30th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 2.30 p.m.
– Honourable senators, I have to announce that the President, Senator Laucke, is overseas on parliamentary business and is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate. In accordance with standing order 29 the Chairman of Committees, Senator Drake-Brockman, will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That, during the absence of the President, the Chairman of Committees shall, on each sitting day, take the chair of the Senate as Deputy President and may, during such absence, perform the duties and exercise the authority of the President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate and to proceedings of standing and joint statutory committees to which the President is appointed.
– I present the following petition from 300 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) That the Ethnic Radio Hour in N.S.W. broadcast in Croatian is controlled and run by members of the Yugoslav community and that the Australian-Croatian ethnic community is’ given no say.
That Australian passports have been denied to some Australian citizens of Croatian origin without explanation or possibility of appeal.
That discrimination has been exercised in the granting of citizenship privileges to migrants of Croatian origin.
That discrimination is being exercised by the Australian Parliament in the negation and non-recognition of Croatian nationality.
That discrimination is being exercised by the Australian Government in Ethnic Schools and University courses when it permits only the teaching of Serbo-Croat and not of the Croatian language as an alternative.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will consider these facts in the light of justice toward a people who came as strangers to this land, and that appropriate action will be taken to remedy the present situation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 106 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and the Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia do humbly submit:
That the Government should withdraw its proposed changes to Medibank.
The United Nations has declared this decade ( 1975-85) as the Decade of Action for the needs of women. It has also declared the health of all people is a basic human right.
Believing that women have a major need for adequate, low-cost health care, the undersigned declare their wholehearted opposition to the changes intended by the present Government to Medibank, and affirm that any changes should be designed to further liberalise the original scheme, not to weaken it.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Webster.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal people of Central Australia who presently live on the fringes of towns such as Alice Springs, are among the most depressed groups in Australia. Our People for so long ignored by white Australians face a future of continued starvation, unemployment and deprivation unless positive action is taken to meet the needs of the people for land and facilities.
Your petitioners therefore humble pray that urgent consideration be given to a favourable decision on the continuation of Federal Government finance to assist Aboriginal fringe dwellers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Kilgariff.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric System and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Webster.
-I ask the Minister for Education: When will a decision be taken on those sections of the Bland report that affect the Department of Education? Will certain recommendations, if implemented, change the structure of the Schools Commission? Will the Minister ensure that before decisions are taken the relevant sections of the Bland report are made available to groups interested in education?
– The reports of the Administrative Review Committee, which I think is known as the Bland Committee, will not be made public, as announced by the Prime Minister. The reports of the Committee, either in part or whole, will not be made public. The Committee’s reports will be considered along with all other submissions from the public and from the Government when the Government undertakes reforms in education. The specific question asked by Senator Wriedt concerns the Schools Commission. The Government has made it abundantly clear that it proposes to retain the Schools Commission in its role as a statutory commission along with the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education to conduct inquiries and to make recommendations to the Government. The Government may well make some reforms in the nature of the Schools Commission in terms of its federalist policies. It will certainly be undertaking those kinds of reforms in the months ahead. The reforms will be announced as soon as decisions are taken.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Is she aware of the reason for yesterday’s visit to Wilcannia by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister? If so, can she advise the Senate of the object of the visit? Can the Minister give the Senate any more information about the visit?
– As I understand it, the visit by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister to Wilcannia was the reason for attendance at a ceremony for the handing over of the first completed home in the housing association project in that area. I believe that the Prime Minister was impressed with the way in which that housing association is conducting the project. He was able to inform the Aborigines that money for housing programs would be made available during the current financial year, as soon as the reviews of housing activities have been completed by the Government. This assurance was in accordance with the Treasurer’s statement in the Budget that additional funds would be made available as the reviews of the programs are completed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether the hearing of a claim by Aboriginals for traditional and other lands at Borroloola in the Northern Territory was abandoned as a result of a discussion at a function in the United States of America at which the Prime Minister and representatives of certain mining interests were present? Is it also a fact that the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly have agreed to allow Mount Isa Mines Holdings Limited to proceed with mining development on what must now be described as Aboriginal land at Borroloola? I ask the Minister: Is this not contrary to the terms of projected Australian Government legislation as set out in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976?
– The subject matter of this question is contained in a question placed on notice in the Senate on 18 August. As the honourable senator will understand, it is not the usual practice in the Senate for Ministers to reply to questions without notice which are broadly similar to questions which are on the notice paper. I think it would be understood that Mount Isa Mines Holdings Limited has held leases over what is reported to be the largest silver, lead and zinc deposit in Australia, 45 kilometres south of Borroloola. I will expedite the answer to the question which is on notice which, I believe, will provide some of the information sought by the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a supplementary question. I preface it by saying that I am aware that a question similar to the one
I have just asked is on the notice paper and also that a letter has been addressed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. However, I have received a reply to neither of them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! If the question is on notice then I do not think we should proceed any further.
– This one is a different one.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No. I call Senator Young.
-I ask the Minister for Education: Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Budget will be presented in the South Australian Parliament today? Also, has the Minister seen a report in today’s Australian that the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, is likely to cut back on education with reported likely savings of some $50m? Can the Minister state whether this is purely a South Australian decision and whether any influence on this decision by Mr Dunstan could be related to Federal financial contributions to South Australia?
– I did see an article in the Australian this morning which suggested that the South Australian Budget would be brought in tonight. I was quite surprised to read a suggestionI have no knowledge of whether it is accurate- that there would be substantial cutbacks by Mr Dunstan in the Budget and that a large one, to the extent of $55m, would be made in education. As I said, I know nothing about the truth or otherwise of that suggestion. I do say to the honourable senator in response to his specific question that the South Australian Government ended its previous budgetary year with a declared surplus of $2. 3m and with an accrued sum of some $55m which it has put into funds for future spending. It also will receive for this year some $9. 8m more in revenue grants, that is, in tax sharing, than it would have received under the Whitlam Government formula. So quite clearly the South Australian Government has a very substantial amount of money available to it. If it chooses to make cutbacks in revenue items such as education then that is a decision of its own accord and is in no way related to the volume of funds available to it.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development give assurances that the fear of subsidy strangulation that is held by major conservation groups is unfounded and that such groups who operate as environmental vigilantes will not have their operations curbed in the face of mounting mining industry pressures?
– I have no knowledge of any so-called subsidy strangulation as suggested by Senator Mulvihill.
- Mr Milo Dunphy said something about it.
-Whether Mr Milo Dunphy said it or not, I still have no knowledge of it. If the honourable senator would like to let me have a copy of the alleged statement I shall bring it to the attention of my colleague in the other place and invite his comment on it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Is it a fact that although the Administrative Appeals Tribunal commenced work on 1 July 1976 under the presidency of Mr Justice Brennan, fewer than 150 inquiries have been received by the officers of the Tribunal and none of them falls within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal? Did the Minister and other senators then in opposition unsuccessfully advocate the extensive widening of the Tribunal ‘s powers when the Bill was debated in the Senate? Does the Minister agree that sound evidence now exists for the extensive expansion of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal so that it may render substantial justice to the citizen in his battle against bureaucracy?
– It is a fact that since the commencement of operations of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on 1 July the Tribunal has received numerous inquiries about matters that are not within its jurisdiction. It certainly is a fact that when the Bill to establish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal was introduced into the Parliament by the previous Government that original Bill made virtually no provision whatsoever for the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. It was really the amendments proposed by the then Opposition, and moved by Senator Greenwood if my memory is correct, which gave some real force and effect to the Tribunal by incorporating into schedules a great deal of specific jurisdiction which had been recommended for this Tribunal by the Committee presided over by Sir Henry Bland and known as the Committee on Administrative Discretions. Certainly, it was one of my own interests at the time, as it was of other then Opposition senators, to ensure that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal was given an effective jurisdiction. I believe that the amendments made to that Bill in this place last year greatly improved the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. However, there is clearly a need to ensure that the Tribunal is given a full and adequate jurisdiction to review administrative decisions of Ministers and officials in as many cases as possible.
In the course of this year extensions have been made by this Government to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal in Acts which have been brought in. I refer to the Superannuation Act, the National Health Amendment Act, the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act and the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act. I am advised also that a comprehensive ordinance is in preparation for an early submission to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly with a view to enabling the Tribunal to review decisions made under about 45 ordinances in the Territory. I remind the Senate further that the independent inquiry into the repatriation system presided over by Mr Justice Toose recommended that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal replace the existing appeals tribunals under the Repatriation Act. This recommendation is being studied at the moment by my Department in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department.
The Attorney-General’s Department is also holding discussions with officers of other departments in the welfare area to see whether there could be a further extension of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. There are, of course, a great many statutory discretions conferred under various Commonwealth regulations. A study is being made to see whether there could be a number of cases under those discretions. It can be seen therefore that the Government is alive to the problem raised by Senator Missen and has already taken some very active steps to extend and improve the jurisdiction of this Tribunal.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Has the Government made a decision to transfer all the pre-school functions and funding from the Office of Child Care to the Department of Education? Has the Minister sought or received advice from State consultative committees on child care and from concerned voluntary groups and other interested groups on the implications of separating pre-school services from other children’s services funded by the Office of Child Care?
– As has been announced previously, the Government is considering the future funding of pre-school education.
The Office of Child Care in the Department of Social Security is at present administering all the programs previously handled by the Interim Committee of the Children’s Commission. The Government has announced that it will continue the previous Government’s basis of pre-school funding until the end of this year, despite the fact that only a small number of pre-schools have fulfilled the condition that they provide extended and integrated services with child care and other services. When our consideration of these matters has been completed we will make an appropriate announcement.
With regard to advice from State consultative committees and other groups concerning the separation of child care from pre-school education, I am not aware of any recent advice along those lines because no such advice has been requested from State consultative committees. The Office of Child Care and its functions are under examination at present and an appropriate announcement will be made when the investigations are concluded.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Transport inform the Senate of the present situation in the air traffic controllers dispute? When can the public expect to be able to travel by air without the great inconvenience experienced over the last few days?
– As I understand the situation the matter now rests primarily with the Public Service Board since it relates to pay and allowances of air traffic controllers. Because it is a highly sensitive matter and it is not specifically my responsibility, I suggest that I seek detailed information from my colleague the Minister for Transport in another place and then let the honourable senator know.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science who has a responsibility for meteorological services. I hope the Minister will forgive my persistent questioning on this subject.
– He is an expert. He will handle it.
– Yes. As a result of the invitation extended to interested bodies to make submissions on the retention of meteorological services, particularly in the Bass Strait area and the West Coast region of Tasmania, were submissions made to the Department, have they been examined, and, as a consequence, can he inform the Senate whether the services will be restored to their former level?
– I think Senator Devitt can be assured that this matter has been under close scrutiny for some time. I inform the Senate that Senator Devitt, acting on behalf of his Tasmanian people, has been most active in seeking restoration of the coastal reports which were formerly available. He is aware that they were eliminated progressively at a saving of approximately $40,000 since last October. Senator Devitt is correct in saying there have been discussions with interested bodies. There have been discussions in Victoria with representatives of the fishing and boating industries and, of course, with the Victorian authorities, and I believe there have been discussions with some Ministers in the Tasmanian Government. Last Friday I was involved in a meeting with the Director of the Bureau of Meteorology, Dr Gibbs, to discuss this matter because it had come to the knowledge of the Bureau that there was strong support from most of these bodies for a restoration of a service providing forecasts of coastal conditions. It generally has been the view of the Bureau that this service related mainly to past conditions rather than providing forecasts and, in that sense, was of limited value. However, following an evaluation by the Bureau and its written advice to me, this matter will receive my urgent consideration within the next few days. If there is to be a change to the present situation I will inform the Senate.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services, relates to the report of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections in Australia which recommended that a site near Black Mountain be set aside for a national museum of Australia. Is the Minister able to advise whether the Government has yet been able to act on those recommendations of the Pigott Committee that seek a site in Canberra for a national museum of Australia?
-It is correct, as the honourable senator said, that the Pigott Committee recommended that a major national museum be established on a site near Black Mountain. For the information of the honourable senator, as a result of that recommendation I wrote to the Minister for the Capital Territory asking that the site designated in the report be set aside for the Museum of Australia. That has not been done, but I have received a letter from the Minister for the Capital Territory in which it has been agreed that this site will not be used for any other purpose, without prior consultation between various departments. I think it is really due to some technicality that the site cannot be set aside at the moment. Basically, it has been said that it will not be used for any other purpose for the time being, until a conclusion has been reached as to where the Museum of Australia should go. I think it is generally accepted that the site near Black Mountain is so good that nobody would want to put the Museum anywhere else.
-Did the Minister for Social Security, in February of this year, issue guidelines giving departmental officers power to penalise the unemployed by withholding their unemployment benefit if they voluntarily surrendered their employment? If so, were those discretionary powers retrospective? I cite a specific example: An Australian citizen approached my office yesterday to advise that he had voluntarily surrendered his employment prior to 4 July 1 975, to go overseas on a working holiday for 1 5 months. He has now returned to Australia and is unable to find employment. He is being denied unemployment benefit for 6 weeks because the departmental officer in Perth has determined- I think I am quoting the officer directly- that he should have made adequate provision for employment before he left Australia. Will the Minister advise whether this is part of a plan by the Government to reduce the unemployment benefit payment figures to such an extent that people will have to turn to anti-social behaviour in an effort to survive, so that the Government then can justifiably say that they are not worthy of receiving that benefit?
– The testing with regard to eligibility for unemployment benefit is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I will refer to him the context of the question and the specific instance that has been given so that he can determine whether what has been stated is an accurate statement of fact. If I have any further information later in the day I will give it to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It concerns fees for vaccinations given by Commonwealth medical officers to people travelling overseas. In Brisbane alone hundreds of people a month- in some months maybe thousands of people- receive these vaccinations from the Department of Health free of charge. In view of the economic situation, could the Minister inform the Senate whether it is the Government’s intention to cease distributing these vaccinations free to the public, or does the Government intend to charge for these services as was the case prior to 1 July 1975 when the previous Government abolished the charges?
– I will need to refer this matter to the Minister for Health for his determination. I will see that the honourable senator gets an answer as soon as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, refers to the Government’s consideration of shipbuilding policies and representations made to the Prime Minister, I understand, by the governments of New South Wales and South Australia. Can the Minister indicate whether those representations have been made to the Government? When is it likely that they will be determined? Is it likely that they will be determined on the basis of the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendation? Can he advise whether the continuing discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions shipbuilding group are to be preserved so that labour and industrial problems and recommendations in relation to that matter can be considered?
-The Premier of New South Wales did talk to the Prime Minister about these matters. He undertook to deliver all kinds of positions. Nothing more has been heard from him. We read in the newspapers that the Australian Council of Trade Unions shipbuilding group, which I found in discussion comprised very useful people to talk to, intended to make representations to the Government. We have heard nothing from it. The Industries Assistance Commission currently is going through the 1971-72 report upon which the McMahon and Whitlam governments’ policies were based, and upon which ours are being continued. The IAC is going through that data and updating it as to the current level of cost. Its recommendation is not expected before about 20 September. When it is received it will be most interesting for us all.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. The Minister will note that I asked about what we understood to be the South Australian representations.
-A11 1 can say is that Mr Dunstan came to see me and gave me some information which I sent on to the Prime Minister. I do not think that Mr Dunstan has gone beyond that in talking to the Prime Minister, although that is as much as I know at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to the establishment of the proposed national rural bank. Can the Minister say whether the departmental committee’s investigation has been completed? If so, when will an announcement be made in relation to the findings? If the committee ‘s investigation has not been completed, can the Minister say when its report is likely to be available?
-Like the honourable senator, I read the newspaper report about this matter with some interest. My understanding is that the Minister for Primary Industry has asked the Bureau of Agricultural Economics for some updated figures. That is the most up-to-date information I have. Beyond that I know nothing about any further proposals or any particular details. I shall have to ask for information for the honourable senator.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, concerns the 140 Department of Defence houses situated at Tindal in the Northern Territory. As the Minister will know, a decision has been taken to call for tenders for the removal of most of these houses. In view of the shortage of accommodation in Katherine, the high cost of new houses and the relatively low cost of renovating the Defence houses, will the Minister review his decision so as to ensure that people now living in sub-standard homes can be provided with more appropriate accommodation?
-I did not know that my department was involved with these houses, but as the honourable senator says that it is, I will have to take his word for it. I will have the position looked at and I will inform the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education. I refer to reports alleging possible retrenchments and other restrictions at the Australian National University following the Government’s recent Budget. Can the Minister say whether these reports are accurate? Can he give some details of the likely impact of the decisions on the Australian National University?
– I saw a report in the Canberra Times of last Friday. From recollection, its substance suggested that for next year the amount of funds for the Australian National University, in real terms, would be some 3 per cent less than funds for this year. The report is completely incorrect in its assumptions. The fact is that, as recommended by the Universities Commission, the level of grants for the Australian National University for 1977 will be 2.2 per cent greater in real terms than that provided for 1976. Funds available for recurrent and equipment expenditure for the University in 1976 were, however, as a result of decisions of the previous Government, approximately $ 1.7m less than the grants provided for 1975 using the same cost levels. The reduction was due to a halving of equipment grants for all universities in that year. The funds available under the guidelines in 1977 have enabled the Universities Commission to recommend levels of grants which largely restore that cut.
Moreover, under the minimum level of funds indicated for 1978 and 1979 the Commission has recommended further restoration of the equipment grant and some provision for increases in real income for the university in 1978 and 1979, although the Commission states in its report that the university will probably be unable to increase academic staff over the period unless it achieves some economies elsewhere. The fact is that recurrent and equipment grants in 1977, on the commission’s present recommendations, would be $63. 8m compared with $62.4m. There is thus no substance at all in the reported claim that the university would experience an overall budget contraction of some 3 per cent next year.
-Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether officers of the Bureau of Statistics are processing the census returns which were taken earlier this year in relation to total population and population trends? If this work is being carried out, can the Minister say what progress, if any, is being made in this area?
-I shall have to take the question on notice. I do not have information telling me whether the processing has started or, if it has, at what stage it is. The honourable senator is entitled to an accurate answer. I shall get one for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I have previously raised the matter of the establishment of an Australian register of shipping. Can the Minister advise whether there has been any recent progress in the matter and whether there is any likelihood of such an establishment. If there is, when will that occur?
– My understanding is that over the years successive governments have looked at the establishment of a shipping register. They have come up against a series of legal and other problems. It is my understanding that currently the Fraser Government has hopes that it may well be able to establish such a register. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Transport and ask him to give the honourable senator a detailed answer in relation to any timetable which may be involved.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science, relates to a statement made by Dr P. H. Springell of the Capricorn Conservation Council in a paper presented to the national conference of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science. In the Age newspaper of 28 August Dr Springell was stated to have said that fertilisers and insecticides used in agriculture would eventually cause serious pollution of the Great Barrier Reef. Following the alert given by Dr Springell, especially with regard to phosphatic and nitrogenic fertilisers, what action does the Minister or his Department intend to take?
– I did notice the comments of Dr Springell. I do not acknowledge that there is an obligation on the Department of Science to take up this matter. Dr Springell was speaking as a private individual, not as an officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. He has taken this stance on a number of occasions. Obviously, as an expert in his field, he has a view and he has declared his individual view relating to pollution. However, the matter has not been raised with me by CSIRO. I shall see whether the Organisation has a comment to make on this matter and if so I shall refer it back to the honourable senator.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to this morning’s Australian Financial Review report of a statement by Mr Hayden, the shadow shadow Treasurer, indicating a devaluation of the Australian currency? Can the Minister say whether this action is contemplated by the Government or is it another example of mischievous rumour mongering emanating from Opposition spokesmen?
-I think my recollection is correct that the previous Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said that he would never speculate on currency positions in Australia. I think that is a proper attitude to be taken by people engaged in government as Ministers. Equally, I think, it is an appropriate position to be taken by people who have previously been Treasurers of this country.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry tell the Parliament when the Crawford report on the Australian dairy industry will be released, and to whom?
-No, I cannot, but I shall find out for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I understand that as a result of a collision between 2 aircraft at Sydney in 1971 a High Court judgment assigned 40 per cent of the responsibility for the collision to aircraft controllers. On this basis air traffic controllers are seeking a 75 per cent salary increase. Through the placing of restrictions on the movement of internal and overseas aircraft, air transport has been brought into chaos. Because of this action the Australian community is being held to ransom by these operators and there could be complete paralysis of air traffic. If this close down comes about, will the Government take action to provide the people in the outback, who are very dependent on air transport, with Royal Australian Air Force transport aircraft, to be based in the area, in order to continue to provide some semblance of transport for the carrying of mail, freight, papers and people who need to travel as a matter of urgency?
-I understand that this matter is before the Public Service Arbitrator this afternoon and, therefore, I think it would be most unwise for me to comment on the matter raised by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and refers to the report of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education for the triennium 1977-79. If I understand point 7 of the summary of conclusions correctly, under the guidelines formula there will be a shortfall of 12 500 student places at the end of this triennium when compared with the level which existed at the beginning of the last triennium in 1974. In view of this alarming forecast and the need to consider urgently an interim form of action pending realistic financing for technical education, will the Government give consideration to the possibility of utilising any spare capacity in tertiary education institutions so that all applicants for technical education courses will be catered for immediately rather than that they should have to postpone their enrolments.
– I have stated in the Senate before that technical and further education has been neglected by Federal and State governments of the past when contrasted with other areas of education. That is acknowledged. It is acknowledged also that there is a need to put much more emphasis on and thrust into the technical education area. Some start towards this was made by providing for a Vh per cent growth in real money terms next year and for a 5 per cent minimum growth in each subsequent year. It is competent for the Government in the years ahead to review its future years’ spending and to increase it. One hopes that with the revival of the economy, by 1978-79 real money growth will be achieved in this area. In any case there is under contemplation a major co-ordination and rationalisation of post, secondary and tertiary areas of education and there may well be ways in which surplus facilities can be distributed. I will certainly keep the honourable senator’s question in mind, but in general terms the Government will be concentrating in every way possible on improving training facilities in the manual arts and crafts.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Can he indicate how much responsibility State governments should bear in the area of unemployment? At present it would appear that the Tasmanian State Government has completely withdrawn from this area of responsibility.
– If my memory serves me, the last figure for unemployment in Tasmania was 5.27 per cent compared with a national average of, I think, 4.44 per cent. Also my memory is that the Tasmanian Budget, as declared last week, showed a surplus in revenue terms of $4. 1 m for last year. That is $4. 1 m on the revenue side that could have been spent in employment gaining opportunities but was not. Also there was disclosed the sum of about $ 1 7.3m being accumulated loan fund surpluses. Therefore, very substantial funds which could have been put to work have been available to the Neilson Government in Tasmania.
I also draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that under the new revenue sharing processes Tasmania this year will receive some $4.5m more in recurrent funds than it would have received under the Whitlam Government. The specific answer to Senator Walters’ question is that of course a State government which now has very serious unemployment and which has and has had available to it substantial surplus funds to put people to work has a major responsibility for the re-employment of its own people, and that must be a responsibility to be borne heavily by the Neilson Government.
– My question is directed to Senator Carrick. It flows from the answer he has just given to Senator Walters. Is the Minister aware that he was reported in the Hobart Mercury this morning, as a result of a statement he made in Hobart during the weekend, as attributing gross negligence- ‘criminal negligence ‘ was the term- to the Neilson Government for not engaging in deficit funding in order to relieve unemployment in Tasmania? Will the Minister describe the Hamer Government of Victoria in the same terms if it does not commit itself to deficit funding in the same way as he suggests the Neilson Government should have done in Tasmania?
– I make it abundantly clear that at no time in Tasmania did I ever advocate that the Government of that State should engage in deficit funding. What is confused is that Mr Bingham, the State Liberal Leader, said that it should. I happen to have 2 Press cuttings in front of me. I would be delighted to read out what I said, because I think that the whole of the Senate would agree with me on this. What I said was:
They had the money to relieve the situation but they did nothing about it. It borders on criminal negligence.
– Read to the Senate the introduction to the article in the Mercury.
-It is true that the Mercury claims that I said:
The Tasmanian Government’s failure to budget for a reasonable’ deficit bordered on criminal negligence . . .
I say quite unequivocally that I did not say that.
– Do you agree with Bingham ‘s statement that there should be deficit funding?
– What I did say was reported more accurately in the Examiner.
– Do not run away from it.
– I will come back to Senator Grimes in a moment or two. As I was saying, I was reported more accurately in the Examiner, where I was reported as saying that the State Government had a surplus of money. I repeat what I said: I said that the Neilson Government, which had the worst unemployment in Australia, had available to it in excess of $21m in the last year and did not spend it and therefore was responsible for the substantial unemployment. I said also that for the coming year it would have $4.5m more available to it than it would have had under the Whitlam Government and therefore had surplus funds, and the fact that it did not spend those funds bordered on criminal negligence. I made no suggestion of deficit funding. I made no such comment on that. That is a confusion with a statement which I understand the State Liberal Leader, Mr Bingham, made.
-Mr Deputy President, I wish to ask a further question. I ask Senator Carrick now: Do I understand his answer to mean that he did not say that the Neilson Government should engage in deficit funding? Does he understand that the State Liberal Leader in Tasmania says that that Government should have engaged in deficit funding? Therefore, does he agree that he is at variance with the Liberal Leader in Tasmania?
– It is always hard to make Senator Wriedt understand what is said. Now I will state precisely what I said. I did not at any time, in Tasmania or elsewhere, make any statement regarding whether the Neilson Government should or should not use deficit funding. I did in fact say that it was awash with surplus funds and because it did not spend those funds when it could have done so to create full employment it was bordering on criminal negligence.
– Do you agree with Mr Bingham?
-I did not hear Mr Bingham make any statement. I cannot comment on a statement that Mr Bingham may or may not have made.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that land at Borroloola is now being claimed by some Aborigines as that tribal area which belongs to a tribe which is now allegedly extinct? Will the Minister investigate the bona fides of the Aboriginal people who are now claiming that area? Is the Minister able to advise how the difficult problems that arise when claims are made for land originally held by Aboriginal groups, now extinct, can be resolved?
– I have no information that I can give in answer to the question that has been asked. I will direct it to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for an answer.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to a program broadcast nationally on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio on Saturday 21 August. The program, called The Coming Out 1976 Show, was concerned with the experiences of several women in receipt of the supporting mothers’ benefit. Is the Minister aware of the contents of the program? If so, can the Minister comment on allegations made by women that they have been repeatedly subjected to prurient and intimidatory questioning by field officers of her department with regard to their personal relationships? Can the Minister comment on what seems to be the practice, although not the policy, of her department in respect of supporting mothers; that is, where a supporting mother shares accommodation with a male person she is automatically assumed to be in a de facto relationship with that person and thus to be ineligible for the supporting mothers’ benefit? Will the Minister agree that such an assumption often is unwarranted and causes a great deal of hardship to mothers genuinely in need of the benefit?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Chair cannot hear all of the questions being asked.
– I did not hear the latter part of the honourable senator’s question but I am aware of the earlier part of the question. I was asked, firstly, if I was aware of the contents of the program to which the honourable senator referred. I am aware of it. I received the tape of the ABC program which was sent to me by Senator Ryan. I have listened to it. There were inaccuracies in the honourable senator’s statements recorded on the tape and perhaps inaccuracies were contained in other statements made. However, with regard to the broad question of the personal relationships of those persons who are entitled to the supporting mothers’ benefit, I think it should be understood that terms of eligibility for the supporting mothers’ benefit and other benefits are laid down by my department. I would expect that any officer of my department would endeavour to facilitate benefits where those eligibility conditions are met and certainly would try not to intrude on the private and personal lives of people wherever this may have been alleged to have occurred.
It may be of interest to the Senate to know that I have referred to Mr Justice Kirby for inquiry the matter of personal relationships and intrusion into the privacy of persons where it does affect eligibility for benefits offered by my department. I am hopeful that consideration of the matter by Mr Justice Kirby may resolve some of the allegations that are being made from time to time. If specific instances can be referred to me of an intrusion into privacy or personal conduct by officers of my department I would be pleased to hear about them. I would be the first to condemn any unnecessary intrusion into private conduct but it should be understood that there are terms of eligibility which sometimes do make investigation necessary. I should be grateful to any honourable senator who would refer to me specific instances of conduct by officers which could be challenged in terms of their duties and of the work which they undertake as officers of the Commonwealth Public Service.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr Deputy President. Can the Minister for Social Security inform the Senate what the inaccuracies in the broadcast were?
– I do not have the tape here but certain statements were made with regard to amounts and eligibility. I shall have an analysis of the broadcast undertaken and shall be quite prepared to make it available. Questions were directed to the honourable senator, to which she responded. Inaccuracies could have been made quite unintentionally in some of the statements with regard to amounts that are available and the eligibility terms which apply. I shall have the matter analysed and will let the honourable senator have the specific information to which I am referring.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce: In view of the severe unemployment that presently characterises the building and construction industry, particularly in New South Wales, is the Government giving any consideration to injecting funds into the industry to prime it, to generate greater economic activity and hence to create more jobs?
-I think it would be clear to the Senate, to the honourable senator and to the Australian public that the Government has embarked on a conscious policy of reducing inflation, in which it is succeeding; of bringing the country back to an economic growth rate, which is now beginning to occur; and of restraining its own expenditures so that other people can get up and do something. The honourable senator will be aware that many areas of New South Wales in particular, from which State the honourable senator comes as do I, have been over-built for some time. The honourable senator will also know that there has been a great amount of industrial unrest and that costs have gone away above their normal levels. He would also know if he reads the newspapers, as I am sure he does, that the indications are that the situation is beginning to improve in New South Wales.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer know that following the Government’s $309m ‘compensatory financing facility’ loan from the International Monetary Fund, the Treasurer stated on 3 July that it was to finance ‘balance of payments deficits arising from a ‘shortfall’ in export receipts below trend performance*? I ask the Minister also whether he knows that on 9 July, that is 6 days later, the Prime Minister stated:
Our exports in June, $973m, were a record and for 1975-76 as a whole, exports were 10 per cent higher than in 1974-75.
The Prime Minister continued:
I ask the Minister: Which, if either, of those seemingly contradictory versions represents the Government’s present assessment of the strength and future performance of the export sector?
-I can help the honourable senator to a limited extent in his elucidation of what he thinks has been said by various people. Due to seasonal problems throughout a great part of Australia it would appear that wide areas of export are going to be quite slack from now . on. Some areas appear to be better and some to be worse. The overall situation is yet to be determined. I think the honourable senator ought to get a definitive statement through me from the Treasurer as to how the Treasurer sees the position. Everything I read indicates that in quite a lot of export areas the situation is not encouraging because the volume of production could well be down.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: In view of the fact that Estimates Committees will shortly begin an examination of the Appropriation Bills, will he table at the earliest possible date the VIP flight manifests showing the record of flights and passengers carried from 3 1 March 1 976 to the latest possible date so that senators may have the documents before them during Estimates Committee hearings?
-I shall ask my colleague the Minister for Defence if he will get it up as soon as he can, as I understand the honourable senator is interested in this matter.
– I address my question to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I refer to the answers he gave earlier today to questions asked by Senator Walters and Senator Wriedt and remind him that at no time in the period in which he was in opposition did the Liberal Party claim that unemployment was the responsibility of State governments. I further remind him that the strategy of the present Government, as announced since December 1975, is to cure unemployment by stimulating the private sector of the economy, at the same time cutting public expenditure. Is he now saying that the creation of employment is a responsibility of the State public sector and not the Federal public sector?
-No, I am not. The creation of employment is the joint responsibility of Federal and State governments. While I am on my feet, let me explain clearly my response to the questions asked today. For some weeks Opposition senators have been endeavouring to argue that work could not go on in the States because the States had been robbed of or denied money and that they were grievously short of money because of the action of the present Federal Government. If one thing has become crystal clear as the Budget of each State Government is presented, it is that there is no substance at all in the claims of the Senate Opposition. The claim of the Australian Labor Party that the States do not have enough money has now been denied by the States themselves. The fact that the Tasmanian Government can disclose that it ended the year with substantial surpluses gives the lie to that claim. The fact that South Australia does the same gives the lie to it. As each State presents its figures for last year and this year, so the pattern emerges. It is a co-operative job between the Commonwealth and the States. Nevertheless, in Tasmania, which has employment problems peculiar to its isolation, it is a responsibility of the State Government to use fully those funds available to it for the employment of its people.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Did the Minister refuse to issue a by-law to permit entry to Australia, free of import duties, of bus chassis ordered by the Government of South Australia? If so, why was the by-law refused? If it is claimed that an equivalent product was manufactured in Australia, can the Minister advise the names of the manufacturers of such an equivalent bus chassis?
- Senator Cavanagh was wise enough to give me advance notice of his intention to ask this question because it is not the sort of information I carry at my fingertips. The Minister did not refuse to issue the by-law in this matter. In response to contracts received from the Adelaide Municipal Tramways Trust, 2 firms arranged importation of bus chassis to Australia in an unassembled condition. When the chassis were entered for customs purposes the firms involved took advantage of certain standing by-law concessions available to them but these concessions, I am informed, did not completely discharge their liability for customs duty. Thus, ad hoc by-law applications were submitted for bus chassis and the applicants were advised by the Bureau of Customs that further consideration would be given to their requests on receipt of additional information. I understand that to date this information has not been received by the Bureau and that the by-law issue can be quickly resolved as soon as the Bureau receives the details requested.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether it is true that the Australian Government has terminated allocations of aid to East Timor through international channels and, instead, will channel future humanitarian and relief aid through the Indonesian Red Cross. Secondly, in view of the support by the Indonesian Red Cross for the Indonesian invasion of East
Timor, can the Minister outline what assurances have been received from the Indonesian Government and what steps have been made to ensure Australian Government participation in the distribution of aid to all areas in East Timor? I ask the Minister whether several Press reports covering this change in the Timor aid policy reflect a change in Australian Government policy recognising the Indonesian annexation. Finally, will Australia maintain an active policy of support for the proper process of self-determination in East Timor during the deliberations of the United Nations Committee of Twenty-Four on 8 and 9 September?
-I ask the honourable senator to place his question on notice. I could not possibly answer it here.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Financial Support Fund) Bill 1976. Psychotropic Substances Bill 1976. Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1 976. Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1976.
– Pursuant to sub-section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 I present a copy of the Remunerations Tribunal ‘s Determination Number 1976-8 relating to holders of certain public offices and Determination Number 1976-9 relating to members of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act 1922-1975 I present the annual report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– On behalf of Senator Cotton I lay on the table the following paper:
Advance to the Treasurer- statement of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36A of the Audit Act 1 90 1 for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
That consideration of the statement in Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– On behalf of Senator Cotton, for the information of honourable senators I lay on the table further departmental explanations of the estimates of proposed expenditure for the year 1976-77. I would hope that that is the balance of the explanations required for the Estimates Committees.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Trade Practices Act Review Committee dated August 1976.
– Pursuant to section 171 of the Trade Practices Act 1974-76 1 present the annual report of the Trade Practices Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That the President, Senator the Honourable Condor Laucke, be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Ombudsman Bill seeks to establish the office of Commonwealth Ombudsman for the purpose of investigating complaints about the administative actions of officials of government departments, statutory authorities and other official bodies. This Bill will complement the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act which was passed by the Parliament last year and which came into operation on 1 July last. That Act provides for appeals against decisions of Ministers and officials in specified cases. The Ombudsman will be empowered to investigate grievances by members of the public about administrative actions of officials and staff of Commonwealth departments, statutory authorities and other government agencies. This Bill, like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, had its origin in the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir John Kerr, then Mr Justice Kerr. That Committee did not recommend an ombudsman in the form that would be established by the present Bill, but since that Committee reported in 1971 ombudsmen on the pattern of the New Zealand ombudsman have been established in 5 of the 6 Australian States. They have demonstrated a very great need for the office.
Passage of the present Bill will leave 2 aspects of the Kerr Committee’s report still to be implemented. One aspect relates to the review by the courts of acts of administrative officers. This is presently achieved by the ancient and cumbersome prerogative writs. It is important that, in addition to the provision for investigation by an ombudsman of a complaint or appeal to a tribunal on the merits of a decision, the citizen should have ready access to the courts to ensure that the actions of administrative officials are subject to judicial review. The other aspect relates to legislation governing procedures of administrative tribunals. This will ensure proper standards of fairness to citizens appealing against the decisions of Commonwealth Ministers and officials. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is considering proposals to implement these further aspects of the Kerr Committee’s report. When all this legislation is on the statute books the Commonwealth will have one of the most comprehensive and effective systems of administrative review in the world. The present Bill is substantially the same as the Bill that was before the Senate last year and which lapsed on the dissolution of the Parliament. During the passage through the House of Representatives of the Bill introduced by the Labor Government the then Opposition in that place secured a number of important amendments, so that the Bill that lapsed was one having the support of both sides of that House.
The office of ombudsman is found in many countries of the modern world. The concept of that office as we know it today first emerged in the Scandinavian countries early in the nineteenth century. Other countries, especially those of the common law world, were slow to accept the need for the office. The first was New Zealand in 1962. The United Kingdom followed in 1967. Five of the 6 Australian States have established the office in the last 5 years. Six of the
Canadian provinces have ombudsmen. As a relatively new institution in the common law countries the ombudsman has attracted considerable attention from commentators. There is as a result a fairly widespread understanding of his methods of operation. I should however give an outline of the significance of the contribution that the Commonwealth Ombudsman will make to our policy for an improved system of administrative review.
The Ombudsman’s function is to investigate complaints about administrative actions of officials. His concern is principally with the manner or the procedures by which officials have gone about the matter that is the subject of complaint. A complaint to the Ombudsman may be directed at a case of delay; or of failure to take sufficient account of certain arguments put by the complainant; or of disregard of a person’s privacy as officials make inquiries or go about their duties. The most appropriate general description is that his work is directed at the correction of cases of maladministration- a term which has been described as including bias, neglect, delay, inattention, incompetence, ineptitude, perversity, turpitude and arbitrariness. Not every complaint to the Ombudsman uncovers a case of maladministration. Reports of ombudsmen in those jurisdictions in which the office is established all show in the great majority of cases that the action taken was correct and that the complaint was unjustified.
Let it not be thought, however, that in those circumstances the Ombudsman is not a necessary institution. If the staff of departments or government authorities are discharging their duties at expected standards of performance it must follow that the Ombudsman should find against them in only a minority of cases. But the important element is that the citizen who considered that he had a legitimate complaint about official action, or who was doubtful about what was done in his case, has available an external and impartial investigator to inquire into the matter. The strength of the Ombudsman’s work lies in the independence and impartiality of his investigation. His findings after inquiry are expressed in the form of a report together with recommendations for any remedial action that he considers should be taken. Failure to act on a recommendation of the Ombudsman may lead to a report on that situation being tabled in the Parliament. At no stage is the Ombudsman able change a decision that he thinks should be reviewed. His function is not that of an appeals tribunal but he is able to recommend, with a highly persuasive influence, that a decision he thinks to be unfair or unjust should be varied or reversed.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman provided for in this Bill will be the first Ombudsman to be established in a federal jurisdiction in the world. In a country the size of Australia this aspect presents some problems in that the operations of his office must be carried out in an essentially personal manner. The Government will ensure that proper arrangements are made in the States for the receipt of complaints and interview of complainants. Because the Commonwealth has special responsibilities in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory it is necessary to ensure that the residents of those Territories have access to the Ombudsman also in respect of matters that in the States would be directed to State ombudsmen. As I will explain later, the Bill provides, in the establishment of 2 offices of Deputy Commonwealth Ombudsman, for the special needs of those Territories.
I should draw attention to particular provisions of the Ombudsman Bill, for the information of honourable senators. A detailed explanation of the Bill is contained in the explanatory memorandum that has been circulated to honourable senators. In the substantive clauses the Ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints about administrative actions of departments and prescribed authorities. The Bill defines the latter term to the effect that statutory authorities and office holders, officially established bodies and companies controlled by the Commonwealth can be brought within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. The only official bodies specifically excluded are those of a judicial nature and the elected Legislative Assemblies of the Territories. Although a complaint would normally be made to the Ombudsman before he investigates a matter, he may also initiate his own inquiries. He is given a limited discretion not to investigate complaints, on grounds related to, for instance, vexatiousness, lack of interest in a matter complained about, or other rights of appeal to a tribunal or court. Before commencing to investigate, the Ombudsman is required to inform the department or authority concerned, and the responsible Minister, of his intention. Investigations are to be conducted in private and in such manner as the Ombudsman thinks fit, according to his own judgment of needs in particular cases. He may enter premises, inspect files and other records, and obtain relevant information from any person whom he thinks may be able to assist. There is provision in the Bill for persons to be put on oath and to give evidence, but it is unlikely that the
Ombudsman would need to make frequent use of that power.
The Attorney-General may, under clause 9, give the Ombudsman a certificate that disclosure to the Ombudsman of certain information would be contrary to the public interest, by reason of prejudice to security or defence, or to Commonwealth-State relations, or of disclosure of deliberations of Cabinet or of the Northern Territory Executive Council. In such a case the Ombudsman would not be entitled to demand that that information be given to him. Clause 14 of the Bill also provides that his access to premises may be restricted where this would prejudice national security or defence. Reports on investigations by the Ombudsman are to be forwarded to the complainant and to the department or authority concerned and to the responsible Minister. The Ombudsman may include recommendations for any remedial action he thinks is necessary. Where there is a failure to take adequate or appropriate action on matters revealed in a report, the Ombudsman may so inform the Prime Minister and the Parliament. The Bill contains provisions recognising the position of the Legislative Assemblies in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Annual reports are to be made to the Minister administering the Ombudsman Act for tabling in the Parliament. More frequent reports may be made if the Ombudsman considers that to be desirable. The Legislative Assemblies of the Australian Capital Territory and of the Northern Territory are to be given reports relating to actions taken under the respective enactments of these Territories.
The Bill provides for the Ombudsman and a deputy ombudsman to be appointed by the Governor-General and to hold office for a period not exceeding 7 years. A deputy ombudsman is to be designated to act in relation to either the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. A deputy ombudsman is given the powers of the Ombudsman in relation to action taken in the Territory for which he is designated, except the power to make reports to the Parliament. The Ombudsman and the deputies are given protection from removal from office akin to that accorded to judges, so that there is little likelihood of an ombudsman’s independence of operation being influenced by the executive Government.
The establishment of a Commonwealth Ombudsman will not only enable members of the public to have their grievances investigated but also will assist this Parliament in its scrutiny of the administrative processes of government. The only sanction that the Ombudsman has, but it is a very powerful one, is in his power to report to this Parliament where a grievance is not put right to his satisfaction. Mr Acting President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 August, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1 977
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1 977
Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1977
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1976
National Accounting Estimates of Receipts and outlays of Commonwealth Government Authorities
Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1976-77
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Senate condemns the Budget because:
1 ) it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries;
2 ) it abdicates Federal Government responsibilities and forces the State governments and local governments either to reduce their services or to institute additional charges, or both;
it introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending;
it reduces the availability of services to the whole community but particularly to those most vulnerable to hardship notably aborigines, the unemployed and migrants; and
5 ) it fails to institute selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer confidence’.
– When the effluxion of time halted my remarks some days ago I was supporting the Budget papers on various grounds because I believe they provide a sensible program aimed at restoring to this sadly troubled economy a proper measure of balance between the public and the private sectors. I was indicating that this Budget sought, above all things, to overcome the inflationary spiral which had been the history of the past 3 years of socialist legislation. This Government, by budgetary measures, will overcome inflation and will also overcome the problems of unemployment which are consequent upon inflation. I indicated that it was most remarkable that within 9 months a budget could be brought down which introduced so many features aimed at development and reform of the economy as this Budget proposes to do.
Among the most significant of those matters which I indicated was the indexation of personal income tax. This proposal costs the Treasury some billion dollars but it gives a real measure of relief to wage and salary earners and consequently, one hopes, it will bring about a lessening of the pressures for ever increasing wages and salaries in this country. Personal income tax indexation must go a significant way towards restoring a proper real level of wages and salaries. I had further indicated the dramatic measure of change which was relevant to the child endowment policies and which must increase the stability and security of the family unit in the economy. A wide range of other matters has been covered. In these matters the Budget has been able to provide considerable increases in expenditure and, one assumes, in the effective operation of these areas. I refer to such measures as those pertaining to overseas aid where an increase of 14.6 per cent over the previous year is envisaged. I refer also to a number of other significant areas of increase- social security and defence- and all the elements in the Budget towards stability and growth for the Australian wool industry.
There are one or two other matters which I would like to refer to briefly before I conclude my remarks. I draw to the attention of the chamber the fact that all these progressive and developmental processes in the Budget have been achieved in the context of an anticipated decline in the deficit of about a billion dollars. This of itself is a significant contribution to overcoming the inflationary problem in this country. I do not propose to enter in any depth into statistics of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. Suffice it to say briefly that the States in their entirety have available to them $89m more than they would have had under the old system of Mr Whitlam ‘s Government. Suffiice it to say that they have 15 per cent more funds overall than they had in the previous year. Suffice it to say that in the area of local government there is a significant increase of some 75 per cent, about $80m, in untied moneys bringing this amount to $140m. I take this opportunity to point out these matters because they relate quite definitely to the philosophy of the Government parties; that is, that a significantly increased percentage of moneys made available to State and local governments is put totally in the hands of the people on the spot to administer. That is what we believe is perhaps the most important single manner of administration in this country. We want to establish a circumstance whereby the people on the spot have a real responsibility to administer their own attitudes and priorities for the development of their region, and in what country could it be more appropriate than in one as vast geographically as Australia.
There has been little mention of another significant area of this Budget. I refer to the fact that the Government considered that the Budget could be brought down without increasing indirect taxation. This is a significant contribution to the real wages and salaries of people. Indirect taxation has been increased every year since the Budget of the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1 972, and this is the first occasion since then that indirect taxation has remained untouched. It stands in marked contrast to the 1975 socialist Budget which increased indirect taxation by about $600m. There have been numerous aids to business. The stock valuation legislation is a significant contribution. It means that there will be a tax deductibility for the increase in stock value from the beginning to the end of a financial year. The retention allowance for business has been increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent.
I believe that in this sort of debate one should comment on the Australian mining industry. The determination of Mr Whitlam and his Government literally to wipe out foreign investment in this country- in the short term they certainly succeededcaused immense devastation of mining and petroleum research and development in Australia. This devastation was evidenced by the loss and withdrawal from Australian waters of practically every oil drilling rig. It was a devastation in which, somewhat ironically, small and medium sized totally Australian mining companies were the ones most seriously damaged. It was a devastation in which a vast amount of Australian expertise moved away from these shores. In this context it was imperative that this Budget look at the mining and petroleum exploration and development industries and do something to bring back a measure of confidence.
I believe that the investment guidelines in the Budget in themselves are a significant and responsible element in this context. The requirement for a 50 per cent Australian involvement is of mutual benefit to Australians and overseas investors alike. Australians, having that sort of investment of their own, naturally have a greater concern for the development involved. On the other hand the foreign investor, who knows that there is a significant national involvement, must have a measure of confidence which derives from the reasonable knowledge that takeovers and nationalisations which have troubled foreign investors in many other circumstances are not likely to occur in the Australian scene.
A number of measures have been taken to increase activity in the important areas of petroleum and mineral research and development. These measures relate, to a considerable degree, to taxation deductions, incentives and other compensations of that nature. Moneys which are expended on capital equipment involved in petroleum development and exploration are to be deductible from any income. Moneys involved in the development of a mine or a field are to be deductible over a period of S years, not 25 years. This is a very significant change. Moneys spent on the development of transportation in the industry are to be deductible at the owner’s or operator’s option over a period of 10 years, not 20 years. These are just some of the ways in which we have seen fit in this Budget to assist, to re-establish, and to re-enliven the development of the mining and petroleum industries. Had there not been the possibility of any sort of revival in the petroleum industry, by 1985 we would have sunk to a point where we would have been more than 70 per cent dependent on foreign oil supplies, whereas in 1972 we produced some 72 per cent of our total petroleum requirements.
Deductible items in the mining industry now also include items relating to port development, navigational aids, original dredging of harbours, the building of breakwaters and so on. The $2 a barrel levy on crude oil will not apply to any discoveries of crude oil. This in itself is a significant attraction and a significant incentive to development in that area. The coal export levy, which was implemented last year, has been reduced by 25 per cent- and well it might be, because once again the 2 levy levels of $2 a tonne and $6 a tonne somewhat ironically in the main destroyed small Australian companies. The levy did great damage to the relatively marginal operations and to Australian companies in general.
– It did not affect Utah.
– It is an irony that the legislation that proposed the levy and was introduced by a socialist government had virtually no effect on the massive mining operations but certainly drove many Australian and marginal operations around the country to the wall.
I pause for a moment to refer to the income equalisation deposits which have virtually taken the place of drought bonds. These deposits are of great significance. Unfortunately, people in areas which have been beset by adverse climatic and market circumstances may not have much money to deposit in the near future; that is not necessarily the situation in many other parts of Australia. This scheme is a constructive and realistic attempt to equalise incomes. The scheme has a number of significant features. A wide range of deposits, from $100 to $100,000, can be made. The deposits are not limited as to time. Perhaps the most significant feature is that the deposits can be withdrawn at any time, need not be withdrawn because of a drought but can be claimed and used to change techniques of production or even to change production into different avenues. I believe that this is of great significance in the development of this country.
Finally, I want to say a word or two about estate duty. I compliment the Government on having moved a little further in this field. I sincerely hope that in the not too distant future estate duty will be abolished. Even State Labor governments today are taking the sort of action in respect of estate duty that has been taken in this Budget. I point out that estate duty is destructive not only of a country’s capacity to maintain and develop itself but also of economic units; and it is of such a nature that because of the need for liquidity there is a tendency for long term development -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Wriedt. I must congratulate the Government senators who have participated in this debate. They have had a most difficult task to perform. They have avoided facing up to the real questions by referring to other areas. They have not shown any particular interest in the truth or logic of their statements. They have tried to justify a Budget which as time passes is deemed more and more to be a failure. I think that one of the reasons why we have been restricted in this Budget debate, which is to end this week, is that each further week demonstrates more clearly that the Budget is not working out as was intended.
Senator Scott has just commended the Budget for its intention to reduce inflation and unemployment. But there has been no significant decrease in inflation in Australia and there has been a marked increase in unemployment. There has been the deceit of a government which must hide that situation by prohibiting the publication of the seasonally adjusted figures. Honourable senators opposite repeatedly tell us that progress is being made and that the signs indicate that we are moving forward. Yet everyone involved in industry today is of the opinion that progress is so slow that it is unnoticeable. Speaker after speaker from the Government side in this debate has assured us that the States and local government will receive by way of grants more than they have received previously. Every politician in the Parliament is being inundated with correspondence from State governments, local government bodies, private organisations and pre-school organisations asking for the continuation of the level of funds that they received last year. Whilst the Government is manipulating funds and manipulating the unemployment figures in an endeavour to hide the fact that the Budget is a failure, its supporters in this place are bravely uttering assurances in an attempt to convince the public that the Budget is working.
No attempt has been made by the Government to refute the arguments put so capably by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the other place. He detailed, item by item, how the Budget must fail. No attempt has been made by honourable senators opposite to refute the facts and figures contained in the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Wriedt. The peculiar fact is that the Government does have to contend not only with the criticism of the Opposition. Never in the history of Australia has there been a government with such a majority in both Houses- and which has been in office only a short period- that has been subjected to so much criticism by its own supporters. Not only has the Government been criticised by Opposition members but also by its own supporters.
– What did Mr Chipp say?
– I intend to refer to statements made by Government supporters. I should like to refer to a statement made by a more important personality than Mr Chipp. The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in early August stated that the Government is not coming up to the expectations of the electors who put it in office. He recognised the Government’s failure. Senator Mulvihill mentioned Mr Chipp.
Mr Don Chipp, who was the shadow Minister for Social Security when the Government was in Opposition, when speaking at the Wesley Church in Victoria referred to the fact that the Government was dismantling a superb program set up by its predecessors. He singled out the disbanding of the Children’s Commission and the withdrawal of the Australian Citizen Plan. Mr Don Cameron, the honourable member for Griffith, when speaking on the AM program said that the Whitlam Government was better than most of the previous administrations and that when the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, took over he butchered it. I believe that Mr Donald Cameron is interested in karate and that an organisation with which he is associated received some assistance from the previous Government. He praised the effort of the previous Government and said that his leader butchered it when he came to office.
Mr O ‘Halloran Giles, the honourable member for Angas in South Australia, was given the duty of examining the reaction to the Government’s policies of those involved in primary industry. He reported to the Prime Minister that the farmers were against the Government and would vote against the Government if an election were held today. The superphosphate bounty means nothing to a bankrupt farmer and we are sending them bankrupt. Senator Rae, in his column in the Australian, admitted that he could not understand Medibank. Mr Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, went to Victoria to attend an Aboriginal conference. He said:
We have broken our promise to the Aboriginal people.
I think Mr Viner is honest. He does not like having to admit that but he is restricted by the appropriations contained in the Budget. He has let down that group of people. The shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, before the previous election, assured Aborigines that there would be no reduction in their appropriations if they returned a Liberal Government. Senator Bonner has stated that the reduction of $33m in the appropriations of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is a tragedy and will put Aboriginals back some 50 years. Senator Jessop condemned the Government on its shipbuilding policies. He sent a telegram to the Prime Minister last Saturday week expressing his disappointment at the Government’s handling of the shipbuilding industry. Senator Sim, who is Chairman of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, said that the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean does not constitute a direct threat to Australia although it is a matter of strategic concern. He completely disagreed with his Prime Minister who gave this as one of his reasons for the build-up of defence in the Indian Ocean, in view of the changed relationship with Communist China. Senator Sim, as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, should know the facts. In the Australian yesterday, the honourable member for Tangney, Dr Peter Richardson- he is a Liberal supporter from Western Australia- said:
Medibank in its present form is an unworkable disaster.
I have referred to statements made by 10 prominent members of the Liberal Party who are disillusioned with the activities of this Government and who are publicly open in their condemnation of it. It is unusual, as I said, for such a situation to arise. Honourable senators opposite referred to the poverty under the Labor Government. Senator Scott said that the Labor Government drove out of Australia mining companies and those with special skills employed in that industry. While it is claimed that this Government has a plan to build up small industries, to reduce the expenditure in the public sector and to increase expenditure in the private sector, statistics show- this is not someone’s opinion- that in the 10 years from 1960 to 1970 bankruptcies averaged about 2300 a year throughout Australia. In 1965-66 they numbered 2384. In 1970-71 the number of bankruptcies jumped to 2438 and another 355 business people entered into schemes of arrangement with creditors. In 1971 when the William McMahon Government was in office bankruptcies rose again to 2684 and there were 352 schemes of arrangement. In the following financial yearmarked by the change of governmentbankruptcies dropped to 2254 and the schemes of arrangement dropped to 3 19. The second year that the Labor Government was in office, 1973-74, saw the figure drop again to 1637 bankruptcies and 227 schemes of arrangement. In 1974-75 there was a slight rise to 2061 bankruptcies and 271 schemes of arrangement. In the first 6 months of the present calendar year there were 1045 bankruptcies. The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects a total for the full year of 2 1 47 bankruptcies.
Last December it was being said that the depression in industry and the sacrifice of business in Australia were due to the policies of the Labor Government. Yet the highest number of bankruptcies occurred when the Liberal Government was in office and the lowest number occurred during the period of the Labor Administration. In the farming industry there was a peak of 123 bankruptcies in 1971-72 but the number dropped to 109 the following year and was down to an Australia-wide total of only 54 in 1 973-74. 1 wonder whether any honourable senator on the Government side will rise and say whether that figure will be reduced this year. The Government recognises the increased activity in the Bankruptcy Court. The appropriation this year for the Bankruptcy Court has been increased by $334,000 whilst every other government department is sustaining a reduction in appropriation. The Government has made this increased appropriation for the Bankruptcy Court in recognition of the increased activity of that Court this year. So we can see the difficulty that Government supporters have had to face in trying to justify the Budget proposals. I congratulate them; I think they have done well in thendifficult task, but the task will be made more difficult as time goes by.
As one who has tried over a period of years to take up issues on behalf of the most maligned and the less privileged of our society, I want to speak on only 2 other subjects in this Budget debate. I shall say a few words about violent demonstrations and about Aborigines. I have chosen the matter of violent demonstrations because it has been one of the issues used by Government supporters when seeking to evade facing up to the Budget. They have been telling us of the consequences of violent demonstrations and that every Government supporter supports demonstrations but does not support violent demonstrations. If people are emotionally involved in a demonstration the demonstration could end in violence. Therefore, if people oppose violent demonstrations they must oppose the issues that lead people to believe that there is a need to demonstrate.
Senator Webster, in his contribution in this debate, violently attacked- that was another form of violence, although it was verbal- the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Uren, because he said that perhaps there must be demonstrations on the streets. In my contribution during the Address-in-Reply debate in February I issued a warning that this may be so. But that is not only my opinion on demonstrations. I shall read the following beliefs of another person:
Western political theory has through the ages suggested that a democratic society is distinguished from other societies because government exists by ‘the consent of the governed ‘.
The consent of the governed is not simply the function performed on polling day; it involves the participation of individuals from all walks of life in a wide variety of associations and organisations having the capacity in some way of influencing the course of our daily lives.
That was the opinion of none other than a Liberal-National Country Party government appointed Deputy President of the Australian
Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr Justice Robinson, expressed when he was guest after-dinner speaker at the Annual Federal Council Meeting of the Australian Professional Engineers Association of Australia. So there is a recognition that if we are to have democracy we must have the associations and the organisations that can influence the daily lives of our people.
In my remarks during the Address-in-Reply debate I quoted an article which had appeared in the Australian, reporting Professor Manning Clark as having said that November could well go down in history as the day when people deserted the ballot box for militant action on the street. Some justification of that statement is apparent in the fact that we have more threats of confrontation today than we have ever had before.
– If you stopped encouraging them -
-Well, Robert Darroch pointed out in an article which appeared in the Australian on 25 August that there have always been violent demonstrations in Australia from the time of the strikes of the 1890s- the shearers’ strike and the maritime strike- when the LiberalCountry Party Government sent armies out to shoot down on the banks of the Yarra in Victoria the people who dared to form a union and when armies were sent out in Queensland to shoot down the shearers who were holding meetings. That was violence. If people take up a cause and find themselves in a crowd with mob psychology, the more dedicated will use certain methods to make their protest known in the places where they want it known. Whether or not I am encouraging demonstrations, I am saying that rarely can demonstrations be held without violence occurring. There has never been a violent action which more justified demonstration than when the Liberal-Country Party Government had 500 of our kids shot in Vietnam or when a GovernorGeneral tore up the Constitution and threw the people’s elected government out of office. How can people have resort in a ballot box when one man can throw the people’s elected government out of office and elect a man as Prime Minister of Australia and retain him after a vote of no confidence in that man has been passed in the people’s House of the Parliament of Australia? Was that not a violent action? If Government supporters are opposed to violent action surely they are opposed to the action of this individual, which was the most violent we have seen in Australia. Surely they cannot condemn those who feel strongly on this issue and who react accordingly.
– Of course you can.
– I know that the honourable senator could, because her protection is in not hearing the voice of public opinion. Her protection is in the lock-up devices and the ability of one man to act contrary to the wishes of the people of Australia.
– Freedom of speech is what we are after.
– On one occasion when I was in Victoria a fellow, I think he was named Ryan, was going to be hanged for shooting a policeman. On the Sunday I went to the demonstration that was being held outside the prison gates, where there were thousands and thousands of people. When I arrived some detectives had blood upon them and they appealed to Senator Brown, who was then the chairman of the meeting, and to Mr Jim Cairns. They lent them the loud speaker to appeal to the crowd to keep calm. There were enough people there to eat the police force and the gaol. They asked me whether I would like to say a few words on the issue. I said that if the cause of anti-hanging was right then the cause of the people was justified. I said that I did not want to break up the peaceful demonstration. I felt that if I were to speak I would have had to recite the words of Henry Lawson which went as follows:
We will make the tyrants feel the sting of those they seek to throttle.
Who can say the blame is ours if blood should stain the wattle?
Is not what Henry Lawson said true? If someone is injured in a demonstration who cay say whether the blame rests with the demonstrators or with those who provoke them, who purposely go to the site of the demonstration to provoke the demonstrators? The Governor-General of Australia, knowing his unpopularity and the emotion he arouses in certain areas, should restrict his public appearances to those places where there is no possibility of such demonstrations.
– Where is the freedom of movement?
-He has freedom to cause aggression. That is the result, which is sought to be achieved today, of his actions. I think that most decent people having done such damage to the nation, would resign from the position that he holds rather than permit the embarrassment that he causes to continue. Honest, lawabiding citizens are involved in demonstrations against him. They are caught up in an emotional issue. They are being provoked by the actions of a man who is not liked by the greatest democratic section of the community, who parades himself and purposely attends functions to attract such demonstrations. The Leader of the Labor Party, Mr E. G. Whitlam, said that he feels confident that the people of Australia will not demonstrate against the Queen when she visits Australia next year. I only hope that they do not. That would not be desirable. But the people of Australia who because of his actions have developed a hatred for the Queen’s representative in Australia know full well that the Queen can appoint and dismiss. The provocation exists. Some attempt should be made to see that our royal visitor is not subjected to the dangers to which she will be submitted if she parades with a person who is unacceptable to the majority of democrats in Australia.
We always condemn strikers and violence. We never condemn the causes. In the annual report of the Arbitration Inspectorate last year it was stated that in 26 200 establishments there were 9297 breaches of arbitration awards by employers. No one has heard about that fact. We hear about the action of workers who are striking. No one seeks to determine whether there is any justification for the strike, or whether we can help to resolve the matter. We are now threatening air traffic control officers and at the same time inconvenience is being caused to airline passengers because the Public Service Board refuses to talk to the air traffic controllers. Their claim is for a 75 per cent increase in salary. The delay in getting down to a basis for discussion is caused by the Public Service Board which refuses to talk to them. It is only the air traffic controllers who are condemned in this dispute. In demonstrations it is the demonstrators who are condemned, not those responsible for the demonstration. I wanted to say that because I think that even on the Opposition side of the chamber there are too many who say: ‘I want to dissociate myself from violent demonstrations’. Violence is the inevitable consequence of a demonstration. But no one wants to be dissociated from demonstrations.
I now come to the question of Aboriginal affairs. This is a matter which has caught my imagination because, as honourable senators will know, in June 1973 I was suddenly cast unheralded into the role of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I was accused then of knowing nothing about Aboriginal affairs and caring less. My period in that office was traumatic. On the very day I was appointed the whole adjournment debate in the Senate was taken up with an attack upon the activities of one section of my Department and one of its ventures. During my ministry tent embassies were established on the lawns outside Parliament House in protest at the operations of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I could not move at night time without a security guard watching over me. We had an intruder carrying a loaded gun sitting in the office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra. We had demonstrations on the steps of Parliament House. At that time I did not condemn violence. I set out to see whether there was anything I could do for the purpose of assisting to alleviate the causes of violence on those occasions. To try to console myself I went to Redfern where I thought the best achievements had been made in the Aboriginal housing project. I saw the worst conglomeration of slums which had been mishandled and wrecked that I have ever seen in my life.
I think that in the 18 months when I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I made some achievements. I found that the Aboriginals were a good people. When I left the position, there was resentment among many people. This was expressed by the correspondence, telegrams, and phone calls which I received from Aboriginal communities. It was not my desire to leave the portfolio. I was sorry to lose it because I would have liked to continue as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for a much longer period. There are difficulties involved in the portfolio. It is very easy to condemn the Aboriginal people and to say that they are lazy, idle and drunken. Today, Senator Lajovic raised a question about actual descendants of the tribes that owned land at Borroloola. Another group is now claiming that land. I ask: ‘What does that matter?’ The Woodward report promised Aborigines the land. In fact, the Aborigines were dispossessed of their land. There is now a Bill before the Parliament which deals with tribal land only. There is a large group of Aboriginals whom the Government wants to deprive of land rights because it says that they have no traditional claim.
I am reinforced in my beliefs as to the difficulty of the task by Kevin Martin, a part-Aboriginal who has had some traumatic experiences and who is now running the Prufleet special works project in rural New South Wales. It is funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He submitted a lengthy report to the Department this year and he sent me a copy. These are the views of a person running a project on an Aboriginal reserve. In that report he states:
Before colonisation, Aboriginal Australians had a complete identity, a total being and a way of being. All had a valued place within the structure’ of the tribe and all were conditioned to meet its requirements as every society conditions its members. Ego and psyche were firmly centered in the spiritual and mundane aspects of purposeful living and each person was able, with confidence, to meet the demands and responsibilities of existence. In every area of his being, a man knew his capabilities and his boundaries, accepted the discipline of his tribe, felt the security of that discipline and knew his total being in harmony with the land of his Dreaming.
All this was shattered with the coming of the invaders. As the land was taken, the Aboriginals’ spiritual links were shattered, their economy broken, their ritual life ceased, the tribes were murdered and separated, leadership structures broken and, perhaps most devastating^ of all, the Aboriginal culture and being was systematically denigrated and ridiculed to later generations of blacks who knew too little of their own background to be able to withstand the mockery.
Dependency upon the white man for food and basics became widespread at the same time as the psychlogical barrage ‘primitive’, ‘dirty’, ‘like apes’- continued. ‘Good blacks’ survived, so they had to learn due subservience and take whatever the white man handed out whether in terms of inadequate rations, sermons about pie in the sky when you die, or sparkling new policies variously designed to help them to die off, join the herd and so on. Aboriginality no longer meant pride, substance and belonging, it no longer meant a life-long exploration of the joys of the spirit. It came to mean constant denigration and contempt, grinding poverty, fear, helplessness, apathy, drunkenness. All the psychological sets of the personality were smashed so that Aborigines could not identify except with shame, embarrassment and cringing at the thought of the once valued images, the ideas that once programmed their personal, social and race identity. I believe that the handicaps caused by this smashed self-image have never, with the majority of Aborigines, found an avenue of healing. Very few escape its influence each generation and even these are far outnumbered by the growing birthrate on the reserves. In short, without reconditioning the reserve people, without devising a new program of intensive psychological propaganda, a new education, all lesser efforts must fail.
We sought to establish a new program. We gave generously to Aboriginal welfare projects and Aboriginal housing projects. In trying to create a new standard, a new purpose, a new meaning in life for them, there were drop-outs along the wayside. You can point to some waste, some neglect, some mismanagement and some misuse of money, but there have been many achievements. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs went to Wilcannia yesterday and spoke of the remarkable progress there. This Association is one of the less successful housing ventures. Now it has a partially completed house. They saw the progress that has been made. They saw that men are working and have a purpose in life. They are building homes. The alcoholism and drinking have stopped. The Prime Minister and the Minister praised this Aboriginal community, but they have returned here and have stopped grants for similar activities throughout various Aboriginal communities.
It could well be that I contributed greatly to the controversy relating to the cost of housing projects. As I told honourable senators, I saw a project in Redfern in which we should never have been involved. Slums were brought for the purpose of renovation but when finished they still would be slums. I was never of the opinion that we should seek the worst environment in which to put Aborigines. One of the criticisms in the Hay report is that we did not put a restriction on their housing efforts and some of them built houses in excess of the standard established by the Housing Commission. What a crime it is for a sophisticated group of Aborigines to want something better than what is being provided by Housing Commissions throughout Australia. When I saw the Redfern project I insisted that there be consultants and architects. In that project for the second time we engaged a consultant to advise us on how to get out of the mess we had got into. I believe that as a result of that advice the buildings are now completed. The area looks very nice and provides 17 homes for people. There has been publicity about the cost of this project. Some have said that it worked out at $58,000 a house, but it must be remembered that the project included a community assemblyThere were houses in 2 streets. The fences were removed and a garden setting established to provide an assembly place and an outdoor living area. Two factories were purchased, one for a laundrette and the other for a sports academy for the people living there. All those costs were added to the cost of the 1 7 houses which I believe are now being occupied.
The Labor Party came to power with a plan- it was in our policy speech in 1972- to house all Aborigines in suitable accommodation within a 10-year period. That meant that there had to be activity. We could not wait to set up machinery and go through the normal processes to get these things fixed. We were obligated to the principle of housing all Aboriginal families within 10 years. Despite the failures which may be pointed to, when I left the Department it was reported that we would achieve that goal in 8 years. If that was to be achieved, money had to go into these projects. It is true that there were some areas in which we pushed too hard to get housing projects. I recall receiving a deputation of doctors from New South Wales who were treating Aboriginal people. I was told: ‘Look Senator, we can give them some of the best medical attention in the world but we cannot cure their illnesses unless you put them in homes’. You cannot stop infection spreading when an unaffected kid goes into a bed just left by an infected kid. You cannot cure those diseases that need soap and water- cleanlinesswhen they do not have hot water in their homes or they are living out in the desert. Housing is the first requirement to prevent the spread of these diseases. We were going very well with our program.
However, the Fraser Government, following the notorious Ellicott telegram saying that there would be no reduction, set up an inquiry to find reasons to curtail expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. I refer to the Hay report. The Prime Minister set up this inquiry although he has a Senate Select Committee report. This Senate had commissioned a select committee to inquire into the conditions of Aborigines. Should we accept the findings of a parliamentary select committee or should we accept the findings in a report by a public servant, the Defence Ombudsman, who made a casual inquiry and who apologised in his report for his inability to make a thorough inquiry because the report was wanted by May? Which report do we accept when the report of the public servant, who had a few months to make a report and who said he could not do it competently, conflicts with the report of the Senate Select Committee which spent 2 years travelling all over Australia before bringing down its report? He said that his findings must be taken as observations rather than findings because of the time available. He also said:
In the housing program there is an urgent need for a reconsideration both of policy objectives and of guidelines.
What is meant by that? If the policy of the Government is not to house all Aborigines within 10 years, it is an alteration of the objectives given to the Department when Labor was in power. By the curtailment of money for Aboriginal housing this year, the Government has changed the objectives. It now says definitely that there shall not be this objective of housing all Aborigines within 10 years. We had the machinery set up to do that. It could have been done in an 8-year period. Mr Hay reported:
Housing commissions or their equivalents in the States, but not in the Northern Territory, have been used as a major means of acquiring houses for Aboriginals. They have done so economically -
Why, in the name of Providence, is there need to reduce expenditure if the objective or the desire is to house Aboriginal communities? Why is there need to reduce the allocation to housing commissions in the various States when, on the basis of a public servant’s report, they were producing houses economically? The Hay report states:
Housing commissions or their equivalents in the States, but not in the Northern Territory, have been used as a major means of acquiring houses for Aboriginals. They have done so economically. Provided, as is mostly the case, that they are prepared to agree on the number, type and location of houses.
He says that there have been some successes. He is talking about Aboriginal housing associations. The report continues:
One association in the Northern Territory had obtained ministerial approval, in the face of opposition from some officers of the Department, to depart from the instructions and buy prefabricated houses which were locally erected. Another has been so successful that the housing shortage in its area has almost been overcome. The generally poor performance of those housing associations examined is partly due to the conflicting objectives to which the associations were supposed to contribute-
Mr Hay recommends greater utilisation of State housing commissions or similar agencies on terms, including consultation with and employment of Aborigines, to be negotiated; possible absorption of unsuccessful housing associations in remote areas into community councils with residual responsibilities confined to allocation, rentals and maintenance; continued financial support to successful housing associations in remote areas with absorption into community councils being adopted where feasible; encouragement of successful or potentially successful associations in other than remote areas, but on the basis of a loan or a combination of grant and loan; in remote areas, access by Aborigines to housing on terms no less favourable than those generally available through housing commissions, and in the absence of housing commission facilities alternative possibilities such as the Department of Construction, private contractors or resource groups serving several councils be investigated. Mr Hay recommends the suspension of loans to housing associations. If contracts for Aboriginal housing are let to builders we stop the achievement that Fraser and Viner praised yesterday at Wilcannia- the employment opportunities, the pride in achievements and the work of the Aborigines for their own betterment. Sites which were not seen by Mr Hay were One Arm Point in Western Australia and Wiluna also in Western Australia. When we visited there the Aborigines got up at daylight and started pouring concrete to finish their homes. They were built by Aboriginal communities under the supervision of the Housing Commission of Western Australia.
The pertinent point I make is that while a Senate Select Committee was looking into the matter the Government appointed a public servant to make a certain finding. After viewing a few sites, he recommended that no further funds be granted to most Aboriginal housing associations. The Senate Select Committee, whose members were senators in whom we have confidence, recommended in paragraph 84 of its report that the Commonwealth continue to provide full support for Aboriginal housing societies. Do we say that Senator Baume, Senator Bonner and Senator Rae are inferior to the Ombudsman of the Department of Defence? Do we reject their report because the Ombudsman whom Fraser appointed has brought down a different report in which he says that his findings are only observations because he had no time to make findings? Our appointed representatives have spent 2 years looking at the whole position.
One of the successes to which Mr Hay referred was a case in which the Minister gave approval, in spite of the opposition of his Department, for the building of houses in a particular area. No architects or consultants were involved. I was that Minister. The case relates to Bathurst Island. When I went there I had conversations with the missionaries and the building supervisor. I have some knowledge of the building trade, and it became obvious to me that he was a man who knew the building industry. From my association with the building trade, I knew that very few architects were employed on cottage construction. This man was complaining that before he could do anything, before he could order materials, he had to get the architect’s approval; it had to come down here; it took months and months. He said: ‘I have a proposal by which we can build a number of houses. Leave oft’ the verandahs, leave off the water and leave off the sewerage. Put up the shell so that they can live in it. We can house them. We can come back and do the rest’. I said: ‘No, you will not do that, because they will never be finished. They will be slums’. He said: ‘It is a question of servicing the land. We have 20 blocks which we can service. We have sewerage, electricity and water. Can I go ahead without the architect’s approval for these twenty?’ I said: ‘Yes, go ahead with them’. This was written up in the Press as costing some $57,000.I think they are nearly completed. That they are a failure is denied by the Country Party member for Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Mr Hyacinth Tungutalum. His letter was incorporated by Mr E. G. Whitlam at page 494 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 24 August. His letter speaks of the success of that plan. The Country Party member talks of its success. Time will not permit me to read out the letter. To complete the record, I ask that the letter be incorporated in the Senate Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The letter read as follows)-
A savage libel
Your reference to the Bathurst Island housing program under the heading ‘Money misused on Aboriginal housing’ is not only an outdated account of the program but is a savage libel against one of the most successful projects of its kind yet undertaken.
Far from being a scandal, the program has been highly praised by such officials as the Mayor of Darwin, Dr Ella Stack. The progress is a source of great pride to the people of Bathurst Island, and an incentive to other Aboriginal communities.
It is true that about $800,000 has been spent on the program, but not to build five houses and partly complete another six. In the past year 30 houses, plus four staff houses, have been built. They contain three bedrooms and are cyclone proof, but still cost an average of only $25,000, more than $20,000 less than the new houses being built in Darwin.
You neared the truth in saying that they were to have been brick houses, but lapsed in saying they have turned out to be timber prefabs. To achieve an economic product the plans were altered to include two timber homes, as well as some brick and fibro homes. I reject any inference that my community has settled for some sort of shack. Unlike many homes built previously for Aboriginal communities, these homes have been built according to the choice of the Aborigines, and they are proud of their achievement, and happy to live in them.
Your premature publication of a confidential report may now cause suffering in Aboriginal communities by prompting a slackening of building activity through an ill-founded report.
It is a pity that the southern Press cannot get off the onetrack bandwagon on Aboriginal matters, and allow us the right to direct and judge our own progress.
– I wish to read 2 other letters on the same subject. Mr L. C. Ah Toy of the Bathurst Island Housing Association wrote:
On behalf of the Association, I write to thank you for your assistance and direction given to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs whilst you were Minister to waive the provisions ofcircular 130’ thus enabling the Petersen Bros, type houses to be constructed.
Circular 130 contained my authorisation to the consultants and architects. The letter continued:
Your faith in Pat Carroll has not been misplaced. From reports in the Melbourne and Sydney papers as well as reports in the Bulletin, the Bathurst Island Housing Association success story has been falsely misrepresented and I write to assure you that the actual situation is so different as to be laughable if it did not do so much damage to our reputation. *
To 30 June 1975 the Housing Association completed the 6 project trial houses you gave approval to commence. To 30 June 1976 it will have completed the twenty houses promised and with efficiencies and savings complete a further four houses making a total of 30 Petersen houses to date. This is a track record of which we are justly proud.
Should you care to visit Bathurst Island whilst in the vicinity, I am sure you would be welcome.
Mr Pat Carroll wrote to me in the following terms:
The reason for my writing this letter is to inform you of the progress of the Bathurst Island Housing Association. Of course I realise that you now have no connection with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, but I feel that you may still be interested in this particular Housing Association as certain actions taken by you whilst Minister assured the success of that particular Association. To date, thirty new houses of the type proposed by me and approved by you as an experiment have been completed and occupied. Twenty-four of these were built this financial year, the other six were built in the latter part of last year after you gave your approval for the project. I’ve just ordered material for a further two houses in an attempt to keep the construction gang together until funds are forthcoming, hopefully, for another twenty-five houses.
That was a forlorn hope for this successful venture. The letter continued:
The BIHA at present has approximately $100,000 left from the $500,000 allocation for 1975-76. Of course, as you may recall there was approximately $180,000 left from the previous year’s allocation for the construction of the four brick ‘mansions’ as proposed by the consultants, and abandoned in favour of the smaller three bedroomed units.
Mr Johnson visited Bathurst Island after his appointment as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and seemed favourably impressed with the work being done by our Association. Some of the houses were finished at the time, whilst others were in the course of construction. Earlier this year whilst on a visit to Darwin the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, accompanied by Mr Barry Dexter, was informed of the progress of the BIHA and given all relevant facts concerning that Association. I might add that the number of houses claimed to have been built, and the financial situation of the BIHA can be verified by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and our own accountant in Darwin.
On a more personal note, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the support you gave me in my attempt to get the Bathurst Island project on its feet. I realise fully that you faced a lot of opposition from your own Department, and no doubt an equal amount of criticism for acting independently of circular 130.I must admit that I felt a greater commitment to you, as you’d ‘stuck your neck out’ for me, than I did for the Aboriginals for whom I was building the houses.
According to some recent reports in certain southern papers and at least one magazine the Bathurts Island Housing Association has been guilty of spending large amounts of money without building many houses. Five completed and six under construction I think is the claim. Whether this information was supplied by the Hay inquiry committee, two members of which were in Darwin recently, I do not know. Disappointingly, no correction was forthcoming from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
At the present time I’m in Queensland on leave. I will endeavour to send you photographs of all the houses upon my return to Bathurst Island. As my family reside in Queensland, we have eight children, seven in school, the time is quickly approaching when I will be tendering my resignation to the Housing Association. It is to be hoped that the Association can be allowed to continue operating along the same lines as at present.
I will close now, again thanking you for your past support.
I think that is sufficient evidence that in some places the scheme was a success.
To sum up, I have referred to the work that has been done at Bathurst Island and to the nearly completed housing program which the Hay committee considered to be so successful. I have referred to the area which the Prime Minister visited yesterday where he saw how the living standards of the Aboriginal people had been uplifted. I have quoted from an article by Kevin Gilbert who says that the Aboriginal people must be given a purpose in life. Honourable senators opposite should see what has happened at One Arm Point and at Wiluna in Western Australia. At this time the Government should not be setting up a Public Service inquiry for the purpose of trying to find a method to cut back the allocation for Aboriginal affairs. I have talked about health and about the infant mortality rate. Doctors in New South Wales have said that nothing can be done about these problems until more housing is provided.
According to the Estimates there has been a cut of 33 per cent in the allocation for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs compared with last year. This cut will be even greater when inflation is taken into account. In his statement No. 37 of 1976 Mr Viner said that when he took office he was told about all the money going to white men. The biggest increase in expenditure this year as compared with last year is in salaries of the tribunal and for all those services performed by white men for the Aboriginal community, and this results in a reduction in the allocation for welfare, housing and legal aid services. That is how the Government is carrying out the promise contained in Mr Ellicott’s telegram: Vote for us and there will be no reduction in the Aboriginal vote’.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Senator Cavanagh has just resumed his seat. During his speech he referred to a number of members of the Liberal and National Country parties, claiming to quote statements which they had made and summing up by saying that they constituted 10 members who are publicly open in their condemnation of this Government. That statement was based upon something which he claimed I had written.
In that particular article my comments were directed primarily towards the absurdity of a national strike on a matter which was complicated, which at the time could not be understood because then the relevant rates for Medibank and the private health funds had not been published and it was extremely difficult for members of the public to be able to understand. That was the sense of the article- the absurdity of having a national strike on that sort of matter. There was certainly no condemnation, as Senator Cavanagh described it, of this Government. I wish to refute the suggestion that I was in any way condemning the Government in that article to which reference was made.
– I had no intention of contributing to this debate until I heard Senator Gietzelt and Senator Walsh opposite speak on rural affairs. They made some inaccurate and misleading statements which spurred me on to make some contribution. I assure Senator Cavanagh that honourable senators on this side of the chamber have no difficulty whatsoever in supporting this excellent Budget. Contributors to the debate from this side of the Senate have covered areas very well. I shall run quickly through some of the positive achievements which this Budget has made and I shall comment on some points which Senator Walsh and Senator Gietzelt have made. Then, in a bit more detail, I shall cover some of the positive areas in which the Government has assisted rural industry.
I cite some of the highlights of the Budget and of other matters which the Government announced on 20 May. We have the new family allowance. We have full, personal income tax indexation which, as Senator Scott pointed out, will reduce the projected taxation revenue by over a billion dollars. There is the removal of the property means test for pensioners. Pension rates are to be adjusted automatically in line with the consumer price index. There will be the first stage of company tax indexation and the relaxation of distribution requirements for private companies. New tax concessions were announced for mining and petroleum companies with the abolition of the $2 per barrel levy on crude oil for new discoveries. There are new exemptions from estate duty on estates passing to a surviving spouse. A 3-year program of $225m was announced for assistance in the provision of aged persons homes and hostels. There is a 3-year program of $ 121m for assistance to handicapped people. Net payments to the States and local authorities will total $9 billion. A very important provision for rural people is the extension of free telephone line service and maintenance from 8 kilometres to 12 kilometres. Honourable senators will remember that it was a Labor Government which in August 1973 reduced that service from 15 kilometres to 8 kilometres. We are redressing that imposition.
The Budget sets out to reduce the rate of inflation to below 10 per cent by June 1977. This must be the most important thrust of the whole Budget. We are setting out a program of real economic growth. Honourable senators will remember that under the Australian Labor Party for the first time in Australia we had an actual reduction in real economic growth. We plan to increase employment by 2 per cent in 12 months. We have voted for an increase of 1 8 per cent in defence estimates. We have increased education expenditure by 15 per cent and social security and welfare expenditure by 23 per cent. We have set out to reduce substantially the $5 billion deficit.
When Senator Wriedt opened the debate for the Opposition he made great play of Government leaks. If we cast our minds back we will remember the incredible number of leaks which spilled from a succession of Labor budgets. One way of refuting that suggestion is by pointing out that almost all of the initiatives taken in this Budget caught everybody, including the Opposition and the Press, completely by surprise. So much for leaks! Senator Gietzelt ‘s contribution was interesting. I shall read from his speech as reported in Senate Hansard of 25 August at page 301:
This has been well explained. We are waiting for the Crawford report. No doubt, as soon as that report comes forward we will respond to it in a positive way. Later on he stated that this Government had failed to establish a national rural bank. I assure honorourable senators that planning is well under way. I happen to be on the committee which is drawing up the plan for the establishment of a rural bank. Senator Gietzelt made a rather incredible statement when he said that the Government failed to establish a farm income reserve fund. Later he went on to congratulate us for setting up an income equalisation deposits scheme. Anybody experienced in rural industries will appreciate that the fund and the scheme are exactly the same thing. Later he stated:
The Government has failed to effectively suspend the export levy on beef . . .
In fact, we have suspended the export levy on beef. Senator Gietzelt claimed that we had failed to establish a young farmers establishment scheme. That project is also well on the way. Later, Senator Gietzelt in his interesting talk, stated:
By not distinguishing between farm and non-farm income for the purposes of the scheme -
This is the income equalisation deposits scheme which the honourable senator says the Government did not implement- a cynic may well conclude that the Fraser Government is more concerned with assisting Pitt Street and Collins Street fanners than genuine farmers. Clearly, the Government has not considered the side effects of this hastily worked out scheme.
Senator Walsh made great play of this scheme assisting those aforementioned farmers. I point out to those 2 honourable senators that the tax averaging scheme has been in existence for many years. It has exactly the same provisions in the areas it covers as has the income equalisation deposits scheme. The Labor Government did nothing to restrict the wide application of that scheme.
I turn my attention now to a couple of things which Senator Cavanagh said. He pointed to the list of bankruptcies and, for some reason, seemed to think that that was an indication of prosperity in the rural industry. I point out to him that in the period 1969-72 there was an actual reduction of 4313 in the number of rural holdings in Australia. In the period 1972-73, under the Labor Administration, there was a reduction in the rural holdings of 6998. So there were almost 7000 fewer farmers during that short period. Senator Cavanagh conveniently forgets that inflation took its tremendous toll of rural industries. Out of the 24 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in 1972 we ranked sixteenth in relation to inflation. In early 1976 we ranked fifth. That is an incredible leap of 1 1 places in the OECD list of inflation affected countries. If I have time I shall return to some of the most peculiar comments which Senator Cavanagh made about protests. I thought they were quite incredible.
– Do you not agree that the whole farm build-up program is designed to strengthen farming and that those figures which you have quoted reflect the efficiency and the effectiveness of the farm build-up program?
– I certainly concede that, but I also point out that Labor Party philosophy is supposed to support the little people. This is completely the reverse. It tends to enlarge farms and not encourage the small farmers. At page 369 of the Senate Hansard of 26 August we find that Senator Walsh, in discussing the increase in farm income over the 3 years when the Labor Party was in power, stated:
So for the 3 years of Labor Government the amount -
This is of real farm income- was 45 per cent higher than it had been in the 3 preceding years.
Of course, in exactly the same period there was a 250 per cent increase in inflation and, as I pointed out, a reduction in the number of rural holdings. I do not think even Senator Walsh will deny that the real farm income is more dependent on seasons and prices than it is on other factors. The most recent election indicated how much support the Labor Party received from country areas. On page 371 of the same Hansard Senator Walsh says:
So if this Government bases its policies on an uncritical endorsement of the Industries Assistance Commission ‘s report, all I can say is that it does it very selectively.
He went on to try to make the point that we select only those parts of the report that we want. Of course, the big comparison here is that the Labor Party did not adopt any suggestions from LAC reports. On page 372 Senator Walsh mentioned the Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers benefiting from the income equalisation deposit scheme. Here I make the same point: The Labor Party had 3 years in which to change that aspect of tax averaging but did nothing about it.
To summarise Senator Walsh’s contribution, I would suggest that he must be terribly pleased to be back in Opposition. I looked very hard but could see nothing constructive in his contribution. He suggested that the Budget was a dismal and dishonest document. I remind him of the previous Government’s record under 3 Labor Treasurers. I gather that there is now some competition for the position of next Labor Treasurer. The McMahon Government had a total Budget allocation of $10 billion whereas the Hayden Budget had a total expected allocation of $21 billion. It more than doubled in that short time. In 1974 Mr Crean’s Budget estimated a surplus of $571 million. In fact it turned out to be a $2.1 billion deficit. The Hayden Budget of 1975 estimated a $2.8 billion deficit but, as we all know, it finished up being well over a $4 billion deficit. So much for dismal and dishonest documents. Just as an aside, the Governor-General came to Western Australia in 1974 to open the World Conference of the Associated Country Women of the World. I well remember the tremendous publicity that the conference received in Perth. However, the GovernorGeneral had to go to a great deal of trouble to get any support at ali from the Government during that period of tremendous extravagances.
I would like now to cover some of the positive ways in which this Budget assists rural industries. The thrust of the whole Budget policy must be to control inflation as all export industries, particularly rural industries, are more seriously affected by inflation that by any other factor. This object must, in turn, be tied to economic restraint. Almost all the policies we have adopted on rural industries were recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission. The discontinuation of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty was one of its recommendations as was the reinstatement of the superphosphate bounty and the $ 15m to be made available for carry-on loans to beef producers. Then there is the suspension of the meat export charges. Under the Budget the Commonwealth will also be providing Sim for the continuation of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme and $65,000 for the Australian Wine Institute. There is also the introduction of an investment allowance for new plant and equipment, the extension of the rural reconstruction scheme to 31 December 1976 at a cost of $ 10m while further recommendations are being made by the Industries Assistance Commission, the extension of the dried fruit stabilisation scheme, assistance to the apple and pear industry, loans to canneries, increased tariff protection against orange juice imports, the underwriting for the 1975-76 season of the equalisation value of skim milk powder at $300 a tonne on a two-to-one basis with the States.
There is also the underwriting arrangement for skim milk powder and casein for a 6-months period ending 31 December 1976, the underwriting till 3 1 December 1976 of the equalisation value for butter and cheese costing $900 and $680 per tonne respectively, and the provision of $ 1 3.5m for adjustment assistance to the dairying industry in 1976-77. The Crawford report is imminent and no doubt further positive action will be taken as a result of it. In addition to these matters there is the provision of $ 12m to the States for 1976-77 for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis and $6.1m for the brucellosis slaughter compensation scheme as recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission. There is the extension of the Softwood Forest Agreement Act for 1976-77 with the allocation of $6m, an increase in the floor price of wool to 234c per kilogram on a whole clip average for the 1976-77 selling season compared with 206c in 1975-76. There is the provision of drought relief for affected areas under the natural disaster assistance arrangement with the
States. I pay tribute here to the tremendous response that the Western Australian Government has made to the critical drought situation in that State. It has been quick off the mark and has alleviated the problem quite considerably. One of the greatest problems, as honourable senators would realise, is the psychological problem of drought. This has taken its toll in the past and will in the future, but the response of the Western Australian Government to this drought has mitigated its effect quite considerably. The Budget provides for income maintenance support for farmers by varying the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits to include farmers who are suffering severe financial hardship and who have registered for employment. All these programs will be kept well under control and modified as the need arises.
I would like to touch now on the income equalisation deposit scheme. It is not realised by many rural producers that this scheme will be made retrospective to include the 1 975-76 income year. Great play has been made by the Opposition of the fact that because of the drought very few people will have any income to put into this scheme. In Western Australia, as in may other States, the wheat growing areas have had tremendously high incomes and one of their biggest problems, apart from drought, is affording to pay their income tax this year. In many cases this scheme will alleviate that problem for these producers. It also will get over one of the problems which Senator Walsh underlines frequently and in which I tend to agree with him, that under the previous income tax arrangements many farmers were encouraged to make unnecessary and imprudent purchases of plant and machinery just to avoid paying income tax. I believe that this income equalisation deposit scheme will alleviate that necessity to a great extent. I concede that this scheme will not assist low income producers but it will help keep a lot more farmers in a viable situation and, even more importantly, will reduce the need in many cases for emergency assistance when there is a short term downturn in income or prices.
The Opposition makes great play on the phasing out of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy; but the phasing out of the subsidy is in line with suggestions of the Industries Assistance Commission. The first reduction will commence in January 1977. The subsidy is expected to be phased out by the end of 1 978, but a revision will be made before that date. The superphosphate bounty continues at its present rate. That is in line with the draft report of the IAC that was made in July 1 976. For the benefit of honourable senators I would like to read a couple of the highlights from the summary of that report which, to my mind, put a different emphasis on some of the rural problems. Half way down the first page of the report, under the heading ‘Summary’, the following comments are made:
These industries - the Commission is talking about the wool, wheat and meat industries in Australia- are low-cost, efficient by Australian and world standards, and in receipt of little assistance in other forms or in total. However, some high-cost industries are also assisted.
In the next paragraph the following comment was made:
It has concluded - this is the Commission- on efficiency grounds, that assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers should be continued.
Later in the same paragraph the report stated:
The following statement was made in the last paragraph on page 1:
The Commission sees tariff-induced distortions as being removed only gradually. It has no evidence that demonstrably better measures will be found easily or quickly. On the other hand, it believes the opportunities to identify alternative and more efficient measures should arise as assistance for rural industries is reviewed. Progress in this area, and in reducing high protection to import-competing industries, would need to be taken into account when the bounty is reviewed.
I would like to highlight some of the problems still facing rural industries. Most honourable senators would be aware of these problems, but I would just like to underline them. Overseas markets are still the main source of rural income. Rural reconstruction and other measures in the future will need continuing and probably greater support from this Government. I believe that, as it has been demonstrated that because of increasing costs and inflation we no longer are able to be competitive in certain areas of production, farmers who have been placed in this position through no fault of their own should not be penalised. I believe that it is in the area of rural reconstruction that we can assist these farmers most ably. Inflation remains our major problem. I believe that this Budget will make a positive and concerted effort to reduce that problem for the rural producer.
It is probably well known that Australia is the biggest exporter of beef in the world. It also produces more wool than any other country and is a very substantial producer of grain. I would like to quote some figures from a document which I received recently from the research and development department of the Australian Wool Corporation. The statistics in this document underline the sorts of problems that the Australian rural producer, particularly the export producer, is facing. The document sets out in great detail the individual cost of every operation in moving wool from the sheep’s back to the mill door. To summarise, in November 1973 the direct cost to the wool grower was 33.4c a kilo greasy. In March 1976 the figure had risen to 5 6c. The total cost from the sheep’s back to the mill door in November 1973 was 46.9c a kilo greasy and in March 1976 it was 74c. That is an incredible increase in that short time. The shearing cost portion of that increase went from 9.6c a kilo in November 1973 to 15.6c a kilo in March 1976. This dramatic increase has taken place in less than 21/2 years.
Finally, I point out that in my short time in the Senate I have been quite interested in the different attitudes of Government senators and Opposition senators on rural problems. It seems that there is a concerted effort on the part of the Opposition to make as many producers as possible dependent on governments. The present Opposition certainly went a long way towards achieving that when it was in government. I point out that rural producers are the largest single group of small business men in Australia. They are extremely independent and self-reliant people. It has been proved in the last election and in many other ways that the Government’s objective of creating a situation where rural producers can help themselves is the right one.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt. This evening I intend to direct most of my comments to education, because I believe that this is an area which has been neglected in the Budget. I intend to show how it has been neglected. Despite widespread comments to the contrary and protests by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), there has been a great deal of condemnation of certain aspects of the Budget with relation to education. In fact I intend to quote from publications of the 4 education commissions which contain criticisms of the guidelines which form part of the Budget. Firstly I quote what the Schools Commission said in its report for the 1977-79 triennium. The Commission spoke about the increase in funds that had been made available to it but pointed out that the increase in funds was not sufficient. In part the Schools Commission said:
The 2 per cent real growth in funds for 1977 must be seen in relation to the fact that enrolments in the States are estimated to grow by 1.1 1 per cent. It is important to realise that the guidelines cannot be met in full; the objectives of maintaining existing standards while also undertaking other initiatives, though modest and directed towards immediate needs, are too ambitious within the funds allocated.
Let us look at what the Universities Commission said in its report for the same triennium. The Commission spoke about the projected deterioration of standards in Australian universities. In speaking on this subject it said:
The Australian universities are moving from an environment of steady growth in student numbers to one in which there will be no growth. Inherent in a situation of no growth are problems which, if not faced, must had to deterioration in the standards of teaching and research in Australian universities.
It is interesting to note that recently some of the vice-chancellors of the various universities in Australia have pointed out that there will be a deterioration of standards in universities of Australia. This is something which must be decried. The same Commission also mentions the unavoidable increases which universities are facing. It said:
The effect of the unavoidable increases in costs is to reduce the real operating resources per student which would otherwise have been available. This reduction, together with the increases in student numbers which are still working thenway through the system, means that real operating resources per student will, by 1979, be some 3 per cent below those in 1975.
It is no wonder that there will be a deterioration of standards in the universities throughout Australia. Yet another commission had something to say about the guidelines with which it was presented by this Government. The Commission on Advanced Education in its report for the same triennium, 1977-79, said:
The present guidelines were framed within the Government’s policy of restraint in public expenditure. However, it is our view that Governments should be fully and publicly informed of needs before such decisions are taken. This Commission has been charged with the responsibility of providing advice on the needs of advanced education. The Commission can best give advice if it is able to give proper consideration to detailed submissions put to it. In 1976 we were unable to follow this procedure.
Finally, I turn to the fourth commission report to which I referred earlier. The Technical and Further Education Commission report for the same triennium mentioned that increased enrolments are not catered for by the projected growth rates in Commonwealth grants. The Commission said:
A triennial program based on the growth rates for Commonwealth grants of 5 per cent for 1978 and 1979 proposed in the present guidelines would fail to take account of increased enrolments during the triennium.
These remarks were made by the 4 education commissions which had to report to the Government. Before making any further comments about what has been done in the Budget to education throughout Australia, I wish to make some comments about statements which have been made by the Minister for Education because I believe that he has been totally misleading. It is time that these misleading statements were brought to the attention of the Australian people. I refer to a publication called University News which is published by the Queensland University. In its issue dated 14 July it reported the Minister as saying: the Minister said that when he inherited the portfolio 7 months ago, education spending had been cut already by $ 105m by the previous Government.
The Minister has been saying this consistently. Indeed, as recently as 24 August he issued a Press statement in which he made a similar statement. He said:
It was the Whitlam Government which in August 1 975 cut the 4 education commission budgets by $ 105m for the calendar year 1 976 compared with 1975 . . .
The cut to which the Minister referred was not really a cut as such. It was a shortfall between the 1976 component of the 1976-78 triennial funding recommendations made by the various education commissions and the 1976 interim year allocation for education subsequently announced in the 1975 Budget. The Minister, in his statement about cuts of $105m by the previous Government, is not giving the full details. Incidentally, in 1975-76 there was a real increase in expenditure on education over that of 1 974-75. 1 shall go a little further about the Minister’s comments relating to cuts in education.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was mid-way through an argument, so with your concurrence, Mr Deputy President, I shall backtrack a little on what I was saying to make the argument stand out properly. I was speaking about some comments which had been made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and was going to speak on 2 comments in particular. I referred firstly to the statement, which he has made consistently, that the previous Government cut $105m from the education vote. I pointed out that he had made the statement in a number of places but that the cut was not really a cut in the normal sense but was a shortfall between the 1976 component of the 1976-78 trienniel funding recommendations made by the 4 education commissions and the 1976 interim year allocation for education subsequently announced at
Budget time in August 1975. If the Minister wants to use this argument he should use it with the argument for current spending by the Government.
It is very difficult to take each of the commissions’ reports and to determine how much was recommended for the various years, except for the Schools Commission which actually sets out what it recommends for 1 976, 1 977 and 1978 in its report for the triennium 1976-78. It is a little more difficult to determine how much was recommended by the other commissions because they do not set out the actual recommendations year by year. The grant recommended for 1977 in the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1976-78 was $690m in December 1974 prices. The Government grant for education in 1977, which has been allocated in this Budget, is $508m in December 1975 prices. So if the same sort of argument is used as the Minister for Education uses with regard to the cutting of expenditure by the previous Government there is a shortfall of about $200m for just one Commission, the Schools Commission.
I invite the Minister for Education in future, if he makes claims similar to his previous claim that education spending was cut by $ 105 m by the previous Government when he took over the education portfolio, to go one step further and say: ‘But we have done better than that: In just one Commission, the Schools Commission, we have cut education expenditure by $200m’. If he is going to use that argument in respect of what the previous Government did he should follow it up and use it for what this Government is doing. He would not do so because it would paint the Government in a very bad light. I have used the figures for just one commission in this illustration but if we were to take all 4 commissions into account the cut, in the words of the Minister, would be even greater still.
I refer also to claims that the Minister has made about student numbers. On 18 August I asked of the Minister for Education in this place a question about his claim that there were fewer students at tertiary institutions this year than there were last year. I asked:
Was the Minister for Education correctly reported in the University of Queensland publication Varsity News of 14 July 1976 as having said on the occasion of his July visit to the University of Queensland that ‘the 1976 calendar year has seen an absolute decline of 8300 students in the tertiary sector’? If the Minister was correctly reported, how was this figure of 8300 derived?
The Minister replied, in effect, that he had been correctly reported and said, in part: . . from evidence given to the Department of Education through the various commissions by the institutions concerned, the effect would be that the number of first year enrolment places in both universities and colleges for the calendar year 1 976 would be some 8300 fewer than in 1 975.
The figures just do not back up the Minister’s argument. The Minister may be able to provide some figures to show that his argument is correct but I doubt it. Six days later, after asking that question, I received some information from the Parliamentary Library which showed that in 1975 26 213 students commenced courses at universities. In 1976 some preliminary figures showed that 26 088 students commenced courses at universities. In other words, there was a difference of 125 students, using those preliminary figures for 1976. There were 125 fewer students in 1976 than in 1975.
For colleges of advanced education 26 536 students enrolled for the first time in 1975. But on 24 August, 6 days after the Minister gave me an answer to my question, the Parliamentary Library said that the figures for first year enrolments for colleges of advanced education for 1976 were not yet available. If they were available there would have to have been a drop of over 8000 students in colleges of advanced education; in other words, going from 26000 students down to about 16 000 students. The figures just do not back up the Minister’s argument, which seems to suggest that the statement that there were 8300 fewer students this year than last year is completely erroneous. If the Minister is giving figures like these which cannot be backed up, one tends to suspect other figures that he may give as well. I invite him to give correct figures and to give correct figures on what the Budget has done for education this year.
I move on now to an aspect of the Budget which was first mentioned on 20 May when the Government said that it was going to reintroduce tuition fees for students studying for second and higher degrees. When this was mentioned before this chamber I was somewhat amazed at the argument which was used in favour of the reintroduction of tuition fees for certain students. It is worthwhile repeating what the Minister for Education said at the time. On 20 May he stated:
From the beginning of 1977 the Government has decided to reintroduce tuition fees for students taking second and higher degrees apart from recognised combined courses which include, for example Arts/Law, and first degrees plus post-graduate professional diplomas.
The reason for this was then given:
The Government considers that students should reasonably be asked to pay tuition fees for courses taken after they have obtained their full basic qualifications. We will need to discuss the application of this decision with the States and the institutions.
I ask: What are full basic qualifications for any student? An arbitrary line could be drawn anywhere. If this has happened we could find that next we will be told that the full basic qualification is matriculation and that students therefore will have to pay fees after having this basic qualification. We will have returned to where we were before the Labor Government came to power and abolished fees at universities and colleges of advanced education. There is no reason for us to say that a full basic qualification is a degree. Think of what this must do to the research scientists in this country. But what happened? We never know what this Government will do. In the Budget Speech, referring to an investigation the Government was to have, it was stated:
The investigation will also cover the question of the reintroduction of tertiary education fees for those classes of students mentioned in my statement of 20 May.
What does this mean? Does it mean that the Government is now having second thoughts about re-introducing fees for certain students at universities? I hope it is. I will point out the sorts of things that the Government should be looking at if it is having second thoughts, because this will create a lot of hardship for many students. It is worthwhile noting that the homework had not been done with regard to this question. The earlier statement mentioned not only post graduate qualifications but also second degrees. In answer to a question in the House of Representatives only recently it was stated that the Minister for Education had said that statistics on the total number of persons enrolled for second degree courses in Australia were not available. In other words, the homework had not been done properly.
In pointing out some of the things the Government should consider if it is having an investigation into whether these fees should be reintroduced I will talk particularly about postgraduate courses. Universities in Australia offer a wide variety of opportunities for students to undertake further study beyond their bachelors degrees. Amongst these are research opportunities to study for a Ph.D. or a masters degree, or to study by course work for a masters degree. Of course, one may pursue other higher degrees but these are the most common. There has been a major expansion in opportunities for students to undertake these courses. This is illustrated by the figures for the last 10 years. In 1965 there were, in round figures, 6000 students taking higher degrees in Australian universities. This was 7.4 per cent of students as a total proportion of all students. Ten years later, in 1975, this figure had grown to 16 000 and the proportion of students taking higher degrees as a proportion of all students had grown from 7.4 per cent to 1 1. 1 per cent. It is often said that students taking higher degrees have some sort of financial assistance and, therefore, any re-introduction of fees will not affect them. Even for those students who have some financial assistance there is a certain amount of disquiet. Some of them have said to me that they do not know whether next year their scholarships will cover the fees that may be reintroduced. Beyond that, it is pertinent to point out that many students who are undertaking post-graduate courses do not have financial assistance.
The latest figures I have been able to obtain on the sources of finance for full-time higher degree research students were those for 1974. There were 4900 students in this category. Of these 39.9 per cent had an Australian Government award. Some people had other awards such as university awards, overseas awards and other government awards, but the pertinent figure for my argument is that the proportion of students not receiving any awards was 27.1 per cent. Therefore, in round figures, one out of every four people who were pursuing higher research degrees in 1 974 in a university did not have any award at all. These people will be hard hit if fees are re-introduced. In fact many of them would not be able to continue. Whilst not underestimating the hardship that will be placed on full-time students, I believe that those who will be most affected if fees are re-introduced for higher degrees will be the part-time students. It is interesting to note that the proportion of higher degree students who are part-time has been increasing in recent years. In 1968 the proportion of full-time students as a total of the students undertaking research degrees in Australian universities was 5 1 per cent. By 1975 the role was reversed in that the proportion of part-time students was 5 1 per cent and the proportion of full-time students was less than half of the total number.
I illustrate how part-time students will be affected by referring to some figures from the university at which 1 studied and, in particular, the department in which I studied. It is not unusual for teachers to pursue part-time studies. They do this so that they may obtain better qualifications, become more professionally qualified and thus be able to serve the country much better. In the department of Education at the University of Queensland there are, at the moment, a total of 140 part-time post-graduate students. In 1976, of a total of 24 post-graduate students in the Department of Education at the
University of Queensland, exactly half are parttime. Of these 24 students doing a Ph.D., twelve are part time. Of 16 students pursuing a master of education degree, thirteen are part-time. In other words, almost all of them are part-time. The same situation holds with master of education and administration degrees. Of a total of twenty-six, twenty-four are part-time. There are 105 students undertaking master of educational studies and ninty-one of these are part dme. The majority of these people- I would expect almost all of them- would be teachers who work during the day and go to university in the evening to better their qualifications by undertaking a higher degree. There are 2 other universities in the State which I represent. At the James Cook University half of the masters degree students are part time and the same situation applies for Ph.D. students. At the Griffith University more than half the post-graduate students are part time. Of IS students doing a Ph.D., ten are part time. There are 27 course work master students, all of whom are part time and of 13 research master students, nine are part time. I am illustrating that there is a large number of part time students in universities throughout Australia who are undertaking research degrees or higher degrees such as course work masters.
These people will be hard hit if fees are introduced for courses beyond the bachelors degree. How hard hit will they be? It is difficult to say because there have been no fees for some time and it is difficult to say what the new fees will be. Fees for post-graduate courses vary considerably from university to university, but the University of Queensland calendar for 1973 stated that the full-time fees for masters degree and doctoral students was $293 per semester. In other words, the fees were almost $600 per year. It would not be difficult to suggest- indeed, it would not be difficult to believe- that if the fee was $600 in 1 973 it could quite well be $ 1 ,000 in 1977. Part time masters degree students paid $126 per semester in 1973, in other words about $250 a year, and part time Ph.D. students paid slightly more. The fees, if reintroduced, will be much higher than that and part time students will think very seriously about continuing thenstudies. In fact I believe many will not continue because, after all, they undergo great sacrifices to continue studies while working.
It will be not only the students or potential students who will lose by not undertaking a higher degree as they normally would have done; also it will be the community as a whole. Some of the teachers to whom I was referring will not undertake higher studies and therefore will not be able to contribute as much to society as they otherwise would be able to do. These are the sorts of things that I hope the Government will look at if it is undertaking an investigation into the reintroduction of fees for second degrees and post-graduate qualifications. I believe their reintroduction will be a backward step. It would be a tremendous step forward if the Government said: ‘No, our original decision on 20 May when we announced this was wrong. We have decided to continue to have free university education, without fee, as introduced by the previous Government’.
I turn now to another aspect dealt with in the Budget. In 1977 the number of post-graduate awards is to be cut by one hundred. I believe that the inability to encourage higher studies will make Australia all the poorer. By cutting the number of post-graduate awards, obviously we will cut the number of people undertaking postgraduate studies. I see this as an attempt to bring Australia back to the status of a second rate nation so far as intellectual effort and output are concerned. The number of post-graduate awards in 1977 is to be cut by one hundred and all for a saving of $350,000 in a full year. I want to outline something that the Minister for Education has said on this subject. On 1 9 August he said:
Indeed, the Minister said that the number of post-graduate scholarships was the same as it was 2 years ago. That is not quite correct. This year 900 Commonwealth post-graduate awards were provided. In 1975 there were 900. In 1977 the number is to be dropped to 800. In 1974 there were 892 -almost 900-but in 1971, 1972 and 1 973 there were 800. The Government has not only dropped the number of post-graduate awards to the level in 1973; it has dropped it to the level of 5 years ago, in 1971. 1 wonder how many students who will not be able to carry on beyond their honours degree will consider that the cutback ‘is not in proportion major’? Next year there will be 100 fewer post-graduate awards than there were this year.
Finally I want to make some comment about the allowances under the tertiary education assistance scheme. There has been widespread lobbying for increases in this scheme. In fact there have been great demonstrations by students in support of increased allowances. In the State I represent some students faced ugly scenes when they demonstrated and were confronted by over zealous police officers. Despite this lobbying no effort has been made by the Government to provide any relief. The Government knew there was a need for increased allowances, yet this statement was made in the Budget Speech:
We have therefore initiated an urgent investigation into the adequacy of existing rates of benefit and the possible rationalisation of the schemes.
I wonder what that means, and why an urgent investigation now? Why was there not an urgent investigation some time ago so that students who are finding it very difficult to continue would have some relief now rather than, perhaps, next year? I want to refer to some of the figures which indicate how much money is to be provided for student assistance next year. In 1975-76, for universities, $6 1.7m was allocated for student assistance. This was an increase in real terms of 14.7 per cent over the figure for 1974-75. For 1976-77 there has been an increase to $61. 8m. In other words, an increase of $100,000. Whatever method one uses to try to convert 1 976-77 figures to those for 1975-76, it would indicate a real cut in university student assistance provided for in this Budget.
A similar situation holds for colleges of advanced education. Whilst from 1974-75 to 1975-76 there was an increase of 35 per cent in real terms, from 1975-76 to 1976-77 the increase is from $43. 8m to $46m. The increase is $2. 3m. If one converts the comparable figures for 1975-76 and 1976-77 one would see that again there is a real cut in spending. Also there is a cut in student assistance for technical education. In the field of technical education $20.2m was allotted last year and $20.2m has been allotted this year. One wonders what the Government actually intends to do. It seems that there is to be a cut in real money terms, in the money available for students for their assistance scheme. However it is interesting to speculate on what the Government may do. On 24 August the Minister for Education made this announcement in a Press statement:
The Federal Government does not intend to substitute a system of student loans to replace the present living allowances of students.
That seemed fairly clear until I read further down where he said:
Any system of student loans which the Government may introduce in the future will be a supplement to and not a replacement for student allowances.
It is interesting to look beyond comments made by Ministers in this Parliament and to look at comments made by people sitting on the Government side here and in other places. Let us consider this statement about student loans. It was made by Senator Baume and it appeared in the AMA Gazette on 5 August. At the outset he quite rightly said:
Some medical students who take a science degree will have to pay fees for their second degree (that is medical) course.
They will, if fees for second and higher degrees are introduced. He spoke about student loans and said, in part:
Government subvention by way of fee payments and allowances is not the only way that this desirable social goal can be obtained.
In the United States loans are regularly made available to students . . . These are repaid in various ways after graduation.
The one which attracts me is the repayment of a fixed percentage of salary for a number of years determined by the size of the loan. Thus high income earners would repay more and low income earners less after graduation . . .
I hope we can develop better loans systems to remove financial barriers to the entry of students into medicine while retaining some responsibility for the repayment of all such loans.
I wonder whether it is the Government’s intention to keep down the amount that will be provided for student assistance and to supplement that assistance by way of loans. The Government would be well advised to provide proper assistance to students as soon as it can so that they do not have a financial burden and can study knowing that they are financially secure. Tonight I have mentioned quite a number of aspects in which I believe this Budget is deficient in the field of education. Education is an investment in the future. Short cuts at this stage will have far reaching consequences in the years ahead. The Government would be well advised to make education one of its major priorities.
– In contrast to the criticism offered by the then Leader of the Opposition of the Hayden Budget, the present Opposition’s criticism appears, let us say, rather ill directed, weak and lacking in logic and conviction. Overall it does not provide anything that could be termed constructive criticism or even thought provoking. The majority of the Opposition’s time has been spent in discussing issues of fairly peripheral significance within the overall program- issues which are not final, anyway. The criticism of the Budget has been on ideological grounds and, more than that, constantly on emotional grounds rather than on logical economic criteria. This Opposition, unlike the previous Opposition, has not introduced any alternative strategy. It offers nothing by way of an optional program. That means 2 things- either a tacit approval of what we are proposing or an admission of a lack of feasibility in what we might guess is its line.
The Opposition ‘s attack is something on which I would like to elaborate. When the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, spoke, he was supposed to be the pivot of the Opposition’s attack. He said very little. His speech was well put and was made very fluently. He spoke for more than 40 minutes, but he did not say much. His speech seemed like a preamble to some later expose. We waited for that expose, but it never came. His speech did not offer any constructive criticism. He said that our Budget is heavily reliant upon stimulating certain sectors. He named those sectors as investment and consumption. He termed our strategy a gamble at the expense of those who are vulnerable. Who gambled more than the previous Government with the fate of hundreds of thousands of unemployed? It gambled and lost.
The Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment which consists of 5 parts. The first one refers to unemployment and states that this Government is using unemployment ‘as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries’. It is pretty strange for a man who was a senior Minister in the previous Government, which created that unemployment, to accuse this Government of using unemployment as a weapon. The second point refers to federalism. It states that the Budget ‘abdicates Federal Government responsibilities and forces the State governments and local governments either to reduce their services or to institute additional charges, or both’. Under our Budget the States will suffer no decrease in real income, but they will have a great advantage. They will have no strings attached on how to spend the money. Then comes Medibank. There was no discussion in detail of Medibank. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned it only in passing. I am not surprised that he did not mention it further. I do not think honourable senators opposite like to remember the fiasco of the national strike on Medibank, when the majority of Australian workers who could have stayed at home did not do so. Then comes the fourth point. It suggests that those most vulnerableAborigines, the unemployed and migrants- will be victimised by reductions in services. As usual, migrants come last.
– Would you put them in a different order?
-The Australian Labor Party always talks about migrants when it wants their votes. When it should do something for them, it forgets them. The whole situation in relation to Aborigines is still under review. We all know that. The Budget contains no real direct cuts which will affect the unemployed. I have no doubt that we shall see a marked improvement in their position, despite the prophecies of doom of the Opposition. As reported at page 289 of Hansard, Senator Wriedt made this interesting point:
One does not have to be too intelligent in economics to work out that by January unemployment will be approaching the 400 000 mark.
Then comes the crunch. He said:
This figure does not take into account all the hidden unemployment caused by the number of people who do not register, the fall in the employment of women, the reduction in the number of people who have second jobs, etc.
That is what Senator Wriedt said. I wonder what would have been the position last October if he had applied those figures to the actual unemployment figures.
Now let us turn to migrants. Much was said about the cuts to the migrant education program and to problems which we migrants have, but the fact is that the Commonwealth has a migrant education program which will be maintained in 1976-77 at the same level of activity as in 1975- 76. As a matter of fact, expenditure will be increased. The direct expenditure will be increased from $28,731,000 in 1975-76 to $30,655,000 in the current financial year. In addition expenditure is proposed for capital works and services in connection with education centres in hostels and migrant education centres in the capital cities. The Press widely reported the cuts in education and the migrant education allowances but that was a misunderstanding. Since the last Budget the responsibility for reimbursing the States for moneys spent on child migrant education has been transferred from the Department of Education to the Schools Commission.
In 1975-76 an amount of $ 10.3m was spent by the department on child migrant education. This covered expenditure only from July to December 1975. In January 1976 funding became the responsibility of the Schools Commission. The commission has made provision to spend $20,212,000 in 1976, and a total of $21,645,000 has been recommended for 1977 under its proposed general recurrent grants program. In addition to these amounts the Department of Education has also estimated expenditure in 1976- 77 of $691,000 on child migrant education to be spent on the production of material, conferences, special arrangements for refugee children and a language test development project. The Department of Education also estimates that it will spend $7,920,000 on its adult migrant education program. Further amounts to be spent on full-time intensive English language courses for migrants, pre-embarkation and shipboard language instruction and other items will raise the level of departmental expenditure to $ 10.6m in 1976-77. This is a clear indication of the concern of the Government for migrants.
The most vulnerable category which Senator Wriedt forgot to mention includes pensioners and handicapped people, all of whom will benefit directly from the reforms of this Budget. But they were forgotten by the Leader of the Opposition. In his speech the most vulnerable, as he termed them, rated only about 3 minutes of his time. He spoke for more than 45 minutes, and only 3 minutes were dedicated to the most vulnerable of all. That shows how one can view his priorities or the priorities of his party.
– What about ethnic radio? Give us the story on that, Senator. You know what is happening there.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)-Order! I call the Senate to order. The honourable senator is addressing the Chair and he has the right to be heard. I intend to preserve that right.
– We come to the last of Senator Wriedt ‘s amendments in which he referred to ‘selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer confidence’. I am using highfalutin words which are so often used by some other honourable senators on the other side. Selective stimulatory expenditure may mean a concerted increase in government expenditure or perhaps Senator Wriedt intended that we should buy another one or two, or maybe three, Blue Poles. That would be nice. I suggest that such a policy is impossible, on the scale at which the Opposition undoubtedly would advocate it, if economic recovery is to take place. Indeed just such a fiscal policy used in the past by the Whitlam Government was a major factor in Australia’s economic troubles. This is all that the Leader of the Opposition said. He spoke extensively and eloquently but achieved little. His speech was ill justified and ill conceived and provided no guidelines for the Opposition’s attack.
The Opposition speakers who followed- Senators Button, Coleman, Gietzelt and Walsh- appeared to suffer from the same problems that haunt their Leader in this chamber. They also did not offer any alternative strategy for the Government to follow. They adopted the same warped set of priorities which do not aggregate to a coherent and planned Opposition case. Indeed their speeches took up over 2Vi hours of the valuable time of this chamber. They failed to discuss vital issues such as education and immigration. They mentioned only in passing the rnining sector, defence and social welfare. Indeed, their discussion was concentrated in a manner which is indicative of wrongly established priorities. Approximately 60 per cent of their time was devoted to the Budget strategy, a line which had already been pursued at length by their Leader in this chamber. Naturally, Senator Gietzelt and Senator Walsh spoke about the rural industries. They have completely forgotten about the equalisation scheme which is now proposed, which will directly assist this sector and which represents an innovation- I emphasise that point- rejected as unfeasible by the previous Labor Government. This, combined with other forms of direct assistance to the beef, dairying and wool industries and rural reconstruction programs, testifies to the falseness of their arguments. Senator Coleman and Senator Walsh devoted considerable time to the supposed cuts in Aboriginal spending, but the fact is that such a discussion is completely premature. The figures stated are subject, as we all know, to review when the benefits of the Hay report are evaluated.
The Government is mindful of its election undertakings in this area. It is committeed to promoting the welfare and the well being of Aboriginals. Naturally, Senator Button judges that the Australian Broadcasting Commission expenditure cuts are greatly worthy of his and our time. Not surprisingly, he states that the cuts have been made because of the inherent bias of the Australian Broadcasting Commission against the present Government. I wonder, if we followed his argument, whether we would assume that any Labor Government would automatically increase the grants to the ABC in order to enlarge its exposure. I doubt it. I am rather sure that Senator Button realises that decision making, based on such criteria, can be ill afforded.
This afternoon we heard Senator Cavanagh. For the first 10 minutes for his hour long speech he predicted the doom and the failure of the Budget. It is really strange that all honourable senators opposite constantly and repeatedly forecast the failure of our Budget. Apparently they know all about what is necessary to get the economy on the road. I wonder why they did not offer their recently found expertise to their own Party when it was in Government? Is it possible that their Leader did not want to listen to them? I ask the question: Why should we listen to them? Senator Cavanagh devoted the rest of his time to speaking about violent demonstrations and Aborigines. He repeated the usual untruths and misrepresentations of the events which occurred on 1 1 November. I was most interested to listen to the expose by Senator Cavanagh of violent demonstrations. It reminded me that I have heard something like that previously. Many years ago the line was: ‘There have to be victims for the cause’. That is what Senator Cavanagh is advocating. He suggests: ‘Let demonstrators be stoned or clubbed or whatever. It makes good publicity. The victims are suffering for the cause ‘. That is what Senator Cavanagh ‘s speech was all about.
He said that the Governor-General should be a very nice gentleman, that he should not go out and provoke emotions which cause violent demonstrations. I wonder whether he would speak in such emotional terms about bis Leader? Would he try to persuade his Leader in another place to stay at home and not to go to any meetings because there would be 20 demonstrators who would become emotional? I wonder what the Leader of Senator Cavanagh ‘s Party would say if the honourable senator suggested such an idea? Senator Cavanagh forgot about one thing and that is the freedom of movement. Should any of us here be prevented by a handful of demonstrators from going to any place to which we want to go and to say what we want to say? Are we really coming to the time of storm troopers who have done just that? Senator Button is laughing. He is a bit too young to remember the storm troopers as I do. I have seen them. They were people like the demonstrators who today prevent people with whom they do not agree from attending meetings and having free speech. I draw the attention of the chamber to a speech in the other place on 24 August. I read from the speech made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron):
When the ballot box has proved to be a futility, as it did late in I97S, and when a political party seizes power by violating conventions and by lies and misrepresentations, and when it arrogantly and blatantly breaks its election promises, which is what the Liberal and Country parties did in respect of Medibank, the majority of the Australian people, particularly the working class people in Australia, have every right to use the methods of passive resistance -
So throwing stones is passive resistance- to manifest their anger and indignation at what has been done. The same action would be justified if organised labour found it necessary to paralyse industry in order to crush an uprising of the armed forces or an attempt by any other group to overthrow the Constitution by unlawful means.
The words at the end of that paragraph are something which every trade union member should put on his desk or wherever he works. This is what the honourable member for Hindmarsh said:
The officer-class of the trade union movement would have to give the orders, and the rank and file would have to obey them.
This is the democratic trade union movement. This is the movement where all are equal but some are more equal. The honourable member continues on and give a nice instruction on how to make a revolution. He states:
The first step would be to restrict the generation of power to essential services and to cut it off altogether if the mutineers sought to use that power for purposes to assist the revolution. All transport would have to be halted, the wharves closed and all forms of communication denied to the insurgents.
When we hear something like that in the Parliament do we really wonder what is happening and what will happen on the streets tomorrow?
Senator Colston spoke just before I did about education. He said that education has been neglected. He also cited 4 bodies which criticised the Government for the so-called cuts in education. I wonder if the people who have criticised the Government are members of a lobby or pressure group? Is it surprising that a pressure group would criticise something because it did not get all it wanted. Every pressure group will do that. The honourable senator also said that there are deteriorating standards in universities. That is a strange thing to admit. We have all heard a lot about that. We know that so many university graduates are not able even to spell, not a foreign language but English. Larger numbers of these so-called intellectuals who are today’s graduates have difficulty finding jobs. I wonder whether the deteriorated standard of universities has anything to do with it. I would like to refer to the problem of education later in my speech.
Another factor which has been noted constantly in speeches by honourable senators opposite is supposed fixation with the size of the deficit in our Budget. It really is a great pity that their Party when in government had no fixation other than to increase it. That is why we have all these problems. The previous Government had only one fixation, to spend money- somebody else’s money, not its own. It is always easy to spend somebody else’s money. Apart from this, few can fail to gauge the significance of the deficit and the means by which it is financed. The Opposition presents very little in the way of constructive and well directed criticism of this Budget. Its allocations when in government exhibited mistaken priorities and, most importanly, it offers no alternative strategy now. It has called for selective stimulatory measures to assist the unemployed. While this is noble in spirit, it would amount only to a short term palliative.
Meanwhile the malaise in our economy would be accentuated. One of the lessons we have learned from the economic mismanagement undertaken by the Labor Government is that individual economic policy instruments should be used in the context of an overall economic strategy rather than in an individual and fragmented manner.
I have so far dealt with the negative approach by the Opposition to our Budget. I would like now to state some of its positive factors. This Budget represents a blueprint for the overcoming of our problems on a long term basis. The Budget attempts via the tools of rationalisation and reform to aid economic recovery and rebuild business and consumer confidence. The Treasurer stated clearly in his speech:
It will do so in pan by putting an end to permissiveness in government spending and turning back the recent trend toward bigger and bigger government. At the same time it will build on the social reforms . . . so as to assist the most needy in our community.
The Budget was framed in what could be described as an economic straitjacket. We have high inflation, great unemployment, low business confidence and investment, precarious industrial relations and high interest rates. The list is a long one. This straitjacket is a result of the myopic economic management of the Labor Government. That is why they bought the Blue Poles which are so big that they can see them. The Government has done extremely well to encompass in this program the tools of growth, welfare and recovery and accompany these with radical taxation measures, social welfare and rural reforms as well as to begin implementation of new policies in areas such as education. As Senator Colston said previously, education is an area which deserves top priority. As a matter of fact, our Government gives top priority to educational problems. Senator Carrick addressed an international conference on our Government’s view of existing problems in education. The Australian of 28 August has an article which quotes Senator Carrick as saying, among other things:
We have over-expanded in the academic field and now we must put more resources into primary schools and educating people for jobs.
We have neglected the skills of the hand. We must develop the technical expertise needed by the labour force in industry and business. It we fail to do this, education is no longer relevant or alive.
I wonder what would be the result of continuous accent on academic qualifications so that we would have thousands and thousands of graduates in law, social studies and so on. I am afraid that we would have similar conditions to those I witnessed in Italy many years ago. In Italy even 20 years ago a policeman on the beat had a law degree. That was the only job he could get because there were so many graduates in law. Are we really after a society where our young people who graduate from university would be obliged to take such jobs because they wanted only to have a degree and the degree they wanted did not mean anything and would not benefit society? The dean of the faculty of education at Sydney University, Professor W. F. Connell, told the same conference that these changes were dangerously overdue as education was just not keeping up with the times. He then said something which I was fascinated by, and the Australian reports him as making this statement, among others:
We shudder at radical ideas and are terrified of socialism and communism without understanding what they mean.
I am afraid that the learned gentleman really does not know what socialism or communism is. The proposals contained in the Budget amount to a 15.3 per cent boost on the previous year in education. Whilst the total amount of expenditure proposed is of great significance, the direction of that expenditure is of the utmost importance. By the provision of grants, universities, colleges and schools will receive a 2 per cent growth in real terms. Technical and further education institutions will receive a 5 per cent growth in real terms. This implies a redirection of funds towards more vocational training which is a very rational approach when structural unemployment of the graduate class is so high. Made in the context of other policies, this reform will be of much significance to manpower planners and policy makers.
Now I mention a few other items in the Budget which the Opposition has missed completely. According to Opposition spokesmen, social welfare has not been mentioned very much except in the context of Aboriginal welfare. Social welfare expenditure is the largest single component of the Budget outlays. In the areas of pensions, family allowances and assistance to the handicapped, reforms have been proposed. The Government, through gearing pensions to consumer price index movements, will protect pensioners from the eroding effects of inflation. Under the new family allowance arrangements, allowances have been increased substantially. This, coupled with the abolition of the rebate system, will mean that those who need the assistance most will receive it. Similarly, the care of the handicapped will be given considerable stimulus.
In regard to business activities, I point out that company tax liability is to be cut by indexing trading stock valuation in line with the proposals of Professor Mathews. This is a very significant and valuable reform- one which is welcomed by the business world and which should provide a just and fair situation for replacing stocks and undertaking new investment programs. Further, the Budget recognises, via the change in the retention allowance, the very distinct problems of the small business. My able colleague, Senator Messner, has outlined this already. The Government, I am pleased to see, also has rationalised expenditure on growth centres whilst still adhering to the principle of decentralisation. I have named but a few areas where this Budget will have positive effects. The Budget will serve to reform and rationalise expenditures. Unlike its predecessor, this Government recognises the falseness of attempting to achieve an objective by simply investing ever-increasing amounts of money in an ever-increasing complexity of inefficient programs. Efficiency of expenditure is of far greater import. I commend the Budget to this chamber.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Wriedt. Three of the 5 aspects of the amendment have particular relevance to the Northern Territory. I support the call which he made to condemn the Budget on the grounds that (a) it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries; (b) it reduces the availability of services to the whole community but particularly to those most vulnerable to hardship notably Aborigines, the unemployed and migrants; and (c) it fails to institute selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment. I propose to direct my remarks to the Northern Territory; my colleagues are quite competent to handle the other areas. If we look for one word to sum up the effect of the Budget on the Northern Territory we have to use the word ‘disaster’. The people in the Northern Territory at the present time speak of 3 recent disasters. They speak of cyclone Tracy; they speak of the change of government; and they speak of the present budgetary policy. They are not sure which will have the greatest long term effects.
I think that we must see the Budget as part of a package. As far as the Northern Territory is concerned, we cannot see it just as it stands at the moment. We have to think of the May cut-backs and the disastrous effects they have had. We have to think of the present Government’s staffing policies, including staff ceilings. We also have to look at the Budget. These 3 components come together to form a package which has had an effect on the Northern Territory which I have called ‘disastrous’. Many people in the Northern Territory see the policy of the present Government as one which is consciously winding down the Territory through its failure not only to give support but also to give any son of incentive for development. We see the complete disintegration of the economy as a result of the 1 976-77 Budget.
I think it is fair to say that in a Budget we usually look either for progress or for a maintenance of present levels. In this Budget we can see no progress and no maintenance of the present level. In fact we can see that the Territory is slipping back. The people in the Territory see this as yet another example of the breaking of promises that were made on the campaign trail and that have been made since. One of the more recent comments made by Mr Sinclair, the Minister for Primary Industry, was:
Australia cannot afford not to develop the potential of the northern areas . . . Australian government would encourage the use of the potential of Northern Australia in the interests of balanced development.
Mr Sinclair made it quite clear in his address that he was talking about local industries of the north and, perhaps more importantly, the infrastructure needed within the Territory and within northern Queensland to support them. I think it is painfully obvious that there is no balanced development as was promised by Mr Sinclair. If we looked at the rather generous handouts we would assume that perhaps the Government was pinning all its hopes on mining as being the one thing that would save the Northern Territory. But of course mining, while it is most important and will be a great factor in the development of the north, is not labour intensive; it does not have a great deal of allied industries; and it does not have a great deal of service industries. Mining tends to be isolated. Those who have been to the north will know what I am talking about.
Let me then look at 4 main areas of the Budget: Firstly, the broad picture in the Northern Territory, including the effect of the Budget on the Northern Territory; secondly, the unique situation of the Territories, and the Northern Territory in particular; thirdly, the interrelationship of Government policies and the Budget; and, fourthly, an examination of some of the areas in a little more detail. Firstly, I will look at the broad picture of the Budget as seen by territorians. So that there can be no claim of bias I will read to honourable senators an extract from the Northern Territory News of 18 August. Those honourable senators who are familiar with the Northern Territory will know that the Northern Territory News is a link in the Murdoch chain and of course is very strongly proCountryLiberal Party both in its editorials and in its method of reporting news. This is what the Northern Territory News had to say:
The Budget is a stand still Budget. It does nothing that will get the Territory moving ahead as a whole. Mr Lynch hopes that the business community will rise to the bait and start to invest again. It may be a worthwhile gamble (and that’s all it is) but it won’t work in the Territory. Private enterprise is simply not big enough to pick up the tab in the Northern Territory which relies on the government’s hip pocket more than any other area in Australia.
Taking that summation of the broad picture of the Territory, let us look at what is happening in the Territory at the present time. The first thing that we see in the Territory is massive unemployment. I was very pleased to hear the comments made by Senator Carrick today in answer to a question, because since the Territory is a Federal responsibility no doubt in the very near future we will see steps taken by Senator Carrick and his Government to do something about the massive unemployment in the Northern Territory. The picture of unemployment, as I said before, is a result of a package- the May decisions and Government policies, all leading towards the present Budget.
I was very interested to read this morning, when travelling to Canberra, an article which appeared in Time magazine which stated as a fact that the Government in framing the Budget had accepted that there would be cuts in real wages and that there would be- I am quoting the words from Time- at least 5.2 per cent unemployment’. We can confidently predict, then, that the figures will remain the same no matter how they are juggled. Let us look at the July and August unemployment figures in the Northern Territory. In Alice Springs 6.6 per cent of the work force was unemployed in July and 6.5 per cent in August. In Darwin 4.7 per cent was unemployed in July and 4.3 per cent in August. In Katherine 5.3 per cent was unemployed in July and 6.8 per cent in August. Average unemployment in the Northern Territory for July was 5.3 per cent, and for August 5.4 per cent. The Northern Territory has the rather unfortunate distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in Australia. The national average rate of unemployment is 4.4 per cent. The Darwin figures seem a little lower than the others; honourable senators will recall, of course, that the slack would be taken up here by moneys spent by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission- a Labor initiative which was designed to carry on. There was no suggestion that its activities would be chopped off. The planners of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission carefully made sure that it would have to go forward.
I should like to compare the unemployment figures for July 1976 with the unemployment figures for July 1974. My friends opposite will remember that 1974 was the middle of that terrible period when Labor was in office and when all the problems were caused in our community. Alice Springs had 1.6 per cent of its work force unemployed. The figure at present is 6.6 per cent. In July 1974 Darwin had 2.7 per cent of its work force unemployed. The figure now is 4.7 per cent. Katherine had 2. 1 per cent of its work force unemployed in 1974- in the middle of Labor’s term of office- compared with the current unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent. The figures, of course, did not include that vast number of Aboriginals who have moved off stations due to the slump in the beef industry, nor do they include those people who are not prepared to register for unemployment because of the conditions being set by the Department of Social Security at the present time. A very grim picture faces school leavers at present. No doubt, the picture is the same all over Australia. The Australian Council of Social Service is particularly concerned with this problem and had this to say: . . lack of employment . . . constitutes a factor of social emargination in a society where the participation in the productive process is highly valued. The indelible effect on the young who constitute a large percentage of the work force cannot be over-emphasised- the long term cost is immeasurable.
I repeat that the long term cost is immeasurable. As well as being concerned about the European children or those young people who are leaving school in November or December this year, in the Northern Territory we are faced with another problem. I am referring to the group of Aboriginal people who also will be leaving school in November and December and who will be leaving school more or less ill equipped to take their place in the work force. They will add to the numbers of the young people who are at present unemployed in Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory. Add those to the present figures that I have stated and it presents a very grim picture.
I should now like to deal with apprenticeships in the Northern Territory. For the first time in the Northern Territory that anyone can remember, there are not enough apprenticeships available to cater for those people who are looking for them. In the past, if a young lad or girl was looking for an apprenticeship it was always available. This is not so in the present situation. I think that it is fairly indicative of the state of the community. So, what is the result of this massive unemployment of which I speak? Firstly, people are living in sub-standard conditions because they are unable to repair the buildings in which they live or because they are unable to rent better accommodation. Many people are leaving the Territory taking with them the skills that are needed there. I think this is one of the most critical factors we have to keep in mind. We cannot afford to lose from the Territory those people who have skills that are needed there. Another point- perhaps it is the most significant- is the undesirable social conditions of those without the dignity of work. I do not think I have to elaborate- certainly not to honourable senators on this side of the chamber- the details of the indignity of those who are without work. I turn now to the building industry. What do we find occurring in that industry? Honourable senators opposite can ask: ‘How important is the building industry in the Northern Territory?’ Mr Barry Wyatt, a strong supporter of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party, when speaking in his capacity as President of the Master Builders Association, said:
The economy of the Northern Territory as a whole depends on the viability of the building and construction industries as the largest employer of labour and the biggest consumer of a wide range of raw materials and manufactured goods. It is not a matter of a couple of builders going broke- it will affect many people in allied industries.
That is the point to which I wish to refer. That is the scene in Darwin. Is it any different in Alice Springs? A week ago I was talking to a group of builders in Alice Springs who said that of the 18 builders in the town there was work for four under the present Budget. The question was thrown at me: ‘What will happen to the other fourteen?’ I throw this question back at the Government: ‘What will happen to the other 14 builders?’ I will add to it this rider: What will happen to the other people, those who are there to service the building industry- the allied industries and the service industries as we have called them? I do not think that I need to elaborate on these points. In the Northern Territory building is going ahead at a much slower rate than ever before. I will refer later to road building but I pre-empt my remarks by saying that the picture is just as grim for road building.
Why are things so bad in the Northern Territory this year? I have said that there is a conscious attempt- some of us in the Northern Territory believe this- by the Government to deescalate the development of Territories. I do not like the word ‘de-escalate’ but it gives the impression of slowing down. Why is this so?
Perhaps it is to remove that pace setter image that the Territories have had for some time. Honourable senators will remember that it has been said that the Territories would set the standards and that the States would follow. Perhaps the Government is attempting to deWhitlamise another unfortunate word but one which has currency at the moment- the territories. The Labor Government said that the territories would act as models and that they would be there for the States to copy. Perhaps this Government believes that the Territories just do not fit into its wonderful federalism plans. Many people in the Northern Territory feel that this is probably the basic reason for the Government’s action- that it believes that the Northern Territory just did not fit into its plans and so it must be slipped to one side.
Honourable senators will remember, of course, that our present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) invented Statehood for the Northern Territory. At present the feeling is that he might need a new sales manager. The concept is not selling very well at the moment and there is certainly nothing in this Budget which will help to sell it. I think a more important point- one which will be accepted by all honourable senatorsis the dependence of the territory on government expenditure. I think this is the key to the situation in the Territory at the present time. The present Government has failed to understand how much the allied industries and the service industries of the Territory are dependent on government expenditure. This is particularly so in the main centres but it also applies outside those centres. Most of the buildings are government financed, as are homes, hospitals, schools, roads and so on. These have all been constructed as a result of government expenditure. The latest figures show that roughly 34 per cent of the population in Darwin are government servants. If we add to that figure a contingent of servicemen from the 3 Services we have a rather solid group of people who are servants of the Government but who require others to service them.
Another point which we must keep in mind- it is one that appears to have been overlooked- is the fact that there is very little secondary industry in the Northern Territory. If we fail to realise that we will fail to appreciate the present situation. Economists speak of the multiplier effect within a community. If we inject a certain amount of funds- particularly government funds- into the community the effect is multiplied within the community. The economy is stimulated. There is nothing new about this. It has been talked of for years. The opposite situation exists in the Northern Territory. We seem to have- if I can use this expression- an inverse multiplier. Lack of stimulation and lack of incentive means that allied industries will wind down, that service industries will wind down and, in the final analysis, the Territory itself will wind down. Let us not fool ourselves. I am not being dramatic about this. The situation is rapidly approaching when the economy of the Northern Territory will be winding down. If it does, of course the big firms will leave the Northern Territory and, once again, like the people who move out, they will take their expertise with them. If the money comes later there will be no resources available to get on with the job. Let me remind honourable senators again that mining is not enough in the territory. If we are to maintain the territory at its present structure we will need a solid Public Service infrastructure and a solid economic infrastructure with which mining could work. I think I have made the point here many times, and others have made it too, that across the board decisions are seldom beneficial. Certainly this does apply in the Northern Territory. If in some places a cutback in government spending might work then fair enough but, as I have indicated in my quotations from the Northern Territory News and other sources, it certainly will not work in the Territory. A cutback in government spending in the Northern Territory such as we are seeing at the present time will mean a slowing down of the Territory. One would have thought that after 23 years in government the framers of our present Budget would have accepted this proposition.
Let me move on to the third section I mentioned as part of the package, that is, the Government’s staffing policies. These fall into 2 main areas: One deals with ceilings and the other with replacements. I shall come to ceilings in a moment. I wonder how many honourable senators really appreciate the situation that exists at the moment with respect to the replacement of any Australian Public Service position, say in education. Firstly, when a person resigns the Department must be advised and a letter must go in justifying the appointment of someone else. This must then be referred to the Public Service Inspector who may not approve but may only disapprove and then, if the position is going to be filled, that recommendation has to go to the Minister. Can honourable senators imagine anything more ridiculous than the situation that would exist if the cleaner were to resign at Croker Island, which has a fortnightly mail service? How many months, if not years, would it take to get a replacement cleaner for the school? Yet this is exactly the situation that is prevailing at the present time.
I shall mention ceilings a little further on but let me take a look at education, because it is the area I know best in the Northern Territory, and see what effect this Government’s policies- part of the package- are having on education. The situation has developed whereby the physically and mentally handicapped children are going to be told to stay home because the Department of Education cannot cope with them. There is a distinct possibility not only that no further people will be taken in but also that the physically and mentally handicapped students in the schools will be sent home simply because we have not any teacher aides. It is not possible for us to replace our special teacher aides. I think I have spoken before in this place on the way in which the system in the Northern Territory is structured for making education available to the physically and mentally handicapped within the schools but requiring the use of teacher aides.
We have the ridiculous situation that the schools which open next year will not be able to have any APS staff unless, of course, one is taken from one of the present schools. If, for example, a school were to open up at Tiwi a secretary and a teacher aide would have to go there from another school, and so on. Obviously this would mean a lowering of the standard of education provided. This is particularly important in the area of the Aboriginal teaching assistants and the other Aboriginal people working within the Department of Education. As I said before, for teaching every assistant to be recruited a special case has to be made via the Department to the Public Service Inspector and then to the Minister before the work of the school can go ahead. I do not know how the rest of the Territory sees this, but a good number of teachers see it as a patently transparent attempt to prevent employment and nothing else. There can be no justification for referring to Canberra the appointment of a teaching assistant to Croker Island.
One wonders at some of the comments that were made by the present Government during Labor’s term in office about the dangers of centralism and about the problems of having to refer everything to Canberra. It is working pretty well for the present Government at the moment. I see it no lesser terms than being a vicious and unnecessary attack on the wonderful advances that were made in these 2 areas during the last 3 years- the areas of Aboriginal education and special education.
May I stay with the Department of Education and indicate one more area of Government policy which is causing a lot of concern, that is, the lack of co-ordination in the Budget cuts. The Department of Education has been given plenty of money to hire vehicles. The Plant Hire Organisation in Darwin which handles vehicles for hire has had its money cut so that it can make available to the Department of Education only 3 cars a year for all the senior officers and 60 advisers to travel throughout the Territory. This shows a shocking lack of co-ordination and is a waste of resources.
-Are they not being paid mileage for their own cars?
– I do not think the honourable senator understands the situation that exists in the Northern Territory. The situation he mentioned does not pertain in the Northern Territory. Nevetheless, this shows the lack of co-ordination that exists. Perhaps the situation mentioned by the honourable senator should be adopted in the Northern Territory. Perhaps this is similar to the social security situation where, despite the fact that we have more unemployment than before, we have fewer officers to deal with the unemployed. In the week before last 570 people in Darwin were waiting for their claims to be processed. I imagine this would be duplicated in the other centres.
It is not surprising that we find a low morale in the Public Service at the present time. I wonder what the reasons are. The first is quite obvious, that is, that the Government, the employer of the public servants, has joined the game of knocking the public servants. The Public Service is under attack from its own boss. I give an example in the following extraordinary statement made by the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) when speaking of one isolated experiment:
This established the principle that it is almost always cheaper to have work done by a competitive tender than for a Government department to do it.
This is the policy which will operate.
– You can say that again.
-That statement shows that that honourable senator does not understand this area either, because the people who handle the work say that this is not so. It is very difficult to service the public when there are cutbacks in the Public Service. Natural wastagethat delightful term which has been inventedmeans that anyone at all can go from within a department. It might be the office boy or it might be someone fairly senior; but this wastage will occur and, of course, there will be no replacement. Public statements made by the Government deny the professional approach and the dedication shown by many of the officers working in the Northern Territory. Add to this the little things like the closure of the railway, the threatened closure of the Australian National Line, the increase in service charges and increases in the cost of living, and it is not surprising that the public servants working in Darwin at the present time have a low morale which obviously leads to the inefficiency which it would appear that some of the Government supporters would like to see.
Let us look at a number of specific areasfirstly at Aboriginal affairs, because it is a fascinating area of the Budget that is full of surprises. Honourable senators will remember the famous Ellicott telegram stating that there would be no cuts. Senator Coleman and others have dealt very well with this. Then we have this delightful economic legerdemain which says: ‘You have had a $33m cut but somehow you are better off’. I have not quite worked that one out but it fits in with some of the other comments made. Then we had the recent Viner letter which says that there will be more funds after review. Of course, as in the old days, nobody says where this money is coming from; nobody says we are going to pluck this money out of the trees. Is this yet another example of efficient government, which was the main promise made by the present Government during its election campaign? Does this show efficiency?
I can understand that Aboriginal affairs is a sensitive area for the Government. Senator Cavanagh tonight outlined very clearly some of the major achievements of Labor during its 3 years in office. I remind the Senate of three of the major ones. For the first time the Aborigines had land rights; for the first time we had a bilingual program based on the assumption that for an Aborigine to establish his identity he needs his land, his language and his culture. Perhaps the most important area of development in Aboriginal affairs was that of self-determination. Senator Cavanagh dealt very well with this. He spoke of the dignity being achieved by the Aboriginal people. He made the point, which I support entirely, that there was more real development since that term is becoming popular, in terms of self-determination for Aborigines in 3 years of the Labor Government than in the 23 years previously. Of course, when we look at this we find that the Government has a job to do. Again, we need to de-Whitlamise. We need to wipe out the past 3 years. We hear most astonishing statements about gross extravagances, inefficiency and white men leading the black man to death. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) made reference to this aspect in his Budget Speech. There are references to the fact that the housing associations that have been established are completely useless and a gross waste of money. One or two selected examples were used to show that this was so. I think that Senator Cavanagh dispelled those thoughts. The Government seeks to say that the business enterprises had been most ineffective and wasteful.
What is the actual situation in Aboriginal affairs at the present time? The majority of the housing associations are just getting on their feet. The majority of the business enterprises are just getting on their feet. There have been some real achievements. People are learning budgetary control within their businesses. That is not something that comes very easily. The cuts that have been made will disrupt the achievements being made and will disenchant the Aboriginal people. I think that this is the most important part. They will destroy the white-black relationship that has been built up over the past 3 years.
– Oh, boy! What about the demonstrations?
-I did not know that there were a great many Aborigines in Tasmania. I have learnt a lot more about Aborigines than senators on the other side who are trying to interject. The problem is, of course, that the expertise of which we spoke earlier will be leaving. The managers of the housing associations to which Senator Cavanagh referred, those special sorts of tradesmen who had built up a good rapport with the Aboriginal people, will go.
Let us consider the business enterprises. I wonder how many of our experts on the other side know the real value of a socio-economic enterprise, the one which has to be subsidised as it cannot be viable, because it is set up for something else. It is set up to provide employment for Aboriginal people in their own areas. It is set up in areas where it is known that the economic venture will not be viable. But it is set up on the sound proposition that it is far better to pay a subsidy than to have people sitting down and receiving unemployment benefits. Apart from this, food and services are being provided at extra cost, and clothing and craft factories have been developed. The cut in expenditure in this area is from $4m to $750,000. 1 refer also to the recreation and culture programs in the Aboriginal area- an area of particular interest to Senator Webster as most of these were run by the
YMCA. Money has been provided only to maintain what is happening at present. There is not enough money for expansion in an area where much expansion is needed because of the present unemployment situation in the Northern Territory. We have hardly moved beyond the pilot stage and the chopper has come down. Again, this shows a lack of understanding of the real situation in the Territory. I make a strong plea at this stage to the ‘ad hocracy’, the economic planning or whatever it is called to continue the good work started by Labor in this vital area.
I now move to the subject of roads. I will deal very briefly with new works and maintenance. There has been a cut of nearly 50 per cent in the new works for developmental roads. The 3-year program drawn up in 1974 and 1975 and prepared for the Public Works Committee hearing has been put off for 12 months. This means that there has been- I use that swear word again- a deferral. The best part of $ 19m has been saved at the expense of development and at the expense of the tourist industry. The picture with regard to road maintenance is even grimmer. At first sight there appears to be a cut of $lm- bad enough but not too bad. On investigation we see the real situation in which of the $ 10,600,000 appropriated for the Stuart and Barkly Highways only $3,400,000 will be spent. With respect to work carried over from last year, bringing the total to $ 12,800,000, only $5m will be spent. It is this duplicity which is the most disturbing factor in reading the Budget.
The point that concerns territorians most is the fact that the standard of maintenance of roads in the Territory has fallen far below the accepted level. Thinking back to those wonderful little housekeeping homilies that we were treated to during the election campaign, I wonder whether the planners and the Government realise that a stitch in time does save nine and that there is a false economy in their policies. If the Government wishes to use those sorts of ideas it should do so. If it does not repair at the moment, it will have to rebuild later. I draw attention to the lack of co-ordination in terms of roads. The railways have gone and the Darwin Trader appears to be going. There is less money for road maintenance and even less for new expenditure. Is this the sign of an efficient Government, the one that presented itself as an alternative last year? The big firms will go and take their expertise with them so that when money is available we will not be able to do the job. The policies of replacement of labour are tending to drive people to contract labour which is not available in the Territory. We will have the criticisms of day labour and there will be nothing to replace it.
I turn briefly to education. On the surface things look OK but Senator Carrick seems to have forgotten the long range planning that he talks about. Capital works have been cut. This means that the schools whose construction was planned in the next two or three years will not be built. They will not be ready when the children have grown up and are ready to move into them. What will happen? Obviously, demountables will be needed and these are expensive and not as good as permanent buildings. Demountables are difficult to move so they are quite often a write-off again. This is a wasteful, cents-wise dollar-foolish situation, brought about by a pointless adherence to an inappropriate policy. The worst aspects of this policy are the maintenance cuts. This is an area of absolute disaster. There is rapid deterioration in the Territory. If we lose a couple of windows in a demountable, at the end of the wet we have lost the floor as well. There must be maintenance. If we do not have maintenance the policies will be wasteful. We need to set a good example on the settlements and missions by keeping our buildings up to scratch. This opportunity will be lost because of the cut in maintenance funds.
I have already spoken about the problem of staff ceilings in education. I have referred to the problem at a place such as Croker Island. I have spoken of the need for a pool of teaching assistants from which teachers could be drawn and utilised wherever they are needed. I just make the point to the Minister for Education that we in the Northern Territory are interested in staff and not money. There is little point in making money available if the staff ceilings mean that money cannot be spent. I have already mentioned the car hiring situation which is farcical. Perhaps a solution will come from the other side of the House. I hope we can see that come about. I mention once again the shortage of staff at Darwin Community College which means that courses cannot be made available and apprentices are forced to travel interstate for theneducation.
I now move to the area of social welfare. One would think that in an area like Darwin, in the wake of a cyclone, there would be good social welfare services. Unfortunately, this is not so. We needed $ 1.2m to maintain general welfare at the 1975 level. We received $900,000. The appropriation for miscellaneous relief last year was $305,000. This year it is $120,000. In 1973-74, $1,383,000 was allocated for general welfare. In this Budget the figure is $903,000. There has been no allowance for inflation and no allowance for the growth which is needed in the Territory. There has been a rapid deterioration in the services available because of the reduction in funding and staff. I was talking yesterday to a social worker who told me that there is enough money in the deserted mothers fund to cater for 72 cases for the year. Last year, he was one of 14 social workers and he personally dealt with 76 cases. If one multiplies 14 by 72, one sees that there is not much money available. Services are falling well below standard in the areas of family welfare, child welfare, rehabilitation and parole. At present unfortunately almost nothing is being done for youth in the Northern Territory. There is some assistance to voluntary organisations but the youth section of the Department of the Northern Territory is not operating.
It is fair to say that throughout the Territory virtually no welfare services are available in Aboriginal communities. The voluntary groups which are operating in the Territory and trying to fill the gap are extremely worried because they think they will not get support. The community creches, run by a particularly good organisation operating in Darwin, at the moment are operating on donations from the Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund and they are not sure what is going to happen when that money runs out. There is a move to repair the inappropriate rehabilitation and training centre that the former Liberal Government designed and built but the community, hopefully, has stopped it. There was a move to try to establish the only unit that perhaps we did not want. As I indicated earlier, there is no provision in the social welfare field for the physically and mentally handicapped. We have the shocking situation that a parent still has to have his child arrested and charged under the Mental Defectives Ordinance before assistance can be given to the child to travel interstate.
Tourism is one of the Territory’s largest industries and has perhaps the greatest potential. I realise that at the present time throughout Australia there is a slump, but there seems to be no reason why the Northern Territory tourist industry should be cut by approximately 25 per cent. To add to this, the vote for the public relations section of the Department of the Northern Territory dropped $51,000 and that for the Northern Territory Reserves Board was cut by $359,000. It is almost as if there was a policy designed to keep out the tourist. If one wanted to make a cliche one would say: ‘No tell, no keep and, obviously, no care’. A lot of publicity has been given recently by the Minister to the fact that an inquiry to cost $30,000 has been instituted to look at the tourist industry. That sum is for 2 years. I think all honourable senators would have to admit that this is just a gesture because $30,000 would not pay the salary of the officer concerned with any sort of support for 2 years, let alone the travel and support that he would require. As I mentioned earlier, tourism has been affected by roads. A cut in the road maintenance will have an adverse effect on the tourist industry.
Lastly, let me look at the beef industry and how it has been affected by the Budget. After some pressure assistance has been given to the beef industry this year, but we still have no clear picture of what the Government intends to do and we get no indication from looking at the Budget. Senator Cotton, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, made this statement the other day: the appalling extent to which the average Australian, both employer and employee, expects the Government to come to his aid when the going gets tough.
Then he said:
Industry needs to realise that the high levels of support currently enjoyed in some areas must come to a gradual end . . .
I trust this is not the policy which the Government is going to pursue with the beef industry in the Northern Territory. Assistance must be given, the sort of assistance that the Labor Government was giving, such as financial assistance in the terms of loans and rural reconstruction, although these things have been laughed at by honourable senators opposite. We need a strong advisory service within the Territory to give advice not only on how to raise beef but also on how to operate the stations, and we need more advice and assistance with marketing. There is no doubt that now the time is ripe for an investigation of the industry, the processing of the beasts and the marketing of the beasts. I welcome the emergence of the Pastoralists Union, the emergence of the small independent producer. For too long the larger companies, often foreign owned, have dominated the market. I and most others in the Territory would see the meatworks in the Territory operated by those involved in the industry, obviously with some Government backing.
I think I have shown that the Budget has been a disaster for the Territory in those areas we have looked at and I am going to ask the Senate to support the amendment. If by chance the amendment is not carried, and I am told that that is a distinct possibility, I would ask the Government, in its ad hocracy or what it does in respect of economic planning, to consider the special needs of the Northern Territory: Let us have more realistic ceilings and appointment conditions for the Public Service. Let us have more government expenditure to stimulate the economy. Let us have a restoration of funds for Aboriginal housing and enterprises. Down here the National Country Party and Liberal Party group talk about turning on the lights. Their colleagues in the Northern Territory talk about putting the Territory back on its feet. This Budget leaves us flat on our backs in the dark. There is an old saying: ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies?’ I paraphrase that and say: ‘With improvements like we see in the Budget, who needs problems?’ I ask honourable senators to support the amendment and put us in the Territory back where we were under the Labor Government.
– Throughout this Budget debate we have heard so many members of the Opposition refer continually to their concern about inflation and unemployment and the fact that the Government has seen fit to cut back its expenditure. I want to ask the Opposition, through you, Mr Acting Deputy President: Who created the mess that Australia is in today? This is what this Budget is all about. It was designed to try to get some control back in the country, to try to get some economic stability and to reduce inflation. Unfortunately there will be side effects, and there must be, because Australia was in an economic mess. There was no alternative but to take positive steps. We on the Government side made it perfectly clear during the election campaign last December that we would be doing things in a responsible way, not looking to be a popular Government but looking to be a responsible Government because we would be acting in the national interest. That is what has happened.
While the Labor Party was in its glory for some 3 years we saw inflation escalate to the highest level ever in Australia. We saw unemployment reach the highest level ever in Australia, and tragically it is higher now than it was then. One accepts that fact. But these are the side effects that are happening because, I repeat, of the mismanagement of the Labor Party.
Accusations have been made about what we are doing and that we are taking no positive steps. I remind the Senate that in the so-called mini-Budget presented by the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, earlier this year there were many positive moves. I refer to indexation of personal income tax, changes in the housing loan interest deductions, remove of the personal tax rebate for dependent children and so on. We have dealt with these things on previous occasions in this chamber. All of these have been positive steps. If we consider indexation, it means virtually that tax brackets will be upgraded by some 13 per cent. This is going to mean a great saving to many people in this country because this relates directly to the projected inflation rate within Australia. It is lucky that our inflation rate stands now at 13 per cent and not the 20 per cent towards which we were heading last year.
These things also mean that above all else governments now have to be responsible. No longer can a government feed like a leech on income tax and do things by devious means. According to my figures, revenue from income tax during the Whitlam period increased by some 89 per cent. That Government happily spent that increase of 89 per cent without reference, in most cases, to this Parliament or to the community and, above all, without responsibility, but it still finished up in a great debt, a debt which was double the projection or forecast within the Budget.
Let us look at a few of the positives presented in this Budget by Mr Lynch. We find that it contains mining and petroleum incentives. There is the introduction of the first stage of a trade stock valuation adjustment in relation to the 1976-77 income year. There is the increase in the private company retention allowance for non-profit income in respect of 1975-76 income from 50 per cent to 60 per cent. We see the introduction of a new scheme of income equalisation with deposits for primary producers, about which I will say more later. There is a change in estate duty. I could go on. One other very important factor that has been overlooked by so many members of the Opposition is the fact that there has been no increase in indirect taxation. I remind the Senate that during the period of office of the Whitiam Government there were increases in revenue to the extent of $ 1,000m by upgrading indirect taxes. This Government has seen the need to do completely the reverse and to hold a standstill position.
Members of the Opposition in this place have seen fit to criticise the Government in many ways, but it is interesting to note the words of their amendment. Last year they criticised the Liberal and Country Parties for taking positive steps. I would like somebody to define for me the difference between the amendment on this occasion and a rejection of a Budget. Their amendment starts off with the wording;
The Senate condemns the Budget . . .
It then lists 5 categories. They are asking the Senate to support this amendment. What is a condemnation if it is not a rejection? They are not expressing concern about the Budget, they are not criticising the Budget; they are condemning the Budget. My understanding is that if the amendment were carried the Budget would be rejected because the amendment is a condemnation of the Budget. If one condemns something, one casts it aside. I cannot see the difference between what they are setting out to do and what they criticised us for doing last year. Perhaps the only difference is that they are short of numbers. Thank goodness, for Australia’s sake, that they are. They had their turn during the last 3 years. We saw the mess that they made when they had the numbers in the Federal Parliament. I think it is a quite fascinating point. I would like an Opposition Senator to answer it for me.
One looks to the reactions of some of the State Premiers to the Budget. I look to the reaction of the Premier of my State of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, who for so long and in so many ways saw fit to criticise and condemn the Fraser Government for the policies it was propounding and for the actions it was taking in an endeavour to get control of the Australian economy again. It is interesting to note the change in attitude of the Premier since the Budget was presented to this Parliament. It is also interesting to note other attitudes of the Premier of South Australia and some of the actions which he has taken in recent times. During the past two or three years in our State there has been a great increase in the rate of land tax- increases of hundreds of per centparticularly on rural land. Initially Mr Dunstan saw fit to introduce this increase generally throughout the State. There was such a violent reaction to it in our State that he put that idea away in a pigeonhole for a little while and then set out picking off districts one at a time. He had a glorious time. There were the odd protest meetings; but unity is strength, and while one district was being picked off the others were not aware of it. So it was going one. This cancerous tax was eating away at the economy of South Australia.
That continued, the Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament, Dr Tonkin, who will soon be Premier, had a very successful rally in Victoria Square in Adelaide. It was against these iniquitous increases in tax. In the last few days, following the concern expressed and the escalation of the amount coming in as revenue, the Premier, who appeared for so long to turn a deaf ear on the appeals of so many members of the community in our State, suddenly has announced that he is abolishing land tax on rural land. We are delighted that he has seen fit to do so. To me it is rather strange that he should do so, particularly at this time.
– He is the last mainland Premier to do so. He is years late.
– I know he is. He kept on putting up the tax, increasing it by hundreds of per cent, when we were appealing to this man and to the State Government. Suddenly he intends to throw it out. One wonders why. We know that he has not really condemned the Budget. We know that there has been a redistribution in South Australia. We know that challenges have been issued. I think we also know that Mr Dunstan is warming up for a State election. This is one of the little goodies- lollies or icing on the cake. I hope that South Australians have memories tike an elephant. I hope they will not forget. While it might be one thing to quote poetry from an elephant, poetic justice is another thing. I think the elephant might turn around on Mr Dunstan.
– He fell off the elephant.
– It might even turn around. For so long Mr Dunstan was critical of federalism. In answer to a question asked by me today, Senator Carrick gave figures which show that this year South Australia will finish with a $2m surplus.
– It was a real Dorothy Dix question.
-It was not a Dorothy Dixer. Members of the Labor Party had the habit of asking such questions of Ministers when they were in power. The Ministers gave not just maiden speeches but second reading speeches and ministerial reports during question time. Granted, the time allotted for questions has increased when we have been in government. I was forced by Senator Keeffe to digress. I was saying that in South Australia this year there will be a $2m surplus, plus $5 5m accrued revenue, plus- this is the important fact- $9.8m more from the Federal Government than it would have received under the old system of assessment under the Whitlam Government. Hence at this stage there is very little on which the Premier can hang his hat for an election. So he is coming up with the icing on the cake and the lollies. He is abolishing land tax.
I refer to another issue in South Australia which was a very contentious issue. It was debated for many hours in this place as well as in the Parliament of South Australia. I refer to the issue of Dartmouth and Chowilla. I mention this tonight because Senator Bishop saw fit to make a passing reference to it when he spoke on the Budget the week before last. He referred to Senator Laucke and said that it was good to see that so many supported the South Australian Parliament, Premier Playford and later Premier Hall. I remind the Senate that there was a time when the Labor Party in this place certainly was not supporting Premier Hall. While he initially supported the concept of Chowilla, after further studies he saw greater advantages from the Dartmouth Dam. Many of us, following research, were able to see the same things, and we supported the Dartmouth Dam proposal. The present Premier of South Australia did not do so. He did not stop there. He supported both Chowilla and Dartmouth, as I understand it. He having got himself into a position of power, through the haggling that went on we reached the unfortunate and very dangerous situation of almost losing Dartmouth. Chowilla is now a thing of the past. All indicators point that way. Not only did we nearly lose Dartmouth then, but while Mr Whitlam was in power I remember a letter of intent being sent to the South Australian Parliament in which Mr Whitlam requested, following the Coombs report, a further deferment of the Dartmouth Dam.
Most people are conscious of the fact that much of the southern part of Australia is suffering from a very severe drought this year. That includes much of the State of South Australia. Upon inquiry I find that the reserves of water to supply Adelaide are down to about 50 per cent capacity at present. I also find upon inquiry that the Dartmouth Dam is expected to be completed by the end of 1978. Taking into account the 2-year delay caused by Mr Dunstan, the Dartmouth Dam should have been completed this year. I accept that there have been good snowfalls in the mountains this year, but I do not accept that South Australia should have been put at risk. We could have had a good and guaranteed supply of water this year. We may be saved- we hope we will be- this year because of the good snowfalls in the alps. If this had happened last year South Australia could have had great problems. We have another 2 years to go before Dartmouth is completed, due to the political manoeuvring of Premier Dunstan. So whilst he may go on crowing about his many achievements in South Australia he has been very fortunate in that we may have been saved- I hope that we have been saved- from water shortages in our State this year. Mr Dunstan is to blame for the fact that the Dartmouth Dam is not finished this year.
Many comments have been made about the Government’s attitude to the rural sector. In industry speech the other night- it appears on page 369 of Hansard- Senator Walsh said:
The farm sector will receive little comfort from this Budget. Despite all the windy rhetoric, particularly of the National Country Party component of the Government, over the last 3 years, net payments to agriculture within this Budget will be negative.
I would like to remind the Senate of what the Government has done. The Australian Labor Party Government abolished the superphosphate subsidy. This Government reintroduced it. The Fraser Government is at last doing something about inflation. I could say that the Labor Party introduced it, because when it came to power we had minimal inflation in this country. It reached double figures and stayed there during the term of the unfortunate Labor regime. This created problems not only for the rural sector but also generally throughout Australia. In this Budget we also see a reduction in estate duties, and this will be of great benefit to the man on the land. We see the introduction of investment allowances. The Whitlam Government reduced the free telephone installation from 15 kilometres, as it was under previous Liberal-Country Party governments, to 8 kilometres. The Fraser Government has seen fit to increase this distance to 12 kilometres.
Income equalisation will even out fluctuations in the rural industries. With the drought conditions this year one wishes that income equalisation had been introduced by the Whitlam Government. It would have been of great advantage to put money away for the future, to off-set troughs in the rural industry. Unfortunately, very few farmers will be able to take advantage of the scheme this year but it will be of great benefit in the future to the primary sector. I would like to see the Government increase the level of deductibility of insurance premiums. In 1968- the last time that there was an increase in this area- the deductibility was set at $1,200. Since then we have witnessed inflation in this country and an escalation in land values. The need to insure is as great as ever today for the man on the land and for other people. Insurance is a good investment for future security. I hope that the Government will have a very close look at this area because I think seriously that there is a need to increase the level of deductibility.
I cannot understand why the Opposition continuously criticises and at times condemns the mining industry generally in this country. Many honourable senators opposite are critical of factors in the mining industry. Why can they not see that the mining industry plays a very important part in the economy of this country? Why can they not realise that overseas investment also has been a necessary pan of the development of this country? Why is it that so many of them are too blind to see that the mining industry not only creates overseas revenue but also creates much of our internal revenue by various means of taxation? Whilst the rural industries contribute about 45 per cent of our exports, the mining industry contributes approximately 27 per cent. In 1974-75 the revenue from mining royalties to both the State and Commonwealth governments amounted to about $ 153.5m. In 1972-73 mining companies paid $98m in income tax. For some unknown reason many honourable senators opposite completely overlook these things. We know what happened with the Connor regime. It did everything it could to squeeze the mining companies. ‘Profit’ was a dirty word. Overseas finance was filthy money. So we saw a retraction in exploration and mine development in this country. That was a tragedy. It takes a long time from the point where something is discovered to get a mine into production. Not only did we lose a lot of time in the last 2 years of the Labor Government but also we are losing time in the future because, as I said, it takes so long to develop mines and to get them into production. Also Australia is losing a lot of revenue and on top of this, as Senator Walsh stated, some of our markets may be put at risk.
Let us have a look at what happens with exploration. I am talking purely of mineral exploration at this stage and not about petroleum or fossil fuel exploration. In 1970-71 approximately $ 167.5m was spent on mineral exploration. In 1974-75 that had dropped to $124m. On the figures alone that is a big drop but if one takes into account the escalation of inflation over that period one sees that in real terms exploration slowed right down. In fact in some areas companies slowed down completely. They were not prepared to take the risk on their capital because they feared- it was a real danger- that if they discovered something and spent all their money the Government would step in and take it over or take total control, which is not vastly different. It would squeeze the companies.
-It is all very well for honourable senators to say ‘oh’ and turn their heads in disgust. We turned our heads in disgust at the time when these things were happening. Earlier this evening Senator Robertson referred to something that the Fraser Government is doing and said that once again the big firms will go and take their expertise with them. That is exactly what has been happening in the mining world. The other night, in criticism of the Government for what it is doing, Senator Walsh said: ‘But of course when it comes to mining, it is capital intensive. It is not labour intensive’. I questioned him about that. In his speech on page 375 of Hansard he said:
The second and perhaps more important point- it is the one that is permanent, anyway- is that mining developments are capital intensive. They are small employers of labour.
The mining companies themselves may be small employers of labour directly but that is a ridiculous statement for anybody to make. What would be the position if the mine at Mount Isa were to close tomorrow morning? Is that mining company a small employer of labour? What would be the position if Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd closed down tomorrow morning? What would happen to Broken Hill? What would happen to Port Pirie in South Australia? What would happen to parts of Risdon in Tasmania which has been handling so much of the zinc? Is the mining complex at Broken Hill a small employer of labour? What a lot of utter rot. One has only to go to the Pilbara region to see what is happening and to have an appreciation of the cumulative effect a mining complex can have, how much labour is involved and how many people get the benefit from mining. At the present time the situation is that we are encouraging mining. It is important that an injection be put into this important area of production and development in Australia. Not only was it neglected but also it was abused and nearly pushed out of Australia. I return to the statements in the Budget. In relation to income from mining the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) stated:
Allowable capital expenditure on facilities used for the transportation of minerals, including petroleum, will now be deductible on a straight line basis over either 20 years, as at present, or 10 years, at the taxpayer’s option to be exercised with the first claim for the deduction. The categories of expenditure covered by the present provisions giving deductions for allowable capital expenditure on mineral transport facilities -
This is very important- will be extended to cover expenditure, presently not deductible, on port development such as harbour surveys, initial dredging, navigational aids and breakwaters.
Let us have a look at some of the costs. I have a cost here which can be taken from any of the annual reports of any company. This cost is for the Pilbara area in Western Australia. Capital expenditure by this company on social infrastructure, housing, power, water and community facilities totalled some $189m. For industrial infrastructure, railways and port facilities the amount is $31 lm. When we add the amount for plant and equipment of some $279m this gives an approximate capital expenditure outlay of some $800m. These costs were incurred quite a few years ago before the escalation of inflation which some have estimated in the last 2 years works out at an increase in excess of 30 per cent. If one goes back to the time of the establishment of these companies in the north-west of Western Australia one can appreciate what these facilities would cost today. The appreciation of what it would cost today is a good and valid reason why the Government has seen fit to give incentives and some return for the capital outlay of these companies. One hopes that there will be greater and continuing development in so many potential areas of Australia. But development costs money. Mining companies need some recognition and understanding of their problems and of the investment involved. The Treasurer, in the second area of his statement, stated:
Allowable capital expenditure of any mining company on the development of a mine or field will be deductible on a diminishing value basis, as at present, by reference to a maximum life of mine or field of 5 years, instead of 25 years as at present.
This will be a great help to the mining companies. It will give a far greater cash flow to so many companies which have not had that flow in the past. In fact, figures show that over a 25-year period instead of 5 years the deduction or depreciation allowance has gone from some 4 per cent per annum to 20 per cent per annum on a diminishing scale. This will be another incentive to mining companies and it is something which the previous Government completely overlooked. I refer to the petroleum exploration expenditure and allowable capital expenditure on the mining of petroleum which will be deductible against income from any source. From this one has an appreciation of what this Government is trying to do.
I return briefly to coal export duty. Many ridiculous things were done by the Whitlam Government but perhaps the imposition of this levy was one of the most ridiculous things ever introduced. That Government went straight across the board and brought in levies on coal irrespective of the financial situation or of the productivity of a particular mine. To the Labor Party coal was coal, irrespective of the costs involved. So the Labor Government saw fit to bring in 2 levies on coal. There was a levy of $6 per tonne in the case of high grade coal and $2 per tonne in the case of the lower grade. The Fraser Government has wisely seen fit to reduce the $6 levy to $4.50 per tonne and the $2 levy to $1.50 per tonne. This will be of great benefit to many of the coal mining areas. It will be of benefit to Queensland and to New South Wales. It will be of benefit to many small companies which looked as though they would go out of existence. It will be of benefit to many potential areas of Queensland and New South Wales which may now see fit to go into production. This will get a bit more production going in Australia and it will involve a bit more employment. It will also involve a bit more overseas earnings for Australia.
The trouble with the Australian Labor Party was its bitter hatred of private enterprise. The Labor Party wanted a piece of every cake irrespective of whether it left enough cake for anybody else. So incentives were killed off. We have seen the problems in the coal areas. So many companies were concerned because they could have been forced to the wall if this sort of thing had continued. The other aspect is that although the Fraser Government has seen fit to reduce the coal levy it has also made it clear that it hopes that as time goes on this levy can be reduced. I hope it will be removed completely. As the Treasurer pointed out-
It is obvious it is not possible to remove it at one stroke. It will however be reduced immediately, in what the Government regards as a first step towards completely phasing out this particular tax within 3 years.
This Government has stuck to its word on so many things that I am confident that it will stick to its word in this respect. We have seen what happened with tax indexation. The promise at the election was that we would introduce tax indexation. We did not bother to introduce it on a gradual scale. We introduced tax indexation. What may be lost on the roundabout in regard to the coal levy can be gained on the swings. The shortcoming of the Opposition when it was in government was that it was too jolly shortsighted to see that with a bit of encouragement to mining companies throughout Australia there could be an expansion of the mining industry with further development of new projects. We would have had a situation of increased employment and development of new townships because of mining. We would have increased overseas earnings through mining. But the Labor Party’s blindness and hatred of private enterprise and overseas investment and its desire to nationalise everything drove many companies away from further exploration and the expenditure of risk capital. Companies were not prepared to take on exploration because they had seen that if they took on all these risks they would eventually hand over to the Government. The Labor Government was not interested in co-operation with companies but rather it wanted to take over control of the companies and their profits. There is more I would like to say with regard to mining, particularly in the area of the oil industry. I referred to the mineral sections of mining. I refer in exactly the same way to oil and the petroleum industry.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional orders I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to speak tonight about the recent great commando raid on that little northern outpost of Cedar Bay. In introducing this subject to the Senate I do not want anyone to get the impression that I favour the pushing of drugs. In previous debates I have clearly indicated that I am opposed to people who push hard drugs. I have said so on many occasions. However, this allegedly was the reason for the raid. As two Commonwealth vessels, a Royal Australian Air Force helicopter, apparently, and possibly weapons were involved, I believe a number of explanations must be given by the Government. First of all I want to know- it is difficult to find out these days- which Ministers authorised the use of the helicopter, the patrol boat, HMAS Bayonet, and a Customs launch, complete with their 3 crews. It is obvious that involved were people who must have had the authorisation of senior Commonwealth public servants or, as I would think in a commando raid of this nature, a Minister.
– Hear, hear!
– I did not know that Senator Walters was a commando, but I will let her out of it. Some sort of authority must have been given at ministerial level. I understand that tonight in Queensland the Australian Broadcasting Commission televised a fairly comprehensive coverage which I understand has not been shown in other States. Because of the nature of this film I believe it ought to be shown in all States to give an indication of what happened in this famous commando raid. There were 20 State police, 4 Customs agents- they would have been authorised by a senior Commonwealth public servant or an Australian Government Minister- 3 narcotic agents in respect of whom I do not know whether they were State or federal agents, and 2 female police. They carried machetes, riot guns, 243s and 303.25s. The Australian newspaper stated that there were 4-wheel drive vehicles, one light aircraft, one helicopter and HMAS Bayonet. The Sunday Mirror, another Murdoch newspaper, claimed that the same vehicles plus a Customs launch were used. There is general agreement that all these vehicles were used. The operation was estimated to cost $75,000 of the taxpayers’ money. Being quite fair about this matter, the Sunday Sun of 5 September claimed that only $50,000 was involved. However, whether it was $50,000 or $75,000 a lot of things happened that morning that should not have happened in a so-called civilised country.
The reason for the raid supposedly was that a prisoner who had escaped from Cairns about 3 months ago was in the area with an organised international drug ring. There was supposed to be a large shipment of drugs going by boat from this area to New Zealand. There are others who say that a policeman was involved and that he was on annual leave and headed in that general direction. He was known to have some association, not on the police side of the law, with the peddling of drugs. Three houses and personal belongings were burnt in the raid. The community kitchen and three or four months’ supply of food were destroyed. The main garden which had been established for about 4 years and was used only for subsistence was macheted. In other words, everything was chopped down. The 3 houses and the kitchen were burnt. They were all on land which had been leased to this group of people by a gentleman in the area, a well known person known as Cedar Bill. (Quorum formed) When the Government is forced into a situation where it wants to block information being given to the Australian public, as it attempted to do then, it is pretty reprehensible. We heard from the other side of the chamber on many occasions last year the use of the word ‘reprehensible ‘. One of my colleagues has just mentioned that tomorrow will be quorum day.
The land on which these people were attacked- they were attacked- was a miner’s homestead perpetual lease in the name of a gentleman generally known as Cedar Bill. I use that name as a term of friendship. His name is Bill Evans and he has held the lease for about 30 years. Another group of youngsters live in a similar commune not very far away, but whilst their area was searched- it is on Crown land, I understandno damage was done to their property. Cooktown is one of the few places in Queensland where court cases can be held with justices of the peace presiding, but there must always be 2 justices of the peace when cases are heard. I am reliably informed that on this occasion there was one justice of the peace and the clerk of the court was on annual leave. So one justice sitting alone got himself into considerable difficulty in trying to work out the sentences for the people accused. He was forced to go to the prosecutor to seek his advice on what sort of fines should be imposed on them. We talk about rough bush justice, but these are the sorts of things that happen. That is the story that has been told to us on fairly reliable authority. We have documented evidence of the damage that was done. I will read in a moment a couple of statements and ask for the incorporation in Hansard of a number of others. I have photographs which show that the kitchen in the main area was totally wrecked, if any honourable senator is interested in looking at them. A guitar worth $400, the personal possession of one of the people in the commune, and several other musical instruments were burnt. The local garden was totally destroyed and fruit trees- paw paw trees and other tropical fruit trees- were completely cut off at ground level. A book collection belonging to one of the persons in the commune and worth a fairly large sum of money was destroyed. It is significant that one of the books in a badly damaged condition in the foreground of a photograph I have happens to be the Bible. Apparently the police were quite happy about burning Bibles or any other possessions as long as they belonged to this group of youngesters. I want now to read a statement which was written and witnessed. The authenticity of it is beyond doubt. It reads:
On Sunday the 29th of August I was sitting at camp making breakfast with a couple of people. I had been hearing the noise of a helicopter on the beach for a while at that stage but didn’t think much of it. Some time later I saw a mob of police walk into our camp. I started getting a bit scared at that stage because I could hear shots being fired in the background by other police in the area. A friend assured me not to be scared because we were on a perpetual homestead lease, however, that didn’t seem to matter to the police.
When they entered the camp their following actions seemed premeditated. They began by searching us and our property, ripping all our food supplies apart with a knife and pouring shampoo all over them. The list of food are as follows: Large bags of sugar, large bags of flour, cans of vegetables, packets of soups, large containers of milk, lots of bags of rice, packets of tea, packets of dried fruits, packets of tobacco and cigarettes, matches. Altogether I would say about three or four months supplies.
They proceeded to pour kerosene over our huts and clothes and set fire to them.
I might say that at one stage it was feared that a baby in the commune had been burnt while the police were busy burning the personal belongings of all the people concerned. Luckily the mother happened to be away visiting another commune. There was no care so far as the raiders were concerned. The letter continued:
I had everything I owned burnt such as a guitar worth $50, jumpers, t-shirts, shoes, jeans and odds and ends like hair brush, toothbrush, toiletries. While these were burning they led us to the beach and handcuffed us to the trees. I was tied up back to back with a friend-
The police handcuffed these people in groups of two around trees. They eventually ran out of handcuffs and used fishing net to tie 2 youngsters up in the same manner, around a tree. The letter continued:
Just like in the movies ‘, words spoken by one of the police.
There were 2 girls in this commune. The letter stated:
They took the girls by helicopter to Cooktown and took the rest of us by boat, not telling us at this stage what the charges were.
Arriving at the police station they led us one by one inside. When I was taken inside they took my name, age, etc. and then took my fingerprints. While taking my fingerprints a detective came to me and told me that he was going to bust me for some marihuana seeds growing in pots, and when I told him they were not mine, he started pulling my ears and cheek and said that he would lay them on me anyway. I kept denying it and he said that one of the girls and one of the guys said it was mine. I knew he was lying because the 2 people he mentioned had not even been interrogated yet. I was then led into another room and was then charged with insufficient lawful visible means of support on that day. I explained that I had a bank book in the Commonwealth branch for $ 1 50 and about a dollar in cash. That didn’t matter. I was then taken to the lock-up. (My bank-book number is 13832.)
In the lock-up we were given one sandwich each and one cup of water between four us. Later on that night in the cell, I was there with 6 people in it with 2 blankets and we were very cold. We asked them for more blankets continuously all night but did not receive any.
The next morning when I was taken to court, the Magistrate read out the charges on me and asked me if I agreed. I told him that I had money and he said that I did not understand the charges, so he re-remanded me for a week
The person on the bench, incidentally, was a justice of the peace. There was some confusion as someone else referred to the justice of the peace as a judge. The letter continued:
Later on that day a detective came and told us that whoever was re-remanded could plead guilty and be set free. Mind you’, he said, ‘you Ve got your own free will and you can plead what you like, but if you plead guilty you will be set free’.
That is an intimidatory way for a policeman to operate. The letter continued:
So as you’ve gathered, I pleaded guilty and got a $15 fine, with no time to pay. I was escorted to the bank by police and paid it.
A matter in which I was very upset about among other things was that 2 friends of mine, Andy and Wayne, were planted with marihuana seeds and plants. The reason I know this fact is because we were all searched beforehand in front of each other and nothing like that was in anyone’s possession, until after their interrogation.
I also paid two other fines for two of the others, Michael for $20 and Sandi for $ 1 0. All on the vagrancy charge.
There are many other matters which occurred and could be entered into if time allowed, however, if called upon at a later stage of investigation during any subsequent enquiry which may eventuate from this unjust event I would provide more detail when and if required. Such further evidence would show many instances of unethical if not unlawful behaviour on the part of the police.
The whole event seemed to show complete disregard for basic rights and privileges under law, normally allowed for people and defendants.
The letter was signed by Peter Dimitriou and is witnessed. I do not want to hold up the Senate. I have 4 similar documents which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
Sunday the 29th we woke to the sound of a helicopter going round in circles. In one skyo we saw a few policemen dropped off on the beach and then it left (all morning it was bringing in loads of policemen ).
At breakfast they simply walked along the bottom of our vegetable garden, cut down our clothes line and one of our guys tents. Shortly another bunch came in and started searching our possessions in our hut and they started up a bonfire and started throwing small essentials like mosquito coils and small amounts of food on the fire. They bored holes in our water containers. They then started ripping open packets of food and spilling it on the floor- I got pretty upset about this and asked them why they were doing this, they said they were looking for marijuana seeds! In sealed packets- they were firing bullets everywhere and reminded me of cowboys ransacking a town.
In the morning when we had seen the police we thought we had no worries from them as we had been given permission to stay on Cedar Bills land which he has a perpetual homestead lease. We told this to the police but they just laughed and told us we had no rights-
We felt completely defeated as you can’t say much when you’ve got 6 ft, trigger happy policemen being heavy with you.
We could not understand what they were going to do- we lost large bags of sugar, large bags of flour, large bags of tea, large bags of rice, tin milk powder, oats, coffee, semolina, 3 mths supplies.
One of the guys (our) had just come back with fresh supplies. They then poured shampoo all over the foodprobably expecting someone to try and salvage it. They then started asking each of us if we had any money. Most of us produced bank books with sums of money in it- others had small amounts of cash in their pockets.
They then dragged us all to the front of the beach and handcuffed all of us to trees.
There was about 12 or so policemen sitting keeping an eye on us. We protested and said go and see old Bill and he would tell them we had a right to be there but they just laughed and told us to shut up. We were all pretty scared as there were shots ringing out in the bush. I was pretty cold as I only had shorts on and asked to go back to the camp to get something warm. I walked back with one of them only to see the side of our hut already in names. I ran into the fire while the policemen stood and laughed trying to salvage what I could- I only managed to get a pack with a few things in it- all our blankets an expensive guitar and most of our clothes went up in smoke. My boyfriend and I owned a inflatable double air mattress, which they simply picked up and threw in the fire. I had at least $400 worth of dresses and jackets, that went up in smoke. The whole place was caving in so they dragged me back to the beach. They were all laughing hysterically, like mad men.
The helicopter came and took me and another girl away. Sandy tryed to rebel as they had not charged us with anything and had no right to take us- but 3 of them simply picked her up and threw her in the chopper.
At Cooktown we were interrogated by a copper called Smithers. He said he could charge us with several things like being on crown land etc but would be ‘ easy ‘ on us and put us down as vagrants. I protested and reminded them of my bank book- but the policewoman who had it said, as far as she was concerned I didn’t have one and I could pick it up from the lost property after court the next day. I felt useless, as we were not allowed to make a phone call. We were treated like garbage, one of the policemen, a sargent kept asking me and Sandy if we had no pants on.
Me and the other girl were put in a padded cell with only one matress and one blanket. (The guys had all arrived.) We were all really hungry as we had not eaten since breakfast, all we were fed that day and night was a couple of sandwiches.
I decided to plead not guilty and tell the magistrate about my bank book. The same seargent who had been making insuations to us all night, he also said he would be paying our cell a visit later on to “keep us ‘sluts’ happy and warm “. This policeman told me if I pleaded not guilty they would oppose bail and I would probably have to stay in jail for another week or so. That didn’t sound so good as that one night in the prison was hell.
Next day at court they read out so much lies. Things like I was sleeping on a mat on the floor and in filthy conditions. I took great pride in the cleanliness of our home. I objected in court and because of this they were going to adjourn me, I was really freaked out about staying in the jail again- so they adjourned me for 5 minutes and told me simply to plead guilty and I would simply get a 10 dollar fine and it would all be over.
It was then that I found out my boyfriend Andrew McRae was being charged with possession of seeds and another guy with a handful of grass, these two were deffinetely planted as for one. This dope was not produced until they had been at the policestation for several hours and would certainly not take dope all the way from Cedar Bay to Cooktown- as they had plenty of time to throw their dope away. Besides my boy friend has never had any seeds in his possession except vegetable seeds. The police simply took a handful of grass off the plants they already had and put it in Waynes pocket and simply took 20 seeds out of the amount they had for another guy and put it in Andy ‘s jeans.
My boy friend got 3 months for that.
This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. If policemen don ‘t like a guy- they simply put some dope in his pocket and bust him. It’s his word against the police so what can you do?
My bank account no. is 17-5548 with the Cairns National Bank. I have $245. We are guilty until proven innocent.
Signed G. E. Smith. Morning of 29th August 76. Myself and a lady friend and her baby were woken up by eleven members of the police force, they asked for our names and we gave them. Meanwhile a number of the eleven surched the surounding area of our home, and upturned all our clothing and bedding. No drug was found or anything else illeagal. So they went up to the nth end of the bay. About an hour later, myself, the lady and the baby and Lee, walked up to the nth end. We were stopped and escorted to a sight just off the beach in the bush where I saw Candy crying and six of my other friends quite obviously in a very hun state of mind. We were told then by my friends, that there homes were burnt to the ground along with food suplies, clothing, bedding, one guitar, and sentimental values. “The lot”.
We were all sitting on the ground. I spoke to the police and they became consciously aware of how they were realy hurting us. But I was pushed to the ground and told to shut my mouth, or else. I asked the police why we were being held and the same thing happened. We were not aloud to speak. We were then hand cuffed in pairs to trees, and spoken to in a very unhumane way. Hours went by, then they graced the two ladies and threw them in the chopper. Later on we were escorted to the boat and taken to Cooktown Police Stn
After being thirsted and starved all day we received two sandwiches at tea time. Sleeping conditions. Four prisoners in one cell with three blankets. In the other cell, 6 (six) prisoners with two blankets. Cement flores. We begged for more blankets but we were refused.
My opinion: The judge is incapeable mentaly and omotionaly of sentancing anyone for anything, or even being mentaly ballanced to be in such a responsible possition, because he continously refered to the prosicuter for advice on what to do. When he was confronted with a situation he couldn’t handle he would say to the prosicuter, “Well, what to you think”, while saying these words he would hide his face with his hands and become more jittery, self concious and in a stuttery manner he was talking. For one example, I asked him what does insuficiant lawful means of suport mean, and he tried to explain to me what it meant, but he couldn’t, he was sloping and starting his words and not making any scence. Again, my opinion, if a judge can not under.stan his work, how can he then be a judge.
Yours, MICHAEL HENRY LENNON
On the 29th August 76 at Cedar Bay Qld, early morning, police destroyed all of our supplies consisting of approximately 8 to 10 lb flour, 5 to 6 lb rice, 5 to 6 lb oats, 3 to 4 lb of semalena. And large quantity of vegetables, herbs, soups, soap, shampoo, cooking oil, dripping and about 8 lb of powdered milk.
Altogether we had enough supplies to last about 3 to 4 months. Police slashed at supplies with knives and mashettes there was a lot of gun shots being fired by police. Some other police started a large fire in the forest which could have spread quit easily. Police piled our posessions into the hut and set it ablase. Now all we own is what we are wearing.
We were then all marched to the beach where a helicopter was awaiting, we sat in a clearing handcuffed together in pairs. None of the police would say what we were going to be charged with. Myself and a friend sat back to back and tied around the waist with a long thin piece of fishing net because they said they were short of hand cuffs. We were cuffed about an hour later. We went from there to a large customs launch and brought to Cooktown, Candy and Sandy went by chopper with 2 police women to Cooktown air strip then to the police station.
We were then locked up. One by one we were taken into the police station. In the police station I was questioned finger printed and charged with vagrancy although I had $20.00 in Andy McReas bank account because we put all our money together for supplies. I was then taken back to the cell. There was 10 of us between 2 cells and only S blankets. Tea was a sandwich each and nothing to drink excepting water. The was very cold as it was a solid concrete floor.
In the morning police advised us to plead guilty and we would all only be fined. The 4 drug charges got jail ranging from 3 to 4 months. When the vagrancy cases came up every body was receiving different charges.
When I went up before, what I was told an Acting Magistrate he stated my charge to me and asked if I understood the charge, I said yes, he asked me my plead, I said guilty, he said was I influenced in any way by police on the decision I had made I said no. There was also a sargent in the room who had read out my statement consisting of my living conditions in the bay which he stated twice.
The Acting Magistrate asked the sargent if a $13.00 fine was reasonable the sarge agreed. He asked if I needed time to pay. I asked for a week to pay and the Acting Magistrate asked the sargent if he agreed and he did I then was taken back to police station, I signed for my property and was let free. I came down the street to the P.O. and had $15.00 sent up from down south and about 5.00 o’clock p.m. I returned to the court house and paid my fine.
Garry R. Carr. WITNESS C.Ford 29-30 August
Awoke to Chopper landing out front.
Investigation showed it to be dropping police.
They passed through our camp only chopping down clothesline and pulling Allen’s tent down.
Came back found few pots of germinating dope 30 yards down track under pile of rubbish.
Questioned us as to who owned the pots.
Then started ripping open supplies with knives onto the ground, pouring with shampoo over them.
Set fire to pile of rubbish down track with kero threw all our matches and mosquito coils onto it.
Said to Peter he was likely owner of pots.
Took us down to clearing on beach put us in cuffs in pairs most, back to back with tree in middle.
Ran out of cuffs tied Gary and Peter with net back to back around waist.
Kandy went back to camp for warmer clothes came back told us how they were burning all our belongings and supplies and the kitchen hut.
Asked us whether we were on the dole.
Said I was enrolled at Cairns, received no cheques.
Lee made break. Police stood around dumbfounded.
One finnally went after him after other police said watch him he ‘s got a knife while they had pistols.
Other police hadn’t seen before brought Lee back from his camp where he had waited after putting out his hut.
Police caned Kandy and Sandy away to chopper with protests from Sandy on what they were charging her with, no answer from police.
Young detective then said to me that he wished I had run he would have shot me cause of being on dole.
We were then taken up beach to Customs launch.
On way police asked me whether had any money.
Said yes in Andrew McRea’s account for getting supplies by him. (Account No. 1 10079. . Commwealth Bnk )
Police said no good cause no visible means of support.
We were then transported to Cooktown Police Station LockUp.
Cooktown we were finger printed and charged with vagrancy.
Put in cells six in one four in other two girls in another.
We had one sandwich for tea and no tea, and three blankets between four and two blankets between six of us on the cement floor.
We repeatedly asked for more blankets and a cup of tea, receiving the tea for lunch next day.
After I was put back in cells police came said to me how would I plead pointing out that if pleading Guilty would be out with small fine or Not Guilty and be remanded no bail for seven days.
Next day went before magistrate who was completely incompetent as he asked Prosecutor what he should give us.
My first time before magistrate asked do I understand the charge said not really to which he said remand him till next Monday.
Went outside said to me no visible means of support on the day so went back in pleaded Guilty to get it over with.
My fine was $30 or 14 days no time to pay thanks to the Prosecutor (Sgt from Mareeba ).
We found out later that Sgt Ray Marshall had supposedly larengitis so he couldn’t be prosecutor.
Andrew McRae was planted with seeds which he got 3 months.
Wayne Mullen was planted with handful of fresh undried dope he got $400 paid in one week or three months.
Lee was loaded with about 2 lb dope hit for cultivation fined $500 no time to pay or three months.
Axle was found with 120 seeds. Sentenced to 4 months.
J. Dillon Witnessed C. Ford
– I now want to make brief reference to a report published in the Sunday Mirror of last Sunday’s date. I will read only two or three of the relevant paragraphs in the report which relates to what are called the Cedar Bay hippies. The report states:
They had built their homes legally after securing leases from the owner of the land, Mr Bill Evans.
All clothes, personal belongings and food in the houses were destroyed and the fires left about 18 men, women and children homeless.
One of the lads affected- said that 4 men stomped down the commmunity vegetable garden. Other police then pushed a water tank beside one of the houses over a bank and shot it to pieces.
It is a typical wild west country scene, with policemen putting their bullets through a water tank. The article continued:
A house on stilts was chopped down with machets and axes, he said. Then the raiders destroyed $200 worth of food by slashing bags and containers.
He said kerosene from lanterns used by the raiders was poured over the kitchen area and fired, destroying the personal belongings of seven people.
Of the 12 people arrested, said Riley, only one was charged at Cedar Bay.
Inspector Bob Grey- the colonel or major-general in charge of this great raid- of Cairns said this week: ‘As an exercise the raid was particularly successful. We look forward to more successful ventures of this type in the future ‘.
If that is the way in which the police force in this country has degenerated, if personal freedom is no longer the responsibility of the individual and if the police no longer have a responsibility to protect it, we have come to a very sad state of affairs. I am suggesting that damages ought to be paid to these youngsters for the loss of personal property. There ought to be a full and frank statement by Ministers in this Parliament as to why they allowed Commonwealth property to be used in this manner when it is known that this commune has been operating for years and has never caused trouble and, to the best of my knowledge, hard drugs have never been used there and certainly have never been peddled from there. This episode is a great blot on Australia and the democracy that we are supposed to enjoy. I hope that the matter will be rectified and sorted out to the satisfaction of every freedom loving Australian.
– I rise tonight on a matter that concerns New South Wales exclusively. I think the fact that Senator Carrick represents the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) in this chamber makes him singularly fit to listen to my representations. The matter that I want to raise tonight concerns the Katoomba and District Wildlife Conservation Society and relates to a proposal by the New South Wales commercial radio station 2KA to acquire an additional 10 acres of land to accommodate 4 towers and a connecting grid. This land is situated on the Kings Tableland near Wentworth Falls in the electorate of Macquarie.
I took the liberty of speaking to New South Wales officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I do not question the fact that this commercial radio station needs additional towers to boost its transmitting power. However, I believe that where there is a will there is a way in matters of this sort. Two parallels can be drawn in this instance. One concerns a problem which beset the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Heathcote State Park. The result in that case was that the Department looked elsewhere and did not have to desecrate that park. Senator Carrick would be well aware of another parallel that can be drawn in the form of the long drawn out controversy in New South Wales in which the cement industry argued that if it did not mine the Colong Caves the death knell would be sounded for the industry. It is history that another source of limestone was found. The conservationists protected the Colong Caves. Employment was maintained in the cement industry.
It is on that basis that I argue that radio station 2KA could look for an alternative 10 acres. Senator Carrick will appreciate that the dividing lines of power between Mr Eric Robinson, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and Mr Kevin Newman, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, have never been rigidly defined. I believe that there is no reason why- perhaps with a purely bipartisan approach- Senator Carrick, myself and other New South Wales senators could not visit the area to see it for ourselves. As I understand the situation- perhaps I should deal in the vernacular with the new federalism- this matter was before the Blue Moutains Council. I know that the Katoomba and District Wildlife Conservation Society has argued very strongly about this proposal. It may be argued that there are more important conservation issues than this one.
I want to take the matter a little further. I think it is fitting that my New South Wales colleague and former Minister, Senator Douglas McClelland, is aware that the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters issues a copy of its annual report to each member of this Parliament. The theme adopted by that Federation is that there should be no government regulations and that it wants to do the right thing because all its members are big hearted Australians. I put it on the line so far as this issue is concerned. Radio station 2KA which is a component of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasters- I think the station is called ‘The Voice of the Mountains’could look a little beyond the blinkers which seem to encompass it and say: ‘We recognise that there is a case for protecting the environment and we will find other land’. I emphasise again that I am not saying that radio station 2KA should be placed in an inferior position to any of its rival commercial broadcasting stations.
I wish now to refer to a former director of this radio station. I have to choose my words carefully because I do not know whether the gentleman to whom I intend to refer is still in this world. This radio station did have a director named Alfred Cornwallis Patterson. Alfred Cornwallis Patterson was a man who, in the 1930s, stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for my party. He lost and then his mind became curdled. He then wrote in the Labor daily newspaper under the name of Solomon Briggs. He was a socialist of sorts. The older he became the more reactionary he became. He finished up writing a column for a newspaper that has gone out of print called the Century. This gentleman always used to argue about the common good. I do not know what influence Alfred Cornwallis Patterson, alias Solomon Briggs, has on 2KA. I think Senator Carrick will agree with me- we have been on radio together and I think, at heart, we agree although we might differ on detailthat conciliation should be adopted. I believe that either Mr Eric Robinson who is a Queenslander, or Mr Newman, who is a Tasmanian, should depute Senator Carrick, myself and Senator Douglas McClelland to have a look around that area. I am quite certain that we could come up with a reasonable solution.
– It is commonly referred to as the ‘McCawley Bros Station’.
-I will let that comment go over my head. I appreciate it and it is still valid to the argument. They are involved also in Labor Motor Funerals. The point I am getting at- I think Senator Carrick will appreciate this- is that field inspections in a situation such as this are extremely important. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, Senator Keeffe, who preceded me in this debate, and I have been in agreement in the past on environmental issues. On one occasion, although we were in the minority- I say this respectfully- we were right. I am referring to the monstrosity called the Black Mountain Tower which happens to bedevil Canberra. I believe that it should never have been constructed.
– It is a great achievement.
-As the Minister can see, we are bipartisan on this issue. The fact of the matter is that a lesson can be learnt from the construction of that tower. Senator Keeffe and I were interested in its construction. One morning at 7 o’clock we questioned employees of the Postmaster General’s Department about it. There is no doubt that there were gaps in their logic. I do not want what went wrong in the Aus.tralian Capital Territory to go wrong in the Blue Mountains. I respectfully suggest to the MinisterI am speaking now as a representative of the Katoomba and District Wildlife Conservation Society- that we should go out into the field. Let us go to see the area in question. Let us display a little sanity in this matter. If radio station 2KA wants to be in the big league as a radio station, it should not be at the expense of the environment. Let us not ravish 10 acres of land on the King’s Tableland at Wentworth Falls. That is where the defence rests.
– I rise merely to put in right perspective statements that were attributed by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to a prominent solicitor in Canberra, Mr Terry Higgins, as a result of an answer given by the Minister to me to a question I asked without notice on Thursday, 25 August last- the last day on which the Senate sat. The matter relates to a writ which has been issued out of the High Court to seek clarification of certain sections of the Representation Act and the procedure to be adopted in relation to a redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries. I wish briefly to cite to honourable senators the history of this matter. Some three or four weeks ago a writ was issued out of the High Court of Australia by a Mr R. D. McKellar of Emu Plains, New South Wales, against the Commonwealth of Australia, the Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Mr White, and the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers. As a result of that writ being issued, a statement appeared in the Australian and a report also appeared in the Canberra Times on the Friday after the writ had been issued. I do not know the exact date of the report but the number of the edition of the Australian was 3760. The article written in the Australian was headed:
Writ move to save A.L.P. seat.
It was an article written by Warren Beeby. I do not wish to read the whole of the article but I merely intend to place on the record those sections of the article which attribute certain remarks to Mr Higgins. For instance, in the third paragraph on the first page of the article- it was considered so important by the Australian that it warranted inclusion on the front page- it was said:
The solicitor for the relator, Mr T. J. Higgins, said last night he could not say why Mr McKellar had issued the writ, but assumed-
I emphasise this point- the motive was to benefit the Australian Labor Party.
The article subsequently goes on to attribute certain other remarks to Mr Higgins. It states:
Mr Higgins said last night there was a risk that the number of Federal seats iti New South Wales would be reduced from the present 45 to 44 in any redistribution based on the existing formula which allows for only 127 Federal seats.
But if the population of the Territories was taken into account and the number of seats rose to 1 3 1 , it was likely that the number of seats in New South Wales would rise to 47.
Mr Higgins said it was possible that the ALP would be the Party to lose a seat if the redistribution went ahead under existing legislation.
As I said, they are the only passages that I can see in that article that attribute certain remarks to Mr Higgins. The article also states:
Mr Higgins is the President of the Canberra Branch of the ALP and his law firm, Higgins, Faulks and Martin, often acts for the ALP in the A.C.T.
It is as a result of that article, I assume, that the Minister for Administrative Services, in responding to my question on 25 August in this chamber, had this to say:
As I recall, a Press report of a statement by a Mr Terry Higgins of Canberra, who is one of the solicitors who issued the writ, stated that he had said that it had been issued on behalf of the Australian Labor Party; that it had been issued certainly not with any idea in mind of bringing about electoral justice but to save Labor Party seats in New South Wales and that the whole issuing of the writ was a blatant political stunt. He was quite open and honest about it. There was none of the namby-pamby business that the Labor Party has gone on with about one vote one value, about cows not voting and so on. He said straight out Labor had issued this writ for naked political reasons, to advantage itself. I congratulate Mr Higgins on his honesty. I understand that Mr Higgins, who is a solicitor in this city, was and may still be the president of the local branch of the Labor Party.
Subsequently in his answer, the Minister added:
At present the matter is in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral. The Government hopes that the High Court will be able to hear and determine the matters raised in that writ at the earliest possible date. It is a question of great importance. I have no criticism at all of the litigants in commencing this action. I think they have done the nation a service by asking the High Court to clarify the matter once and for all.
Then Senator Georges interjected and said:
You could have fooled me .
Senator Withers responded and said:
No. I am enormously grateful.
Later Senator Withers, in his answer, said:
I said that Mr Higgins started out with pure political motives. But having started out with interesting political motives now he is unwittingly doing the nation a service in seeking to have clarified the question whether section 10 of the Representation Act is valid.
Obviously that Hansard report was brought to the attention of Mr Higgins. Mr Higgins has written a letter to the President of the Senate and has forwarded me a copy thereof. In my discussions with Mr Higgins he authorised me on his behalf to place on the record what he says so far as the statements are concerned.
Mr Higgins stated in his letter to the President of the Senate:
In answer to a question on electoral re-distribution to Senator the Honourable Reg Withers, the Honourable Senator is reported in Ilansard as having said concerning me:
That I had stated that a Writ issued by the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales on behalf of a New South Wales citizen had been issued by me on behalf of the Australian Labor Party.
That I had stated it had been issued ‘certainly not with any idea in mind of bringing about electoral justice, but to save Labor Party seats in New South Wales’.
That I had stated that the whole issuing of the Writ was a ‘ blatant political stunt ‘.
Mr Higgins continued, and the Minister might be interested to hear this:
Whilst flattered by Senator Withers’ praise for my honesty, I nevertheless am unable to agree with the accuracy of the premises upon which Senator Withers has based his comments.
The fact is that the Writ referred to was issued on behalf of the plaintiff named in it. The Press statement reported in the Canberra Times on 14 August 1 976 and the Australian of 1 3 August 1976 are the only reports of which I am aware and do not attribute to me any such statement as alleged by Senator Withers, nor would they be accurate if they did so.
I enclose copies of these articles, but in doing so ask you to note that both reports inaccurately state that I am the President of the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Australian Labor Party. I have held that office but I do not now hold it, nor did I hold it at the time when the Writ referred to was issued. I should point out also that there is another inaccuracy in the report in the Australian which reports me as having said that it was possible that the Australian Labor Party could lose a seat if the re-distribution was held under existing legislation. In fact, that was the opinion of the reporter with which I neither agreed nor disagreed. I informed him that I was not prepared to comment on the political implications of the action the plaintiff was taking. It should be noted that almost the whole of the article in the Australian is comprised of the opinions of the reporter, and not statements which I made to him.
I agree with Senator Withers’ statement concerning the importance of the clarification of the validity of Section 10 of the Representation Act. However, the advice given to the plaintiff in this action to seek such a declaration was not political advice, but legal advice. In that context I am concerned that by referring to this advice as being given ‘unwittingly’ Senator Withers has by his statement, perhaps unintentionally, cast doubt upon my ability competently to tender legal advice. I consider this reference to be unjustified.
I would be grateful if you would bring these matters to the attention of the Senate.
That letter was signed by Mr Terry Higgins, a very prominent citizen of this city and a member of the firm of Higgins, Faulks and Martin. Mr Deputy President, because Mr Higgins is an honourable and reputable citizen of this country, an ethical solicitor practicising his profession in this city, a man of very high repute, I feel I should give him the opportunity of putting on record his statement of the matter.
– It is not my practice to speak on matters which are the responsibility of a State government. This evening, however, I intend to do so. I have been prompted to do so because I believe that due to sheer dogmatism the Queensland Government is denying some of its scientists the opportunity to profit professionally from knowledge which is available in another country. It is also denying people associated with the agricultural industry in Queensland the opportunity to profit from this knowledge because the scientists to whom I refer could channel any information gleaned from overseas back to Queensland agriculturists.
As a senator for Queensland, therefore, I have considered it necessary to outline the relevant facts to this chamber. Early in 1975 a bilateral agreement on scientific and technical cooperation between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Australia was signed. One of the areas involved in the agreement was plant industry, including work on soils and fertilisers. In June 1975 an expert committee of 4 distinguished senior Australian scientists visited the USSR. The purpose of their visit was to survey agricultural research there and to make recommendations on fields of interests where Australian scientists would most profit from their Soviet counterparts. The committee consisted of Dr L. T. Evans, Chief of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Plant Industry- Dr Evans was the Chairman of the committee- Dr A. Martin, Chief of the Division of Soils in CSIRO, Professor F. Milthorpe of the Macquarie University, and Mr N. Halse from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture.
The U.S.S.R., despite popular belief to the contrary, is a large scale agricultural producer. To illustrate this fact, I quote 2 paragraphs from an article which Dr Evans wrote on returning from his June 1975 visit to the USSR. Dr Evans’ article appeared in the September 1975 issue of The Journal of the Australian institute of Agricultural Science. The 2 paragraphs read:
The USSR produces about one-quarter of the world’s wheat, 2-3 times more than the U.S.A. amd 8-12 times more than Australia. Although their production of wheat represents almost 0.4 tonnes per person, they need to import more. Similarly, although they produce more sugar than any other country, equivalent to about 40 kg per person, they still need to import more from Cuba. Potato production in Russia is more than two orders of magnitude greater than ours, but three-quarters of this is used for animal feed. Even so, their dietary intake is several times higher than that in Australia. Many Russians still enjoy potatoes three times a day, as their figures attest At times the difference in magnitude of production was embarrassing. They produce about 70 times more cotton than we do, and the scale of their research on cotton is proportionally even greater, yet they showed genuine interest in cotton research in Australia. Their production of sunflower seed is more than 200 times greater than ours, and even lupins- a crop to which Australian research has made a major contribution- are grown over a far greater area in the USSR than here. Only in sheep numbers do we surpass them.
Thus one may recognise that there certainly are opportunities for Australian agricultural scientists to learn from the experiences of their counterparts in the USSR. I am informed that subsequent to the expert committee’s visit to the USSR at least 2 scientists from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries were invited by representatives of the Evans committee to participate in the exchange program and visit the USSR in 1976.
One scientist in the Entomology Branch was invited to visit the USSR to study the biological control of insect pests in cotton. The head of the Entomology Branch is reliably reported as having lobbied hard to succeed in having one of his officers included in this area, since it is of great concern in the Queensland cotton industry. As well, the Russians are considered to be very advanced in this field. Chemical control of insects in cotton is expensive and increasingly ineffective as insects develop resistance. There are sound environmental arguments for biological rather than chemical control of insects. I believe that the Entomology Branch Director in the Queensland Department of Primary Industries actually visited the USSR in 1975 and was very impressed with Russian advances in using parasitic wasps to control certain grubs in cotton. Another scientist in the Agriculture Branch was invited to visit the USSR to study the breeding of cotton. On reading Dr Evans’ article which I mentioned earlier, it would seem likely that the Soviets have a lot to offer us in this aspect of agriculture. Both scientists agreed to participate pending Departmental approval.
Under the agreement between Australia and the USSR, the fares to and from the Soviet Union would be paid by the Australian Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, and accommodation and expenses in the USSR would be met by the Soviet Government. The salary of participating officers would continue to be met by their employers. In the case which I am outlining, this of course would be the Queensland State Government. Following normal procedure, application was made on behalf of the 2 scientists for permission to participate. The application of the scientists in the Entomology Branch was submitted first. I am informed that permission was refused at Cabinet level. Departmental officers were subsequently informed that by Cabinet directive no Queensland State Government employee was to participate in the Australia-USSR cultural and scientific exchange program. No official reason was given.
It was reported, however, that National Party Ministers considered that the USSR had nothing to offer Australia and that the exchange was a front whereby the Soviets would ‘bleed our technology’. These sentiments are certainly not those of the scientists involved. Nor are they those of primary industry leaders in the State of Queensland. For example, the Queensland Graingrowers Association has either partially or wholly funded several people on trips to the USSR to study Soviet agriculture. One Queensland Graingrowers Association State councillor, Mr Fred From, a farmer of Buaraba, toured Russia last year. In 1974, Mr Owen Duncan, a Queensland Graingrowers Association executive officer, visited Romania and prime sunflower areas in the USSR. It is worth noting that the position offered to the scientist to whom I referred in the Entomology Branch has since been taken by a scientist from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture.
It disturbs me that the myopic attitude of the Queensland State Government is denying Queensland Department of Primary Industries scientists access to useful USSR technology in areas where the USSR is, according to the claims of the highly qualified Evans Committee, ahead of ours. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries scientists are understandably upset since they are being deprived of professional contacts available to their colleagues in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in the universities and in other State Departments of Agriculture. Indeed, Queensland agriculture has nothing to gain and everything to lose from the Queensland Government’s peculiar stand. It is to be hoped that, if similar decisions have to be made by the Queensland State Cabinet in the future, wiser counsel will then prevail.
– I desire to raise again a matter which I first raised in the Senate on 19 February. Some months have now gone by and I still have not had an answer to the matter that I raised. To acquaint the Senate with the subject I quote from a question directed to Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government, which appears on page 95 of Hansard of 19 February.
In that question I asked:
My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is in 2 parts. Firstly, is it a fact that the Government has terminated the River Murray Working Party without prior consultation with each of the 3 contacting State governments involved? Secondly, as the 4 contracting governments- I include here the Australian Government- to the River Murray Waters Agreement had charged the River Murray Working Party with recommending changes to the Agreement which would enable the River Murray Commission to undertake measures to protect and where necessary improve the quality of the River Murray waters in respect to salinity and other forms of pollution, and as the report of the Working Party was received by the ministerial steering committee on 30 October 1973, can the Minister say whether the Government endorses the report and whether the report will be tabled in the Parliament at an early date?
In reply Senator Withers said:
I will seek the information for which the honourable senator asks.
A period of time went by and I was patient until an Estimates Committee meeting on 1 8 May of this year. I asked various questions. I shall not repeat them all. They are recorded in the Hansard record of Estimates Committee A of 1 8 May at pages 46 and 47. The pertinent point is that Senator Withers in part of his reply said:
If the honourable senator would like to canvass the issue in the second reading debate of the Appropriation Bills I suggest that that is his forum.
The Chairman, Senator Sim, said:
The honourable senator could canvass that issue in Committee of the Whole.
Senator Withers said:
That is right, in the second reading debate.
I am grateful for your guidance but I have already canvassed it in the Senate by way of questions and as yet I have not been given an answer.
In the Committee of the Whole considering Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1975-76, as recorded at page 2028 of Senate Hansard of 27 May, I again raised this matter which I had first raised on 19 February. A lot of debate took place and I will not repeat it all tonight. At the conclusion of the section where I raised this matter the Temporary Chairman, Senator Davidson, said:
Order! Senator McLaren, I understand the matter which you are pursuing, but I am sure you will recognise that as the Committee is placed at the moment, there is no way in which you can seek information about the item to which you have referred because for our purposes it does not exist. I take the liberty of pointing out to you that there are available a number of other forms of the Senate, including speaking on the first reading of money Bills, which you may use to press this point. It is true that you personally may not be satisfied with what has happened up to now, but I suggest to you, with respect, that there are and there will be other opportunities for you to press with vigour the point that you are now emphasising.
Thank you for your ruling, Mr Temporary Chairman. I give notice that unless I receive an answer to the question which I asked months ago, I will take the first opportunity to explore this matter.
I am not entirely blaming Senator Withers because he could not answer me as I think another Minister is involved and Senator Withers may not yet be aware of what happened. But on 30 June Senator Withers wrote to me. The letter reads:
Dear Senator McLaren,
I refer to the question without notice, which you asked me on 1 9 February 1 976, concerning the River Murray Working Party.
In my reply on 30 March 1976 I stated that I expected to be able to inform the Senate of the Government’s decision concerning the Report and its recommendations in the near future.
The present situation is that the Commonwealth Government has examined the Report in detail and that it is now being transmitted to each of the three State Premiers for consideration. It is expected that an appropriate announcement will be made and the Report tabled in Parliament as soon as the three State Premiers have had the opportunity of responding to the letter from the Prime Minister.
Yours sincerely, R. G. Withers.
That letter was dated 30 June. In it Senator Withers stated that he replied to me on 30 March. I did not get any reply from Senator Withers but during the recess I had a telephone call from one of the girls in Senator Withers’ office telling me that my question had been answered and that it appeared in the Senate Hansard. It is obvious that Senator Withers, like myself, did not know that the answer was in Hansard. Had he known he probably would have torn strips off me in the 2 debates, both in the Estimates Committee and in the Committee of the Whole. The answer appears on page 894 of the Senate Hansard of 30 March. I will leave out the wording of my question because it is useless to repeat it, but it also is recorded in Hansard. The answer reads as follows:
The Minister for National Resources has now provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government indicated the termination of the River Murray Working Party on the basis that the Working Party had presented its report to a Steering Committee of Federal-State Ministers and that other action would necessarily follow to ensure continuity with regard to unfinished matters.
Delays in effecting staffing changes consequential upon changes in departmental responsibility for water matters caused unavoidable delays within my Department in instituting the necessary follow-up measures. However, I now expect to be able to inform the Senate of the Government’s decision concerning the report and its recommendations in the near future.
That was recorded in the Senate Hansard of 30 March and no doubt Senator Withers, as I have said, was unaware that it was there. I was not aware of it either; otherwise I would not have entered into the debate. What disturbs me is that on 20 August this year I received a letter from the Executive Director of the Murray Valley Development League, Mr Vern Lawrence, dated 13 August 1976. It was received in my office at Murray Bridge on 20 August. I might say that I am a financial member of the Murray Valley Development League. He wrote:
Senator G. T. McLaren. Dear Geoff,
I enclose for your information and interest the 1976 Annual Report and Summary of Resolutions ( for which your support is requested), together with a new study of the Murray Valley Development League philosophy, role, general and specific objectives, achievements and staffing functions. The statement is designed for wide circulation and specially to support representations and deputations to Governments.
That letter was signed by Mr Vern Lawrence. Enclosed with it was a copy of the annual report delivered by Councillor J. W. Gemmell at Wodonga on 24 June this year. I am not going to quote all that report, but Councillor Gemmell said in clause 3:
When, once again, on October 21, 1975, the League Executive met federal members and the Minister for Environment, Mr Berinson, and the Secretary, Dr McMichael, in Canberra and informed them of the Swan Hill meeting’s resolution-
There were certain resolutions carried at a special meeting convened at Swan Hill and they are set out in the report- we were informed that the River Murray Working Party’s report was ready. The Canberra meeting was held in the midst of turmoil with MPs rushing out to the command of division bells and on November 1 1 the Government was dismissed and the caretaker government appointed. It was not until March of this year that the working party ‘s report could be dealt with (and approved) by the Minister and become a public document by presentation in a parliament.
I have checked with the Senate Journals, Records and Bills Office and found that the document has not yet been tabled in the Parliament, yet it is recorded in the annual report of the Murray Valley Development League that it is a public document and that it was presented in the Parliament. He went on to say in his annual report:
The recommendations of the working party which go a long way towards meeting the League’s specifications are that the River Murray Waters Agreement should be amended to enable the River Murray Commission to:
Take account of Water Quality in the operation of its works and the investigation of proposals for future River Murray Commission works.
Monitor Water Quality in the River Murray; and
Assume function of co-ordinating Water Quality and Quantity Management of the River Murray; and
Make representations to the contracting States on any Water Quality issue that affects the River Murray.
These are extracts of the River Murray Working Party report which I have been endeavouring to get in this Parliament for 61/2 months. In another document enclosed, headed ‘Why the Murray Valley Development League?’, it is stated on page 3:
A 4-Government River Murray Working Party has made its final report recommending in terms compatible with League representations. It remains the duty and resolve of the League to see that these recommendations are legislated into law.
Then there is a Press release which was also enclosed with the correspondence I have quoted. A further resolution on page 3 headed ‘River Murray Working Party’ reads:
That the League notes with warm approval the recommendations that have been made arising from the deliberations of the River Murray Working Party for an enlargement of the functions of the River Murray Commission and urges the governments which are parties to the River Murray Waters Agreement to take early action to have the recommendations passed rapidly into law.
When I received that correspondence I was quite astounded to read in that report many of the recommendations which the League says are embodied in the report of the Working Party, so I immediately rang the office of the Murray Valley Development League in Albury. I was informed by a lady in the office that the League had been able to purchase copies of the report of the Working Party from the Australian Government Publishing Service, but when the League wanted extra copies it was told the Government had withdrawn the copies from circulation. So I then checked with the Senate Journals, Records and Bills Office and I was told no copies were available.
The situation is that I first asked a question on this matter in this Parliament on 19 February this year. I pursued the subject through the Estimates Committee hearings and through the Senate as a Whole. I got an answer from Senator Withers. I am not blaming Senator Withers. I think the person who should be blamed is the Minister responsible, Mr Anthony. That report had been put out as a public document and it was then withdrawn, when all the time I had been pursuing this matter to try to get access to the report because it is of vital importance to the people I represent in South Australia as it indicates what the Government is going to do about the report. One of the pertinent parts of my question was: Who authorised the disbandment of the River Murray Working Party. Yet, as I said, there is a report that the Government circulated and put on sale. If people read the record of the debates that have taken place in this Senate they will see that I was more or less ridiculed because I was pursuing the matter. I now find I am still unable to obtain a copy of that report. I would like Senator Withers to tell me- possibly he cannot do it tonight- the reason I have had to wait 61/2 months to get a copy of a report that has been available. It has been published; it has been on sale. Yet as an elected senator from South Australia and as a representative of constituents who are vitally concerned about this matter I cannot get a copy of the report under the due processes of this Parliament to enable me to discuss it with constituents who live in the River Murray area. I would like Senator Withers to explain to me the fate of the report and when it is going to be made available as a public document to members of this Parliament.
- Mr Deputy President- (Quorum formed).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The following information has been provided to me by the relevant authorities in each State and Territory:
1 ) In the Australian Capital Territory under the terms of section 32 of the Adoption of Children Ordinance 1965-74 this is the responsibility of the Director of Child Welfare (Secretary of the Department of Capital Territory) who delegates this power to the Assistant Secretary, Welfare Branch.
In the Northern Territory once a person has signed a consent to adoption and that consent is final (after 30 days) the Director of Child Welfare is responsible for the care and custody of children waiting to be adopted.
In the Australian Capital Territory children waiting to be adopted are cared for in the Australian Capital Territory hospitals in which they are born, until they are discharged. They are then placed with temporary foster parents until handed over to the approved adopting parents when the date for revocation of consent for adoption has passed.
In the Northern Territory new bom children are cared for in hospital nurseries till placed. Older children are cared for in government or family homes. Occasionally a child is temporarily placed in a private foster home pending permanent placement.
New South Wales and South Australia indicated that only a very small number of children were not adopted and these children were physically or mentally handicapped. In Victoria and Queensland these records are not kept and in the Northern Territory all children available for adoption were placed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The figures below relate to Medibank medical and optometrical consultation benefits.
and (3) 64 million.
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:
The figures below relate to payment of Medibank medical and optometrical consultation benefits.
52 million services.
For the financial year to end of June 1976, medical and optometrical consultation benefits payments totalled $628m in respect of 65 million services.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the level of, (a) Australian, (b) American, (c) British, (d ) Japanese, (e) Dutch, (f) French, and (g) Canadian, ownership and control of the following companies operating in Australia: (i) Western Mining Corporation, (ii) Broken Hill Proprietary, (iii) Broken Hill South, (iv) Comalco, (v) Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia, ( vi) Consolidated Goldfields of Australia, (vii) Aquitaine, (viti) Mount Isa Mines Limited, (ix) Utah Mining Corporation, (x) Queensland Mines, (xi) Peko Wallsend, (xii) EZ. Industries (xiii) Pancontinental, (xiv) Selection Trust, (xv) Amax Mining, (xvi) Whim Creek, (xvii) Metals Exploration, (xviii) Kennecott (Aust), (xix) Esso (Aust), (xx) Aberfoyle, (xxi) Theiss-Peabody, (xxii) Anaconda, and (xxiii) Triako Mines.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to attempt to provide information of this kind on the affairs of individual companies. Even if I were to do so, all I could use would be published information; it would not be appropriate for me to release any information that might be provided by companies to the Government on a confidential basis. I mention that some information relating to individual companies is published in the Investment Service of the Sydney Stock Exchange. If the honourable senator wishes to seek information additional to that obtainable from publicly available sources, he might wish to seek it from the head offices of the companies concerned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Diplomatic Staff in Uganda (Question No. 829)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What is the current composition of Australian diplomatic staff stationed in Uganda?
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia has no diplomatic staff stationed in Uganda. The Australian High Commissioner in Kenya is accredited on a non-resident basis to Uganda. He and his staff visit Uganda as required for the transaction of official business, including the protection of Australian citizens in that country.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What has been the estimated cost to date of the implementation of the Superphosphate Bounty since its re-introduction by the present Federal Government.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Payments made under the terms of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act since the bounty was re-introduced on 1 1 February 1976, are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
How many applications have been received from South African citizens for residence in Australia for each month since January 1975, and how many of these applications have been approved.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Because migration application and approval statistics are maintained on the basis of the country in which application is made and not on the nationality of applicants it is not possible to provide figures on the number of South African citizens who have applied and been approved for residence in Australia during the period for which this information is sought.
The number of applications received by Australian posts in South Africa and the number approved for each month since January 1975, are shown in the following table. Approvals do not necessarily relate to applicants shown in the same period.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian-New Zealand: Liaison in Law Enforcement (Question No. 857)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What is the date and venue of the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The next meeting of the International Whaling Commission will be held from 20 to 24 June 1 977, in Canberra.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
Has the Minister received a reply to the letter he wrote to Dr Robert Endean, mentioned in the Minister’s reply to a Question Without Notice appearing on page 475 of the Senate Hansard of 1 6 March 1 976, relating to Dr Endean ‘s criticism of the report on the crown of thorns starfish; if so, (a) what action does the Minister intend taking with regard to the views expressed in Dr Endean ‘s reply and (b) what action has the Minister taken with relation to Dr Endean ‘s public call, reported in the Courier Mail of 7 July 1976, for the report to be rejected.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I have received a reply to the letter I wrote to Dr Endean in March 1976 seeking his views following the tabling in the Senate of the ‘Report of the Advisory Committee on research into the crown of thorns starfish’. Dr Endean criticised the Report and recommended that I reject it. Alternatively he recommended that I place the Report before a committee of international experts with a view to determining whether or not the crown of thorns starfish constitutes a threat to the Reef and whether control measures are warranted at this stage:
The Report of the Advisory Committee is a scientific statement by scientists. It discusses the results of four years scientific research by workers whose projects were supported by grants from the crown of thorns trust fund which was jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments from 1972 to 1975. It would not be appropriate for me to reject the report any more than it would be appropriate for me to reject Dr Endean ‘s criticism of it.
An international conference on the biology and ecology of the starfish was held at the University of Guam in 1973 and attended by Australian scientists. Australian scientific workers have access to the published papers of overseas research workers and no doubt keep themselves informed of progress made by other Australian scientists working in this field. It does not seem appropriate at this time to convene an international conference on the biology and ecology of the starfish.
I have suggested to Dr Endean that he forward his recommendations for scientific research proposals to the Australian Institute of Marine Science for consideration.
Conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and the application of control measures to the crown of thorns starfish which might be warranted falls within the responsibilities of my colleague the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I have suggested to Dr Endean that his recommendations relating to the conservation of the Reef might be referred to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
I have written to Dr Endean indicating that it is not appropriate for me to reject the report.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
What were the circumstances and conditions in which Mr Hamid Mezani, who was recently deported from Australia, entered this country.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr Hamid Meziani was granted a visa on 1 1.2.76 to enable him to visit Australia for a period of three months. He arrived on 1 1.3.76. The stated purpose of his journey was to visit relatives.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The number of lone fathers in receipt of special benefit in Australia at 30 June 1976 was 129.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Has the Government considered the recommendations contained in the Third Main Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty entitled ‘Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty in Australia’ by the Reverend George S. Martin; if so, which recommendations has the Government accepted in full, or in part, and which has it rejected or not acted upon.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Report in question was tabled in the Parliament on 3 June 1 976. In order to make it public as soon as possible only a minimum number of copies were prepared for tabling purposes. The Report is now being printed and it is expected that copies will be generally available to interested departments and others late in September.
The Report is a very extensive one and contains some 130 recommendations relating to the areas of responsibility not only of a number of Commonwealth Departments but of the States as well.
As soon as printed copies are available the Report will be studied in detail by the relevant Commonwealth departments and consideration will then be given by the Government to the recommendations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Report on Incidents at Laverton
-On 18 May 1976 Senator Cavanagh directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General the following question, without notice:
Will the Attorney-General give consideration to the report of the Joint Commonwealth and West Australian commission into incidents between police and Aborigines at Laverton in Western Australia which was tabled in this place by the Minister on Thursday, 6 May, to ascertain whether any breach of Commonwealth law is disclosed in the findings of the commission? Will the Attorney-General further inform the Senate, in view of the fact that the commission was a joint Commonwealth and State commission, whether the laws relating to Commonwealth royal commissions apply to this particular commission.
The Attorney-General has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As indicated in the reply given by Senator Withers on 18 May 1976 (Hansard page 1665) the Royal Commission was appointed under the appropriate State law of Western Australia. One of the members was nominated by the Commonwealth Government which, by arrangement with the State Government, paid half the expenses of the Commission. The Commission was not, as Senator Withers pointed out, a joint Commonwealth/State Royal Commission. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Royal Commissions Act 1 902 as amended, had no application.
Examination of the report of the Royal Commission does not indicate that there was any offence committed against the Commonwealth law.
Punishment of Aborigine: Decision of Wells J. in R v Williams
-On 18 May 1976 Senator Young asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following question, without notice:
I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen reports that an Aboriginal convicted in the South Australian Supreme Court for killing a woman has been handed back to his tribe for tribal law and justice to be applied for his misdeed. Can the Minister say whether this Supreme Court decision will in any way conflict with the application of Australian law generally, particularly in relation to any future actions of Aborigines under their tribal laws which may be in direct conflict with Australian laws?
Senator Withers undertook to take the matter up with the Attorney-General with a view to providing a detailed answer to the question. The Attorney-General has now provided the following information:
Sydney Williams, an Aboriginal, was tried in the Supreme Court of South Australia on charges arising out of the death of an Aboriginal woman. The jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
On 14 May 1976 Mr Justice Wells sentenced Williams to two years’ imprisonment which was suspended upon his entering into a recognizance in the sum of $10 conditioned that Williams be of good behaviour for a term of two years and further
He shall return forthwith to his tribe, the Korota tribe, and shall there submit himself to the Tribal Elders and shall, for a period of at least one year from this date, be ruled and governed by the Tribal Elders and shall in all things obey their lawful orders and directions.
In particular, he shall, while he is under the control of the Tribal Elders- and that means for at least that one year referred to- abstain from intoxicating liquor unless he is permitted to drink intoxicating liquor by the Tribal Elders and then only to the extent of any permission granted’.
The decision was made by a South Australian Court under State law and therefore is in no way the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
However, I would observe that the circumstances of the case clearly raise for consideration some general questions as to the practicability of the application of customary law in our judicial system.
In that context I think it proper to say that the press reports of the case assume that the order made by Wells J. directed that Williams be returned to his tribe to receive tribal justice or punishment. In its terms, however, that order did not authorise the spearing of Williams or any other form of corporal punishment which would conflict with or be in breach of the laws applying in South Australia.
The case is only one of the many instances where courts in this country administering the criminal law have recognised or taken into account the existence of customary law or controls. It typifies the increasing awareness in the community of the role that can be performed by customary laws and controls.
One of the problems to be met in any application of the customary law of Aboriginals is that some of the punishments provided under customary law may, by modern standards, be inhumane.
-On 20 May 1976 Senator McLaren addressed to me as Minister representing the Treasurer in the Senate a question without notice concerning the wine industry and, in particular, a circular letter by the General Manager of Mcwilliams Wines Pty Ltd, Mr D. R. Mcwilliam. I undertook to refer the matter to the Treasurer who has provided the following answer.
I have seen the circular letter to which the honourable senator refers and there are several observations I would like to make. First, I stress that the Government has honoured its pre-election commitments. It has eased the transitional arrangements promised by the previous Government but never enacted by them and found, in the event, to be insufficient. Under legislation passed by us, taxpayers will now have a longer transitional period for the payment of deferred tax and, in addition, Division 7 arrangements have been altered to remove any effect which would otherwise result from bringing to account income on which tax was deferred in the past Secondly, winemakers will benefit substantially from the introduction of trading stock valuation adjustments which I announced in the Budget Speech on 17 August. Private companies in the industry will also benefit from the easing of the retention allowance.
As to the question of the projected grape surplus and requests for Government aid, I understand that the Senator’s observation is correct that, after the Government of South Australia provided finance for the processing of the reported surplus of 5000 tonnes, something less than 100 tonnes were received by the pool.
– On 18 August 1976 Senator Walsh asked me a question without notice concerning the Budget deficit. I have obtained the following further information in response to the honourable senator’s question.
The decrease in net payments to rural industries shown in the Budget documents reflects the large repayments expected to be made by the Australian Wool Corporation of advances previously made to it for wool marketing assistance. It is estimated that the Corporation will make repayments totalling $245m in 1 976-77. If these wool marketing transactions are excluded, total assistance to agricultural and pastoral industries in 1976-77 is estimated at $2 19.7m, compared with $ 195.3m in 1975-76. In this sense total outlays on agriculture will be significantly greater than the Budget estimates indicate.
It is true that some funds will be provided during the year in addition to those presently included in the Budget estimates. The honourable senator referred to Aboriginal Affairs and that is one such area. At the same time, however, there will inevitably be underspending on some programs and in respect of some others continuing efforts will be made to achieve economies and increased efficiency wherever possible. As was made clear in the Budget Speech, the Government aims to repeat in 1 976-77 its performance last year in keeping total outlays within the original Budget estimate.
Report on McArthur River Deposits
– On 25 August Senator Robertson asked the following question without notice:
I direct my question to Senator Webster in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is the Urban Development and Town Planning Branch of the Department of the Northern Territory preparing, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, a report on the development of the McArthur River deposits and the ecology of the area? If so, will the Minister advise the Senate what the purpose of the report is, how it will affect government policy on the development of the McArthur River deposits, and when the report will be made public?
The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following reply:
Under an arrangement entered into between the former Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government, a firm of consultants was commissioned about a year ago to undertake a broad regional study of north west Queensland and the adjoining area of the Northern Territory, including the McArthur River area.
The purpose was to consider the resources of the region and to identify and generally comment on the wide range of factors which could be involved in future development.
A very extensive area in north west Queensland and the Northern Territory was involved in a broad canvass of the region. Because of this approach, in no way was the study by the consultants directed to detailed investigation of particular enterprises, such as development of the McArthur River deposits and associated ecological aspects, nor to matters of policy.
I have been informed that the work by the firm of consultants has been completed and that they are currently finalising their report. Decisions as to whether the report will be made public have yet to be taken in consultation with the Queensland Government.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 September 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760907_senate_30_s69/>.