surveillance of all subordinate legislation, approaches its duties and responsibilities in that way. So in fact, whilst we dealt with a multitude of matters, the report of the Committee deals specifically with 1 1 items- 3 Australian Capital Territory ordinances, 2 by-laws flowing from postal and telecommunications regulations, and 6 regulations at large. Of course, we dealt with a number of regulations affecting matters concerned with Norfolk Island but not in this particular report.
I do not want to go on at great length but simply to highlight the fact that the Committee believes it has a responsibility to report to the Senate. No doubt from time to time in these changing times, Mr President, you come under certain stresses and strains as to the appropriateness of the approach which you might be adopting. Bearing in mind the parameters of the 4 criteria imposed upon the Committee, its members are under stresses and strains in terms of the development of political attitudes- I suppose in terms of the progress of the times in the general field of politics. For instance, as time goes on one might well anticipate that the Committee will find itself in some difficulty because of developments in this particular region of Australia- in the Australian Capital Territory- where the legislative process might be assumed in time to come through the local legislative assembly. That has not come about yet, although the Australian Capital Territory does have what is called a ‘legislative assembly’. But what the Legislative Assembly does in relation to local legislation is not accepted as the ultimate judgment or decision on the merit of that legislation. It is still the responsibility of this Federal Parliament.
Honourable senators may recall that as time has gone on the Committee has withdrawn from its consideration of ordinances applicable to the Northern Territory and also, of course, to New Guinea. But the Committee does have a responsibility for Norfolk Island, the Australian Capital Territory, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and for general regulations flowing from the legislation of the Commonwealth.
I make just one final comment because I know that the Government has a matter to place before the Senate. Senator Wood will recall and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, will recall as a member of the delegation, that Senator Davidson, Senator Cavanagh and one or two others of us paid a visit to Norfolk Island at the request of the people of Norfolk Island who felt that the legislative process had passed them by and that nobody had any regard, care or concern for their welfare. I believe that the impression that we left there and the understanding gained by the people of Norfolk Island of the level of concern which the Parliament of Australia had for them changed their views completely. As I understand it, they are anxious for the Committee to make a return visit to confer again with the various groups, organisations and individuals on Norfolk Island to demonstrate quite clearly to them that the Parliament of Australia does have a concern for them and does want to do the right thing for them. As a matter of fact, when we returned from that visit to Norfolk Island we considered what would be an appropriate attitude for the Committee to adopt towards Norfolk Island without diminishing the value of the criteria that the Committee had accepted, in respect of those matters which came before it. We felt that Norfolk Island was a special case. It has a unique community built up from the Bounty mutineers and so on and we felt that it was necessary to try to preserve as far as we could that quite unique group of people. So we decided to accept as part of our terms of reference a special attitude, as I said, without diminishing the value or the effectiveness of the criteria. We felt that we should pay special regard to any matters affecting the welfare of Norfolk Island that came before us and henceforth that will be the attitude adopted by the Committee.
I just mention these things in connection with the tabling of the annual report of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances because this provided an opportunity to give to honourable senators who do not up to this stage understand the realm of the activities of the Committee some knowledge of what the Committee does, the attitudes that its members take and the importance which I believe that Committee has in the total parliamentary system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- At the moment this statement which I have to deliver is being read in another place by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I do not think I would have time to read it before 5 o’clock. As I am anxious that honourable senators should have it before they go home so that they can study it over the weekend, I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
Mr President, the purpose of my statement today is to spell out, in a detailed way, the Government’s policy towards foreign investment in Australia.
The statement I am making is necessary in order to dispel the atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty in which foreign investors have had to operate over the last few years.
The scale of this uncertainty is, I believe, considerable. In this context, I would draw attention to the fact that over the past three years total capital inflow (viewed broadly as the rise in Australia’s net overseas indebtedness) represented only 3 per cent of our total gross domestic capital formation, compared with around 10 per cent in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There is little doubt that confusion in the minds of investors about the circumstances in which they could operate in Australia was a major factor in contributing to the fall. This confusion arose because the previous government was very conscious of the costs of foreign investment but was reluctant to adequately acknowledge its benefits. The effective implementation of its policy was hamstrung by this attitude.
The government firmly believes that foreign capital should play a bigger role than it has in the past three years and that it should do so without adversely affecting our national interests.
Let me be clear at the outset. The government’s basic objectives are to encourage foreign investment in Australia because of the considerable contribution it can make to Australian development and prosperity but, at the same time, to see that such investment is on a basis of fair sharing of net benefits as between the foreign investor and the needs and aspirations of the Australian community.
Our policy will offer Australians maximum opportunity to participate as fully and effectively as practicable in the ownership and control of our natural resources and industries- and, thereby, in decisions having an important influence on our economic and social development.
What it will offer foreign investors is fair treatment under clear guidelines in the belief that we will thereby be making a significant move towards getting Australia going again. In view of the current depressed nature of private capital expenditure in Australia, foreign investment will play a positive role in assisting economic recovery.
Role of Foreign Investment in the Australian Economy
Before I proceed to outline the details of our policy it is important to consider the role of foreign investment in the Australian economy. Any successful policy in this field must be based on sound understanding and judgments about the way in which inflows of foreign capital affect our economy.
Foreign capital seeks to avail itself of profitable opportunities and Australia has a social and political environment which imposes few noncommercial risks. But while foreign investors come to make a profit, their investments here can in fact benefit us if put to productive use.
Foreign capital provides extra resources: it enables us to import more and develop at a faster rate than we otherwise would have done. It can bring with it, and disseminate, technological know-how and managerial skills: it can stimulate competition within our economy, thereby improving our efficiency and international competitiveness: substantial blocks of needed risk capital may become available: and otherwise inaccessible market connections may be established. The overall impact of such benefits is reflected in enhanced productivity, greater employment opportunities and higher real Australian income than would otherwise have been achieved.
These can be important contributions. Nevertheless, there can be costs as well as benefits. Our partnership with foreign capital must be a realistic one of mutual advantage. In past decades of high immigration, and rapid industrial development, there was a general presumption that all foreign investment should be welcomed. This is no longer the case. The Australian community quite properly demands that governments today take a more discriminating and mature attitude towards foreign investment.
This is particularly essential in the case of direct investment- which paradoxically has most to offer, and also raises the most important problems. It provides us with technology and skills and export markets as well as added resources: but it involves foreign ownership and control, and can raise various practical considerations about which any government must be sure that it is fully informed and has the appropriate administrative machinery to deal with.
These include taxation, technological arrangements and marketing and export plans. They involve policy issues much broader than simply the questions of foreign ownership and control.
In weighing these benefits and costs, it must be understood that we cannot have it both ways: we cannot both ward off foreign direct equity and acquire the benefit of it at one and the same time. The choices in the longer term are either a potentially slower rate of growth but with a larger share of the product of that growth accruing to Australians, or a faster rate of growth at the cost of greater foreign ownership. But the period of euphoria about foreign investment has gone. Foreign capital is a means to material advancement but material advancement is not our only aim.
The Government recognises that pursuit of policies on ownership and control involves trading some measure of material advancement for a more satisfactory overall arrangement. Added resources, access to technology, and increased managerial skills and other economic benefits need to be placed within the context of the community’s total requirements. Quite clearly, Australians will feel deprived if they believe that foreigners are investing here in ways which are harmful to our national economic and social interests. They will also feel deprived if foreign investment occurs in such a way as to deny them reasonable participation in the development of their own economy.
However, sensible policies and effective administration can minimise any such potential loss while at the same time making it clear to the foreign-controlled companies already operating in Australia, to potential foreign investors and to our major trading partners, that they have a role to play which is consistent with the national interest of this country.
We aim to strike a balance at the policy level between the potential net benefits of long-term investment by foreign interests and the possible costs to the national interest and aspirations of an over-high level of foreign ownership and control. We propose to do so by examining, in a framework of clear guidelines, individual foreign investment proposals of specified kinds.
We recognise that, in order to achieve the balanced outcome which we seek, government policy must be practical, widely known and well understood and not subject to unpredictable changes. Our policy has been framed with this in mind.
The essential elements of that policy are:
We will provide the maximum opportunity for Australians to participate as fully and effectively as practicable in the ownership and control of this country’s industries and natural resources.
We will make use of foreign capital, especially where it is accompanied by new technology and expertise, as an integral component of Australian economic and social development.
We will place major emphasis on Australian participation in new projects but without preventing projects that are clearly not against the national interest from proceeding.
We will welcome proposals to increase the level of Australian participation in existing foreign-owned companies but we will avoid the costly option of repurchasing such companies.
We will establish a foreign investment review board to advise the Government on foreign investment matters.
We will restrict foreign investment in certain basic sectors of the economy. These areas, some of which are already covered by legislation, are banking (both savings and trading), radio, television, daily newspapers and certain aspects of the civil aviation industry.
Proposals by foreign interests for investment in Australia outside the prohibited sectors just mentioned may be examinable by the Foreign Investment Review Board. Not all such proposals will be examinable and those which fall outside the scope of the screening machinery may be proceeded with automatically, subject to normal exchange control requirements where appropriate.
The Government wishes to examine the following types of proposals, details of which are contained in the attachment to this statement:
Proposals falling within the scope of the Foreign Takeovers Act including proposals by a single or associated foreign interest to acquire or increase a holding of 15 per cent or more in an Australian business even where the proposal does not involve a change in control of the business;
Proposals involving the establishment of new non-bank financial institutions and insurance companies;
Proposals to establish other new businesses or to undertake a new mining or natural resource project, where the amount of investment is $ 1 m or more;
Certain acquisitions by foreign interests of Australian real estate.
The definition of a foreign interest is clearly set out in the attachment to this statement and in order to remove any doubts which may exist 1 specifically invite attention to that definition.
Each examinable foreign investment proposal will be considered on its own merits to determine whether it is contrary to the national interest. The criteria for making this examination are set out in the attachment but, in the main, they encompass the net economic benefits and employment opportunities offered by the proposal, the level of Australian equity participation and management involved and the likely effect of the proposal on the Government’s general economic and social policies. It is not intended that all investment proposals shall necessarily satisfy all of the criteria listed in the attachment before being allowed to proceed. The list will be drawn on to the extent relevant in the circumstances of each particular case. Proposals found not to be contrary to the national interest according to these criteria will be approved.
The Government has decided that in certain sectors ofthe economy designated as ‘key areas’, namely:
Production and development (both onshore and offshore) of oil, natural gas and all other minerals including uranium;
Agricultural and pastoral projects;
Forestry and fishing projects;
Two specific objectives will be pursued.
The 75 per cent rule
Because of its unique status the government has decided that special conditions should apply to foreign investment in uranium. In this sector a project involving investment by foreign interests, not already in production, will only be allowed to proceed provided it has a minimum of 75 per cent Australian equity and is Australian controlled. This is to be achieved by the time the project comes into production. In this area the government will have regard to foreign portfolio investment. Uranium enrichment, and other investments in the nuclear fuel cycle apart from mining and production to the yellowcake stage, are not covered by this rule and will be looked at separately.
The 50 per cent rule
In the remaining key areas a new business or project involving investment by foreign interests of $ 1 million or more which is not against the national interest will as a general rule, only be allowed to proceed provided it has a minimum 50 per cent Australian equity together with at least 50 per cent of the voting strength on the board held by Australian interests.
The establishment of new projects in these sectors involves development of the natural resource wealth of the Australian continent and adjacent offshore areas, and the government considers it especially important to ensure that Australian interests participate as fully and effectively as possible in their development and exploitation.
Nevertheless, we are determined not to unduly delay the development of Australia’s natural resources and, without prejudice to what I have already said regarding uranium, the unavailability of Australian equity capital on reasonable terms and conditions will not prevent a project, considered by the government to be not against the national interest, from being allowed to proceed. In that event, though, the government will, as appropriate, seek satisfactory arrangements for Australian equity to be increased to at least 50 per cent within an agreed period.
In view of the need to achieve and maintain an adequate level of mineral exploration and because of the limited availability of Australian risk capital, the government has decided to concentrate on obtaining the maximum level of Australian participation at the development state of a mining project. Accordingly, while the government wishes to encourage Australian participation in mineral exploration, it will not be mandatory for foreign interests to seek Australian partners in their exploration programs.
In the field of real estate the government is concerned to ensure that rising land values generated by the growth of the economy as a whole accrue to Australians. We are particularly concerned that foreign interests should not engage in speculative purchases of real estate. Therefore, except for certain specified types of real estate investment, all acquisitions of Australian real estate by foregin interests will be examinable.
In other areas ofthe economy no specific prohibitions or minimum requirements for Australian equity will apply. Cases will be examined on their individual merits. In general, if it can be demonstrated that a proposal will be Australian controlled, it will be approved. As well, the government will expect to see significant economic benefits and /or Australian equity participation before permitting a new foreign interest to come into those areas where foreign ownership and control is already extensive.
Working with Private Enterprise
Earlier in this statement I said that an important element of the government’s policy will be to provide the maximum opportunity for Australians to participate as fully and effectively as practicable in the ownership and control of our industries and natural resources. The government is aware of the view that the Australian capital market sometimes experiences difficulty in providing sufficient equity finance to ensure a reasonable level of Australian ownership in projects where the expected ultimate return may be high but where the prospects for dividends are not good in the short term.
However, the Australian capital market is continuously improving its capacity to respond to the opportunities which our policies are designed to provide, especially in the area of joint venture participation in major resource projects.
In this connection, the Government believes that the Australian Industry Development Corporation has an important role to play in helping to mobilise funds required by Australian companies and in helping to bring together efficient Australian enterprises in order to foster Australian equity in local ventures of national importance.
The Government expects the Australian Industry Development Corporation to work closely with the foreign investment review board to assist in achieving the Government’s policy objectives.
The Government is conscious of the fact that foreign controlled companies have access to the Australian market for loan funds. We expect such companies to give full consideration to the possibilities of raising additional capital requirements through equity issues in Australia as an alternative to borrowings in Australia.
In the present circumstances, and given the Government’s expressed attitude, we do not see any need to lay down different rules for domestic borrowings by foreign controlled and Australian controlled companies.
Guidelines for foreign interests operating in Australia
I now turn to the activities of foreign controlled corporations and businesses operating in Australia.
We are, of course, anxious to see that the continuing operations, policies and practices of already established companies are not in any way contrary to the national interest. Foreign controlled corporations and businesses operating here do, of course, have to observe all the relevant laws of the land. And in this sense they are and always have been subject to the Government’s control. But it may be that, in respect of some aspects of their activities, it would be helpful to have some additional guidelines which they would be expected to observe.
Before taking a decision on this question we will be seeking the advice of the foreign investment review board. We will ask the Board to report on the potential value of guidelines covering such matters as:
Inter-company pricing and profit arrangements;
Royalty and licensing arrangements;
Availability of technology, patents etc;
Export franchise arrangements;
Extent and nature of parent control of Australian operations;
Management and personnel policies including role of Australians on boards of directors and in senior managerial positions.
In addition, the Government believes that the Australian branches of overseas incorporated companies should disclose publicly the same information in respect of their Australian operations as is required from Australian public, listed public or private companies as the case may be. We will seek to ensure that this is done. As well, the Government will monitor very carefully any situation where there is the possibility of resort by taxpayers to various tax avoidance devices and take any necessary steps to ensure that foreign investors, along with all other payers, do not shirk their responsibilities under the law.
Mr President, as I mentioned earlier in this statement, the Government has decided to establish a foreign investment review board. The board will:
Advise the Government on foreign investment matters generally, including the need for and scope of a foreign investment review Act;
Foster an awareness and understanding of the Government’s policies in the community at large and in the free enterprise sector in particular;
Work towards a high level of Australian private capital participation in new investment undertakings;
Give guidance to foreign investors on those aspects of their proposals which may not conform with the policy and suggest ways by which such proposals might be amended in order that they will do so;
Establish appropriate liaison with State government authorities;
Keep in touch with the activities of foreign controlled businesses already operating in Australia;
Consider the desirability of maintaining, in a form to be approved by the Government, a register of foreign investment proposals.
Initially we will establish the board by administrative action. It is proposed that it be given a statutory basis as soon as possible.
The board is to be comprised of not less than three members and not more than five. Except for the executive member, the appointments will be part-time. I expect to announce the names of the part-time members shortly. The head of the Treasury’s foreign investment division, presently Mr M. A. Besley, will be the executive member of the board.
The board will meet regularly, at least once a month, and will be supported by the executive services of the Treasury. It will also have available to it the expert advice and assistance of other relevant Commonwealth Government departments.
The Government is confident that the establishment of a board, to which we will appoint noted Australians with extensive commercial experience, will help to facilitate speedy, efficient and practical administration of its policy.
The Government’s administration of its foreign investment policy is based on the Foreign Takeovers Act 1975, the powers available to it under exchange control legislation and regulations and under export control powers. The Government is concerned, however, to simplify as far as possible, understanding of the executive basis of the Commonwealth’s powers in regard to all foreign investment matters. This should help to remove confusion in the minds of private investors. For this reason we will examine the possibility of embodying our policy in a comprehensive way in legislation. As I have mentioned, the foreign investment review board will have an important role in advising the Government in this regard.
In the meantime, the Government will continue its practice of seeking the co-operation of all parties in the implementation of its policy.
One aspect of current legislation which has caused us concern for some time is to be remedied. I refer to the present advantage which it has been suggested foreign-owned companies appear to enjoy over Australian-owned companies in applications before the Trade Practices Commission.
The Government proposes to introduce amending legislation which will remove the inter-relationship between the foreign takeovers act and the trade practices act so that foreign companies will no longer be able to obtain automatic approval from the trade practices commission consequent upon approval of their proposals under the foreign takeovers legislation.
Parties with proposals that fall within the scope of both acts can avoid unnecessary delays by submitting their proposals to the foreign investment review board and the trade practices commission simultaneously. For their parts, the board and the commission will liaise closely to ensure that their investigations minimise delays to the business community.
In addition, the government proposes to introduce amending legislation to correct, retrospectively to 1 January 1976, certain technical deficiencies which have been found in the recently proclaimed Foreign Takeovers Act.
These relate to the compulsory notification requirements of the act and the transitional provisions linking it with the now repealed Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act. Details of these deficiencies and the proposals designed to rectify them are contained in the attachment to this statement.
Mr President, this statement has been made in order to set out clearly the Government ‘s foreign investment policy. It is a comprehensive policy which has been formulated to meet the particular needs and aspirations of Australia and its people.
It is a policy which recognises that in a world where technology and market opportunities are changing rapidly, and where large scale funds are required for development, Australia cannot afford to isolate itself from a major source of innovation, competition and capital.
It is a policy which is in harmony with other National objectives in other important areas such as Aboriginal interests, decentralisation and the environment, as well as with our obligations under international treaties.
It is a policy which recognises that there is genuine concern in the community that Australia should not allow itself to slip into a position where vital decisions affecting the growth and direction of the Australian economy are being taken by foreigners who may not be fully attuned to Australia ‘s best interests.
These policy objectives are, I believe, widely accepted in the Australian community. We now need to settle down to the task of realising them. The Government does so in the expectation that we can make good the opportunities wasted amid the confusion of the past three years. We look to foreign investors to accept the challenge and to play an essential role, in partnership with Australian investors, in the development of Australia.
For the rest I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the detailed aspects of our policy as set down in the attachment to this statement.
FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN AUSTRALIA
Guidelines for Key Areas
Notification of Proposals
Amendments to Foreign Takeovers Act
The Government’s foreign investment policy is administered by the Treasurer. In the administration of the policy, the Treasurer is advised by the Foreign Investment Review Board which will have available to it, through the executive services of the Treasury, the departmental expertise previously made available by the Foreign Investment Advisory Committee (FIAC)- that is to say, contributions by the departments of the Attorney-General, Industry and Commerce, National Resources, Overseas Trade, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Reserve Bank together with the advice of other departments as necessary for the consideration of particular proposals.
In taking decisions on foreign investment matters the Treasurer will consult other appropriate ministers.
Relationship to Exchange Control Regulations
The foreign investment machinery does not affect the legal requirements of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations. However, where Reserve Bank approvals are required in respect of a proposal falling within the ambit of foreign investment policy, the bank will continue its practice of withholding approval until the Government has indicated that the proposal is not inconsistent with the policy.
Relationship to Export Permits
So far as export permits are concerned a foreign investor to whom the screening machinery applies is assured that in consideration of his application for an export permit he will not be disadvantaged because of the degree of foreign participation in the venture, provided the foreign investment aspects have been approved by the Government as not being inconsistent with its foreign investment policy.
The following definitions are provided for guidance in interpretation of the scope of the screening machinery:
A foreign interest is defined as:
A natural person not ordinarily a resident of Australia:
A foreign controlled corporation (or business); or any corporation (or business) in which there is a single or associated beneficial foreign interest of 1 5 per cent or more or in which there is an aggregate beneficial foreign interest of 40 per cent or more, regardless of whether or not the corporation (or business) is foreign controlled.
The Foreign Takeovers Act 1975 provides that unless the Treasurer is satisfied that in fact foreign person(s) are not in a position to determine the policy of the corporation concerned, a corporation in which:
Commercial investments by foreign governments, other than investments related to their official representation, will also be examinable in terms of the guidelines and criteria set out herein.
Foreign investment’ means funds to be invested by a foreign interest in shares or fixed assets whether financed from equity or loan funds, and whether financed from whatever source within Australia or overseas. The term does not include investment of a purely ‘portfolio’ nature except that in the production and development of uranium regard will be paid to foreign portfolio investment.
Definition of New Business
A new business (which includes the diversification of an existing business) is defined with reference to the Australian Standard Industrial Classification as published from time to time by the Australian Statistician. A proposal will be taken to involve an establishment of a new business if it will result in a foreign interest carrying on a new primary activity outside that ASIC group in which the foreign interest is already engaged in Australia. A new business also includes a new natural resources project.
Definition of Key Areas
Certain sectors of the economy have been designated as key areas. These sectors are:
Production and development of oil, natural gas and all other minerals including uranium- both onshore and offshore
Agricultural and pastoral projects
Forestry and fishing projects.
Definition of Real Estate
Australian real estate is denned as all forms of freehold and as certain types of leasehold. Types of leasehold which are deemed to be ‘real estate’ include leases which provide for profit sharing arrangements to the foreign lessee, which carry options to purchase, which provide for a transfer of ownership in specified circumstances, or which provide for compensation or payment on surrender ofthe lease.
Proposals by foreign interests for investment in Australia may be examinable under the screening machinery administered by the Treasurer. However, not all such proposals are examinable and those proposals which fall outside the scope of the screening machinery may be proceeded with automatically, subject to normal exchange control requirements where applicable. The scope of the screening machinery is outlined below.
The following categories of investment will be examinable:
Proposals falling within the scope of the Foreign Takeovers Act- including proposals by a single or associated foreign interests to acquire or increase a holding of 15 per cent or more in an Australian business even where the proposal does not involve a change in control of the business;
Proposals involving the establishment of new non-bank financial institutions and insurance companies;
Proposals to establish other new businesses or to undertake a new mining or natural resource project, where the amount of investment is $ 1 m or more;
All proposals involving acquisition of Australian real estate, except for those categories of real estate investment exempted in this attachment.
The Government seeks notification of the above foreign investment proposals and consultation through the foreign investment review board. In examining proposals, the Government will keep administrative procedures as simple as possible and will not, insofar as it is possible, interfere in normal commercial relations.
The foreign investment review board will have the responsibility of discussing with foreign interests any deficiencies in their investment proposals and of suggesting ways in which these could be altered so as to conform with the national interest.
Each foreign investment proposal will be looked at on its own merits to determine whether or not it is contrary to the national interest. The criteria for making this examination are set out below.
CRITERIA FOR EXAMINATION OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT PROPOSALS
In administering its policy the Government aims to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs of foreign investment. In order to achieve this aim each examinable proposal will be considered on its individual merits against certain criteria the most important of which are listed below.
In applying the criteria which follow, a less rigorous approach will be taken in respect of proposals which can be shown to be Australian controlled. Except for investment in the natural resources areas and except for investment in real estate, proposals which can be shown to be Australian controlled will generally be approved. In the natural resource and real estate areas, proposals will be examined on their merits in terms of the criteria and guidelines.
The Government will take into account whether, against the background of existing circumstances in the relevant industry, the proposal would produce, either directly or indirectly, net economic benefits to Australia in relation to the following matters:
If a proposal is judged to be not contrary to the national interest on the basis of the above criteria, the following additional criteria will also be taken into account:
Whether the business concerned could subsequently be expected to pursue practices consistent with Australia’s best interests in respect of such matters as:
These criteria will be applied pragmatically according to the circumstances of individual cases. It is not intended that all investment proposals shall necessarily satisfy all ofthe above criteria before being allowed to proceed. For example, a proposal for activity purely within the Australian domestic market would not be disadvantaged because it made no contribution to export markets.
GUIDELINES FOR KEY AREAS
In sectors of the economy designated as ‘key areas’ the Government will pursue some more specific objectives.
Because of its unique status special conditions will apply to foreign investment in uranium. In this sector a project involving investment by foreign interests, not already in production, will only be allowed to proceed provided it has a minimum of 75 per cent Australian equity and is Australian controlled. This is to be achieved by the time the project comes into production. In this area regard will be paid to foreign portfolio investment.
Uranium enrichment, and other investments in the nuclear fuel cycle apart from mining and production to the yellowcake stage, are not covered by this rule and will be looked at separately.
Production and Development of Minerals (Other Than Uranium) and Other Primary Resources
A new business or project involving investment by foreign interests of $ 1 m or more which is not against the national interest will, as a general rule, only be allowed to proceed if it has a minimum 50 per cent Australian equity together with at least 50 per cent of the voting strength on the board held by Australian interests.
Proposals which are not against the national interest but which do not meet the guideline of a minimum of 50 per cent Australian equity may be allowed to proceed if the Government judges that the unavailability of sufficient Australian equity capital on reasonable terms and conditions would unduly delay the development of Australia’s natural resources. In that event, however, the Government will, as appropriate, seek satisfactory arrangements for Australian equity to be increased to at least 50 per cent within an agreed period.
It will not be mandatory for foreign companies to seek Australian participation in their exploration activities. However, the Government wishes to see, to the extent reasonably practical, a continuing and significant level of Australian involvement in mineral exploration. It will, therefore, expect foreign interests to seek Australian participation in those projects for which there is a reasonable expectation that they will proceed to the development stage.
The Foreign Investment Review Board has as one of its tasks the role of keeping in touch with foreign interests operating in Australia. As part of that process, the Government will require foreign exploration companies to advise the Foreign Investment Review Board annually of the details of their forward exploration programs.
Foreign investment in real estate will be considered to fall into one of the following categories:
The following classes of proposals are not examinable
intending migrants who have been formally accepted as such by the Australian Government.
Note 1 -Companies making acquisitions falling within (a) will be required to notify annually of the purchases made and the relationship of the value of their total holdings of real estate to their statutory funds.
Note 2- Acquisitions listed in (e), (f) and (g) are required to be sold to Australians, or other eligible purchasers, when they are no longer being used for the approved purpose.
This category includes the purchase of land for the erection of factories, shops, hotels, or sites acquired by foreign interests as incidental to the main purposes of their normal business activity. This category does not include purchases made as part of the business of real estate development. Acquisitions of real estate which do not constitute part of an overall investment proposal, but which are incidental to future expansions and new investment will only be examined where the value of the real estate exceeds $100,000. However foreign interests are required to provide an annual return listing purchases of real estate of this nature.
Acquisitions of real estate to be used substantially or in full for accommodation purposes of the purchaser, whether this be offices or otherwise, will normally be approved.
The following acquisitions of real estate will be examined on their own merits, having in mind the special significance the government attaches to foreign acquisition of real estate
All forms of real estate acquisition other than those outlined in the foregoing will not normally be approved
Notification of Proposals
All proposals, including proposals notifiable under the Foreign Takeovers Act 1975, should be addressed to:
The Executive Member Foreign Investment Review Board C/o The Treasury CANBERRA, A.C.T.2600
Inquiries concerning the board and proposals for the board ‘s consideration should be similarly addressed.
In non-takeovers area, if a decision has not been made within a maximum period of 90 days from the date of submission the parties will not be prevented from proceeding with their proposals. (It is expected that most proposals will be determined in a significantly shorter time.)
In the takeovers area the time periods are laid down in the Foreign Takeovers Act.
Potential foreign investors should submit their proposals to the board at an early date. This is particularly important if the investor is uncertain of the acceptability of his proposal. Early submission will enable the investor to discuss his proposal with the board and to receive any necessary guidance on it.
AMENDMENT TO FOREIGN TAKEOVERS ACT
It is proposed that the Foreign Takeovers Act be amended retrospectively to allow persons to whom the compulsory notification provisions of the Act (contained in Section 26) apply to:
Proceed, without notifying the treasurer, with an acquisition of shares which received governmental approval prior to the commencement of the Act on 1 January 1976, but which had not been effected by that date.
The Act at present does not exempt such share acquisitions from compulsory notification. A person who received governmental approval to acquire shares in an Australian corporation should clearly not be required to renotify that acquisition. The proposed amendment will rectify this situation. Implement a proposal notified under section 26 within 40 days of giving notice of that proposal to the treasurer where the treasurer has advised the persons concerned that the government has no objections to that proposal.
Section 26 of the Act prohibits certain persons from acquiring, or offering to acquire, a substantial shareholding in an Australian corporation within 40 days of giving notice to the treasurer of an intention to do so. This prohibition was designed to prevent persons who had so notified from proceeding with their proposal while it was being examined. However, the effect is also to prohibit implementation of such a proposal until the expiration of the 40 day time period, even when the treasurer has, within that period, notified the persons concerned that the government has no objections to the proposal. This situation was never intended to arise and the proposed amendment is designed to correct this.
Make agreements or offers to acquire or increase a substantial shareholding in an Australian corporation without attracting the penalties provided for in section 26 of the Act where those agreements or offers are conditional on the receipt of governmental approval under the Act.
As the Act now stands, there is some doubt as to whether parties to an acquisition of shares can engage in preliminary negotiations without leaving themselves open to the possibility of committing an offence against section 26. Such a possibility may well inhibit normal commercial conduct. This was never intended to occur. The proposed amendment is designed to correct this situation.
It also appears that any agreement entered into in contravention of section 26, whether unwittingly or otherwise, may be invalid and void at law. This was never the intention of the Act and the government regards such invalidity as an unnecessarily harsh penalty. It is therefore proposed that the Act be amended retrospectively to prevent this situation from arising.
The government further proposes to amend the Foreign Takeovers Act to achieve equality of treatment under the Trade Practices Act for both foreign and Australian companies. To this end: The treasurer’s power to issue a certificate to the effect that a proposal would not be contrary to the national interest (such certificates being used to direct the Trade Practices Commission to authorise the proposal) is to be deleted from the Foreign Takeovers Act.
The transitional provisions of the Act are to be amended to prevent the further issuance of such certificates under the now repealed Companies (Foreign Take-Overs ) Act.
Foreign Investment in Australia- Ministerial Statement,1 April 1976 - and move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What are the details of any means tests applied by the Department of Social Security in relation to any forms of benefits made available to the public on application to that Department.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Age, invalid and wife’s pensions
Except for people aged 70 or over who are entitled to the age pension free of means test, age, invalid and wife’s pensions (other than pensions paid to blind persons) are subject to a means test which applies to income and property. The rate of pension payable in any case depends on the claimant’s means as assessed. When calculating means as assessed, assets or property owned by the applicant are equated with income by treating each complete $20 of assets above $400 as equivalent to an income of $2 a year. This amount is the property component. Means as assessed may consist entirely of the property component, entirely of income, or of various combinations of property component and income. The annual maximum rate of pension is affected when means exceed the allowable sum of:
For a single, widowed or divorced person- $ 1 ,040
For a married pensioner- $897
The effect of the means test in the case of a single, widowed or divorced person, is to reduce the applicable maximum rate of pension by half the amount of any means as assessed in excess of $1,040. For a married pensioner the applicable maximum rate of pension is reduced by half of any means as assessed in excess of $897.
The income and property of a married person are taken to be half the total income and property of both unless they are legally separated or in other special circumstances.
Widow’s pension and supporting mother’s benefit
Widows’ pensions and supporting mothers’ benefits are subject to a means test on income and property. The rate payable in any case depends on the claimant’s means as assessed. When calculating the means as assessed of a claimant for Class ‘A’ widow’s pension or supporting mother’s benefit, no amount in respect of property is taken into account where the value of the widow’s or supporting mother’s property is $4,500 or less. If the value of property exceeds $4,500 the woman’s total assets or property are equated with income by treating each complete $20 of assets above $2,000 as equivalent to an income of $2 a year. This amount is the property component. Means as assessed may consist entirely of the property component, entirely of income, or of various combinations of the property component and income. The means test for Class ‘B’ widow’s pension is the same as for single, widowed or divorced claimants for age or invalid pension. In the case of a Class ‘A’ widow, or a supporting mother, the maximum rate of pension plus the appropriate mother’s allowance and additional pension for children, are affected when the woman’s means as assessed exceed the allowable sum of $1,040. (After a deduction is made of up to $312 a year from the pensioner’s income for each dependent child under 16 or full-time student). The applicable maximum rate of pension (including mother’s allowance and additional pension for a child or children) is reduced by half of the amount of any means as assessed in excess of $1,040. There is no specified means test for the Class ‘C pension, which is payable if the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that the widow is in necessitous circumstances within 26 weeks of her husband’s death.
Supplementary assistance (rent allowance for pensioners and supporting mothers)
The maximum rate of supplementary assistance is reduced by the amount by which the person’s means as assessed exceed the equivalent of $ 1 a week of income.
Sheltered Employment Allowance
The means test is the same as for invalid pensions.
Commonwealth ‘fringe’ benefits such as the telephone rental concession are available to pensioners whose means as assessed do not exceed the equivalent of a weekly income of $33 (single), $57.50 (married couple).
Unemployment and sickness benefit
The weekly rate of benefit is reduced by the amount by which a beneficiary’s other income exceeds the amount of permissible income ($3 a week for a single person aged 1 6 to 20 years at least one of whose parents is residing in Australia; $6 a week for other persons). For unemployment benefit purposes the income of the spouse is also taken into account unless the claimant and his spouse are permanently separated. For sickness benefit purposes, income of the spouse is taken into account in determining dependency and, consequently, the claimant’s eligibility for additional benefit for the spouse.
Any amount of compensation, damages or similar payment, or war pension, paid in respect of the same incapacity as that for which sickness benefit is claimed, is deducted from the sickness benefit. If not paid in respect of the same incapacity, compensation is regarded as income and war pension is ignored.
Supplementary allowance (rent allowance for persons to whom sickness benefit has been payable for a continuous period of more than six weeks)
There is no specified means test for supplementary allowance. The Director-General must be satisfied that the person requires the allowance by reason that he pays rent and is entirely or substantially dependent upon his sickness benefit.
There is no specified means test but there is a requirement that the Director-General be satisfied that the person by reason of age, physical or mental disability or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants. In applications for Special Benefit additional information can be sought from the Department’s social workers who would take into account the applicant’s personal and social circumstances in making a report
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
1 ) Can the Minister provide an estimate of how many
Does the Department of Social Security offer any assistance to those pensioners who pay rates on their own property.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The latest survey of social security pensioners, conducted on 6 October 1975, showed the following number and percentage of pensioners who were classified as home owners:
) The Department of Social Security does not offer any specific assistance in respect of rates to pensioners who own their own properties. However, rate concession schemes for eligible pensioners exist in all states and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The nature of these concessions varies within and between States. In addition, the personal income tax system provides indirect assistance to certain ratepayers in the form of a rebate on the amount paid in rates on a taxpayer’s sole or principal residence.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What are the specific duties and functions of the Special Air Service Regiment.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Special Air Service Regiment’s duties and functions are presently reconnaissance and harassment of the enemy, often behind enemy lines.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Where weapons are manufactured in Australia, safety and functioning tests are carried out to a routine schedule which is developed by the Army Quality Assurance Service taking into consideration the similar schedules developed in the country of origin and the peculiar requirements of the Australian Defence environment. This schedule of tests is monitored and amended to reflect experience from overseas and in Australia.
The Director-General of Army Quality Assurance considers that there is adequate testing applied to weapons issued to the Australian Forces and such defect incident reports that do arise are generally related to isolated occurrences or mishandling ofthe weapons.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 April 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760401_senate_30_s67/>.