30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 77 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown Lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of Aboriginal claims have been postponed as a result of Government decisions, Aboriginals should not be penalised;
Amend the Bill to ensure:
The removal of all powers to pass Land Rights Legislation from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, particularly its control over sacred sites, entry permits, control over the seas adjoining Aboriginal land, the fishing rights of non-Aborigines, the right of Aborigines to enter pastoral stations and control of wildlife on Aboriginal land.
The control of Aborigines of all roads passing through Aboriginal lands.
The restoration of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s powers to hear claims based on need as well as traditional claims lodged by Aborigines.
The restoration of all powers vested in Lands Councils and the Land Commissioner in the 197S Land Rights Bill.
A provision that any government decision to override Aboriginal objections to mining on the basis of national interest be itself reviewed by both Houses of Parliament.
A provision that land-owning groups of Aborigines may apply to form separate trusts if they wish.
The removal of artificial barriers to traditional owners imposed by the Territory borders on all tribes so affected.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Ryan I present the following petition from 30 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Pass, immediately, the States Grants (Schools) Legislation for the year 1977 as recommended by the Australian Schools Commission in their Report for the Rolling Triennium 1977-79.
In no way alter the present role and administrative functions of the Australian Schools Commission.
Encourage the Australian Schools Commission to develop and implement without restrictions, a philosophy of Educational Funding independent of Government pressures.
Guarantee continuing parent and teacher representation on the Australian Schools Commission through the two recognised national bodies, namely the Australian Council of State Schools Organisation and the Australian Teachers Federation who represent the vast majority of children in Australia attending Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Ryan I present the following petition from 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly pray that the Australian Government:
Extend the freeze on alienation of vacant Crown land in the Northern Territory.
Give urgent consideration to amendments to the Northern Territory ( Land Rights ) Bill 1 976 to give effect to:
The restoration of the role of land councils and the Land Commissioner.
The removal of distinction between ‘needs’ and traditional claims.
The re-introduction of the 1975 Land Rights Bill’s provisions regarding mining.
The withdrawal of power from the Northern Territory Assembly to make laws over sacred sites, permits and entry to pastoral properties.
The control of all roads through Aboriginal land being held by the Aboriginal people themselves.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 41 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 1976-77 Budget allocation of $73.3m for child care amounts to less than $23 per child per year which is totally inadequate. That in 39.4 per cent of married couple families, both parents work and of these 59 per cent have dependent children. That 38.6 per cent of female heads of families work and of these 64 per cent have dependent children. That present government child care programs are heavily biassed in favour of pre-school programs, 70 per cent of the funds being destined for pre-schools which only provide part-time services for children and do not cater for the needs of working parents. That existing government child care facilities, schools and other government buildings which could be used for child care programs are underutilised.
Your petitioners humbly pray that urgent consideration will be given to:
an increase in funds for child care services throughout Australia;
an equitable distribution of funds to cover all the child care needs of the community;
the cessation of the wasteful usage of sessional preschool buildings, instead these buildings to be used also to cover the full range of child care needs;
the wider utilisation of government buildings or pans thereof, e.g. schools, hospitals and government offices for appropriate child care facilities.
Petition received and read.
-Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Young.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
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 Government’s Child Care Policy should be immediately clarified and announced to ensure continuity of programmes and allow effective forward planning.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Drake-Brockman.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the statement by Mr Viner at a Press conference which was held on 1 1 November that Aboriginals needs claims are to be funded from the Land Funding Commission and in view of the apparent lack of funding by his Government so far of the Land Funding Commission, can the Minister say how much of the additional $25m allocated for Aboriginal Affairs this year will be used to fund the Land Funding Commission? Can she give an assurance that the Land Funding Commission will be funded adequately to buy the land involved in the Northern Territory Aboriginal needs claims that are granted? Further, can she give an assurance that the Land Funding Commission will maintain its power to purchase land in all States of Australia for Aborigines and that it will be adequately funded by the Government in order to carry out this function effectively?
– The honourable senator raised several matters. I will refer them to the Minister for a detailed reply.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Education. I refer to teacher education which the Minister mentioned in his statement in the Senate on 4 November. Within the section of his statement headed ‘Colleges of Advanced Education’ the Minister observed that enrolments in teacher education courses in 1977 would be contained. A little later he referred to assistance to non-government teachers colleges. What is the nature of the review to which the
Minister also referred at the time? When would he expect a report on such a review? What effect does he estimate that the 2 statements will have on the teaching profession and its development?
– The Senate will recall that earlier this year my Department, in conjunction with the 4 education commissions, put out a preliminary working paper aimed at initiating discussion throughout Australia on the supply of and demand for teachers in Australia in the next decade or so. That paper reached conclusions on certain premises that there would be a surplus of teachers, both primary and secondary. Because this conclusion needs testing, because there needs to be a dialogue in Australia and because there is reasonable evidence that some surplus, of whatever dimension, will exist, my Government included in the guidelines for the various commissions a statement that it is desirable that universities and colleges should not enrol more students than they did in the previous year. This is a containing operation so that we shall not produce a glut of teachers. I have told the Senate that the real question is to establish the true facts, and they are hard to establish. Having done that, it is then necessary to decide whether we should adopt a manpower approach and keep the numbers down by some kind of quota or whether we should warn the public of the expected intake of teachers and then let students receive an education and take the risks. All these matters are under survey at the moment. It will still take some time before we reach some basic conclusions. Of course, variations in either fertility or immigration rates could change the whole pattern. The matter is with the States at the moment, it is being examined and we would hope to make some announcements of conclusions probably after the next Australian Education Council meeting.
Senator Davidson referred to the statement by the Government that it is reviewing the circumstances of non-government teachers colleges. The policy of the Government is quite clear. Just as there should be freedom of choice between government and non-government schools there should be freedom of choice between government colleges and non-government colleges with respect to the training of teachers, provided the basic standards are oberved. One of the problems is that there are a number of very small teachers colleges around Australia. Because of their size they are not capable of marshalling the physical resources that are generally necessary for teachers colleges. They were supported by a previous government with an arbitrary form of per capita grants. My Government feels that we should try to bring some order to the whole situation. A review is being undertaken, but it will take some months yet. I do not believe that the first matter will have any effect upon the second. In other words, generally speaking, the findings about teacher supply and demand in Australia will affect both streamsboth government and non-government schools. It would be up to the teachers colleges to gear their intakes according to their estimate of demand.
-The Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory has no doubt read in today ‘s Australian that an independent member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has criticised the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for the allocation of sums of money in the Fund for a proposed community cultural centre in Darwin. That member has suggested that the money be recalled and distributed to what she describes as people in distress. As chairman of the Trust Fund, what action does the Minister for the Northern Territory intend to take to counter the criticism raised by the independent member? Does he intend to re-form the committee which disbanded when the final allocation of funds was made on 30 September?
– Yes, I have read the article in today’s Australian. I noted the comments alleged to have been made by Mrs Dawn Lawrie. I am not able to verify whether the article in the Australian is correct. The honourable senator has asked whether the Minister in another place is likely to re-form the committee, as well as a number of other questions. I shall seek that information from the Minister for the Northern Territory and respond to the honourable senator.
I recall that I answered a question, I think last week, in relation to reported allegations that were made about trust funds. I recall commenting that some moneys, as I understand it- this information had been given to me by the Minister in another place- had been donated for specific purposes. I believe I commented that some of the money was for some memorial purpose. If funds are set aside for that purpose and if they have come from a particular area, it would appear to me that they are being applied correctly. However, I shall direct the question to the
Minister and attempt to obtain an early response for Senator Robertson.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of allegations made by Ms Elizabeth Reid, a former adviser to the Labor Prime Minister, that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, has blocked her application for a senior position in the women’s section of the United Nations Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs? Can the Minister tell me whether or not Ms Reid’s application was a private one? What bearing did applications from 2 men, being supported by the Government, for other United Nations posts have on the Minister’s or the Government’s decision?
-I have a briefing note from my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on this matter. He says that there was a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 17 November which stated, amongst other things, that the Australian Government had blocked Ms Reid ‘s application for a position.
- Ms Reid said that it failed to support it.
-I am reading what I have in front of me. It stated that the Australian Government had blocked Ms Reid’s application for a position in the United Nations Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs. I take that to be the newspaper allegation.
- Ms Reid says that it failed to support it.
-That may be so, but I am referring to the newspaper report. I am further instructed that it is not true that the Australian Government blocked Ms Reid’s application. The matter was referred to Mr Peacock while he was in New York. While Mr Peacock hoped that the application would be given careful consideration as a private application- and our mission to the United Nations was in a position to indicate this to the United Nations SecretariatMr Peacock felt that we were not in a position to offer formal support. In the past, Australia has not made it a practice to sponsor private applications. We further understand that Ms Reid’s application might have been impeded by the high preponderance of Western Europeans already in senior positions in the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs. Moreover, the Australian Government was already committed to supporting 2 Government candidates for senior positions in other areas- one for the United Nations environmental program and the other for the Conference on Science and Technology.
I conclude by saying that the number of Australian nationals in the secretariat presently exceeds our quota, but I add that the percentage of Australian women is well above the total percentage of women employed in the secretariat. Of the 4 Australian applicants appointed in 1 975-76, two were women.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister will recall that recently in this chamber I spoke on what I consider is the necessity for Telecom Australia to bill subscriber trunk dialling calls separately from local calls. I note that in a news copy which was issued by Telecom on 10 November 1976, commenting on the 1975-76 financial year, Telecom reported as follows:
The acceptance of do-it-yourself long distance dialling had been borne out by the fact that just over 80 per cent of all trunk calls had been STD calls.
In the light of the fact that STD calls are not billed separately from local calls, will the Minister advise the Senate how it was determined what percentage of trunk calls were in fact STD calls?
– As might be anticipated, that knowledge is not personally known to me. I will seek it out and let the honourable senator know.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Has the Minister noted that the Opposition spokesman on matters within the portfolio of the Attorney-General has said that the Opposition will reject the proposal to construct the quarantine station on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands unless adult wages are paid? As the Government decision to go ahead with this project comes after nearly 3 years of intensive investigation of many technical problems by a number of Government departments, does the Labor Party’s decision now mean that this project which is most important to the Australian cattle industry will again be in jeopardy?
-As I understand it, the Government’s policy is to pay award wages where awards are in force. Whilst the decision has been made to put the station on the Cocos Islands, those honourable senators who took the time to read Mr Hunt’s statement will recall that he said he hoped that as far as possible Cocos islanders would be employed in the construction of the station.
– You have had 3 years to get to this point.
-Your Government had 3 years but it got nowhere.
– You have now had 12 months.
– We have had 12 months and we have got somewhere. That is the difference. Whilst you waffled, we worked. That is the great gulf that divides the 2 parties. It is rather like a beehive- the workers on this side and the drones on the other side.
– Where is the Queen?
-I have no objection to being the queen bee. I would have thought that the Government’s stance on this matter was quite clear. I am certain that the honourable senators opposite would not care for a situation in which we put a totally Australian construction team onto the Cocos Islands to build this quarantine station.
– What we are saying is, pay the islanders award rates.
-There are no award rates applying on the Cocos Islands.
-It is about time there were.
– Whether there ought to be is another matter. I have said a number of times that if we are going to do something real for the indigenes or other inhabitants of Cocos Island it will be done as a matter of negotiation with the community of that island. It will not be done by making flamboyant statements in this place or by creating problems through a confrontation with the people in that community. I am quite certain that when the project begins it will be undertaken with the good will of both sides and that everybody will be happy about the arrangements entered into.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs explain the decision to abstain on the East Timor resolution that was adopted by the United Nations Fourth Committee? Does the Minister not agree that such an abstention amounts to nothing more than complete compliance with the demands of and to appeasement of the Indonesian Generals? In view of this vote on a resolution calling for the right of selfdetermination of the people of East Timor, can the Minister explain the current Australian policy? Will the Minister not agree that such a decision demonstrates before the world ‘s people an inhumanity and a lack of principle in the Australian attitude?
-I do not agree with anything the honourable senator has said because he is working on a false premise in most of what he said.
– Why did we abstain?
-If Senator Georges waits a moment I will tell him.
– How could we abstain?
-Do not get too excited. It is bad for your blood pressure. The Fourth Committee of the United Nations has now voted on a resolution on Timor. At this stage we do not have the official voting figures from our mission in New York although the Department understands from news reports that it was 6 1 in favour, 1 8 against and 49 abstentions. Australia did abstain in the vote. The reasons for our abstention were given in an explanation of our vote by the Australian delegation. We are of the view that the resolution failed to make a balanced appeal for the avoidance of further bloodshed. We had reservations about the language and elements of judgment involved in the resolution. We thought that some of the steps that were proposed were unnecessary. There were, however points of principle in the resolution which, although not expressed as we would have preferred, are fundamental to Australia’s policy as consistently stated by the Government. For this reason we did not oppose the resolution. On the other hand, we did not regard it as being realistic or constructive. For that reason, we abstained.
-Can the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs give an assurance that repatriation and other patients in repatriation hospitals will not be neglected because of bans on overtime and patient admissions by the Hospital Employees Federation?
– I am sorry to say that the Hospital Employees Federation has placed bans on the admission of some categories of repatriation and civilian patients. Staff in the repatriation hospitals have held stop work meetings in protest against alleged staff ceilings. The stop work meetings have been held in hospitals this week and in some States, as a result of the meetings, the bans on the admission of civilian patients have been lifted. I am very pleased that the rank and file members in many places have made such a decision. It is another case in which the rank and file have not supported the national secretaries who have called for bans. After a meeting at the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg apparently the Federation with the support of its members placed a ban on overtime at that hospital. That is the only hospital where that has occurred. These bans were first imposed on the Sunday before last but the hospitals have continued to admit both repatriation and civilian patients in the usual way. The bans and the stop work meetings have not materially affected the number of admissions to the hospitals. I can assure the Senate that the standard of care that has been provided to the patients and their comfort have been maintained because the staff has continued to provide essential services. I should like further to assure the Senate that patients are not admitted to hospitals unless the hospital administration is convinced that proper treatment can be provided without placing excessive work loads on the staff. A very good relationship is maintained between officers of my Department and the State secretaries of the Hospital Employees Federation. They have been discussing problems concerning excessive work loads.
– Fire officers.
-And indeed, as Senator Mulvihill has mentioned, rearrangement of work by fire officers at Concord. That is a good example of the constant discussions which take place between officers of my Department and leaders of the unions in the various States. There have been problems concerning over-work in certain areas and we have endeavoured to meet them as far as we possibly can within the ceilings laid down. I shall give an example of this. After the national secretary of the Hospital Employees Federation saw me some weeks ago- that was before any bans were imposed- I took up with the officers of my Department the questions he raised with me and rearrangements have been made in certain places. One example is that 7 positions were able to be transferred from the Concord Hospital in Sydney to the Hollywood Hospital in Perth to alleviate a particularly acute problem there. The Hollywood Hospital is one of the places where the staff has in fact lifted its bans. I have been concerned to take up with my Department the problems that were mentioned to me by Mr Joiner some weeks ago. I emphasise that the efforts that I and the officers of my Deartment made were initiated long before any ans were imposed. I can also assure the Senate and indeed the Hospital Employees Federation that we will not be influenced in any decisions we take by bans being imposed, whether they be related to the admission of civilians, overtime or anything else. When these bans were imposed I stated that we would be carrying on as usual, and I am pleased to be able to report that we have been able to carry on as usual.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it true, as reported, that the shortly to be released fourth main report of Professor Fitzgerald on the educational aspects of poverty in Australia recommends that the unemployment benefit be paid to school leavers immediately they indicate they will not be returning to full time studies and are available for permanent employment? Bearing in mind that Professor Henderson’s first main report recommended that the 7-day waiting period before unemployment benefits are paid should be abolished, this means that 2 concerned experts in the field of poverty in Australia have recommended a line and an approach completely contrary to the Government’s present policy. Will the Government consider the recommendations of Professor Henderson and the alleged recommendations of Professor Fitzgerald to avoid the discrimination against poor families which have school leavers which occurs under the present Government’s policy?
– I am not able to answer the question regarding the report of Professor Fitzgerald. I am able to say that the Government gives close attention to the recommendations of the commissioners and others who conduct inquiries into poverty in this country. We have announced our Government policies with regard to unemployment benefit and earlier this year we made announcements with regard to unemployment benefit for school leavers. I shall undertake to look closely at any recommendations that are made by Professor Fitzgerald and also to review recommendatons from Professor Henderson in these matters.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations state what the recent and current industrial stoppages are costing Australia? Is it a fact than many of these strikes are being caused by radical sections within some of the trade unions? Has the Government made inquiries or are inquiries being made into the political background and associations of some of these people? What steps is the Government taking to see whether outside influences are being used to disrupt the Australian economy?
– In answer to Senator Young’s question as to the cost of recent stoppages which have been occurring in Australia, I am afraid no statistical data on the total economic cost of strikes is available. The high degree of interdependence of the productive enterprises in our economy makes it very difficult to estimate the nature and extent of losses to industry as a whole as a result of strikes. However, official figures are available as to the loss of wages due to disputes. In the past day or two some questons on this matter have been asked in the Senate. The latest figures I have indicate that in the 8 months to August this year $96m in wages have been lost. Of course, that covers the Medibank strike too. A very high proportion of wages lost this year has been due to the Medibank stoppages in June and July, which accounted for 63 per cent of working days lost in the past 8 months, that is, 63 per cent of working days were lost during that period due to a political strike which was an abject failure.
It is true that in the case of many unions concerned in the Medibank strike and in strikes on other issues the decision to strike has been made autocratically by a union executive without reference to membership and a direction has been issued to membership to take strike action. I have just given in answer to another question an example of how that failed in my own Department. We know how it failed when the rank and file would not go along any longer with the union directive in relation to postal bans. Union executives which operate in this manner leave themselves open to the charge that they are seeking to manipulate their membership for private or political ends. We know that in many cases it is for political ends.
Since taking office the Government has directed its attention towards improving the accountability and responsiveness of union officials. We have legislated to require a secret postal ballot for the election of holders of offices having policy or management functions in industrial organisations. In addition, the Government is examining the recommendations of the Royal Commission into alleged payments to maritime unions concerning accounting practices and financial reporting in organisations. Implementation of these recommendations may well assist in furthering the objective of democratic control of organisations. The Government will continue to examine means by which proper rank and file articipation in and control of union affairs can e strengthened.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr President. In conformity with the standing order which requires Ministers to table documents from which they quote unless they are claimed to be to confidential, I call upon the Minister to table the document from which he supplied the answer to the question.
– I simply quoted from notes made in regard to the matter. It is not a document.
– I move:
– Order! The Minister has said that he does not have a document. He said he read from notes.
– In that case he should not object to tabling them.
– I have no objection to tabling the notes. The Opposition has had a similar experience previously. I am only sorry I have not a larger volume of notes. But it seems to be an absurd proposition that notes that are made for a speech have to be tabled. However, I am quite happy to table them. I now do so.
– The motion lapses because Senator Durack has tabled the notes.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, concerns an earlier question about the strictures on the trade union movement relating to Medibank negotiations. I refer to the information today that the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, through its leading official, Harry Wilson, in Sydney, has arranged with Malleys Ltd for that employer to pick up the tab for a sizable amount of its employees’ Medibank requirements. Does the Minister feel that that is unethical, or does he believe that it is a sound trade union program of successful collective bargaining?
– This question seeks an opinion. Any opinion that may be given should not be given by me but by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I will pass on the question to him for his consideration.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. In view of the fact that the Government of Great Britain has set up a data protection committee to investigate the best manner for that country to legislate on computer privacy, does the Commonwealth Government also intend to draft legislation aimed at protecting the privacy of the individual against possible abuse by national computer agencies, with their seemingly unlimited memory banks of personal and private information? If this has not been considered, would not the Minister agree that now would be the appropriate time to initiate such legislation to protect our citizens, when our computer systems are still in their infancy?
-The question of privacy from computers is only one aspect of the Government ‘s general concern for the protection of the privacy of individuals. The Liberal Party platform calls for the vigilant protection of privacy, reputation and those rights threatened by the use of modern surveillance systems and data banks. Because of the Government’s concern in this area, the Attorney-General in April this year requested the Law Reform Commission to examine and report upon undue invasions of privacy which may arise under Commonwealth and Territory laws and to recommend legislative or other measures that may be required to provide proper protection and redress in appropriate cases. The Commonwealth Government has limited constitutional power in this area. However, it has asked the Commission to have regard to the desirability of uniform laws in the Commonwealth and the States on this matter. The Government will give careful consideration to the Commission’s report when it is received and, where necessary, take legislative action.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence tell the Parliament the type of situation which is envisaged by the following statement on page 33 of the Defence Paper put down by the Minister for Defence recently? I quote: . . Parliament may well wish to consider whether the purpose of better training and better sense of participation would justify provisions authorising compulsory call-up of Citizens Reserves for limited periods in international situations proclaimed as requiring augmentation of the forces, but not proclaimed as a state of war or time of defence emergency . . .
Is another Vietnam-type commitment envisaged by the present Government?
-If Senator Primmer likes to see spooks under the bed, good luck to him. I suggest that he put his question on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that the Bureau of Roads has been absorbed by the Bureau of Transport Economics within the Department of Transport? Is the Minister aware that, since July, 12 members of the staff of the Bureau of Roads have left, with consequent adverse effect on the expertise available to this statutory body? In view of the widespread concern among local government bodies about the move to abandon the Bureau of Roads, thereby losing an important, impartial and independent road needs assessment authority, can the Minister assure the Senate that the new arrangements will provide to the Government the same technical advice on Australian road requirements? Has his colleague in the House of Representatives made a statement on this subject? If not, is it the Government’s intention to provide such a statement in both Houses of the Parliament for the information of all members?
– It is a fact, as Senator Jessop said, that the Bureau of Roads has been absorbed within the Department of Transport. The undertaking given by the Government and by the Minister at the time was that despite the absorption all the full functions of that Bureau as they were previously discharged would continue to be discharged by the Department. I have no information to suggest that that is not happening at the moment. I do not know whether the Minister has made a statement in modern times, but at the time of the absorption he made a clear statement on this matter. I will seek to ascertain whether there have been any further statements. I am not aware that there has been a loss of some 12 members of staff. I am unable to say whether this has affected the expertise. I will bring to the attention of the Minister for Transport the substance of the question.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer know that the share market plummeted to a new low yesterday- even lower than after last week’s announcement of a credit squeeze? Is this, and the forecast given by Mr Rod Carnegie to the Government members economic committee on Tuesday that there will be 600 000 unemployed next year, a manifestation of the business confidence which the Treasurer and possibly the Prime Minister believe exists?
-The world is always full of people whose attitude towards life is that we are faced with doom, destruction and death forever after. The world is also full of people who believe you ought to have confidence in your country and you should view its success as something you can achieve yourself. I commend that thought to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will the Minister take action to correct the information printed in the October issue of the publication Abolition of the Means Test News under Senator Coleman’s name? She is reported as stating:
If you wish to purchase health insurance for intermediate ward hospital treatment, for so-called doctor-of-choice in hospital, the following options are recommended:
She goes on to advise Medibank levy payers to take out intermediate hospital cover with Medibank Private and assures them that it will cost them only $135 a year for family cover and $67 a year for single cover. This cover is also economical for pensioners, low wage earners and those not paying the Medibank levy. She mentions 3 States- Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. I do not blame Senator Coleman -
– Order! The honourable senator will direct her question to the Minister.
– I do not blame her for unintentionally making this mistake. I am sure that even the Australian Labor Party here in Canberra could not imagine that any government, even the Labor Government in Tasmania, would introduce any regulations -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The honourable senator is openly defying your instruction that she ask her question.
- Senator Walters, would you kindly direct your question in an interrogatory manner to the Minister right now.
-The point I am putting to the Minister is whether she will ask the Minister for Health to correct the information, because in Tasmania pensioners, low wage earners and Medibank levy payers are being discriminated against and are not being permitted to use intermediate beds. This is of particular concern to me, because this has only -
- Mr President, with respect to you, are we to permit this to go on indefinitely? I think on 2 occasions you have asked Senator Walters to ask her question. She has defied you twice. I ask you to exercise your authority and make sure she does ask a question.
– I rise to order. I can well understand why the Leader of the Opposition is getting excited. No doubt this is terribly embarrassing to a party in the election which is about to take place in Tasmania. No doubt the question is terribly embarrassing to Mr Neilson and the bungling administration he has running his hospital system. Therefore I do not think that it is so much a parliamentary matter as part of the Tasmanian election campaign which seems to be being fought in this chamber at this moment.
– Order! Senator Walters, would you kindly address your question directly to the Minister. As I have said before, the purpose of question time is to seek information and to ask for it in a forthright manner.
– I come back to my question. I was asking whether the Minister could rectify the position regarding the abolition of the means test as stated in that publication. I want it stated very clearly that Tasmania is not one of the States- in fact it is the only State -
– If you know the answer why are you asking the question?
– I am asking the Minister whether she will correct it.
– Order! I regret to have to intervene again but you must not make comment or observations when asking questions. Have you completed your question?
– I will just leave it at this: Can the Minister rectify what was stated in the publication?
- Mr President, I ask you to rule the question out of order. I rose on the basis of what you yourself properly objected to- the manner in which the so-called question was addressed. Senator Withers, allegedly speaking on a point of order, virtually attacked my comments which were based on what you were saying yourself. I want to make it quite clear that if that is the attitude to be adopted in the remaining two or three weeks I can assure you that the Opposition will respond accordingly, and if we have to come back here through the whole of January that is what the position will be. Let me make that quite clear.
- Mr President, if you are going to rule that question out of order- you have complete jurisdiction in this matter and I will not quarrel with your decision- I will rise every time a question is asked which breaches standing order 99.
– We will do the same.
– That is quite alright. Mr President, we all know that most questions, from both sides of the chamber, are in breach of standing order 99, but because of the normal good sense which prevails in this chamber they are allowed to be asked. Legal opinions occasionally are asked for, opinions are asked for, and argument is put into questions. It is a matter of deciding where the dividing line is. If honourable senators are going to ask that questions be disallowed we will just have to apply that rule. Mr President, if you are going to disallow this question I would ask that you rigidly, without exception, without fear or favour impose -
– Are you directing the Chair?
– No. I said that I would ask, Mr President, that you rigidly enforce standing order 99. Let me say this: If you do, Mr President, question time in this place will be a waste of time.
– I wish to say this: I have at all times sought to promote the free flow of debate and the ability to have as many questions asked in this place as is reasonably possible. I shall let this question go through to the Minister but I would greatly appreciate co-operation, in a spirit of common interests, to make this chamber really do those things that we desire it to do.
– I think that several questions were asked. The only comment I make is that I understand the Minister for Health has written to the State Minister for Health in regard to intermediate ward care for patients. If there is any inaccurate statement in the journal I will draw it to his attention and he may choose to have it corrected, if he is unable to have the Tasmanian Government reverse the decision which was made.
– I direct a question, which is completely in compliance with standing order 99, to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. When will honourable senators receive a copy of the Dr Hiatt Commission report on the future of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee? Has the Government made decisions on the recommendations of this report? When will the intended action of the Government on this report be made known to the Senate.
– I believe that the Hiatt Commission report has been tabled. I am unaware of when copies will be available or whether there is some restriction on the number of copies. I will seek that information from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I assure the Senate that the recommendations of that Commission are under close study by the Minister and he will make appropriate announcements from time to time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory a question. The Australian of today’s date contains the headline ‘Uproar over Tracy Funds’. It makes several statements and allegations in regard to the possible misuse of Darwin relief funds and the lack of assistance to some people. My question is in 2 parts. Firstly, is it correct that the Government is taking action to recover bad debts amounting to some $30,000 for hostel fees? If so, what is the basis for the action? Secondly, is it correct that an estimated amount of $30m is to be spent on a cultural complex and that it is to be funded in part from the Darwin Relief Fund? If so, what is the background to this decision?
-The first question, as to whether the Government is taking action to recover certain debts due to it would be in the hands of the Attorney-General. I will have the matter referred to the Attorney-General and seek a response for the honourable senator. I noted that the Australian suggested that a $30m cultural centre was to be built in Darwin. I am not aware of that. I read previously that the amount was to be substantially lower than $30m. As I said in response to an earlier question, my understanding is that some overseas donations to one of the funds in Darwin were for the purpose of providing a memorial in that city. I am unable to say what the general outline of the cultural complex will be. I will attempt to obtain that information from the Minister for the Northern Territory.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security a question. Several questions have been directed to her about school and university leavers. If a young person who is subject to the guidelines which her Department has put down leaves school and subsequently becomes eligible for the unemployment benefit, is the unemployment benefit paid retrospectively to the time that that person left school or decided to discontinue university studies? If not, why not?
– The unemployment benefit is paid from the time a person becomes eligible. There is no retrospectivity of payment of unemployment benefit. It is paid from the date on which a person becomes eligible.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question which is more specific. The Minister said that eligibility for unemployment benefit for school leavers begins from 1 February next year. Does this mean that they can therefore apply for the benefit on 25 January next year so that their dole payments will take effect from 1 February? If they cannot apply for the benefit until 1 February, what justification can the Minister give for making young people who have been without income for 2 te months wait another week until 8 February?
– The Government stated earlier this year the guidelines which will be applied with regard to the payment of the unemployment benefit to school leavers during the long vacation. The unemployment benefit is paid to school leavers if they have satisfied the Director-General that they have taken reasonable steps to obtain employment, and if they have satisfied the requirements of the work test and the means test. These matters will be taken into consideration by the Department throughout the long vacation.
– It is not a long vacation for a person who has given up school or university.
– That has to be determined. As well as having to show that he has left school, he has to satisfy the Director-General that he has taken reasonable steps to obtain employment. If the terms of the Act and the requirements of the Director-General are satisfied, applications made are able to be dealt with. The matter raised by the honourable senator comes within the Government’s stated policy with regard to the payment of the unemployment benefit to school leavers.
-Has the Minister for Science seen a newspaper report earlier this week relating to the discovery that a species of Australian butterfly eats poisonous plants which are common to many of Australia’s wool growing areas and which are known to poison large numbers of sheep? Can the Minister say whether his Department has conducted an investigation into this matter? If it has, can he give any indication of the results of such investigation?
-The Division of Animal Health of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Melbourne has this type of work under study. It is generally a study into certain plants which are toxic to sheep and which have an attraction for certain types of butterflies. The toxic plants in question are heliotrope and crotalaria. I am not sure of the conditions under which these plants grow. Honourable senators are laughing. For those who are interested and who have any intelligence, I point out that heliotrope in particular is causing a lot of concern in sheep growing areas. The aim of the work of that Division of the CSIRO is to identify the chemical substances in the toxic plants and attempt to establish what it is in those plants that attracts butterflies and certain other insects. It is most interesting that birds apparently are able to select the types of insects that they will attack. These insects, such as butterflies about which the honourable senator asks -
Opposition senators interjecting-.
– Honourable senators opposite are apparently very interested in this matter. They are realising the great diversity of interest which the Science portfolio covers; it ranges from the stars to butterflies. They are very important matters. By looking at the constitution of the insects which are attracted to such plants, the CSIRO is able at least to decide what type of attack may be made on plants which are responsible for the deaths of many sheep in rural areas.
-Is the Minister for Science aware that officers of his Department are doing some research into the ecology of the feral cat? Can he give the Senate an indication of how that research is proceeding?
– I have a great deal of information on the feral cat. As I see one honourable senator opposite waving her hands as an indication that she does not want to hear any more, I shall obtain information and give it to the honourable senator.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seen a report in the Daily Telegraph of 16 November that it was alleged in the police court at Ryde on the previous day that a striking builder’s labourer had been paid $150 a week to demonstrate at ‘black’ building sites?
The statement was reported to have been made that the labourer was paid by the Builders Labourers Union to attend demonstrations and received $150 a week. I ask the Minister: If the report is correct, is this use of union funds, which presumably were paid by workers as union dues, to employ a person for the disruption of employment within the law? Does the Government have any control over such practices or is it an area in which it is left to the rank and file of a particular union to discipline the management of the union which is spending their funds in such an extraordinary way.
– This does seem to be further evidence of the existence of a flourishing rent-a-crowd business in Australia at present. My attention has been drawn to this article. It is not of course proof- and I do not know whether it is true- that any particular builder’s labourer has been paid $150 a week to demonstrate. However, there seems to be some fairly clear evidence generally that people are being paid to take part in demonstrations in certain situations. If this money is coming from union funds, I think there may well be a question as to whether that is a proper legal use of union funds. However, I am not prepared to give a legal opinion as to whether it is or is not but it is certainly something that should be investigated. I think the other aspect of the question is more important as it concerns rank and file members who are paying sometimes very considerable union dues week by week and also concerns whether the average member of a union regards it as in any way proper that the contributions he has made should be spent in this way. Where there is evidence that funds may have been used in this way I hope that this will be considered by members of the unions involved and that they will take appropriate action to stop the practice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is the Minister aware of statements by the President of the Construction Equipment Manufacturers of Australia that there is now a virtual standstill in the construction industry? Can the Minister confirm the accuracy of this statement in the light of a fall-off in government building approvals over 1976? Will the Minister give some indication of when the Government intends to increase the number and scope of capital works in order to stem the economic problems in the building industry and arrest the trend of increasing unemployment?
-The comments of the honourable senator which arise from a statement by somebody in the construction industry are not consistent with the information which comes fairly steadily to me from the Treasury. But I think it would be useful to get, if we can, for the honourable senator the latest statement on construction activity in home building and in the government area and in what one might call the basic construction area of major capital works type buildings. We will get that information for the honourable senator and see how accurate these comments really are.
– My question is addressed to Senator Durack in his capacity of Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of his answer to Senator Chaney a few moments ago I ask: Is it not a documented fact that in mid- 1975 employees of insurance companies were paid to attend demonstrations in the streets against legislation of the Labor Government and were paid to attend rallies in the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne and also in Adelaide by their employers for exactly the same purpose?
-First of all, I point out to Senator Button that I am not the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I simply represent him in this place.
– That is a very important point; I am sorry.
– As to the specific question asked, I have no evidence which would establish the allegation. Senator Button made a very serious allegation about a number of employees of insurance companies in Australia. I do not know whether the allegation he made is true or false. However, what I do know is that very great numbers of employees of insurance companies were particularly concerned about the policies of the Labor Government, its attempts to set up a government insurance office and the successful attempts that that Government made, in many ways, to reduce the value of insurance policies that were held by vast numbers of members of the community. Great concern was expressed about these matters. The views of these people were forcibly expressed to me and many of my colleagues when we were in Opposition.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Audit Act I lay on the table the supplementary report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Shipping Commission Act 1956, I present the annual report of the Australian Shipping Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport during the year ended 30 June 1 976, including those matters on which the Minister for Transport is required to report pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1 920.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a review of activities of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) relating to a high security off-shore animal quarantine station.
– by leave- The statement that is now being tendered by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) was tabled in another place yesterday. My colleague, Mr Lionel Bowen, made some short comments on behalf of the Opposition on this subject. In my capacity as Opposition spokesman on Administrative Services I feel I have a responsibility to add one or two remarks to those of Mr Bowen. The matter of establishing an off-shore high security animal quarantine station was referred to the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works in May 1973. The Committee looked at the proposed sites on Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island and Norfolk Island. In the interim report dated September 1973, the Committee agreed that there was a need to establish a high security animal quarantine station. It agreed that the station should be located on an island remote from the mainland providing that satisfactory arrangements can be made about the terms of the land on which the station is to be built and on the assumption that the Government is satisfied that the local people are in favour of the station being built. The Committee recommended that the animal quarantine station be located on West Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The Committee recommended the construction of the work in its reference and the estimated cost at that time was $2. lm. I also note by way of aside that in paragraph 50 of its report the Public Works Committee states:
It is the expressed view of the sponsoring authority, the Department of Health, who will be responsible for the establishment and efficient operation of the station and the continued maintenance of stringent quarantine standards that Christmas Island is the preferred location in terms of the criteria set down.
The Committee went on to say:
The Department, however, agrees that the station could be satisfactorily established and operated on any one of the three islands.
– Was there some dissent from that report, Senator?
– I have not had the opportunity to look at that.
– I was on the Committee and there was no dissent.
-My colleague Senator Georges tells me that there was no dissent. As my colleague Mr Lionel Bowen said in another place yesterday, the very fact that Christmas Island will be worked out in 20 years’ time and in view of the fact that the people of Christmas Island are also pressing for the construction of the offshore high security animal quarantine station there, perhaps the Government should have another look at that situation.
We of the Australian Labor Party agree that there is an urgent need for Australian primary industry to be able to import genetically superior animals. In that regard we urge the early construction of a quarantine station. But we also note that according to the statement of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) it is the Government’s intention to negotiate with the Clunies-Ross estate on all issues-I emphasise those words ‘on all issues’- concerning the availability of the site for the station to be constructed as soon as possible. We suggest that those negotiations on all issues should include rates of pay for those to be employed on the job. I note that whereas the Public Works Committee believed that the cost would be about $2.1m, the Minister now states that construction costs are estimated to be $6. 3m. I ask whether that assessment of construction costs of $6.3m is based on Austraiian award rates of pay or on the rates of pay that the Cocos Malay people receive from the Clunies Ross estate?
– Rupiahs. Plastic tokens.
Rupiah plastic tokens, as my colleague Senator Cavanagh suggests. When I was in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands last year the rate of pay was a mere 12 rupiahs a week, and at that time the rupiah was the equivalent of about 30c. We note that the Public Works Committee estimated the cost at $2.1 m in 1973. The estimated cost is now $6.3m. Is that estimated construction cost of $6.3m based on Australian rates of pay? In his reply to Senator Drake-Brockman at question time this morning the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said that where Australian award rates of pay are applicable they should be paid. We also say that in any contractual arrangements that are made between the Government and a contractor, where the assessed cost is based on Australian award rates of pay, Australian award rates of pay should be met. When the United Nations Committee of Twenty-Four on Decolonization visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in August 1974 it urged the government of the day to examine all possible ramifications of the construction of the high security quarantine station and to take appropriate steps to ensure that the establishment of such a station- if it were decided to proceed to construct it on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands- would be of direct benefit to the people of Home Island.
When we left government we were taking action to improve the conditions of the Cocos Malay community. My colleague the then Treasurer, Mr Hayden, had written to Mr Clunies-Ross telling him that his Cocos Malay currency, his plastic tokens, should cease. We sent a team of experts, including an industrial expert, to advise the Government on labour and health conditions. The present Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has told me that he regards the report that was tended to him by that team of experts when the present Government came into office as being of a private Ministerial report and considers that it comes within the bounds of the 30 year secrecy rule. He told me that he does not intend to release it. Of course, the Minister went to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands last April and subsequently told Parliament that he was going to make a Cabinet submission on a number of matters. We do not know whether he has done so because subsequently he said in Parliament that he did not intend to say whether he was making such a submission.
I suspect the labour position in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is becoming very acute indeed. A rumour has reached me- whether it is right or wrong, I do not know- that the Clunies Ross Estate at one stage was going to suggest the recruitment of additional labour from Borneo because of the reduced availability of labour on the island. According to a reply given to me by the Minister for Administrative Services as recently as 9 November the number of Cocos-Malay males over 18 years of age on the island had dropped from 162 in November 1975 to 127 in September 1 976. So it could well be on the cards that, if additional work is to go on in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the shortage of labour there will be very acute indeed.
The Labor Opposition says that this is a real chance for the present Government to do something tangible to uplift the social conditions and the rates of pay of these people, the great bulk of whom, after all, are Australian citizens. We say quite affirmatively that, if Cocos-Malay labour is used on the project and if we are not convinced that they are being paid adult rates of pay, especially if the contract price tendered is based on Australian award rates of pay, we will oppose the exploitation of these people by opposing the construction of the station.
-by leave- As I indicated earlier by way of interjection, it disturbs me that a recommendation which was made by the Joint Committee on Public
Works some 4 years ago has taken- seems now to be coming to some definite conclusion.
– I thought you were changing your wording there.
– I am permitted to seek out my words. I am not as well supported with my material as is the Minister when answering questions. The points I want to make are these: I misled Senator Douglas McClelland before when I said that the decision concerning the Cocos (Keeling) Islands by the Joint Committee on Public Works was a unanimous one. It was not. Senator Poyser voted against the proposal. He supported placing the quarantine station on Norfolk Island. But during our investigations we found that the Norfolk Island people were very much divided and were very much against the quarantine station being placed on Norfolk Island. We found that Christmas Island was isolated and its future was in doubt. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands seemed to be the best location for the quarantine station. With the exception of Senator Poyser, that was what the Committee recommended. But we recommended it back in 1973. The estimated cost at that time was $2m; it is now $6m.
– That was what Labor did.
-No, that is not the case. I am simply saying that, although there would be a natural escalation in costs, it seems odd that this project should now cost 3 times the original amount.
We should now be looking at what compensation arrangements are going to be agreed to with Mr Clunies Ross. That aspect needs to be looked at very carefully because at the dme the Committee made its investigations Mr Clunies Ross was seeking compensation for the land and also for every coconut tree on that land. The suggested price was $25 a tree. That ran into many thousands of dollars. I hope that Mr Clunies Ross has not jacked up his price now that he knows a decision has been made to place this very important quarantine station on Cocos Islands. No one denies the importance of the station. It was emphasised in 1973. If it was important in 1973, it is even more important in 1 976-77 that the station be established quickly. I have no comments against the need for the station. I merely say that the need is more urgent now than it was previously, because of the lapse of time and of the danger of some exotic disease coming into Australia.
The view of the Committee was that the skills required to build the station existed in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The people had the skills to build this station. We saw excellent buildings on the main island, West Island. The people of Cocos (Keeling) built the hospital there. The craftsmanship was excellent. The finish was excellent.
– The hospital is on West Island.
-Home Island is where the islanders live. West Island is where the administration is. That is where the quarantine station is to be built. The islanders are capable of providing the skills to build the station. There is no question of that. The question that we are raising is that they be paid award rates for the building of the station.
– Australian award rates.
– Australian award rates for the building of that quarantine station. Award rates are being paid to teachers and Royal Australian Air Force personnel. Australian rates are being paid on West Island. We are suggesting that those rates be paid to the islanders who are capable of carrying out a job equal to that of Australian tradesmen and craftsmen.
There is one question which worries me. This quarantine station is to control exotic diseases not only in cattle and horses but also in swine. There is a religious problem on Cocos Islands. Since there is a problem with the handling of swine by the islanders of Cocos (Keeling), what provision has been made to staff the quarantine station? This must be kept very much in mind. What is to be the future staffing of the quarantine station? How does the Government intend to overcome this problem?
I want to be assured that the Government does not pay excessive compensation to Clunies Ross, and Clunies Ross alone. If it pays compensation, some of the compensation should flow to the people of Cocos (Keeling). In particular, the case put by Senator Douglas McClelland should be kept in mind. Australian rates of pay should be paid to the islanders for the construction of this quarantine station.
-I bring up the eighth report from the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 30 November 1976, at half-past 2 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President, or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other causes, by the Chairman of Committees.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveproposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of the Civil Aviation (Carriers ‘ Liability ) Amendment Bill 1 976 and the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1976 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
-We are prepared to co-operate on this, but we will be opposing one Bill; so we assume that the votes will be taken separately.
– I am informed by the Clerk that that can be done, but there will be a cognate debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveproposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment, Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment and United States Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Amendment Bills 1976 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
-Last night I discussed the matter with my colleague, Senator Grimes, who is handling these Bills on behalf of the Opposition. Again in the spirit of co-operation that the Opposition is extending to the Government to secure the passage of its legislation, we will not oppose this course of action being taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to an amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
– I move:
That the Sessional Orders relating to the days and times of meeting and adjournment of the Senate be varied as follows:
1 ) That, unless otherwise ordered, on and from Tuesday, 30 November 1976 the days and times of meeting of the Senate be as follows:
Tuesday, 30 November 1976-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m. Wednesday, 1 December 1976-2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Thursday, 2 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to
. 00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1 .00 p.m. Friday, 3 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m. Monday, 6 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m. Tuesday, 7 December 1976-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Wednesday, 8 December 1976-2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Thursday, 9 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Friday, 10 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Monday, 13 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8 p.m. to
00 p.m. Tuesday, 14 December 1976-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Wednesday, 15 December 1976-2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Thursday, 16 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m. Friday, 17 December 1976-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 1 1 .00 p.m. each day.
Honourable senators will recall that last Tuesday I put down a statement in which I spelt out the Government’s attitude. The only reason I speak now- I do not think the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) will mind my saying this- is that the Leader of the Opposition responded to the statement and said that the Opposition might have other proposals. The Government has decided that it wishes to proceed with the days and times of sitting as set down. I know that the program I have outlined is a long program and a tough program. It could well be said that the hours will be long and the wages small. I do not want to start singing that.
There are a number of reasons why we believe we ought to stay in harmony with our colleagues in the other place. One is a matter of intra-party relationships. We are not overkeen that our colleagues in the other place should be meeting on days when Government senators may not necessarily be here. It makes intrusions into our Party committee affairs, our Party meetings and such.
– What about conferences when the Senate is meeting and the House of Representatives is not?
-I do not think the Senate will be meeting on any days when the House of Representatives is not meeting. As I understand the program for the House of Representatives is for the House to meet on 30 November and 1, 2 and 3 December, the first week back after next week’s break, and it will certainly be meeting on 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 December the following week. It may rise earlier. The Senate may run a day or so longer. Most of my colleagues would be here in any event because on the days when the House of Representatives is sitting there will be Government Party meetings concerning a range of issues.
The proposed program for the Senate runs over a period of 3 weeks. As I said earlier, I would hope that by this afternoon details of the program which the Government envisages for the first week back can be given to the Opposition. Naturally the Government is always open to suggestions about better days for arranging the program. Basically we will present the Bills which we believe we can reasonably dispose of in the first week. We are open to suggestions and corrections. We are not being pig-headed about it. Provided the first week’s program is achieved by 5 p.m. on the Friday, I would certainly move that the Senate adjourn and come back on the Monday. If by the following Friday it appears that the program for the second week cannot be achieved, we will most probably get up at 5 p.m. on Friday and come back at 10 a.m. the following Monday. I think it is a matter of seeing how the 2 weeks flow. I know it is going to be hard. I think we are all getting a bit tired. I am certainly starting to get bad tempered. That is a bad sign. I am normally sweet reason personified.
– You are the most blessed of everyone.
-That is right. I should not have reacted the way I did this morning.
– Are you apologising?
-I have no objection to apologising for my ill temper and bad nature. Confession is good for the soul. If it had been possible, I would have acceded to the views put down by Senator Wriedt, but the Government sees the program as I have outlined it.
– The Opposition opposes the motion. After the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) gave notice of his motion I had discussions with him after consultation with my colleagues, and he subsequently had consultation with his colleagues. Essentially, I put the proposition to him that the sitting times which have been suggested by the Government are an unreasonable imposition on us collectively and individually for reasons which I do not think we need to go into. We all understand them. I suggested to him that the Opposition would be prepared to sit an additional week in order to spread the working times over a 3-week period rather than 2 weeks. This seemed to us a much more sensible course of events. Obviously that is not to be the case. I can understand the intraparty pressures, as Senator Withers called them, particularly at this time of the year. We in the Australian Labor Party had a lot of experience of them in the last 3 years, particularly last year. We know the pressures that were put upon us and how difficult it made our lives as a government when we were confronted with every possible form of obstruction in this chamber from the members who now sit on the Government side. So we, not wishing to be obstructionist in our approach, put to the Government what we believed to be a reasonable alternative. That is not to be accepted. That is the position we will have to accept.
There is no point in dividing on the motion as the Government will proceed on the basis that it has laid down. But I want to make it quite clear that there are some Bills of major importance which the Leader of the Government outlined in his statement last week. They are important Bills and we are concerned to see that they are properly debated. If necessary we can come back and sit until Christmas. If there is to be any suggestion that honourable senators who wish to speak on those Bills will be precluded from doing so, then the matter rests on the Government’s own head. I formally indicate that the Opposition does not accept the proposition put forward by Senator Withers.
– I wish to supplement the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). I think that honourable senators opposite ought to know that we are prepared to stay until Christmas Eve, if necessary. After looking at the table of the proposed hours and days of sitting I think it is generally accepted that, with the time one spends in the chamber and with the time one is obliged to spend within the precincts of the House for the purpose of parliamentary sittings, the program is fairly extensive. The new program will produce a minimum 13-hour working day on many of the days. But one also has to take into consideration the fact that we have to attend party meetings and committee meetings. It is not the fault of the Opposition that the Government cannot handle its business. We have been pretty co-operative right through this session. The fault obviously lies with the Government parties, particularly in relation to Bills such as the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, on which an unknown number of meetings have been held and the Government has tried to reach decisions on amendments.
– We did not try; we reached them.
– The Government has redrafted some of them six or seven times. I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) was sincere in trying to present his amendments, but the National Country Party had to have a look at them and it redrafted them. When they came back from the Country Party the Liberal Party redrafted them. Then they went back to the Legislative Assembly in Darwin and they were redrafted again. Then the Mining Industry Council had a look and it redrafted them. So a lot of this delay is on the Government’s head.
– You could say that it was a draughty time.
– It was a draughty time. If we look at the notice paper we see that a Bill which will come on for debate today has been on the notice paper since 3 June 1976. The Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Amendment Bill, which is another one coming on today, has also been on the notice paper since 3 June of this year. Admittedly, they are fairly minor Bills and they will not take up a lot of debating time. But the Manager of Government Business, in consultation with his colleagues, ought to have been able to bring on some of these Bills weeks ago. Earlier in the session the Senate rose fairly early on Thursday evenings. We could have been sitting on Thursday evenings and debating those Bills. That is the sort of thing that honourable senators opposite ought to have been able to work out for themselves. The mismanagement of business is on the head of the Government.
I understand that the Government is planning to commence the next sitting on 7 February 1 977. That is fairly early in the New Year. I hope that we will see better management in that half of the year. If these Bills which the Government is now bringing on for debate were not important from June to 18 November there must be a whole host of Bills that could be transferred to the sitting next year. As my colleague the Leader of the Opposition said a few moments ago -
– Will you give us a list of them?
-A list of the ones that are held back?
– Give us a list of the Bills which you think ought not to be passed this session.
– We can have a talk about it if the Minister wishes. This is a matter for cooperation between both sides. We will probably suggest that course to him if he thinks that that is another way around the problem. Let it not be said that the Opposition is not prepared to cooperate. We suggested extending the sitting for a week, and most of us want to be nome in time for Santa Clause on 25 December. The other thing is that we could come back a week earlier next year, on 3 1 January, which would be more practicable. I am sure that there are other ways of getting around this problem. I know that this is a hackneyed statement, but legislation by exhaustion is just not good enough, and that is precisely the situation we are reaching. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) said this morning that he had lost his temper. We are becoming worn down with the work load. Not only do we have to keep up with the legislative program; we also have to travel extensive distances during the parliamentary session, not including trips outside Australia. Many of us live in remote areas. A few are lucky enough to live in Sydney. The Leader of the Government in the Senate and I would probably travel further than most other people in both chambers. So the situation becomes wearing.
A session like this is not fair to the electors. They demand that legislation be produced that is properly drafted by the government of the day and properly scrutinised by the opposition of the day. If the Government crams in a legislative program it will assume an aura of dictatorship, because decisions will be made at some stage by the executive and Bills will be jammed through both Houses of the Parliament. I support the remarks that were made by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the Government will have a second look at this proposal and will try to co-operate with us. If it starts to jam through legislation, obviously we will not co-operate.
– I think it is fair to say, as Senator Withers acknowledged in his statement on this matter last Tuesday, that since the last election the Opposition has set out to co-operate with the Government in securing the passage of the Government’s legislative program. I think it is also fair to say that when we were in Government, when we had a somewhat similar type of problem as this, we were always prepared to negotiate to the utmost outside the House on the matter of sitting times. It is much more effective to conduct the affairs of this place in relation to sitting times on a basis of negotiation rather than on a basis of confrontation.
– You always received close co-operation.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDGenerally speaking, apart from the then Opposition’s decision to defer the passage of the Appropriation Bills, which was far from cooperative, I would say that Senator Withers in his role as the then Leader of the Opposition and Senator Drake-Brockman in his role as the then Leader of the National Country Party cooperated with the Labor Government in the bringing on of legislation, even though when it came on they deferred it, amended it or referred it to a select committee. I frankly believe that the administrative arrangements in relation to the passage of legislation in this place are getting completely out of hand and the time has arrived for the whole parliamentary procedure to be completely overhauled. For instance, in the period from 19 February to 4 June, the first sessional period of this Parliament, a total of 96 Bills were dealt with. In the period from 18 August, when the Budget was introduced, to 16 November, which was the commencement of this sitting week, some 84 Bills were introduced in this Parliament. Now in the last fortnight or so we are expected to consider, debate, amend and pass another 80-odd Bills. Practically the same number of Bills are to be dealt with in the last fortnight of the sessional period as have been dealt with in the period from August until November.
I do not blame only the executive Government for this state of affairs. The bureaucracy must accept a great deal of the blame. I know that this state of affairs went on to a lesser degree when we were in Government. We had the same sort of problem. After all is said and done, as Senator Keeffe has rightly said, in this sessional period in particular there has been only one occasion, namely the first week of this session, when the Opposition insisted on its right to have General
Business debated. On every other week it has agreed to forgo General Business and the Government could well have used that time for the passage of legislation, rather than rising at 5 o ‘clock on Thursday afternoons.
In addition to the Bills which have to be debated and the limited time that, of necessity, can be given to the debates on those Bills, I must draw attention to the great number of matters which, through lack of time, will be unable to be debated. We all know by reading the Notice Paper that it is generally accepted that the last matter to be debated in a Parliament before it winds up for the year is the Advance to the Treasurer. Anything appearing on the Notice Paper after the Advance to the Treasurer is put in the pigeon-hole for the next year, the year after or ad infinitum. I notice that the Advance to the Treasurer is item 3 1 on today’s Notice Paper. All told, there are 56 items of Government business. That means that there will be at least 25 items under the heading Government Business, Orders of the day, which will not be debated by the Opposition or the Government because of the inadequacy of time available. If one turns to General Business, Orders of the day, one will see there is a record number of 127 matters on the Notice Paper on which the Opposition has indicated it would like a general debate. Not only have we, of necessity, limited time to debate Government legislation but also because of insufficiency of time we will not be able to debate the 25 matters on the Notice Paper under Government Business and the 127 matters on the Notice Paper under Government Business.
It is true that the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) referred to a number of matters which are to come on and which would require a great deal of debate. He referred to the Aboriginal land rights legislation and the legislation dealing with the Federal Court of Australia. The Opposition has already agreed that some 8, 9 or 10 other matters associated or interconnected with the legislation for the introduction of the Federal Court of Australia can be debated cognately. We have co-operated to the utmost in that regard. I suppose the Minister thinks he is being generous in saying that either an afternoon or an evening- not an afternoon and an evening- will be devoted to debating the nationally important question of the future of uranium mining in Australia. Hopefully, using the Minister’s word, a day will be able to be set aside for the debate on the White Paper on Defence. The Opposition also will want to debate other important matters. I can think immediately of the vexatious Broadcasting and
Television Amendment Bill which will probably take at least a day to debate. I can think of the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act about which we have read for the first time today. They will probably be the subject of long and involved debate.
-They are to come on next year.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDAccording to the newspaper report the Bill was being introduced and would be passed this year. At least the Minister has now made a statement in that respect. I have already said, that I do not blame only the Executive Government. I also sheet home the blame to the bureaucracy for the cavalier attitude it appears to adopt towards Parliament, the rights of members of Parliament and the rights of back bench members in particular. I fear that Parliament is becoming bit of a farce in the eyes of many Australians with the attempt by the Government to try to get through Parliament so many Bills in such a short time. The Opposition has indicated that it will reasonably co-operate as it has co-operated to date but the Government should not insist on the process of legislation by exhaustion. It is exhausting and already the Government has suffered a casualty in its ranks this year. We do not want that to happen again to anyone. I am warning the Government now because we all know that these things can happen. If the Government persists with this attitude it can expect that it will have to maintain the numbers in this House at all times. We will be setting out to see that it does so.
– I think that the Whips ought to participate in this debate. We will bear the responsibility for carrying out this program. I know honourable senators will agree that the Whips have endeavoured to maintain reasonable progress of Bills through this place. Perhaps they have noticed that many senators are not speaking for as long as they used to speak. That is about as far as co-operation can go. There are so many Bills that even if we did not speak on them at all the formal procedures of putting them through this place without applying the guillotine would take almost to 17 December. As Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Wriedt have said, it must be the Government’s responsibility to see that the bureaucracy does not continue to do what it has done for many years and put a work load on senators towards the end of a session which is impossible to carry without a loss of temper.
I cannot for the life of me see how we can give these Bills the consideration they deserve and pass them by 17 December but it seems that we have all decided that we will attempt to do so. There will be a demand upon the Whips towards the end of the session for special arrangements to be made. Many senators have obtained some idea that the program would be completed on 10 December. I am not certain how that idea got around. It seems that the House of Representatives intends to rise about that time. Many senators felt that the Senate would sit for an extra day. Some have made arrangements, understandably as it is so close to Christmas, which will conflict with the hours that the Government has set down. If the Government cannot withdraw some of these Bills or if we cannot come to some arrangement to reduce the work load, many people who are not able to get away to meet commitments they have honestly made will be fretting in the corridors and in this House. The Whips have tried to meet the requirements of senators away from this House but there is a limitation on what can be done.
Another matter which needs to be raised- I do not want any misunderstanding at this stage- is that the House requirements will need to be met. I think honourable senators would agree that the attendance in the House has been well below what it should have been. I should like to make this comment here and not privately to my opposite number It is coming very close to the point where quorums will have to be called if the House is to be reasonably attended. I am not saying that we ought to be maintaining our numbers in the chamber at 22 at all times. Surely 15 senators is a reasonable number to be in the chamber. I remind the Government that if it wants to persist with such a heavy program it ought to understand also that it is its responsibility to maintain the numbers in the House. If quorums are called in the future they will be called on that basis and not on the basis of irritation.
– Not much!
-They may be called on the basis of irritation. If they are called on that basis, we will be calling quorums when the number in the chamber falls below 20 senators. But since I have indicated that we think 1 5 senators is a reasonable number and that quorums will be called only if the number of senators falls below that figure, I do not see how that could be regarded as an irritation, as the interjection seemed to suggest.
They are the only comments I wish to make. We will do our best. I think it will be recalled that at the end of the last session we managed to allow all honourable senators to catch their respective airline flights. I hope the Leader of the Government realises how difficult things are on the last day of sitting. If the Government is considering taking certain action I hope that it will make up its mind and give a clear decision. Please do not leave the 2 Whips in a state of complete upset. Remember, too, the responsibility that the transport officers have. It makes the situation very awkward if the Government dillydallies with its legislation. The soundest proposition was that made by Senator Douglas McClelland, namely, that the Government ought to look at its program, to reduce the number of Bills which have to be considered this session, and to allow sufficient time for debate with all honourable senators co-operating by making short speeches. I think we could then get away by 10 December.
– I must say that as I have been sitting in the chamber I have enormously admired the fortitude shown by Senator O ‘Byrne who, I think, has been in this place 3 1 or 32 years and who has now heard these sorts of speeches made both from this side and from the other side of the chamber for the sixtieth time. Senator Murphy, as he then was, used to complain that, as Leader of the Opposition, I made the speech that he made when he held that position. I listened to Senator Murphy and his colleagues make those sorts of speeches, just as I listened to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson make speeches similar to the one I made. In fact, I made the same sort of speech five or six times when I was the Leader of the Opposition. I say that in good temper and in good humour.
I well understand the problems which the Whips will face. I was once a Whip myself and I know the problems involved. You, Mr Acting Deputy President, in your capacity at one stage as Acting Leader of the Government, would understand the problems involved. I discovered a long time ago that it does not matter what happens in this chamber, because it is a matter of asking Wally Lee when the Parliament is going to rise and he can tell you a fortnight in advance. Somehow or other he manages to organise an airline strike to help him along. I know that Wally will not mind my saying that.
A few interesting comments have been made. I think I indicated the other day that I doubt whether any honourable senator would suggest that the Bills which the Government wants to go through should not be passed this year. Very many of them provide for benefits which will come into effect from 1 January. I do not think the Opposition would wish to delay them. Surely the Opposition would not say that the Bill which seeks to appoint an ombudsman should be held over until next year or that the legislation dealing with Aboriginal land rights ought to be held over until next year. The same comments apply to the Bill which seeks to put more money into the Asian Development Bank. Should that Bill be held over until next year?
– You are picking out the wrong Bills. We are just as concerned as you are.
– Wait a minute. That is all very well. Does the honourable senator think that we should not try to do something about Commonwealth employees’ compensation? Action in that regard is overdue and the relevant legislation ought to be passed. Does not the honourable senator wish to distribute money amongst the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Fund contributors? Does not the honourable senator want the Government to provide to Queensland money for flood relief in Proserpine?
– They are Bills which have been lying around for months. You could have brought them on long ago.
– We talk about Bills that have been lying around for months.
– Since August.
-Yes, I know. What is being suggested to me in this debate is that I should intervene in the Budget debate and bring on other legislation and thus prevent some honourable senators from speaking in the Budget debate.
– I did not say that.
-Wait a minute. The honourable senator has given me a number of ideas for next year. I welcome the suggestion that honourable senators opposite would like to sit on Thursday nights and that they would not mind dealing with Government business on Thursday nights.
– That is better than sitting on Christmas Eve.
-A11 right. I do not mind sitting on Thursday nights as from the first week that the Parliament resumes after the summer recess. It has been suggested that we have been wasting time by not sitting on Thursday nights. I do not mind doing that. I am in this place just about every week of the year. It causes me no problem to stay here every Thursday night. It does not cause me any problem if we do not have our week of recess, if that is what is concerning the honourable senator. What I suggested quite deliberately- I make no apology for it- is that honourable senators ought to have a reasonable time to debate without interruption the Budget Papers which are put down. As honourable senators know, in the other place the Budget debate is continually interrupted in order to debate other legislation. I prefer to get the Budget debate out of the way. However, Senator Keeffe indicates that he would prefer the consideration of other Bills to interfere with that debate.
Then, of course, a large period of time is set aside for the Estimates Committees to meet. If we are to bring Bills on earlier, it would appear that the sittings of the Estimates Committees will have to be shortened; the only way in which that can be achieved is for them to sit on Mondays and Fridays and during recess weeks. I have no objection to that course being followed because I am in this place for S days a week for most weeks of the year. So that does not worry me. In that case we will be able to bring our legislative program on earlier. I am quite prepared to help in that regard. As a matter of statistical information, more time has been spent this year in other areas that has been the case in recent years. I take as an example the hours taken up in this period of sittings by question time. From 1972 to 1976 the percentage of the time taken up by question time has been 19 per cent, 17.3 per cent, 13.8 per cent, and 1 6 per cent respectively. So far this year 20.8 per cent of our time has been taken up with question time. If honourable senators want more time set aside for debating legislation, perhaps they ought to think about adopting the practice followed in the House of Represenatives of having a 45-minute question time.
– Come on!
-A11 right, we could sit longer hours. Perhaps we should sit until 11 o’clock every night instead of sitting until 10.30 p.m. on 2 nights. I am prepared to accept that proposition. We could meet earlier on Thursday mornings.
– Provided you have the legislation from the other place.
-The legislation comes from the other place. I will give an undertaking that I will look to see how next year we can so program the business of the Senate that there will be fewer Bills on the notice paper at this time of year. It will mean sitting for longer hours and more days.
– Do not look at the Parliament; look at the bureaucracy.
-No, the bureaucracy is not altogether to blame.
– Have a look at the House of Representatives. They have fooled around for months.
-That is not altogether true. I have not had that experience this year. Honourable senators talk about what happened in the previous era. I remind honourable senators that on 6 June 1973, when honourable senators opposite were in government, they guillotined 43 Bills on one day.
– When you were in government you caused us to sit until the early hours of the morning because of Senator Wright.
-That is right. Nobody from either side wears a halo in this regard; I repeat that 43 Bills were guillotined through all stages in one day.
– I think you will find that the Democratic Labor Party said that because the Opposition used frustrating and obstructing tactics it would agree to that sort of action.
-I did not know that the Labor Party always danced to the tune of the DLP. I know that when in government it gave the former Leader of that Party an appointment abroad because it loved him so much, but I did not know that the thoughts of Chairman Vince had such an effect upon the Labor Party that he could go to the Labor Party and say: ‘Irrespective of the great principles you hold about the Senate being a House of review, a second sieve, that it ought to consider legislation properly and give it its closest attention, I think the Opposition is obstructing you’. I did not know that the government of the day said: ‘What should we do?’ and that he replied: ‘Guillotine the legislation’. Or that the former Government said: Thank you very much. We will do it, not because we want to but just because you have asked us to’. Come, come!
– It was not
Vince; it was friendly Frank.
-Not even the honourable senator’s own colleagues would believe that one. I do not think we should go into the matter any further. I think the Senate is in a fairly good mood at the moment and that I should sit down before I stir up any trouble.
Senator KEEFFE (Queensland)-As he has endeavoured to distort my remarks, I seek leave to reply to a couple of matters raised by the Leader of the Government, Senator Withers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I appreciate the cooperation which exists at a dme when we are debating the days and times of the sittings. I think the Leader of the Government did distort or, perhaps to be more charitable, misunderstood some of the remarks that I made in a spirit of cooperation when I was speaking in this debate earlier. If there is any attempt to cut down the length of question time in this place or in the other place it would be a great disservice to the community.
– The Government you support has done it before.
-That was done by cooperation. There was a time when there was a slightly shorter period for question time. I can remember having trouble once with a President who would not give me the call. This was some years ago. I think I saved up 8 questions and I was able to ask them in succession. After that there was some semblance of sanity in the order of calling senators from each side to ask questions. I am not suggesting that we ought to interfere with the time allocated for the Budget debate by bringing in other legislation. But we can do something early in the session when there are a number of Bills to be dealt with particularly those Bills which have been carried over from the previous sessional period. We can deal with them even if it means sitting on a Friday or a Monday. I take those sorts of possibilities into consideration.
It always appears to be the case that at the end of each sessional period we get jammed in by the pressure of legislation. Members of Parliament have made commitments in their electorates or in their States. They want to get out to do their job but they cannot make firm commitments because they do not know when the Parliament is to rise. I can recall the instance raised by Senator Mulvihill when the Senate sat until 7 a.m. because the government of the day- this same Government- wanted certain Bills passed. Members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party had booked themselves out to places like Chile, Russia and China and they were trying to get away from Canberra. What happened was that the Government did not have the numbers. I recall that we called many quorums on that night and Government supporters were bringing their geriatric colleagues into the chamber in wheelchairs so that they could vote.
When the Parliament sits past midnight, there is supposed to be a break around midnight for a meal session, but on that occasion there was no break for a meal. I can remember getting some sandwiches sent into the chamber. Senator Prowse, who has since retired, raised a point of order because, he said, he had wandered down to the supper room S times for a cup of coffee and on each occasion he had to return to the chamber because the bells were ringing to form a quorum. When he went back, the coffee had been tossed out. He had to pay for the 5 cups of coffee. I also recall that, when I was eating the sandwiches and Senator Prowse was attempting to make his point of order, my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland was on his feet immediately and said that it was not he who was eating the sandwiches. By the time Senator Douglas McClelland, Senator Prowse and the then President had sorted themselves out, I had finished the sandwiches anyway.
In all seriousness, I think there are a number of things we have to look at because it is possible through co-operation for the Government and the Opposition to bring down a sane program for the sittings so that the taxpayers outside who pay all our expenses get some value for their money.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9 and 16 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-Mr Deputy President, is the Senate dealing with these Bills cognately?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
-The purpose of the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill is to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952 so as to increase by 1 5 per cent the charges levied under the Act for services provided to aircraft operators by the Department of Transport. I should say that when the Party I support increased these charges in our term of office there was great political consternation amongst the then Opposition members who criticised us for taking that action. I say at the outset that we do not oppose this Bill but I do want to run through a number of points. The services provided by the
Department include items such as airway facilities and the use of aerodromes. The Bill also introduces a new concept of charges for international flights arriving in or departing from Australia and which are related to the actual distances flown within Australia and it implements the ‘user pays ‘ principle. The Bill provides for an interest rate of 10 per cent to be levied on accounts which are 45 days or more overdue. Provision is made also for altered procedures in respect of adjustments for prepaid fees on the sale of aircraft and minor procedural amendments relating to the administration of the air navigation charges scheme also are included in the Bill.
It will be recalled that the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), when in Opposition, was most vocal about the attempt by the then Labor Government to raise navigation charges by a similar percentage. At the time the Opposition said:
Because of the serious and detrimental effect the 80 per cent recovery policy is having on aviation, a Liberal-Country Party Government will immediately halt the program until proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery with other forms of transport are made.
Any inquiries that honourable senators have made have convinced them that the original concept introduced by the Labor Government was in fact the correct one. But the Government has no money left in its coffers. I suppose it has money to provide new dinner sets for the Lodge and bullet proof windows at Yarralumla. But when it comes to money for other needs the Government is totally bankrupt. So, it raises revenue by increasing taxes such as navigation charges.
This Bill provides for a second increase of 15 per cent in a period of 12 months. As my friend, the Queensland Premier, said when he was down here a while ago, the only thing he found out when he was in Canberra was that the Fraser Government was bankrupt. This must, of course, bring into doubt the credibility of the Government because its supporters cannot tell one story when they are in Opposition and then implement something different when they are in government. There has been an increase in revenue from air navigation charges. The amount that is expected to be gathered under the collections for the present financial year as set out in the Budget will be approximately $63. lm compared with $53.547min 1975-76, of which 16.3 percent was paid by Ansett Airlines of Australia and 17.6 per cent paid by Trans-Australia Airlines. Other domestic airlines paid 2 per cent. General aviation, including commuter services, paid 5.5 per cent and the remaining 58.6 per cent was paid by international airlines. In other words, 33.9 per cent of the total airline navigation charges revenue gained in 1975-76 was contributed by both TAA and Ansett. Most of this revenue came from the intercapital trunk routes. A new system of charges for international airlines is being introduced in this Bill. That is the concept to which I referred earlier in respect of the new method of charging as it applies to overseas airlines. There will be little change in the total amount of revenue as a result of the new system of charging. The impact of the new system will be heavy on those airlines such as those operating from the west whose aeroplanes have to traverse great distances within the confines of Australian control.
The Minister for Transport when he was in Opposition made another statement about the composition of the cost recovery program and the justification for it. He had much to say about the airlines propositions that the return from the intercapital routes was well in excess of 80 per cent but the most recent evidence cited before Senate Estimates Committee C, which sat only a few weeks ago, indicates that the figure is now approximately 62.3 per cent. This is not a lot but it does surpass the figures quoted in the Budget Papers. The cost recovery rate varies from year to year and from airline to airline. Because of the significance of this I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard 2 short tables in which there are no 4-letter words and which, I trust, will be satisfactory.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The tables read as follows-
– I thank the Senate. From the tables which have just been incorporated and which honourable senators will be able to read in Hansard tomorrow it can be seen that on 1974-75 figures we are recovering 94 per cent of the cost of international operations; there is a 72 per cent recovery rate for domestic airlines; a 22 per cent recovery rate for rural airlines; and only 1 7 per cent for general aviation. These figures no doubt will increase as a result of the new charges representing an increase of 1 5 per cent that this Government is now imposing. The charges represent a reasonable assessment of what it costs to operate airports and air routes and to provide all the facilities that are important and necessary for air operations and the safety of air operations in this country.
We do not oppose the Bill but we take this opportunity of drawing to the attention of concerned people some of the points which the Government apparently has not seen fit to indicate to the public at this point in time. The other Bill we are dealing with in the cognate debate is the Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill 1976. I take it that when the Bills are put to the vote the first Bill to which we are speaking will be taken on its own. The Opposition will be voting against that Bill. The Airport (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill is the first major amendment to the principal Act since its passage in 1960. The Bill, in its present form, is heavy handed and a ruthless attack on motorists who use the facilities offered by airports and airlines. Inadequate parking facilities are provided at every airport in Australia, the only exceptions being, as far as I am aware, at Oodnadatta and Coober Pedy which have extensive parking facilities. Even in provisional cities, major country towns and capital cities the parking facilities are totally inadequate. The Government has not sufficiently justified its action in steeply increasing fines and penalties. This appears to be another form of indirect taxation that this Government has dreamed up.
The Bill recognises problem of congestion of traffic at Australian airports but it makes no attempt to overcome the problems other than to hope that the heavier penalties will deter motorists from using airport facilities. If it does deter motorists from taking their own cars to airports, it does unnecessarily put them in a situation in which they will be disadvantaged because the public transport facilities also are inadequate. Briefly, the Bill amends the principal Act in a number of ways. Parking fees become a recoverable debt to the Commonwealth. Fines for illegal parking and vandalism are to be increased from $40 to $100. Continuous parking longer than the permitted period is a separate offence for each period equal to the permitted period. In other words, I gather that the permitted period is X number of minutes or hours and that the parking tickets will look like a Christmas tree on someone ‘s vehicle.
Vehicles parking illegally may be removed and owners, corporate or individuals, will be notified by registered letter or newspaper notices. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) often has said in this place that he does not read the newspapers. If he were notified by newspaper notice that something had happened to his car, that would be the end of his car. If the owner does not pay the expenses incurred in removal, in one month the Secretary may sell the vehicle by public tender or dispose of the vehicle in such a manner as the Secretary or the Departments thinks fit. The proceeds of disposal will go to Consolidated Revenue and the owner may claim the remainder above liability. The Bill removes the right of the owner to action for damages for loss or damage which is not wilful or caused by negligence. It will be a defence to a parking prosecution if the vehicle was stolen or not in the control of the owner.
Parking fines in relation to meters are increased from $4 to $70. An authorised person may require the production of a licence. The penalty associated with this matter has been increased from $40 to $100. The attendance of officers of the Department of Transport shall not be required in undefended prosecutions. As can be seen by this, it is a fairly heavy set of penalties that the good old taxpayer will have to pay for doing any of those things. The 150 per cent increase in penalties provided for in this Bill have not been justified by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) or by the Minister in the other House, other than to suggest that the Government will restore the deterrent value of fines and penalties. I suppose one might describe that as the indexation of penalties. This will not ease the problems of shortage of parking facilities at Australia’s major airports. I should like to pose a number of questions to the Minister which I hope he will be able to answer when he replies in this debate. What parking stations are at present under construction at Australian airports? I am referring to new parking stations or extended parking facilities. In most instances, the existing parking stations are overcrowded. I know that even in my own provincial city if one wants to leave a vehicle overnight at the airport, if one does not arrive in plenty of time before the flight the vehicle will have to be left somewhere in the paddock. This is hardly a safe place to park a car.
The same problem exists at the Canberra Airport. It is not uncommon for people to leave their vehicles out in the open park. In fact, about 12 months ago I remember a situation when a gentleman in the next car to me was having great trouble getting his car into motion. The main reason was that the car had been jacked up on bricks and all his wheels had been taken. That used to be a frequent happening. I think it still happens, but I no longer leave my vehicle there and now I pay a private organisation for parking when I want to leave my car at the airport. That is not good enough either. Perhaps the Minister will give us an indication of the parking capacity of existing parking areas in the major provincial cities and the metropolitan areas. He might also be able to tell the Senate whether it is proposed that any further parking facilities will be constructed. In addition to that, what rearrangement of traffic is under way? I ask also whether any vehicle holding areas will be built away from airports, outside the property of the Australian Government.
I should like to refer to the vexed question I raised earlier in the debate about the provision of public transport. Does the Government see any way of solving the problems connected with the great influx of cars that travel to the various airports by either subsidising or assisting in some way public transport facilities so that people are able to visit airports, whether they be travellers, sightseers or people who work at the airport. Does this Government have a broad plan aimed at overcoming those problems or will we simply see a continuation of the ad hoc program that we have seen ever since this Government was elected. The increase in the sensible utilisation of existing facilities ought to be the object of the Government and it ought to be the objective of this legislation. An increase in revenue will not solve the problem but will cause increased hardship and human suffering. If the Government intends to increase its revenue it ought to be looking at broader ways in which it can spend that money in order to provide the best possible services for the people who, in this jet age, are compelled to use airlines. Finally, I should like to say that the Minister briefly described the reasons for the increased penalties but, in his second reading speech, he did not outline the Government’s policy in respect of catering for increased motor traffic at Australian airports. He may well endeavour to do that when he replies to the questions I have posed to him. It is for those reasons, more as a matter of principle, that the Opposition opposes the second Bill to which I have spoken.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– Over a number of years I have spoken somewhat critically about the legislation coming before this Parliament imposing ever increasing charges upon the airlines. These charges have been imposed by successive governments. I noted that Senator Keeffe referred to statements which were made by the present Government when in Opposition and to the present legislation. I must say that at least I have been consistent because I opposed some of these charges when we were previously in government. I think I made a speech opposing increased charges when the Labor Government was in office. Now the full circle has turned and I am again saying that I am rather critical of these charges.
– But you are not going to oppose them?
– Let me make my own mind up about that. I am always interested when members of the Australian Labor Party ask: ‘Are you going to vote against your own Government?’ I have never noticed one member of the Opposition who despite his doubts and so forth has never voted against his Party line. I have, and I will do it again.
– We hear the States’ rights humbug and the States’ House humbug, too.
– I do not take very kindly when I hear Senator Walsh screaming his silly head off. I will be interested to note the day when he votes against his Caucus decision. I have voted against my Government’s decisions in the past and perhaps I shall do so again.
– Let us hear no more of the States’ rights humbug and the States’ House humbug either.
– When the honourable senator does that let me hear about it. He should stop screaming his stupid head off.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order!
-I am sorry, Mr Deputy President. Words are easy but actions are somewhat harder. I shall draw attention to the Airlines Agreement Act 1952-1973. Section 4 of this Act states’.
For the purpose of more speedily implementing the Commonwealth’s policy of full recovery of the cost of facilities properly attributable to civil air transport-
I repeat, ‘properly attributable to the civil air transport’- and with a view to achieving the objective of recovering by the year ending the thirtieth day of June, 1978 eighty per centum of the annual cost of those facilities-
Then there is an amendment made by the previous Government increasing the cost of recovery in any one year from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. I note that this year the cost recoverable is 1 5 per cent. But in the 24 years that this Act has been in operation no attempt has been made by successive governments to fulfil the obligations of this Act; that is, to define what is properly attributable to civil aviation and what is properly attributable to defence, development and other purposes. I often wonder why that is so. I do not know what the figures would be. I notice that Sir Reginald Ansett in his recent report referred to a figure of 30 per cent which would be properly attributable to- (Quorum formed.) I thank Senator Keeffe for giving me an audience. I note with interest that Senator Cotton, a previous Minister for Civil Aviation is present in the chamber. I think Senator Cotton will confirm that when he was the Minister I was somewhat critical of the air navigation legislation.
-I thought you always spent your time complimenting me with your massive charm.
– Thank you. I would have thought that in the 24 years of operation of this legislation some attempt would have been made by the former Department of Civil Aviation and the now Department of Transport to try to define clearly what is properly attributable to civil aviation and what is properly attributable to defence, development and the other community services provided by airlines. One perhaps is rather suspicious that it is easy to make civil aviation the whipping horse. I suggest that it is time now to act.
I mentioned before that I noticed that Sir Reginald Ansett suggested that perhaps 30 per cent was attributable to defence and these other purposes. That may have been a fairly conservative estimate because there is no question that the cost structure which has been imposed upon the airlines of Australia, and which is reflected in the high fare structure of internal travel in Australia, is amongst the highest in the world. Part of this at least can be attributed to the effect of government charges upon the airlines. After all, it is not the airlines that pay; it is the travelling public. We all accept that those who use the facilities must bear a fair share of the cost of the provision of those facilities. My argument is that it is time that a fair share of those costs was decided upon. I think also that it is time that some sort of cost benefit analysis was made on the effect of these high charges upon Australian internal air travel.
It is cheaper today to travel from Perth to Singapore and Malaysia for a 10-day holiday that it is to travel from Perth to Sydney. Therefore, more and more Australians are taking advantage of overseas travel rather than travelling within their own country and spending the money within Australia. I do not express any opposition to their travelling overseas. I think it is a wonderful thing that they do. Perhaps they learn something about the customs and traditions of other countries which in the long term, one hopes, may have some effect upon international relations. The fact is that many people have never seen their own country. They find it too expensive to travel in their own country to see the scenic beauties of Australia- the Northern Territory, the north-west of Western Australia and other areas. Without question costs are having an inhibiting effect upon overseas travellers coming to Australia. They never leave Sydney, Melbourne or maybe Canberra. They find the cost of travel to other parts of Australia prohibitive. It would be interesting to know the overall loss to Australia caused by the high internal cost structure of Australian air travel. If costs were less how many more people would travel to various parts of Australia and spend their money in those parts of Australia, instead of going to Melbourne or Sydney and then clearing off somewhere else?
– How much more money would the Department of Transport get if there were twice the number of seats?
– I do not know whether a proper cost benefit analysis of this has been done. Because of these various matters maybe we as a nation are losing more than the Government is taking. Let us look at the operations of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Services in my home State. I suggest that the whole of the cost of the facilities used by that airline in Western Australia should properly be charged to development, because it is the only real means of travel over the vast distances of Western
Australia for those people who wish to travel quickly and conveniently. The other means of travelling the long distances is by road. No doubt the travellers on that airline are being charged for the cost of the facilities that it uses throughout the north of Western Australia, particularly those used by jets.
What is the situation with general aviation, which is the poor cousin of the aviation industry? If any government expects full recovery from general aviation it will drive this important sector of the aviation industry out of business. General aviation cannot afford further fare increases. If increased charges are imposed on it by the Government, charges which it cannot hope to meet without fare increases, I suggest that more and more of these operators who are providing a service to many of the outlying areas will be driven out of operation. I trust that they will receive special consideration. Certainly if it is not being given, it should be given to this sector of the industry.
There is a lot more I wish to say about this matter, but I have been asked to keep my remarks fairly brief. I had an impression that civil aviation was like a lactating cow with an inexhaustible supply of milk. I do not believe it has an inexhaustible supply of milk. I believe that those who use the airlines should pay a reasonable amount for the services. There must be some decision as to that reasonable amount and, in accordance with the Act, what is properly attributable to other factors such as defence. Perhaps the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) could indicate the present percentage recoverable from all charges made upon the airlines, not just air navigation charges, but fuel charges and meteorological charges. Meteorological charges are the interesting ones. I think the airlines provide a lot of the meteorological information. Going back from Canberra to Perth each week I am becoming more and more horrified at the inaccurate information received by the airline captains. The weather information on Perth or Melbourne changes about 3 times during the flight. Often we are told that there will be fog, and there are bright blue skies. Often we are told that there are bright blue skies, and there is fog. We are told that there are 160 kilometre an hour headwinds, and there are no headwinds.
The airlines are providing as much information as the meteorological service, yet a tremendously heavy charge is made on the airlines for meteorological services. I ask the Minister to obtain, not now but at some other time, information on the actual cost of recovery of all charges made on the airlines and what airline services are paying for others. I imagine that there are MelbourneSydney services, for example, on which the recovery rate is tremendously high, both internal and international. I am concerned that if these charges continue to escalate, if the cost structure of the Austraiian airlines is continually rising, the airlines will be priced out of the market. The final loser will be me Government.
I note that the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has established an aviation review committee which, as I understand it, consists of representatives of the airlines operating in Australia. I hope that the Government will give proper and sympathetic consideration to the recommendations which will be made by this committee whose members are representatives of the airlines- Qantas Airways Ltd, TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia or the other airlines which may be involved. They are in the business. They know what is happening. Many of the anomalies which exist today can be removed.
I make a final point, which relates to the application by MacRobertson Miller Airlines for a licence to fly between Port Hedland and Bali which at least temporarily has not been granted. If the Government thinks that the operations of Qantas between Perth and Bali in any way meet the reasonable wishes of the people of the Pilbara region, it should think again. Another 3000-odd kilometres is added to the distance between Port Hedland and Bali if people have to fly on the Qantas service through Perth. The distance between Port Hedland and Bali is almost identical to the distance between Port Hedland and Perth. I do not know whether the Indonesions are being a bit difficult. It is said that they are. I find it difficult to accept that they would, because they have a service between Darwin and Bali. I suggest to the Government and to the Minister that the service between Perth and Bali is not meeting in any sense the wishes of the people of the Pilbara region, a region that I know very well. I fail to see why the negotiations cannot continue. The Government should press the case that this service be undertaken by an Australian airline that serves the region. I know that my remarks are not directly related to the legislation, but I must make that point.
I have received correspondence from the Minister and answers in which he sets out the position. I know it is not closed. I believe we must press on to obtain this service which, it is quite obvious from the response of the people in the Pilbara, they want and will use. It will be an economic service. I question whether the PerthBali service will prove economic. I would be interested to know the loadings and the anticipation of loadings and how much free loading there is between Perth and Bali to make up the traffic. I have no information about this matter, but I suggest that there may be some free loading. Leaving out the Christmas-New Year period, which will always be an attractive time, one wonders how economic that service will be. One can assume, from the demand in anticipation from the Pilbara area for services between Port Hedland and Bali, that it will be an economic service. I think the people in that part of the world who put up with plenty of hardships are deserving of more consideration than they are receiving at the moment.
– We are debating cognately 2 Bills-the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill, which the Australian Labor Party is not opposing, and the Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill, which we are opposing. The first Bill is the more important. It carries forward policy initiated by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, carried on by the Labor Government and now carried on by the present Government. Its most important provision is to increase the air navigation charges by 15 per cent. There are a couple of minor, subsidiary and consequential matters relating to the 10 per cent interest to be charged on accounts overdue for more than 45 days and some revision of the basis of charging for the use of facilities at international airports. From Senator Sim’s remarks I gained the impression that the first Bill was concerned only with charges for providing navigation services, whereas the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) makes it clear that the Bill relates to aerodromes, airway facilities, meteorological and search and rescue services. As I said, this is a policy, which was initiated by the Government before last, of gradually increasing these charges until 80 per cent of the costs incurred by the Commonwealth Government is recovered. The attitude of the Australian Labor Party has been consistent in Government and in Opposition, which is certainly a great deal more than can be said for the Liberal and National Country Parties. Senator Sim claims to have been consistent on this matter. I will return to that in a moment. For his party and for the party with which his Party is in coalition, no claim of consistency can be made. For example, in the policy statement presented before the last election the then joint Opposition Parties said:
Because of the serious and detrimental effect the 80 per cent recovery policy is having on aviation, a Liberal National
Country Party Government will immediately halt the program until proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery with other forms of transport are made.
Senator Sim has made it quite clear, of course, that no such studies, of cost recovery and so on have been made. Let us go back a little further and look at what was said by the shadow Minister for Transport in the then Opposition. Mr Nixon is a man who knows a good deal about aircraft, especially a particular section of the aircraft industry. He used to be very free in chartering aircraft and sending the bill to the Government. I am not too sure yet who paid the bill. Mr Nixon, with his deep knowledge of the aircraft industry, in opposing the Air Navigation Bill 1 974 introduced by the Labor Government, said, as recorded at page 3869 of Hansard of 21 November 1974:
It is quite paradoxical that the Government should, when it is talking about tackling the problems of inflation, so increase charges for those services it provides to general aviation which must then pass on the charges at another point. Of course, the higher cost to general aviation has to be passed on to the consumer.
That was what Mr Nixon said when he was in Opposition. When Mr Nixon is in Government he brings in a Bill which is designed to have precisely the same effect as the legislation which when in Opposition he opposed and described as absurd. He said that at a time when the Government was concerned about inflation it was absurd to bring in a Bill to increase Government charges. Of course that is typical of the dual standard which we have come to expect from the Liberal and National Country Parties. They have the glorious irresponsibility of Opposition when they promise everything to all people. When faced with the responsibilities of Government they enact the very policies they condemned when in Opposition.
A question for legitimate political debateSenator Sim raised this matter- is the extent, if any, to which governments ought to subsidise the provision of air services or any other transport service. I do not think Senator Sim mentioned that, on the estimates provided in the second reading speech, a subsidy of some $70m will still be paid this year from Consolidated Revenue to provide the infrastructure for civil aviation in Australia. Some people may argue that the subsidy is too high; some people may argue that it is too low. I find it more than a little surprising and more than a little incongruous that Senator Sim and Mr Nixon in 1974 put forward the proposition that the appropriate way to compensate people for the disadvantages of living in the remote parts of Australia was to subsidise civil aviation or alternatively to subsidise postal or telephone services. I thought the philosophy of this Government was that the private citizen should be granted the maximum discretion in the disposal of his income, with a minimum of arbitrary interference by big government. Yet it seems to me that what Senator Sim is advocating, what Mr Nixon has advocated and what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) frequently advocates is that big government should step in and subsidise a particular service instead of providing the individual -
– You are an idiot.
-I will return to that in a minute, Senator Sim.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! I ask Senator Walsh to address his remarks to the Chair and not to worry about interjections.
-Yes, Mr Deputy President. The appropriate response, one would think, for a government which really believed that individuals should be granted the maximum discretion in the disposal of their own income, instead of arbitrary intervention by big government deciding what should be sold at prices lower than market price and what should be sold at prices higher than market price, ought to be to provide some sort of per capita living allowance to people living in remote areas. But this Government, despite its stated philosophies, suggests at various times that commodity A ought to be subsidised or commodity B ought to be subsidised, and it rationalises this on the ground that living in these areas imposes penalities on individuals and therefore the appropriate way to compensate them is to subsidise something.
This contradiction of the Prime Minister’s stated philosophy is carried to its extreme by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, who says that it is absolutely essential to subsidise the price of petrol in remote regions. If he thinks that has so much merit, I suggest that he reimpose inheritance taxes. He will then have plenty of money to do this. Whatever merit that proposition may have, I make the point, in passing, that cheap petrol in Mount Isa will make absolutely no difference to the age pensioner living in Mount Isa who does not own a motor car. A pensioner living in Mount Isa receives the same pension as a pensioner living anywhere else, but he might have to pay up to 40 per cent more for his groceries. I am not sure whether that figure of 40 per cent is true for Mount Isa, but I know that it is true for Broome in Western Australia. So, spokesmen for the Liberal and National Country Parties contradict their own words of a few years back. They also contradict their own philosophy.
I really cannot let Senator Sim’s puerile grandstanding pass without some comment. He seemed to be trying to establish that he had a very hairy chest and was willing to stand up and vote against or oppose in this Senate anything that his Party proposed if he thought it was unwise, and so on. If that is really true, I wonder why he has voted against his Party so infrequently and never on an issue that was of any importance. He tried to assert that we in the Labor Party are quite different. I will agree that we are quite different. There has never been any secret about that. Back in the last century a pledge was introduced into the Australian Labor Party which all candidates were required to sign. We hear a lot about this from spokesmen on the other side of the chamber when they think they can get some political mileage out of mentioning it. In signing that pledge we are required to vote on any issue before the Parliament according to the majority decision of a properly constituted Caucus meeting. There is no secret about that. It has been published thousands of times and it has stood for half a century. What some members of the Liberal and National Country Parties try to do is to assert that the Senate is a States House, an independent House of review, where their vote is governed not by the dictates of their Party but by the welfare of their States and the dictates of their own conscience. When we look at their record -
– You represent the trade union leaders, do you not?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh has the call.
– I am accustomed to the screeching of galahs, Mr Deputy President. I do not really need protection. On 17 July 1974, in a letter published in the Australian, their Leader said that every member of the Liberal Party was bound to vote in accordance with the decisions of the entire parliamentary party.
– Who said that?
- Senator Withers, your Leader.
– If Senator Jessop wants to disagree publicly with his Leader and say that his Leader had rubbish published in the Australian then for once I am very happy to endorse Senator Jessop ‘s assessment. We in the Labor Party have never made any secret of this: In the
Senate we vote in accordance with Caucus decisions. We do not mindlessly mouth the fiction that this is a States’ House or an independent House of review. I wish that the members of the Liberal and National Country Parties would make up their minds where they stand on this issue, just as I wish they could make up their minds where they stand on the issue of progressively increasing air navigation charges until they reach 80 per cent of cost. Of course, occasionally we have some grandstanding from Government senators- from our opponents. To attract some parochial, political kudos or some sort of notoriety they cross the floor. On what issues do they cross over? They crossed over on the pensioners ‘ funeral benefits, a trivial issue.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! Will the honourable senator come back to the Bill with which we are dealing?
-Very well, Mr Deputy President, but I was answering the points raised by Senator Sim. I note that none of those honourable senators voted against conscription- an issue of conscience like that.
– I do not have a conscience about that; that is the point.
– That does not surprise me either.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator will come back to the Bill.
– I apologise. Before concluding I want to make one more point with respect to aviation. It is relevant to this Bill because it affects airline revenue and it has an effect on the airlines’ capacity to pay charges. In Boeing 727 aircraft the fare differential between economy and first class passengers operates in such a way that economy class passengers subsidise first class travel. I am not blaming the Government for this because this policy has existed for very many years. I am not sure how long it has existed. The fare differential represents a discount of 20 per cent for economy class passengers. So in a 727 aircraft with 6 seats per row, for every $100 of revenue per row collected in the first class section $ 120 is collected in the economy class section. Moreover, first class passengers are entitled to perks to which economy class passengers are not entitled. I think that is a gross inequitable arrangement, one that is indefensible and one that ought to be amended at the earliest possible opportunity. Surely there is no justifiable reason for economy class passengers, who presumably are people on lower incomes or at least people paying their own fares which many first class passengers do not do, effectively to contribute more to airline revenue than first class passengers, who are either travelling at the expense of their employers or are people presumably with very much higher incomes. It is a highly regressive and indefensible situation.
– The Senate is debating in cognate fashion the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1976 and the Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill 1976. I understand that the latter Bill is to be opposed by the Opposition. I relate my remarks first of all to the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill. Air navigation charges, together with any other governmental charges pertaining to the use of airport transport facilities, are levied to reimburse the Commonwealth’s part of its annual expenditure on the provision, maintenance and operation of the large network of aerodrome, air route and airway facilities, meteorological services and search and rescue operations. Senator Sim asked some questions on this matter. The following information should be of interest to him. The costs of providing those facilities are currently running at about $185m per annum, with the attributable revenues being around 62 per cent of this figure. I repeat that the revenues that are drawn in from the various charges made represent 62 per cent of this figure and, of this, revenue from air navigation charges contributes about 30 per cent to cost recovery. So that is the situation.
Although the Government has found it necessary to increase air navigation charges by 1 5 per cent in order to achieve some small improvement in the level of recovery of the costs of air transport facilities it should be borne in mind that this increase in charges is considerably less than the rate of increase foreshadowed by the previous Government. It is well to remember, and it is documented in Hansard and in correspondence, that in the case of general aviation aircraft the former Government was thinking in terms of a 300 per cent increase in the revelant charges from 1 December last. That is contrasted with this Government’s proposal for a 15 per cent increase. The ultimate effect of increasing charges would be to make the users of air transport facilities contribute a larger share towards the cost of these facilities instead of requiring the general taxpayer to subsidise the travelling public.
The additional expenses for the air traveller arising out of such increases would be quite small relative to the amount of air fare, bearing in mind that air navigation charges represent about 4 per cent of total aircraft operating costs so far as airlines are concerned. I repeat that air navigation charges represent about 4 per cent. It will interest the Senate to know that the 15 per cent increase in the charges would add only about 0.6 per cent to the total cost structure. The major cost components of airline operating costs are fuel costs, which average about 15 per cent of the total cost; engineering costs, which represent 22 per cent; and salaries and wages, which represent 45 per cent. That is the perspective that should be kept in mind. I think Senator Sim said that Australian air navigation charges are the highest in the world.
– The air fare structure.
– The air fare structure. There are some valid reasons for this in that, as he will appreciate, Australia does not have the volume of traffic enjoyed by Europe or America and there are very few countries in the world that traverse such long distances internally for which air transport facilities have to be provided and maintained. Our air navigation charges are related to our costs, which differ greatly from those of other countries. International comparisons of air navigation charges are often made. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table of landing and other related charges at selected international airports. The table is for 1 975 and it would need to be upgraded for 1 976.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
– If we can be satisfied about the validity of the paper and that it does not contain any four-letter words.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– Many international comparisons of air navigation charges do not take into account the fact that in most overseas countries a multiplicity of charges are levied on aircraft operators and air travellers, such as passenger taxes, aircraft parking fees peak hour surcharges, country property taxes, Customs overtime fees, baggage claim area charges and so on. Our navigation charges are all inclusive. I think Senator Sim and other honourable senators will find the table interesting, and recognise that these things add to costs, as I have shown, however minimally. Basically, that response relates to the points that were made primarily by Senator Sim. I understand that the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill will not be opposed.
The Opposition has taken a curious stance on the Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill. If I understand the reasoning of Senator Keeffe he said that this Bill would not have been necessary to get surface vehicular traffic moving within airport areas if the Government had done something about parking and distribution areas.
– I did not say that. You did not listen closely.
-I was attracted to listen. I thought that was his argument. In a moment or two I propose to respond to some 6 questions all asking what the Government was doing to remedy the situation. I will now turn to the 6 commandments. I remind Senator Keeffe that he should have asked what his Government did on any of those things in the 3 years it was in office. That is a simple question to answer; the answer is Nothing’. If, indeed the Opposition today is arguing that congestion at airports ought to have been obviated by Government action to disperse traffic it should remember that for 3 years the Labor Government had the opportunity and failed to use it. Now, incredibly the Opposition will vote against this Bill because it does not like the way the Government is getting vehicular traffic moving.
I was asked a number of questions relating to car parking at airports. A contract was recently let for a new multi-storey parking station at Sydney Airport to give another 1000 car parking spaces to users of the domestic terminals. Tenders are currently being examined for the Melbourne Airport car park which will increase the present car parking capacity of about 2100 spaces by a further 700 car parking spaces. A detailed examination is currently being made of the Canberra and Brisbane domestic car parks to improve their efficiency, increase the capacity and perhaps prevent the removal of car wheels.
– You are planning to spend the extra money?
-We are making a detailed examination pending such improvements. The improvement of the capacities of existing car parking areas in major provincial cities would require a much more detailed study.
In preparing this legislation the Government had to start off by recognising the conditions it inherited. It is clear that car parking problems in the forseeable future will not be alleviated by increased use of the urban transport system. In other words, in the forseeable future, the solution does not lie in trying to persuade people to use public transport. Neither in this country nor in any other country has anybody been able to get people to use public transport except by sheer penalty- not persuasion. I do not think it is feasible- I do not think Senator Keeffe would say it was- for people carrying considerable and heavy luggage to be forced to use public transport where the clutter and congestion would make it extremely inconvienient, particularly for people who were not physically strong enough toandle their luggage and get it to the airport terminal. I think that we ought to put to rest for the moment the idea that surface traffic passengers and their luggage can be carried by public transport. However, if the honourable senator feels that he would like to pursue the matter he should raise with Mr Wran a matter of some delicacy, that is, the extension of the Eastern Suburbs railway to the Mascot terminal. I think he would find the conversation somewhat elevating. I commend the suggestion to him. However, I do not think it would relieve the congestion, even of his own blood pressure. I make that point because I think it is of great importance.
The second point I make is that of course charges will increase under this Bill. The Air Navigation (Charges) Act has not been substantially amended since 1960. It is now 1976. Basically this Bill brings up to date parking fees at airports in the same way as these fees have been updated in local government and State government areas. It brings the fines and penalties into parallel with modern trends and costs. It does one other significant thing; it provides for the disposal of derelict vehicles. Whilst it is desirable that the movement of traffic inside airport areas should be made more flexible and speeded up, the very location of those airfields and their relationship to big cities and surrounding suburbs makes any immediate alleviation of the problem impossible. It makes any major use of public transport impossible and, for the long term future impracticable. I do not think anyone really argues this point. Therefore, the job of government is to provide access for the public to the airports, facilities for car parking and penalties for impeding the flow of traffic. That is precisely what has happened.
In response to Senator Keeffe I have recited a number of major projects that are already well in hand and others being planned for the future. I think no one would argue against the fact that those who park illegally and impede traffic should receive the normal penalties and that those penalties should be in line with current costs. Equally, it is obvious that vehicles which have been established as derelict and whose owners cannot readily be located should be removed from airports. I believe that in both cases the measures are reasonable. If we are to argue- I sympathise with Senator Sim on this point and agree with him entirely- that rising costs will price people out of using airports and aircraft, the argument, basically and fundamentally, must be against inflation. We must reduce costs and beat inflation so that we can stabilise charges. The real villian is inflation which, along with the congestion at airports, we inherited a year ago. I commend the Bills to the House.
Question for the second reading of the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1976 resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
That the Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill be read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President-Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want to ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) a question concerning the report of the Department of Transport which was tabled in the Senate this morning. Reference is made in that report to the question of recovery charges. I just cannot put my finger on the exact reference but I shall do so in a minute. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) refers to the Government’s intention to increase the recovery of navigation charges to 100 per cent. I am not sure whether the report was drawn up in the light of the previous Government’s policy. Of course, that was not the policy of the previous Government. If I remember correctly, a plan was spelt out for an 85 per cent level of recovery over a 5-year period. I am not aware of a statement having been made at any time by the previous Government to the effect that costs would be recoverable at a rate of 100 per cent. So I ask the Minister whether this report from the Department of Transport reflects the intended government policy of 100 per cent recovery.
– I have not had the benefit of perusing the report, although I tabled it this morning in my formal capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). The matter is a policy one. I simply suggest that I should get the information and convey it in writing to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). It would not be possible for me to reply in specific terms at this moment.
– I can understand the problem that the Minister would have in answering my query because he is not the Minister directly responsible for this matter. The reference in the report of the Department of Transport which was tabled this morning appears on page 132. It refers to increases in air navigation charges of 1 9.3 per cent, from $44m to $53m. That is caused mainly by the 15 per cent increase in rates and charges from December 1974 and December 1 975. The next sentence in the report reads:
The $3. 15m increase in building and site rentals reflects the Government’s continuing policy to recover 100 per cent of airport terminal costs.
I do not know whether that refers specifically only to building and site rentals or whether it is meant to be taken in the broader sense in which we normally consider this matter, that is, airport terminal costs. Perhaps the Minister’s advisers could clarify that matter for him. During the course of his reply to the second reading debate the Minister mentioned that the total cost structure would be increased by only 0.6 per cent if we were to increase it to full recovery rate. Yet, during the course of his second reading speech on the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1 976, the Minister said:
In the year 1975-76, the cost of providing air transport facilities exceeded the revenue received from the users of those facilities by over $70m, with a cost recovery level of only 60 per cent. The Government has been concerned at the level of costs involved in providing facilities and services but is seeking to keep any increases in charges within economically acceptable levels.
In the paragraph preceding that statement the Minister said:
He was referring to the increase contained in the legislation- which will apply to all operators, both domestic and international, will ensure that the current level of cost recovery of services provided by the Government to the air transport industry is maintained and progressively improved.
Somehow I feel that, in the last 3 years, I have read that all before. I have a very good idea where this came from. It came not from the Department of Transport but from the Department of the Treasury.
I ask the Minister What does the Government really mean by ‘ progressively improved ‘ if in fact a 100 per cent recovery is not intended throughout airport charges? Has the Government indicated at what percentage of recovery it is aiming? If the present level is 60 per cent- I think it was 60 per cent last year- very little difference in the level of recovery has been achieved. Can we assume that there will be a progressive percentage increase as the years go by? The corollary of that position is pertinent to all of the financial measures taken at present by this Government. Therefore, I ask: Is there any intention on the part of the Government to pass any of these costs to any of the States?
– I make one correction. I pointed out that the 15 per cent increase in charges that this Bill incorporates would add 0.6 per cent to the total cost structure. I think the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) suggested that he had heard me say that a total recovery would do that. No, that relates to the 15 percent.
– Fair enough. But did you mention an increase for the full cost of recovery? I thought that you did.
-No. I had not wittingly referred to such a policy because, for my part, merely acting for the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), I am not competent to speak upon any concept of future recovery of any percentage. I mentioned that with the 15 per cent increase taken all round a recovery level of 62 per cent would be achieved. That is about the general feeling. Each of the questions that Senator Wriedt has asked me are beyond my immediate competence to answer. I will get answers and I will make sure that they are conveyed to Senator Wriedt.
– I refer to some questions that I directed to Senator
Carrick. I accept that the answers are beyond his immediate competence. I did refer to the Airline Agreements Act 1 952- 1 973 and the words ‘properly attributable to civil aviation’ contained in section 4. When will the costs that are properly attributable to civil aviation and properly attributable to other areas be determined? For all I know, there may be some work being done on this aspect at last. My second question was: What is the percentage of recovery at the moment from all charges including fuel charges? I have seen a figure of 87 per cent. I do not know whether that is true. At some future time, I would like to be given that information.
– I will seek an answer to the first question asked by Senator Sim. My instruction is that the recovery figure of 60 per cent at this moment provides what would be regarded as all charges. But since it may exclude some that Senator Sim has mentioned, I will take the question on notice and get a reply for him from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon).
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) together read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 June, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-Mr President, do I take it that we will be debating these Bills cognately?
-Is that the Minister’s understanding?
– Yes. We had an arrangement that the Bills would be debated cognately.
-I think that arrangement was made some months ago. The Opposition opposes the Bills as they stand. The Opposition will move two or three amendments at a later stage. I will have those amendments circulated shortly. The Bills primarily are designed to amend the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability)
Act 1959-1973 so as to increase the limit of liability of airline and charter operators in respect of the death or injury of passengers carried on domestic air services. The Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act gives force of law in Australia to the Warsaw Convention made in 1929 and the Hague Protocol to that Convention made in 1959. These international agreements are the primary means of regulation of the right to recover damages arising from travel on international airlines.
I interpose at this point that these pieces of legislation are probably not re-examined as often as they ought to be, particularly in view of the fact that in recent years inflation has got somewhat out of hand. Regulations on flight control loadings, maintenance, and compliance with safety standards are very strict. They should be supervised and enforced with the controlling authority keeping a close check on such vital factors as engine maintenance. I know that from time to time we in Australia complain about one airline or another and claim that certain things have not been done properly. But I believe that the air safety record in Australia compares more than favourably with that of most other countries. Because of the Acts, there are still limited liabilities concerning the compensation for air accidents. These Bills seek to amend the upper limits of liability of air carriers conveying Australian Government personnel from $30,000 to $45,000.
In the second reading speech in the other place, a number of points were made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and a number of points were made by the representative of the Opposition. One of the references which I wish to mention is the proposal submitted for consideration by the Parliament to increase the level of insurance. Australians who may be injured in airline crashes are the same Australians with the same obligations and the same responsibilities as those who are injured in road crashes. A comparison was made of the relative safety of airline passengers as compared with people who use the more conventional methods of travelling by motor vehicle. By setting such an inadequate limit of liability- that is, $45,000 compensation which the Bill seeks to provide in respect of air travellers- the Government is creating a substantial market for insurance companies to offer additional insurance to air travellers who are aware of the low limit.
Years ago, notices could be seen at Australian airports- this still applies in some countries- advising passengers that they could take out additional life insurance to cover their flights. We do not see the same type of advertising in Australian airports now although it is still to be found in some other countries. The cost of such additional insurance is substantially more than if the limits of liability were higher. We suggest in our amendments that this level ought to be increased to $67,000. I do not know what the Government’s attitude will be to this proposal. I hope that it will accept each of our amendments. The extra cost borne by airline operators under our proposal would be incorporated in the fare. It would be a minimal amount for each travelling passenger. At the same time, that much more additional cover would be provided for passengers if anything did go wrong.
In his second reading speech, the Minister gave information as to the cost incurred by airline companies as a result of the limit of compensation being raised from $30,000, which is the current figure, to $45,000. Senator Cotton did this in 1970 when he was the Minister for Civil Aviation. I had intended to have incorporated in Hansard later a table which sets out the levels of passenger insurance. However, as it is only a short table and it may be of interest to those people who are listening to the debate, I will read it out. In 1974-75 Trans- Australia Airlines passenger insurance was $185,681, of which 75 per cent was purchased internally; that is, $138,934. The balance of $46,747, or 25 per cent, was financed externally. In 1974-75 TAA carried 4 167 690 passengers. Using this information as a base, the total cost of insuring to $67,000 per person- which is the sum we intend to suggest- would be $414,688, which is an increase in TAA passenger insurance of $229,007. In round figures, this additional $229,007 insurance cover for 4 167 690 would mean an increase in cost per capita, that is per passenger, of 5.7c. So the increase which would give that additional amount of cover to passengers who travel by air is in fact minimal. Surely this is a very small burden indeed for the average passenger to carry.
I believe that it is appropriate at this stage to mention a letter sent by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to the Australian Capital Territory Division of the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. In essence the legislation is a trade-off. The liability of the airlines to the passengers or to the next of kin is limited, in return for which the airline is precluded from denying liability. It should be emphasised that the limit must be adequate and realistic in the circumstances of the time. I draw the attention of honourable senators on the Government side to some of the statements that have been made at various times. In relation to the letter to which I have referred already, I think it would be better if I sought leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. The letter is from Mr Nixon. It is addressed to Mr Barram, the Assistant Division Secretary of the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. It is relevant to what I am saying.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr Barram,
I refer to your letter on behalf of the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations regarding the Council’s belief that the proposed increase in the limit of liability under the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act and the Air Accidents (Australian Government Liability) Act is insufficient.
The amount which should be established as an upper limit of liability takes into account a number of considerations not the least of which are the level of average earnings and the current money value. The primary consideration, however, must be to give effect to the principle which underlies the carriers ‘ liability legislation, namely, the amount of damages should be subject to a limitation, whilst the injured party or his dependants should not be required to prove negligence in order to be compensated. This principle is a most equitable one as it ensures that some compensation is received in the event of an accident, and, it enables air carriers to operate commercial transport services uninhibited by the severe costs associated with unlimited liability. I should add that the limit of liability refers only to the liability of the air carrier to the passenger or his dependants. Naturally this does not preclude a passenger from insuring his life or person quite independently for any amount he chooses.
I am fully aware that in other areas of compensation high awards of damages are made for death or personal injury. However the principles in awarding these damages differ to the principle of the air carriers’ liability legislation. For example, damages in excess of $100,000 are sometimes awarded in road accident cases in Australia, but in these cases the basis of liability is different, the claimant having to prove negligence and not having an automatic entitlement to assessed damages, as is the case under the carriers’ liability legislation.
The position of passengers on international flights must also be taken into account The current limit of liability adhered to by Qantas and -a large majority of international airlines is $45,000. The international limit is agreed to under international conventions and arrangements, and it is considered desirable to maintain the limit of domestic services at a level similar to that on international flights. You will appreciate the anomalous situation if, on the one hand, a limit of $60,000 is proposed for domestic passengers, while on the other, a limit of only $45,000 is effective for international passengers.
I can understand your concern that the limit of liability should keep pace with growth in personal income, but other factors must also be weighed so that a limit can be established which reflects the principle underlying the carriers’ liability legislation. In the circumstances, I believe that the present proposal to increase the limit of liability to $45,000 is a reasonable one.
Yours sincerely, P. J. NIXON
Mr D. Barram,
Assistant Division Secretary,
Council of Australian Government
P.O. Box 177,
– I will refer to one or two of the points made by the Minister, He said:
I can understand your concern that the limit of liability should keep pace with growth in personal income, but other factors must also be weighed so that a limit can be established which reflects the principle underlying the carriers’ liability legislation.
He went on to justify the figure of $45,000 as being reasonable. In another part of that letter Mr Nixon again said that that figure ought to be sufficient in the circumstances. He appeared to repudiate the formula that had been established by Senator Cotton in 1970 for determining the limits of liability. Because of the few claims under the legislation, the air travelling public generally is unaware of the low level of the limit of compensation, even though it is shown in fine print on the airline ticket. I do not know how many people read the fine print on the airline ticket, but it would be quite revealing to do so. It is very much like the situation of a person who enters into a hire purchase agreement, although that practice is now being phased out. The less than 6-point fine print in hire purchase agreements and various other contracts of sale and so on is not read by the average consumer and frequently consumers get caught because they do not read it. I do not know what advantage there would be if a person who had read the fine print on the airline ticket lost his life in an airline accident and then perhaps in the other world looked down as his relatives claimed the limited amount of compensation that would be payable, not the amount that we suggest in our amendment.
I believe that, on the law of averages, sooner or later there will be a major aircraft accident in this country. In fact, a few years ago there were 2 aircraft accidents in about 1 8 months in which 60 or 70 people were killed. If one of today’s larger aeroplanes went down, of course four or five times that number of people would be injured or killed in such a major crash. I do not think we ought to wait for something like that to happen, because frequently bread winners do travel on aeroplanes and they may not be covered by compensation if they are not travelling in the course of their employment and consequently their dependants would suffer. I believe that the first responsibility is to the Australian people and not necessarily to the airline operators. I hope that the Government will take a favourable view of our amendments and request for amendments so that they might be incorporated in the legislation.
– I thank Senator Keeffe for his comments which have been made on behalf of the Opposition. I have taken note of the many matters he has raised and I will refer them to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). In the Committee stage I intend to move amendments on behalf of the Government. Having given the assurance that I will draw to the attention of the Minister the matters the honourable senator has raised, I suggest that we proceed to the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
– I wish to move amendments to both Bills on behalf of the Government. In respect of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Amendment Bill 1976 I move:
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment:
In clause 3, sub-clause (I), leave out ‘$45,000’, insert $67,000’.
Proposed new clause 3a.
– I move:
After clause 3, insert the following-new clause: 3 a. Section 31 of the Principal Act is amended by adding the following new sub-section:
The amount stipulated in sub-section ( I ) shall be adjusted on 1 July 1978 and on 1 July every two years thereafter, and such adjustments shall have regard to the average weekly adult male earnings at the relevant time. ‘
I have requests which relate to clauses 3 and 4 and 2 amendments which propose the insertion of new clauses in the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1976. Clauses 3 and 4 read:
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendments, viz:
1 ) In clause 3, leave out ‘$45,000 ‘, insert ‘$67,000’.
2 ) In clause 4, leave out ‘$45,000 ‘, insert ‘$67,000 ‘.
Proposed new clauses 3a and 4a.
– I move:
There is no need for me to go into great detail in the Committee stage because I have covered most of the points that were raised in the second reading speech. I emphasise again the necessity to increase substantially the amount of $45,000. Incidentally, this is in keeping with current inflation rates and what is normally ordered in most compensatory areas. In other words, it brings it up to a more realistic figure. We hope that these amendments and requests will be accepted by the Government.
– The Government does not accept the amendments. The Bill provides for an increase from $30,000 to $45,000. This was a considered judgment of the Government and we find ourselves unable to accept Senator Keeffe ‘s amendments and requests which were moved on behalf of the Opposition.
That the requests and amendments (Senator Keeffe’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bills, as amended, agreed to.
Bills reported with amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) together read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 August, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bills be no w read a second time.
-The Senate is debating the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1976, the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill 1976 and the United States Naval Cummunication Station (Civilian Employees) Amendment Bill 1976. These Bills are conveniently being debated together. The Opposition has no desire to delay unduly the passage of these Bills. However, we will be moving an amendment to the second reading and in the Committee stage we will be moving amendments to the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill and the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill. The Opposition believes that these Bills have been delayed quite unnecessarily. They were first introduced into this chamber on 19 August. As a result of the delay many employees of the Commonwealth Government or former employees of the Commonwealth Government who have been injured have suffered because their increase in payments has been delayed.
– You would not say the Government has held them up, would you?
-I suggest that the Government has held them up in this instance. I also suggest that the Government has held them up in another way because these increases were due in November last year. Senator Wheeldon, the then Minister, announced in August last year that the increases would be granted. The Bills were drafted but because of some untoward events of which even Senator Hall has some memory the Bills did not come into the Parliament. In fact, the legislation providing for the increase in the payments under these Acts is approximately 12 months late.
– I take it you will consequently make one short speech.
– That is why, as Senator Hall says, we are always co-operative. We are willing to debate the Bills cognately. The proposed amendment to the motion for the second reading of these Bills refers to the general policy on compensation which my Party holds and the difference in the policies of the Opposition and the Government on the same matter. I therefore move:
At the end of the motion, add but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should proceed forthwith with the introduction of a National Compensation scheme incorporating all Australian workers and providing for quarterly cost of living increases to benefits.’
The Austraiian Labor Party, as I think everyone in this chamber realises, is committed to the introduction of a national compensation scheme, one which will cover automatically, without the complexities and expense of the present legal process, all injured persons in this country. Of course this could include any of us at any time. I do not intend to traverse the whole field and the whole story of national compensation and the attempts to introduce such schemes in Australia. The concept of such a universal scheme is not a novel one. In fact a conservative government in our nearby neighbouring country, New Zealand, introduced one some years ago which has been successful, which has not been challenged in that country and which is not likely to be challenged in that country. We have a wealth of information available to us in Australia from the reports of the Woodhouse Committee and the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and
Legal Affairs which investigated this subject. Both committees reviewed vast amounts of evidence, both oral and written, and vast amounts of statistical information. As well as that, as I have pointed out, the New Zealand scheme is well established, is nearby and is well documented.
I believe that the Government is restricted by its ideological blinkers from considering such a scheme as the Nationalist Party introduced in New Zealand and the Australian Labor Party tried to introduce in Australia. I am disappointed to hear that further investigation of a proposed scheme by the present Government, even though it may not have been the type of scheme that we would introduce, seems to have fallen by the wayside. One assumes that it has been abandoned because of a lack of co-operation by some of the States. One also could expect that it would have been abandoned because of opposition from some of the vested interests in the compensation and insurance industry.
We believe that it is disgraceful that the injured in this country, on the one hand, are not receiving justice and just compensation for theninjuries and that the employers, particularly the small employers, are having to pay out large premiums because of the compensation system based on antiquated ideas and the antiquated method used in establishing people’s rights to compensation. Certainly Labor’s proposals seeking reform in this area created great controversy in the country and pressure from vested interests was very strong. But the ultimate proposal which was amended as a result of the work of the Committee of this Senate was also treated with rigid and unthinking opposition. I believe that we are now in the situation where we are left with the Government’s proposition that this question is too hard, that we are unable to solve it and that it is best shoved into the background.
The most common excuse one hears for not introducing a national compensation scheme is that it is another scheme which has foundered on the rock of the unyielding Constitution that this Government has. People are left with inadequate compensation or with no compensation at all. Small businesses are being inhibited from expanding and increasing their workforce by the excessive premiums that have to be charged under the present system. Since I have been Opposition spokesman in this area I have been surprised at the number of organisations, which previously would not have had a bar of any proposal we put up, which have inquired about what our scheme was about and how our scheme would have worked and have asked for copies of both reports and outlines of the scheme. They have done this because of the real difficulties they are having in meeting workers ‘ compensation premiums.
No one who has looked at the compensation situation in Australia can come to any conclusion other than that the present system we have is firstly too uncertain. The adversary principle which exists, the necessity for proving negligence in many cases, and the complicated legal procedures mitigate against justice and the appearance of justice in these cases. As was found by both Committees that looked at the field, the present scheme is too expensive. Between 25c and 50c for every dollar paid out in compensation goes in costs in establishing the right or the need for that compensation. It was also impressed on both Committees by distinguished witnesses from the medical profession, the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled and other organisations that the present scheme mitigates against adequate safety precautions in industry and against rehabilitation. There is a positive disincentive to people being rehabilitated while they are waiting for compensation claims to be settled, those claims being based frequently on the situation of the person involved when the claim is heard. Of course the delays are endless. It is altogether an unjust, unfair and unsatisfactory situation crying out for a solution. That the Government turns its back on the problems is regrettable to say the least.
The second part of our amendment refers to the possibility of quarterly adjustment of the payments under this legislation. At present injured workers who come under the Commonwealth Government employees compensation scheme, the sick pay provisions of the Public Service Act and the compensation legislation receive full pay for the first 6 months after their injury. These rates of pay are adjusted quarterly in line with the cost of living. This legislation provides the first increase in payments in about 2 years for the long term injured, the people who have been injured for more than 6 months. Therefore, the more seriously injured people are in fact discriminated against by the present legislation. In the absence of an adequate national compensation scheme this situation just cannot remain. Some provision has been made for regular adjustments in line with the consumer price index for pensioners and other social security beneficiaries. We believe that in the absence of a national compensation scheme it is time that some provision is made in this legislation for similar regular upgrading of the payments.
This legislation is 12 months late. The last increase was due in 1975. The legislation was drafted, but the events of that time prevented that legislation being introduced. We believe that the Government has been tardy in this regard. As a result, great injustice has been caused. In 1954 a similar situation arose. The regular increase had been delayed by an election in late 1953. The government of the day backdated the increases to the beginning of 1974, when the amending legislation was introduced in April of that year. This was a just solution to the problem. We believe a similar solution could have been provided in this legislation. We believe the legislation should have been introduced much earlier in the year. The increases provided in this legislation take into account increases in the minimum wage up to the June quarter of this year. Later we Will be moving an amendment to give some measure of justice to people who are looked after by this legislation. The amendment is inadequate to give full justice, but the increased payments to these people have been delayed. These people have been denied increased payments for a long time. We believe that some amendment should be made to the legislation.
The increases provided in Schedule 1 of section 7 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill can be expressed as a percentage of the rates which applied prior to this Bill. These increases vary from 25 per cent to 45 per cent. For instance, funeral benefits are increased by 45 per cent. Payments for children are up 43 per cent. The weekly payments are up 40 per cent. Lump sum payments for widows and for specified injuries are increased by only 25 per cent. The inevitable result is that widows and those with specified injuries get lower increases than others under the legislation. In 1974 the Act provided that a widow received $20,000, which was approximately 7 years at the weekly benefit rate then of $56 per week. The lump sum provided under this Bill is approximately 6 years at the proposed rate of $80 per week. I put it to the Senate that the legislation discriminates, in its increases, against the long term injured, as it did previously, against the widows and against those with specified permanent disabilities as described in the Act. These people have not been given justice in this legislation and they should be given justice because the cost of living has increased just as much for widows as it has for children, as it has for the dependants of people who unfortunately died or, indirectly, as it has for funeral directors. The reason these increases are 25 per cent instead of 40 per cent which applies in the rest of the Bill, I do not believe, can be found in any argument based on logic or justice but can be found, I believe, when we look at the economic obsession of the present Government and at State legislation in this field.
The economic obsession is that government expenditure must be cut at all costs. The second reason is the benefits available under State schemes. The new lump sum benefits will not be as high as the lump sum benefits provided by the most generous States, particularly Tasmania, which has a Labor government, and Western Australia, which has a Liberal government. The new lump sum benefits are not increased by what we consider is the full amount. They will be just higher or at about the level of most of the other States, the less generous States, but not as low as the States which provide the lowest benefits. It seems to us that one of the reasons for these differences is that the Government’s benefits are to be gauged by the least generous States- by the lowest common denominator. This principle may be in the true conservative tradition, but it hardly gives justice to those who are injured. It does not give justice to widows or to the wives of the injured. If the scale of benefits is to be consistent with an increased lump sum benefit for individuals and widows, this lump sum benefit must be up to the level of the other increases in this legislation. I believe it is wrong that the national Parliament should be constrained from giving justice to people under this legislation by reason of the fact that some States have inadequate legislation, that some States are less generous than others and we must not rock the boat or people in those States will demand justice at the level that is received in the Commonwealth. In the Committee stage we will be moving amendments to correct some of the anomalies.
The Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill contains some amendments with which the Opposition certainly has no argument. Clause 6 removes restrictions on employers’ liability. Clause 7 extends the definition of a child to include a student between 16 years and 21 years of age. Clause 3 removes the limit on payments for medical expenses. We have no argument with those amendments. We believe that they are the sorts of amendments that we would have brought in, but we were concentrating more on introducing a national compensation scheme to cover all. Similar differences in respect of increases of 25 per cent and 40 per cent occur in this Bill. At a later stage we will be moving amendments to rectify this anomaly. If the
Government does not intend to work towards a proper national compensation scheme, the amendments of which we approve are welcome but differences still remain between the provisions for seamen and the provisions for Commonwealth employees. I shall give some of the differences. For instance, under the legislation, seamen do not receive pay for 6 months after injury. They do not have the same access to rehabilitation services that people under the other Act do. These may be small differences. In many cases the seamen may have overcome them by other means. We think the Act should be brought into line with the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act. If this Parliament has a responsibility to legislate for proper compensation in this country, as we believe it has, we believe it should be looking at differences such as those in the 2 Acts and should be looking at the provision of a proper compensation scheme in this country.
In summary, we believe that this legislation has been too long delayed, its introduction has been too long delayed, and the delay between the time of its introduction and the time of its ratification by this Parliament has been too long. People who should have been on $80 per week have been left on $57 per week. Both sums are probably inadequate, but the difference is considerable. We believe that the legislation discriminates against widows and the permanently injured. The legislation perpetuates the discrimination against the long term and therefore usually more seriously injured as compared with the short term injured. Our amendment which urges the Government to consider and introduce a national compensation scheme, we believe, is the only long term solution. Failing its acceptance, we believe that the least that could be done would be to introduce regular quarterly adjustments to the compensation, in line with the consumer price index. This benefit is available to workers who are injured in the short term. This benefit should be made available to workers who are long term injured and permanently injured. Therefore I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– I wish to make a short intervention into the debate because I believe that the manner in which the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill has been introduced into the Senate, although it is not a matter which is likely to arouse great debate in the community at large, gives a very clear indication of this Government’s approach to the welfare of the Australian people. The Bill, in its particulars, is unduly and unconscionably delayed and, in the provision it makes for injured employees of the Commonwealth Government, is grossly inadequate. More importantly, the whole approach of the Government to the question of compensation for disabled persons, whether temporarily disabled or permanently disabled, is horribly inadequate and indeed very backward when compared even with countries such as New Zealand.
I do not wish to say a great deal about the particulars of this Bill. My colleague, Senator Grimes, has spoken on them already. Surely it is revealing that a Government which has talked about indexation and the necessity for combating inflation by in some way relating increases in salaries and wages to the consumer price index should apply anything but indexation when it comes to those people who are least able to protect themselves, those who are disabled and the dependants of those who are disabled or have been killed as a result of injuries arising in and out of the course of their employment. There is a delay of a year. Legislation was prepared before the Labor Government went out of office in November last year to bring up to date the provisions of the Acts which are the subject of the Bills which are being debated this afternoon. The provisions of these Bills do not reflect in any way increases in the consumer price index or the rate of inflation, which has been high since the Liberal Government came to office.
Not only is there this inadequacy, but there is also the much greater defect in the approach of the Government which is dealt with in the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. When the Australian Labor Party was in Government we appointed a committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of a very distinguished jurist and world respected authority on compensation law, Sir Owen Woodhouse, a Justice of the New Zealand Court of Appeals. With him, taking part in the inquiry, was Mr Justice Meares, a very distinguished judge from the Supreme Court of New South Wales. They made recommendations which were in some respects revolutionary but not fundamentally different from the principles which were adopted many years ago by a conservative government in New Zealand when Mr John Marshall was the Prime Minister there and not greatly dissimilar to legislation which was passed by a conservative government in the Province of Ontario in Canada. That inquiry took evidence from representatives of all those groups that one would expect to be interested in compensation. It presented its report, which was debated very widely throughout Australia.
A Bill was introduced by me, when I was Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, as part of the policy of the Labor Government and the Australian Labor Party to provide for a comprehensive scheme of national compensation. The Bill subsequently was referred by the Senate to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. A long inquiry took place under that Committee which comprised representatives from both sides of the Senate. Subsequently a report was brought down and legislation again was prepared to take into account objections which had been raised by the members of that Committee and alternative propositions which they had put forward. Quite vehement agitation was organised by various insurance companies against the proposals which we introduced. If I may say so in passing, it is interesting, when one hears remarks about who is running the country and about the shocking malfeasances of trade unions in organising demonstrations against policies of the present Government, to note that there was certainly no objection from members of the present Government when they were in Opposition to the use of policy holders’ money by insurance companies and to the time that was taken by employees of insurance companies, which again was a burden on the policy holders of those companies and allegedly mutual life assurance societies, in demonstrations throughout Australia against the Labor Government which was then in office, having been twice democratically elected on a program of introducing legislation similar to that which we introduced.
Undertakings were given to us by the present Government that it would continue its inquiries into a scheme of national compensation; that it would negotiate with the States so that some sort of national compensation scheme could be introduced. So far absolutely nothing has been done- or, if it has been done, certainly we have not heard anything of it. So we are still in the situation that injured and disabled people in this country are at a severe disadvantage compared with those people who live across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand and who find themselves in similar misfortunes. Not only that, but we find that the whole of compensation insurance throughout Australia is in shreds and tatters and is about to collapse about our ears. When the inquiry under Mr Justice Woodhouse was being held one of the most able, intelligent and wellinformed leaders of the insurance industry in Australia, Mr Pettigrew, the Managaing Director of Sun Alliance Insurance Ltd, pointed out to the inquiry, as he has pointed out subsequently, that the burdens which were being imposed on insurers for workers compensation insurance and motor vehicle third party insurance were so great that we were entering into the beginnings of a national calamity. I believe that what has happened over the past few days has continued to provide evidence of the foresight of Mr Pettigrew ‘s prognostications.
We saw only last week that in Victoria RACV Insurance Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria- probably one of the oldest companies in the business of providing motor vehicle third party insurance in that State- is withdrawing from the field because it no longer can continue to function, as a result of inflation, the high damages which on many occasions have to be awarded and the crippling premiums which such companies have to charge motorists and which motorists are not able to afford to pay. A few days ago in Western Australia there was an announcement that the premiums for workers compensation insurance were to be increased drastically. The complaints have been coming not from representatives of the trade unions or representatives of the Australia Labor Party but from representatives of the employers in Western Australia, who say that they cannot bear the burden of the workers compensation insurance premiums which they will have to pay in Western Australia.
These are only instances of what is going on throughout Australia. As I understand it, one of the complaints of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd in Tasmania in its present difficulties is the burden which has been imposed on it by the imposition of workers compensation insurance premiums. That is one of the reasons why the company has been talking about going out of business, to the great disadvantage of the people who work for it and of all the people of Tasmania and in fact of Australia. I do not have many tears to shed for the employers who have to pay these premiums or for the insurance companies, but I would say this, that I believe they have a legitimate complaint that, because of the irrationality of the existing law and practice relating to compensation for injuries, whether it is in or arising out of the course of their employment or because of some negligent action or tortious action which some other person has committed as a result of which someone has suffered, it is almost impossible to conduct a viable insurance business in those fields.
Of course, there is one other weakness. It has been compounded by the false economies which this Government so shrewdly thinks it is making but which in fact turn out to be much more expensive than if it had shown some foresight and imagination for what it was doing with regard to the whole field of rehabilitation. It ought to be remembered that the report of Mr Justice Woodhouse and Mr Justice Meares was not only a report on compensation but it was a report on rehabilitation and compensation. An integral part- the primary part- of the Labor Government’s scheme was to see that there was adequate rehabilitation as well as compensation. The two cannot be separated. Our approach was the approach of Mr Justice Woodhouse and Mr Justice Meares, that there were 3 areas which had to be dealt with in this field. The first was safety. So far as humanly possible we should avoid people being injured or disabled. The second area was rehabilitation. If they were injured or disabled they would be provided with adequate means of getting back into the work force and not being a burden on their fellow Australians. Only if both the safety measures and the rehabilitation measures were to fail would compensation be relied on.
I would have thought that a government which is keen on saving every cent that it possibly can, a government which believes that parsimony is the highest of all human virtues, when it was approaching this question would have realised that one of the great problems in an industry, particularly in industries which are necessarily hazardous, is the lack of means of adequate rehabilitation for injured and disabled workers. But apparently that was not the case. Apparently in order to establish that it has cut public spending the Government has a blithe disregard for this great problem which has been recognised throughout the world. We have heard nothing from the Government on these matters. Generally one finds that those areas in which there is a high degree of hazard are the manufacturing and mining industries, the basic industries. It is not so much in the service industries, in the catering trade, in clerical work or in the advertising game that one finds a high rate of injuries. The industries in which there is the highest rate of injury are those which are most essential to the economy.
– They are short of operatives, too.
-As Senator Mulvihill says, they are short of skilled operatives. That position is only worsened by providing inadequate rehabilitation and compensation for workers in those fields who may be injured. The situation is quite irrational. In one sense I feel great sympathy for employers, such as the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd or people who conduct a factory where there may be some dangers involved, in that they have to pay higher premiums for their insurance. It is absolutely unjust that someone who is carrying out essential work in the construction industry, for example, should be paying higher workers’ compensation insurance premiums than somebody who is engaged in a less hazardous trade. But that is the case, and that is not the case because of negligence or because of some fault on the part of employers in those industries; it is because their trades are of necessity more dangerous than other trades.
The national compensation scheme which the Labor Government proposed would have avoided these difficulties because the revenue which would have been applied to compensation would have come from general revenue for the most part and the disbursements would have been made to people who were disabled for whatever reason. We would have removed the colossal costs involved in litigation, workers compensation or claims for damages arising from the commission of the tort of negligence, which would have saved this country vast sums of money, apart from the great benefit that it would be to the people who were suffering as a result of those injuries. We have heard absolutely nothing from the Government on this question, despite the fact that we still provide inadequate social welfare in this field- it is a field of social welfare- but it has apparently relied on constitutional difficulties which, at least according to some constitutional lawyers, are more imagined than real; on the alleged disagreements with the States; and on what I think to the Government would be most important, the opposition of those insurance companies which believe that at some stage the Government may bail them out and see that they are able to carry on lucrative businesses out of working people’s misfortunes.
For that reason we are moving this amendment today. I would be very obliged if when the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is replying to the debate she could give us an uptodate deport on the subsequent course of investigations by her Department into the establishment of a national compensation scheme. As I understand it, there is or was a compensation unit within the Department. So far I have not heard anything of its works. If I may say so, when I was the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation one of the things I did was to keep all those Opposition members who were interested in this field up to date on everything that we were doing. I invited their comments and any thoughts they might have on these questions. To the best of my knowledge, this has not been the case since the present Government has been in office. Certainly I have not been invited to offer any views to the present Government on compensation. I see that Senator Guilfoyle finds that amusing. When I was the Minister I invited Mr Chipp and Senator Drake-Brockman, who were the Opposition spokesmen on those questions, to give me their views. A great deal of time was spent by members of the Labor Government discussing these matters with members of the Opposition. I will be very anxious to hear from the Minister what is the current state of the investigations into compensation. But even apart from that, the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill, insofar as it deals with those disabled persons who have been injured in the course of or arising out of their employment with the Commonwealth Government, is highly inadequate and deserves to be condemned by the Senate.
– in reply- I agree with the speakers for the Opposition that we should expedite this legislation. It has been the subject of some delay, and the Bills which are before us will take effect from 1 September this year. I agree that it has been some time since there was an increase in the rates which apply, and I am glad to hear that the Opposition will give these Bills a speedy passage. I will refer to the Opposition’s amendment which was moved by Senator Grimes and which asks for general policy on compensation and also quarterly adjustments. It is true that the former Government introduced a national compensation scheme but it is not true to say that it was as successfully received as may have been indicated by the speeches of the 2 Opposition senators today. At one stage in his speech Senator Grimes referred to the unyielding Constitution which this Government has. I felt rather that it was the Australian people who had the Constitution. Whilst it may have been glossed across by Senator Wheeldon that there were constitutional difficulties in the national compensation scheme which was introduced, this in no way is an established fact to the degree that may have been pretended, that the scheme that was introduced could have been implemented in all its facets.
In speaking of the national compensation scheme of the former Government, Senator Grimes overlooked the fact that he was a signatory to the Senate committee report that gave some 15 reasons why there would have been difficulties in the scheme that was introduced. To suggest here today that the national compensation scheme that was introduced last year was capable of implementation in its entirety or that it would have removed all the difficulties in this important area does not fairly state the facts. I will deal with the matters raised in turn. It was suggested that increases should be reviewed at frequent intervals. I have asked my Department to look into the possibility of automatic adjustment of compensation payments. A number of options for achieving this end are available to the Government. These are currently being reviewed and examined within the Department. I agree that for a long period to elapse before some change is made to the level of benefit diminishes that benefit.
Comparisons were made between the benefits provided under the Commonwealth Act and those provided under State Acts. We ought to take account of the fact that compensation payments for death under this Bill compare favourably with the equivalent benefits offered under State schemes. No State offers a higher benefit for the children of deceased employees than is provided in this Bill, that is, $10 a week subject to a minimum payment of $1,000. Only one State, Tasmania, provides a higher limit on funeral expenses than the $650 provided in this Bill. The $25,000 lump sum payment to a dependent widow of a deceased employee is either equal to or higher than the same benefit offered in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. In Western Australia the equivalent rate is $27,6 17; in Tasmania it is $25,674; and in the Australian Capital Territory it is $25,120. The State rates are taken into account when the Commonwealth rates are reviewed. The amendments in this Bill took into account increases in the minimum wage and other factors that needed to be considered when we were reviewing the rates that would apply.
The matter of retrospectivity of the application of these new benefits was also raised. Senator Grimes referred to the rates of compensation which applied in 1954. 1 think it should be mentioned that the rates under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act were introduced into the Parliament on 9 April 1954. Provision was made for them to apply retrospectively to 1 January 1954.
– Why was that not done this year?
– On that occasion the Government had given an undertaking to introduce the amendments in 1953. The introduction of the legislation was delayed because of the sudden ending of the parliamentary session in 1953.
– The only difference is that the Government has changed this time.
-On that occasion the same government was returned and was able to put into effect its promise of the previous year. Following the election last year, the Government reviewed the rates. I agree that it is a delayed acceptance of the legislation to apply the new rates from 1 September, but retrospectivity should be put into that perspective rather than be referred to in a general way as it was by Senator Grimes. Senator Wheeldon asked about the progress being made with a national compensation scheme within the Department of Social Security. I am currently examining the options in the field of national compensation. This is part of the Government’s consideration of its overall income security responsibilities. The Government’s objective is to have a joint CommonwealthState examination made of the options that are available. This will enable proper consideration of the implications of establishing a national compensation program. I have previously stated that I met with State Ministers in May of this year for exploratory talks on the subject of national compensation. That meeting established a steering committee of Commonwealth and State officers which will undertake a joint examination, including an assessment of the costs of various options for improving the present systems and extending their coverage to a national program. Any decisions taken in this area will need to take into account such factors as the capacity of the community to meet the additional cost of any new program. They would also need to consider the priorities of the program over competing claims on government finances and the Government’s overall policy of bringing inflation under control as a first priority.
I am sure that honourable senators will appreciate that one of the major problems in the compensation field is the escalating costs caused by inflation. I agree with Senator Wheeldon that the difficulties of commercial undertakings with regard to workers’ compensation present a problem. This is also a problem with regard to motor vehicle insurance. Almost exclusively in some cases State government offices are dealing with this area of insurance. The suggestion that any scheme we introduce will abandon the cost difficulties that presently exist overlooks the fact that ultimately we have to ask who will pay for it. Senator Wheeldon suggested that it should be funded from general revenue. That can only mean from personal income taxes or from other direct or indirect taxes which a government imposes. It should be recalled that whilst he talked of rehabilitation as being one of the primary objectives of the Labor Government’s scheme it was questionable whether the statutory basis that applied to the scheme was adequate for some of the matters involved. None of these matters is simple. I regard rehabilitation as one of the most important responsibilities of the Department of Social Security. The Government introduced a 3-year program for handicapped persons which will enable the further establishment of national rehabilitation centres throughout the country. I think it is a primary objective of the government that rehabilitation should be offered to all the people who require it. I also remind the Senate of the difficulties that members of the trade union movement saw in the national compensation scheme of the former Government and all the other matters that need to be carefully considered before we are able to say that a scheme would be suitable.
The Government has had exploratory talks with State governments but not all of them have indicated that they would be prepared to take part in a national scheme involving the Federal Government and State governments. I hope that later this year some of the costing and preparatory work that has been done in the States and in the Commonwealth Department may lead us to a further stage in developing a national compensation scheme. I regret that Opposition senators feel that they have not been involved in what has been done by the Government this year in the development of a scheme with the States. Work is being done at present in the Department to examine costings and other matters. I assure Opposition senators that I will involve them in discussions that need to be undertaken to seek their views if we make further progress in the development of a scheme. It would be understood that last year when there needed to be close consultation we were considering a proposal that had been developed by the former Government. At that stage it was timely to seek the views of the Opposition to enable that scheme to pass through both Houses of Parliament. The present Government has not yet reached that stage. I assure the Opposition that I would be grateful for the contribution of those who were closely associated with the scheme last year, in particular the former Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) who would have much to tell us about his consultations with insurance companies and others when he was seeking the passage of that legislation. I thank Opposition senators for the comments they have made on these Bills and for assuring the Senate that they will have a speedy passage. I would like to see the increased rates and benefits apply as soon as possible.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Grimes’ amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill 1976
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on 1 September 1976.
-On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
The effect of that amendment is to move back the date of the commencement of the operation of the Bill from 1 September 1976 to 1 June 1976. The purpose of doing that is to provide for further compensation to be paid to those who have been affected by the delay. In moving that amendment, I should like to borrow an argument used by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in her reply to the second reading debate on this legislation. Under the legislation we are involved with annual increases in the compensation payments which have been made ever since the legislation was first introduced. These increases have been regular, even following the change of government in 1972 and prior to that. As I pointed out in my speech during the second reading debate, an election was held in early 1953, and in April 1954 legislation was introduced which provided for a commencement date of 1 January 1954 to make up for the delay which had occurred because of the election. We do not feel that we can reasonably move an amendment to provide for retrospectivity to 1 January 1976. However, the increased payments in this legislation are to be made on the basis of increases in the minimum wage up to 1 June.
We believe it is perfectly reasonable to do what the Liberal-Country Party Government did in 1954, that is, to move the date of commencement back 3 months. We believe that is consistent with what was done in 1954. We believe, of course, that it would be more consistent to move the commencement date back to 1 January; but that would involve complications and, I admit, a fair amount of expense for the Government. Therefore we believe the amendment I have moved is a reasonable one. We believe that that amendment, which moves back to 1 June the date of the commencement of the operation of the Bill and therefore the date from which the increases apply, is in the spirit of what has happened in relation to this legislation in the past. It would give some semblance of justice to the people who are paid under this legislation. It would overcome some of the difficulties which have been created because of the delays in dealing with the legislation. Those delays resulted from 2 causes. The first was the Government’s delay in introducing the legislation. The second was the Government’s delay in bringing the legislation on for debate following its introduction. We believe that there are justice and logic in the amendment. I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Grimes. No adjustment to compensation payments under the Seamen’s Compensation Act has occurred since 16 November 1974 when the last amendments to the legislation were introduced by the Labor Government of the day. Since then, and particularly since the recent increases in social welfare benefits, an employee who is injured would have been nearly as well off from June of this year until these increases become effective by receiving the sickness benefit as he would have been by receiving workmen’s compensation under the 2 Acts.
I believe that the relativity between what an employee should receive when injured in the course of his employment and what he would receive by way of sickness benefits has been eroded in the period as is demonstrated by the gap revealed through a comparison of the 2 payments. For instance, a person with a wife and 2 children receiving sickness benefit from 1 June of this year- that is the date to which our amendment seeks to alter the date in this legislation from which the new payments will commencewould receive from 1 September 1976 a total of $83.50 a week under the Social Security Act in the form of sickness benefit. A workman who is injured in the course of his employment would receive from 1 September under the proposed rates which are not to be made retrospective $86 a week only. I invite the Committee to consider the increases that have taken place as a result of wage movements since 1974. As Senator Grimes pointed out, since the Labor Party was in office, when annual adjustments in respect of workmen’s compensation payments were made, payments of compensation to seamen have not kept pace with other benefits payments. It is for that reason that I believe retrospectivity at least to 1 June of this year should be granted.
Perhaps when she replies the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) may be able to advise how long it will be after assent is given to the Bill before recipients of workmen’s compensation receive the new benefits. Some of these people have been on workmen’s compensation for a long time. They are still receiving the old benefits which, as I previously pointed out, are little more than what they would receive in the form of sickness benefit. The current payments received under the existing compensation Act by a single person, a married person without dependants or a married person with one, two, three or four dependants are well below the ordinary rate of pay such persons would receive if they had not been injured and were still in employment. I ask the Minister to give some assurance that there will be no further delay in paying to those employees who have been injured and who are still on workmen’s compensation and also those employees who have returned to the workforce but who were in receipt of workmen’s compensation prior to 1 September of this year the retrospective benefits to which they are entitled.
– I respond to the matters raised by assuring the Committee that the matter of adjusting the payments from 1 September will be dealt with expeditiously. It is usual that compensation payments are made fortnightly. I would assume that, within the first fortnight of the passage of this legislation, adjustments will be made to the compensation benefits. Let me clarify for the Committee the record of increases in benefits that have taken place. If we were to state these accurately, we would point out that there were not annual increases when the former Government was in office. The record shows that there was an increase in September 1971 and in 1972. There was no increase in the period of office of the former Government in 1973. In 1974, an increase in benefits occurred. No increase was granted in 1975. The increases that we are introducing will take effect from 1 September of this year. I am unable to accept the amendment from the Opposition proposing that the benefits should be retrospective to 1 June.
-Mr Chairman, I have 3 amendments which relate to clauses 4, 5 and 7 of the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill 1976. Those clauses, in part or in whole, read: 4. ( 1 ) Section sb of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1) the figures ‘$20,000’ and substituting the figures ‘$25,000 ‘.
The amendment made by sub-section (1) applies in relation to an injury of a kind specified in sub-section 5b (4), (5) or (6) of, or in Schedule 3 to, the Principal Act as amended by this Act that is sustained after the commencement of this section, whether the accident or disease that caused the injury occurred before or after that commencement.
I ask for leave to move together amendments Nos 2, 3 and 4 circulated in my name.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the Committee. I move:
In clause 4, leave out” ‘$25,000’ “.insert” ‘$28,000’ “.
In clause 5, leave out “ ‘$25,000 ‘ “, insert “ ‘$28,000 ‘ “.
In clause 7, paragraph (a), proposed new clause (i), leave out” ‘$25,0OO’ “.insert” ‘$28,000’ “.
I believe that I have covered the purposes of these amendments sufficiently in my second reading speech. Some of the lump sum payments for specified injuries and lump sum payments to widows will be increased by 25 per cent only. We believe that this increase discriminates against widows and those other people who are eligible for the payments. The effect of these amendments would be to raise those benefits to the same level as other benefits under the legislation.
Bill agreed to.
Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1976
-Mr Chairman, I have 2 amendments which relate to clause 2 and Schedule 1 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1976. Clause 2 provides:
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on 1 September 1976.
Schedule 1 reads:
I ask for leave to move together the 2 amendments which have been circulated in my name.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the Committee. I move:
In clause 2, leave out ‘ 1 September 1976’, insert ‘ 1 June 1976’.
Leave out the Schedule 1, insert the following Schedule:
These amendments are similar to, and if agreed to would have the same effect as, the amendments which the Opposition moved to the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill 1976. The first amendment requests the Parliament to change the commencement date from 1 September 1976 to 1 June 1976. The second amendment dealing with Schedule 1 of the Bill seeks to provide what we consider are just increases in the payments for specified injuries and lump sum payments.
– I rise, briefly, for the purpose of asking the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to clarify why the figures and the date which are set out in the Bill have been selected. I can appreciate that the Government had problems in preparing legislation as a result of the disgraceful events of last November which resulted in the present Government parties taking office in unusual circumstances. I suggest that to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition to provide for retrospectivity to 1 June would more than compensate for any time that was lost because of the upheavals which took place last November. The date 1 June is about 7 months after the present Government took office, and there is certainly nothing unreasonable in asking that payments be made retrospective to that date. Even the date 1 June would mean a delay of some months in the increases which should have been made in payments to injured and disabled persons. I think the same sort of question can be asked regarding the Schedule. The figures which are proposed in the Opposition’s amendments are themselves very modest when one considers the rate of inflation in this country. Unless we are to make the assumption that the figures with which the Government has presented us in the legislation were merely grabbed out of the air because the Government felt that something had to be done, I should be obliged if the Minister would explain to the Senate how these figures have been arrived at and, at the same time, why the date of 1 September, some 10 months after this Government took office, was selected as the date to which retrospectivity applies.
– There is only one matter I want to raise. Although it is not dealt with specifically in the Bill, it is dealt with in the existing Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act in sections which are taken into account in the Bill. Section 5 of the Act defines dependant’. Paragraph (c) of the definition reads:
I do not think there has been any change in this legislation in that definition of ‘dependant’. ‘Dependant’ is defined much more clearly in the South Australian Workmen’s Compensation Act 1971-1973 which states that the term ‘wife of a workman’ includes a woman who is not married to the workman but who is living with the workman on a permanent basis as his de facto wife. So under the existing legislation a de facto wife has to live in that relationship for a period of 3 years before she is regarded as a dependant of the worker; whereas under the South Australian Act she is a dependant provided it is established that she is living as the de facto wife in a permanent relationship. Whether this matter is dealt with in the legislation, I am not certain. I have not been able to find it. There is no reference to it in the second reading speech. If my memory serves me correctly, the Social Services Act was amended and this archaic provision under that Act was amended so that a de facto wife did not have to live in such a relationship for a period of 3 years before she became entitled to social security benefits as the wife of a de facto husband. Perhaps the Minister could explain whether the definition of ‘dependant’ has been amended in the legislation. If it has not been amended, why not?
– I will respond briefly to the matters that have been raised in Committee. Firstly, I was asked about the increases in payments and how the amounts were established. Senator Wheeldon asked on what basis these amounts were established. The increased amounts took account of the movements in the -< minimum wage and also the comparable amounts payable by the States under their legislation. The Opposition’s amendment seeks retrospectivity to 1 June. In support of that amendment Opposition speakers have asked why that date cannot be accepted in this legislation. The date of 1 September was selected as the date to which payments should be made retrospective because it allowed the Government to take into account the new minimum wage figures which were announced in late August.
– For the June quarter?
– Yes, but they were not announced until late August. When we were preparing the legislation we chose the date of 1 September as the date on which this legislation would apply. As to the matter raised by Senator Donald Cameron in regard to the definition of dependant’ in respect of a woman who is not married but is living with the employee on a permanent basis, I inform him that there has been no change in the Act with regard to that. I thank the honourable senator for bringing this forward. I will have a look at that section of the Act and at the way in which a woman is able to establish dependency and ascertain whether some amendment should be made to bring the legislation into line with the Social Services Act or any other Commonwealth Act which may be appropriate, in the interests of consistency. With these remarks I indicate that I am not able to accept the amendments that have been moved by the Opposition.
– I would like to take up a point that was introduced by Senator Wheeldon and in fact mentioned by all of us in the second reading debate, and that is the problem of assessing the levels of payment, firstly, on increases in the minimum wage and, secondly, on comparative values of similar benefits which are paid in the States. Some benefits have been increased by 40 per cent, which is about the increase in the minimum wage. Other benefits have been increased by only 25 per cent. There is a great diversity in the generosity, if that is the right word, of the State benefits. The benefits in some States, such as Tasmania, and I believe Western Australia is the other one, are fairly high compared with those in other States. I think the benefits paid in Victoria are the lowest. I speak from memory; I cannot put my hand on my note at the moment. I am interested in the fact that the Minister and the Government seem to feel that the Commonwealth is under some obligation not to get out of kilter with the States. There are injured people in every State. I think the Minister indicated that she was interested in a national compensation scheme. That seems to indicate that it would be desirable to have uniform rates of benefit throughout Australia. It seems to me to be ludicrous that the benefit a person is to receive depends on whether he is living in Tasmania, Western Australia or Victoria or somewhere else. When there is an increase of 40 per cent in one group of benefits and 25 per cent in another, it seems to me that the reason why the increase is only 25 per cent is that we do not want to upset the State governments or we do not want to upset the States. I do not think it is a matter of the Commonwealth, of necessity, being a pacesetter or anything like that. I just do not see the reason for this great concern about what happens in the States, particularly some States which are notorious for not introducing what most people in this country would consider to be legislation which would provide proper benefits for injured workers.
Bill agreed to.
United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Amendment Bill
-As this Bill is more or less a consequential Bill designed to bring provisions for civilian employees of the United States naval communication station into line with those with which we have just dealt, the Opposition offers no opposition.
Bill agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) together read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18 August, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill came to the Senate on 18 August last. It was originally introduced into the House of Representatives on 27 May. It was given a quick second reading passage. I think my colleague the Opposition’s defence spokesman, the honourable member for Oxley and the former Treasurer, Mr Hayden, dispatched the Bill to the Senate with a speech which consisted of about half a dozen lines. Two other short speeches were made about the Bill, one by Mr Bonnett, who is the honourable member for Herbert, and the other by Mr King on behalf of the National Country Party. The Bill was hastily dealt with in the House of Representatives and, as I say, it came to the Senate on 18 August. Therefore, it has been lying around this Parliament for a period of about 6 months. The Opposition considers that the Bill could have been dealt with hastily, almost in a matter of seconds. I suggest that the progress of this measure is indicative of the Government’s laxity so far as its legislative program is concerned.
The Bill provides for certain procedures to be adopted in order to distribute a surplus that exists in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. It is a straightforward procedural Bill. The Opposition does not object to it. We see no reason for debate on it. We do not see any reason for it having to lie around the Parliament for a period of 6 months. We support the Bill. We urge the Senate to dispatch it off the notice paper forthwith.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of this Bill. I was very pleased to notice the anxiety of the Opposition to deal with Government Business as quickly as possible. I hope that trend will continue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 16 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I find myself in a situation in which I have to get the feel of the pitch on resuming at the wicket on the day after I have been batting. My recollection is that in my opening remarks I said that the Opposition did not intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but that when we were in the Committee stage the Opposition would oppose clause 4 in relation to the rights of the Commission to advise the Minister on specific expenditures and also in relation to what we considered was a compression of the size of the Commission in clause 6. I think it will be agreed by all honourable senators that the process of evolution has ultimately given respectability to those people who want to retain the best of the past. In my opening remarks I paid tribute to the vision of Mr Justice Hope. I think that anybody who read that report- I am not of Scottish origin- would be reminded of Robbie Burns’ poem My Own Native Land. His sentiments came through loud and clear in the report, and would apply to all of us, whatever our country of origin. I think that is the way we should endeavour to approach this matter.
An important aspect of this Bill is the time factor. I think I said to my colleague from the building industry, Senator Cavanagh- who silently applauded me- that it was some militant building workers in some areas who had taken an early stand on this issue. I understand that at an area called Kelly’s Bush in New South Wales members of the Builders Labourers Federation, the Building Workers Industrial Union, members of a plasterers union and local womenfolk took such a stand. As I think one of my colleagues on my right mentioned, the Moreton Bay fig trees adjacent to the Opera House were successfully retained in this way.
The matter with which I would like to deal at the moment is that the Government proposes a membership of seven on the Commission. I think some extremely capable people are on the Commission. I believe the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick) would agree that so far as wildlife conservation and kindred matters are concerned, Vincent Serventy has been a byword throughout Australia. The only aspect of this legislation about which we have fears is that relating to membership of the Commission. We believe that the Commission would be improved and would have a better future if local government and State government representatives were on it. I do not think this is a Bill which will make any honourable senator’s blood pressure rise. I know that the Minister is a great advocate of the federalism concept and partnerships. Whilst I have felt that the Australian Government should always be the innovator, I believe that this may be a case of whether 14 heads would be better than 7 heads, despite the argument that is advanced that we have many experts on tap. We are all old pros in this place and we are all aware that whether it be a commission of seven or whether it be a Cabinet of the Australian Government, when people put their point of view it is the numbers that count. When those members move out among the community much of the impact and thrust of their submissions is lost if the numbers are decreased. That, in a crystalised form, is why we believe the Commission should have more members appointed to it.
As the Minister is aware I drew a comparison with the Australian Schools Commission and the Universities Commission and stated that I believed there should be set goals at which they should aim. Again I use the Cabinet analogy. Ministers in the previous Labor Government and Ministers in this Government have had what I would call ‘a vision splendid’. By the time their vision has been realised it has been modified somewhat. Some people, of course, might say that we have to curb the impetuosity of Ministers. I think that on a number of occasions a Minister’s vision splendid has been extremely curtailed. That is an indication of our reservations.
I have noted that in the other place the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) regaled much on what each had done. I think anybody in any political party has to realise that he is trying to reflect- particularly in the field of conservationthe views of people outside, the commandos. My colleague, a Minister in the Wran Government, the Honourable P. D. Hills, referred to an occasion when he more or less legitimatised the National Trust in New South Wales so far as government recognition was concerned. It was just a matter of assistance. I think that Senator Carrick would agree that at a given time somebody gives a particular cause a further impetus. As far as New South Wales is concerned, I do not run away from the point that by an evolutionary process successive State governments did a little more each time, but the pioneer of these projects in that State was a modest back bencher, a man named Arthur Tonge. He was able to convince the McKell Government to create a fauna panel. It was virtually only a secretariat in the sense that it put out pamphlets about wildlife to children. It had no teeth but it did perform a valuable educational function until public opinion indicated that something more was needed.
The Australian Heritage Commission has to work in alliance with the various national trusts in the various States. It has to work with the various conservation groups. I have a feeling of uncertainty whether the 7 wise men or women will be able to radiate out far enough. It may be that the chairman, David Yencken, is a forceful character, I do not know, but one has to be a rather vigorous advocate at times. Whether it be the Fraser administration or a future Whitlam administration, proposals have to run the gauntlet of a Cabinet comprised of people of all different temperaments. In these circumstances it is extremely hard to achieve all that one is after. I notice that in the exchange in the lower House the question of expenditure was raised. Again that is a bugbear with the present Government as it was with ours. Mr Newman referred to certain money that was expended. There were a few agreements on the acquisition of wildlife habitat. Both Liberal and Labor Premiers were lined up when Mr Berinson was the Minister for the Environment but unfortunately the then New
South Wales Premier had a hang-up on tied grants, as he called them. This was regrettable for New South Wales. I am pleased that at least a lesser amount of money is flowing through. I think the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) would agree that when we talk about scientific planning and money that has been expended on it, it is valid to express concern that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation wildlife people, with their own known expertise, do not get specific grants to do a lot of field work to assist the Heritage Commission when it puts submissions up, apparently via Mr Newman, to the full Cabinet. I think the Minister will appreciate what I am getting at. Mr Newman referred to a particular honeyeater in Victoria and to a partnership with the Victorian Government to acquire some habitat.
I know from being a member of the committee that investigated the woodchip industry and which had to delve into wildlife habitat that it is hard to get objective submissions on these matters. Perhaps the Minister might explain to us just what liaison the Australian Heritage Commission, when it is evaluating its requests, will have with the CSIRO wildlife division. I think I can say without breaking any confidences from the Senate committee to which I referred that it is difficult to get objective assessments. We found that some people who were very proconservation at times did not buttress up their case as we would have liked nor did some of the developmentalists. Of course we had other people who were rather scornful and who disputed everything that the conservationists said. But when we got Dr Harry Frith and his colleagues before us- I think Senator Bonner will agree with me- the issues came out loud and clear. I wish to refer to something that reinforces the Opposition’s reservations. I refer to the journal prepared by the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. He says -
– Who says?
– The editor says or is it some correspondent?
-No, it is the official journal of the Department under the leadership of the present Minister, Mr Newman. This is the September-October issue. It summarises the role of the Heritage Commission. It states:
The development of the Register is the Commission’s most urgent task.
We all agree with that. I had expressed concern on the time factor and any freeze on possible areas to be brought within the realms of the Commission. When one is dealing sometimes with smart alec developers and councils which are not overkeen time is not on one’s side. The publication goes on to state:
It will shortly be inviting submissions from Federal and State governments, conservation bodies, and concerned individuals for recommendations for the first sites to be considered for the Register.
It then states:
We hope to receive the first group of submissions by December and to start the process of evaluation and listing . . .
It is hoped that by April the first sites will then be on the register. This is now November. I think we all agree that under the federal system if somebody wants to be a nark there is a lot of opportunity. If anybody is trying to develop something he has to get over a lot of hurdles. I simply reiterate that I am wondering about the time factor, whether if we move sufficiently fast we will find that some of these areas have slipped by. I know that things move fast. I think I read in the Australian Financial Review recently something about the Elizabeth Farm cottage. We know that the situation with regard to the Queen Victoria Building is a little different. I think Western Australians would know more than I do about the Palace Hotel in Perth. I notice that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is sitting opposite. The National Trust newsletter of Victoria asked: Will Davidson’s building be lost?’ I know that we are not referring to an investment of Senator Davidson. It refers to a building at 80 Yarra Street which is one of Geelong ‘s most important classified buildings. I am not passing judgment on the matter but I think the Minister will agree with me that it is a mammoth task and if there are any bureaucratic roadblocks there will be trouble.
These are the things about which we are naturally concerned. Perhaps one of the reasons why I am arguing that the memberships of the Commission should be larger is that we have seen in so many fields that if all State governments are not given a place in the sun there is a tremendous temptation for them to be difficult. I can recall that when we were framing the Senate water pollution report Senator Rae, with considerable legal skill, was trying to get a formula whereby we would be able to give the States proper recognition. What I am really getting at- one has to digress a little- is that in that instance we were looking at the powers of the Australian Government to emulate Canada when it declared a river a disaster area and Ottawa funded the States. We were trying to get the same situation. Although I am a centralist in many ways, I realised that unless we had deputy commissioners from every State we would not get very far. I begin to wonder about how this project will work. When I look at the people who comprise this Commission I notice Professor Geoffrey Blainey of the University of Melbourne, Miss Margaret Feilman of Perth, Professor John Mulvaney of the Australian National University and Mr Vincent Serventy of Sydney. Mr Serventy made his mark in Western Australia.
– He is a bird man.
– He is not only a bird man, he is an authority on national parks. A Queensland publication shows that the vision of Vincent Serventy goes far beyond that of the ornithologists of Australia. Mr Keith Sinclair of Melbourne is another member of the Commission. I do not know him. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack might give us his track record. Mr Reg Walker of the Australian Council of National Trusts is another member and that connection is supposed to justify such a posting. Each of them appears to have a record of performance. However, I believe that the Commission should have some State government representatives on it. I do not want the Minister to say to me, with a smile, that I am battling for States rights. I am looking for a lubricant that will make the Commission work. That is the best way I can put it.
The Minister may be aware of a particular incident about 7 years ago. At the time Senator Bishop was one of the Opposition’s spokesmen on the matter. I think Senator Cotton may have played a role in it. He probably did. I refer to something that happened at the Heathcote State Park. There was a good old controversy about whether a landline would be run through the park. To be candid, the Minister was receptive to our views. Even before we got the message to the people in the field, the Postmaster-General’s Department had started to cross the State Park. I am wondering what will be the position with some of the authorities now, such as Telecom. Will the message come to those authorities loud and clear? If the Heritage Commission is involved in some issue with authorities such as Telecom, will they respond? I notice that the Queensland article to which I referred earlier contains a formula for giving publicity about a particular area when there is a general alert. I am always very fair about these matters. At times I am rather critical of developers and some big multinationals. At times I feel that many State instrumentalities are as bad. I think the Minister would agree that the New South Wales Government found that its Department of Main Roads committed what would be called a conservation sacrilege in relation to a road built by convicts in the Peats Ferry region.
Some of the other points which I would have advanced now I will reserve for the Committee stage. I refer to clause 4, which deals with the functions of the Commission, and to clause 6 about which we have some reservations. They relate to what I would call the compression of the Commission. We agree with the Bill in principle. Like many other things, I think the vision and efforts of Tom Uren and Joe Berinson to get this Commission going should be recognised. There is always talk about co-operation with the States. I rely on the sanity of the Australian people. When an idea is accepted, I think it is a case of polishing it up. I make another analogy. It may be that through these men the castings came out of the foundry. Now it is up to us to see whether the milling machinists can complete the job.
– I note that Senator Mulvihill started and completed his speech with analogies. The first related to cricket. He expressed some difficulty about getting to the pitch- it did not seem to me that he had much of a problem. After all, this debate had been postponed for some time. I remind him that it was not postponed overnight, as is an ordinary cricket match. The second day was washed out by rain- by a veritable flood of education Bills. Therefore it is quite a long time since we tried to get this debate under way. I thought he, in his speech, particularly 2 nights ago, showed a very fair attitude to the Bill. He spoke about some of the delays. He said that the Bill to establish the Australian Heritage Commission was passed last year, but that the Commission came into operation only in July of this year. He said:
It may be argued that the Whitlam Government was slow in finalising appointments to the Commission. I know that Mr Uren spent a considerable time seeking ideal personnel. Because people whom a government may want to appoint to a body are not immediately available and because of a desire to blend in a whole host of experts, it takes time to tool up.
I, as a Government senator, feel inclined to be generous and made a similar admission. I feel a little anxious that this year there was a delay before the Commission came into operation. The commission did not come into operation until July. There was a period in which the new Government was determining the future composition of and its attitude towards the Commission. It is now in operation.
This Bill makes a number of relatively minor and, I think, fairly useful amendments to the original legislation. They will be useful because, above all other things, they will finalise, for the time being anyway, the way in which the Commission will operate. One may expect that from now on the Commission can proceed with evergreater speed and efficiency in doing the things which are set out for it in the Act. Senator Mulvihill described himself as a conservative, I believe. He said that he believes in conserving land. Perhaps that is the only field in which he and I could be described as conservatives. I join with him in saying that in the conservation of many things which are part of the history of this country it is important that the Heritage Commission operate successfully. The history of the action of the National Estate goes back to 1972. We signed an international convention at the end of 1972. Then there was that magnificent report of the Hope inquiry which was the basis of the legislation. I think the legislation fairly faithfully records Mr Justice Hope ‘s desires.
I think it is worth while to remind ourselves of the purposes set out for the Australian Heritage Commission. They were set out in the report. The first was to:
Set up an Australian Heritage Commission on a broad and representative basis … to advise the Government and the Parliament on the condition of the National Estate and how it should be protected.
The second purpose, a very important purpose, was to:
Establish and maintain a register of the things that make up the National Estate.
That register will tell us the assets that are valuable, the assets that need to be preserved- some at all costs, other perhaps of a lesser significance -and those matters which are part of the tradition of this country and which could easily disappear. The third purpose was to:
Require that the Australian Government departments and agencies and those acting on its behalf respect the National Estate and do all they can to preserve it.
This Bill sets out the ways in which those purposes should be achieved. The final purpose was to:
I think it is important for us to have in mind these objectives.
I agree with Senator Mulvihill that the people already appointed to the Commission have a great deal of ability and should be capable of carrying out the purposes for which it was established. It is headed by Mr David Yencken who is accepted as a man of great experience and great competence. Many members of this Parliament have had the opportunity of discussing with him the purposes and work of the Commission. Earlier this year, when there was some state of uncertainty, Mr Yencken said:
The future of the Heritage Commission, which was being established by the Labor Government before its dismissal, had been in doubt for months because of uncertainty about its acceptance by the Fraser Government.
At the time that this Bill, which brought forward these changes, was introduced, he said:
Amendments to the Act introduced by the Prime Minister 2 weeks ago had not removed or affected any of the important roles or powers of the Commission.
I do not think Senator Mulvihill suggested for one moment that that is so, although in the perhaps more vigorous and emotional atmosphere of the other place there was some tendency to suggest that the amendments had greater significance that they in fact have.
The amendments contained in the Bill do change the functions of the Commission. Clause 4 changes section 7 of the Act. The Commission is not expected now to make proposals for example, in regard to financial assistance an expenditure. That is not to be within its express compass. Its new function is to be ‘to furnish advice to the Minister, either of its own motion or upon request made to it by the Minister, on matters relating to the national estate, including advice relating to action to conserve, improve and present the national estate’. Although this body is not expected to be an expert financial body or to determine or to recommend taxes or financial matters, I take it that naturally its advice will have to deal to some extent with the economics of conservation and the area and way in which action will be taken. I take it that in the general compass of the powers that the Commission has there naturally will be some consideration of the economics, but the Commission will not be expected to be an expert body in respect to the financing of conservation. The amendment to section 8 is a useful amendment. It provides that one of the objectives and works of the Commission shall be to ‘consult with the Director of National Parks and Wildlife in relation to any matter that concerns the establishment or management of a park or reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975’. That is a very useful provision. It is obviously necessary that these 2 separate bodies should work in consultation and co-operation, because there is some overlap in the spheres in which they are involved.
In regard to the amendments to section 12, Senator Mulvihill had something to say about the effect of reducing the number of commissioners. Now there will be 7 commissioners instead of something like 19 commissioners in all. The Government has found it necessary to economise on the cost involved in the size and activities of a commission with a great number of commissioners. Obviously this is a matter which is not immutable or not for all time. It will depend on what turns out to be the work of this Commission. I suppose that it would be well within the power of the Government to increase the number of commissioners if it were found that they could not manage. I thought it very queer that Senator Mulvihill should say that it is numbers that count. That is a proposition in regard to the appointment of commissioners and boards that I would not accept.
– I was referring to when the proposal for 7 commissioners went to the Cabinet. You can find Cabinet rivalries in any government. That is where the numbers count, not at the commission level.
-Senator Mulvihill is not suggesting that there is any more efficiency in a commission of 19 than in a commission of seven, is he?
– I was saying that there would be more representatives of State government and local government people.
-I will come to the representation later, but let me deal with Senator Mulvihill ‘s statement that it is the numbers that count, whichever way he puts it. We in this Senate, when we compare our numbers with the numbers in the House of Representatives, would not be inclined to suggest that the numbers count and that double the size makes for any greater efficiency or ability. I would warn against that argument.
Senator Mulvihill said that there ought to be State representation. The curious thing about this is that the original Bill had no provision in this regard. When 19 commissioners were proposed there was no suggestion that there should be State government representation. Sub-section (5) of section 12 of the Act which provides for 19 commissioners says that in the appointment of commissioners the Minister ‘shall have regard to the desirability of the membership of the Commission including persons resident in the several States and in the Northern Territory’. But even in the original Bill providing for the larger number, which was proposed by the Labor Government and which went through the Parliament, there was no suggestion that there would be State government representation on the Commission. So if Senator Mulvihill was attempting to beguile the Minister with this touch of federalism, I am afraid that I must inform him that the original Act did not provide for State representation, and I doubt that the Minister will be beguiled.
I suggest that, in the present state of affairs and with the work now being done, commissioners can carry out the work of the Commission satisfactorily. No doubt as far as possible the membership will cover persons from different States and persons of different interests in the field of the National Estate.
The other amendments to the Act likewise are useful. They deal, among other matters, with the situation of Aboriginal places. They obviously need to be tied up closely with the sites that are protected under laws of the States or Territories. Section 23 of the Act, as now amended, will allow action to be taken in accordance with a recommendation to the Minister of an approved person or organisation. That is a useful addition to the legislation. Another important provision of the Bill relates to the staff of the Commission. The Chairman is not a permanent head of a department. The Bill provides that the use of the services of the staff of the Commission by commissioners shall be subject to the control of the Chairman. I believe that that is necessary.
In the debate in the House of Representatives there was emphasis- Senator Mulvihill referred to it also- the most urgent task of the Commission, namely, that it should complete a register of the National Estate and that that should be the major work with which it should deal. What I do not entirely agree with is Senator Mulvihill’s statement that there must be speed in completing the register so that acquisitions can then take place. Quite frankly, I think the completion of the register of the National Estate will take a considerable time, and of course it will be a continuing operation. I would think that the time would not be so far distant when there would be some items of the National Estate that required to be taken over, to be acquired, or required action for their preservation. I do not think the Heritage Commission will be doing just one job and that there will not be urgent needs of various types in the various States to preserve pans of our heritage that are likely to be damaged beyond repair. There was some reference to this urgency. It was said that funds must be available and that it would be something which one would hope the Government would have in mind. It was said that funds to deal with aspects of our heritage that were in danger should be considered by the Government and made available in the near future. With this in mind I would like to refer to statements made in the House of Representatives by Mr Barry Simon, the honourable member for McMillan, who pointed out that we are aware of the present difficulties of the Government in the necessity to restrain public spending and to the fact that new ventures are not easy to contemplate in the present economic conditions. As recorded at page 320 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 18 August 1976, he said:
However, the restriction of expenditure to the Australian Heritage Commission can be justified only if by so doing the National Estate is not thereby prejudiced. If any commitment of the natural environment which would form part of the National Estate and appear on the register in accordance with the terms of the Act is in danger of destruction, despoliation or is in any way adversely affected, the Government must take immediate and urgent steps, on the advice of the Commission, to preserve or maintain that component.
I believe that there will be cases where it will be a matter of sheer necessity to expend moneys to ensure that some things are not destroyed. A similar point was made in an article written earlier this year, on 9 March, in the Age newspaper by John Messer dealing with the Australian Heritage Commission’s ‘plight’. At that stage there was uncertainty as to what would be the further action of the Government in relation to the Commission. He was pointing out among other interesting matters that the functions of the Commission may well have to be delegated to the States to be operated by them. He said that they should not be surrendered but should be delegated to the extent that that could be done. He then referred to a statement by the Chairman of the Australian Heritage Commission, Mr Yencken. The article said:
Chairman of the Australian Heritage Commission, Mr Yencken, makes one further argument on the economic scale, although it registers on the social and political spectrum as well.
This is the immense cost that the Australian Heritage Commission will save the community by heading off major resource conflicts before they occur.
One of its particular aims would be to identify areas of potential resource conflict early enough so that people can readjust their programs’, he said. ‘For a relatively small cost you can find an alternative for the developing agency.
The argument for preservation should be an incredibly strong one. The conservation argument runs forever. What you destroy is gone forever. In a case of conflict, if you develop you destroy the potential for conserving. ‘
It should be borne in mind that it may well be that the saving to the community in many areas will be by early action rather than by waiting until people have made decisions and have committed themselves to all kinds of economic development. It would be better for the Heritage Commission to step in, put items on the register and let people know well in advance before they are confused and before they have incurred unnecessary expenditure.
I feel that the recent decision in regard to Fraser Island falls into this category. I believe that it will be an island which very soon will be in the category of particular world’s heritage. Actions there need to be taken, and were taken, at an early stage. This is one example of the way in which the heritage of this country is being preserved.
The Government has a policy and a commitment from the last election which I think is well worth reading in regard to the preservation of the National Estate and other conservation measures. Under the heading ‘National Estate’ it said:
To preserve areas and buildings of historical, social, cultural, ecological or environmental significance, the Liberal and National Country Parties will:
Support the Australian Heritage Commission.
Preserve Commonwealth buildings, structures and areas which have unique historical value and wide community appreciation.
Confer with States on the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry on the National Estate.
Provide funds for the States to assist in the preservation of areas and buildings of historical, social, cultural, ecological and environmental significance.
– How do buildings come under ecology?
– I think perhaps it refers to areas. There may be a slight grammatical defect in that statement but I think the purposes are clear. I believe that this should continue to be the objective of the Government.
This Bill is really a machinery Bill which provides some streamlining and some additional certainty in the area in which the Heritage Commission is proceeding. I believe that it is important that this area should not become insignificant, that we should not in any circumstances think there will not be costly involvement in the heritage position. I know that at the present time there are financial limitations, but I hope and believe that this area will continue to be a matter of most major concern to the Government and that we shall adopt and continue to foster the development of the Heritage Commission.
– I enter this debate for a number of reasons. As I develop my contribution to the discussion I want to refer particularly to the necessity to preserve Aboriginal sacred sites. After listening to Senator Missen it appears that the Government has not lost its great ambition to scale down the Australian heritage in this particular context. Senator Mulvihill said that there are amendments to the Bill which the Opposition will be opposing. Over the last year the Liberal Party in government has shown itself to be the political representative of the bulldozer owners and the developers. In this country now there are areas being laid waste that would have been preserved had the Australian Labor Party Government remained in office.
To put the matter into its proper perspective we ought to look at a little of the history of the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission. When Labor came to office in 1972 the national heritage was neglected and had been allowed to run down over a period of very many years. The establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission highlighted the need to protect our forests, rivers, historical sites and Aboriginal sites from the ravages of time and development. The Hope Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate recognised that there had been a long period of uncontrolled settlement and development. That attitude could be described as being of the mentality of Whelan the Wrecker. When the new Government was elected in December 1972 it was obvious that this was part of the policy for which the Australian people decided to change the administration. Our approaches to the environmental question and to the protection of the national estate and a number of other matters obviously had a very big impact on the electors at that time.
On 14 May 1975 the Labor Government introduced the Australian Heritage Commission Bill, which virtually implemented the basic recommendations of the Hope Committee. With its land rights Bill the Labor Government implemented almost all the recommendations of the Woodward Committee. In other words, the former Government saw the advantage of setting up committees and commissions which were designed and planned in such a way as to be able to produce the sorts of recommendations needed for a government to plan its legislation. The original Bill was designed to establish a body with the task of registering the components of the National Estate and to start the immediate task of taking the necessary measures to protect and improve elements of our heritage. So at that early stage the funding was quite substantial because it was felt by Labor that a whole host of areas needed immediate protection. Unfortunately, the events of the latter part of last year prevented the appointment of members of the Commission. People are worried and their awareness is becoming more pronounced day by day. Twenty, thirty or forty years ago I suppose that our society moved along in an ad hoc manner. People did not worry much whether areas were protected against the ravages of time or against the ravages of developers. They did not worry whether people cut down trees and destroyed homes, rivers and everything just for the sake of doing it. But there is a totally different sort of attitude amongst people today. An ever growing number of people want to see things protected for prosperity.
The anxiety which is now being expressed by many Australians has not been misplaced. The Chairman of the Commission, Mr David Yencken, expressed these feelings aptly when he said:
The future of the Heritage Commission, which was being established by the Labor Government before its dismissal, had been in doubt for months because of uncertainty about its acceptance by the Fraser Government.
I will go on to point out that there was a real fear that the current Administration would gradually take away the powers of the Commission.
– That was in March, was it not?
-When the honourable senator was making his contribution a few moments ago he was developing an apology for the ravages of the Fraser Government. That is precisely what it amounted to. He was setting out his own terms of apology for the amendments which the Government has moved to the Bill, which cut away government funding and many of the teeth of the Bill. Perhaps if the honourable senator listens he will be able to talk during the Committee stage about some of the things I propose to say. The Chairman’s doubts about the future of the Heritage Commission have not been lessened by the amendment Bill which is now before the Senate. I believe there is ample evidence to suggest that the sins of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government over a period of 23 years are now being re-visited upon us. Neglect, destruction and lack of interest are all potential outcomes of this amendment Bill.
Let us look at a couple of facts. Firstly, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has placed a virtual ban on spending on the National Estate until such time as the inventory of our heritage is complete. The Government is adopting the good old policy of deferring everything. When the Government comes back to pick up the pieces- if it remains in office long enough- some of those things will be riddled with white ants; there will be nothing there to pick up. It might take a year before such an inventory is complete. Judging from the present philosophy that is being expounded by the Prime Minister, it might take 4 or 5 years. In the meantime, of course, things will decay; society will decay. This is in marked contrast to the concern of the previous Government to ensure that no delays occurred in protecting the heritage of all Australians. Even prior to the completion of the Hope Committee’s report a sum of $2m was allocated to preserve areas and sites that were in danger and required immediate attention. That is the matter I referred to a moment ago. Certainly it was a generous sum of money to be made available even before the completion of a report, but we felt that it was essential.
The Government has now slashed the Budget of the Commission. I do not know why it is trying to cover up from Australians its rather abject and appalling attitude towards the national heritage by saying that we must wait until the inventory is complete. The Government ignores the fact that a virtual register was compiled by the Hope Committee. Surely the Government could use this register to continue to save areas that urgently need saving. May I suggest that, if the Government is going to impose economic restraint, it makes the Prime Minister look rather foolish and neglectful of our collective responsibility to maintain elements of our past for future generations. The list that the Government already has ought to be of considerable assistance in funding. A member of Senator Missen ‘s own Party pointed out the falsity of the Prime Minister’s view when he spoke on the Bill when it was being debated in the other place several weeks ago. The honourable member for McMillan, Mr Simon, said on 1 8 August:
To talk of economic restraint whilst part of our heritage is being destroyed is tantamount to vandalism at a national government level.
That was a member of the Liberal Party stating the type of philosophy to which all honourable senators opposite ought to be dedicated if the things they said during the 1975 general election campaign were ever to have been taken at face value.
Secondly, the amendment Bill truncates and diminishes on several grounds the effectiveness of the Commission. Clause 7 of the Bill is altered so that the functions of the Commission are substantially limited. I do not think honourable senators opposite can deny that. They might be able to try to get around it but they cannot deny it. Clause 7 (a) (ii) and (iii), relating to the power of the Commission to advise the Minister on expenditure, has been entirely deleted in the amendment Bill that we now have before us. It just will not wash to suggest that in no way does this deletion affect the powers of the Commission. Advice to the Minister on expenditure by the Commonwealth for the preservation of Australia’s heritage is integral to the functions of a strong and effective Commission. The deletion from the functions of the Commission of the expected task of making recommendations on financial matters reduces the potential effectiveness of the Commission. Unfortunately, this particular manoeuvre is symptomatic -
– Are you quoting from something?
– I am quoting, yes.
– I mean, is that a quote of what someone said?
– I quoted earlier from Hansard.
– From Hansard?
-Yes. Is that all right? I thought I made that quite clear. Perhaps if the honourable senator had listened to the way I approached the matter -
– I am listening intently, Senator. I am fascinated by what you are saying.
– If the honourable senator paid more attention to the debate he would pick up those things. I am not quoting now; I am just referring to my own notes.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr President, I understand that a statement is to be presented. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- When the word T is used honourable senators will understand that it refers to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
I wish to announce measures being taken to effect a major reshaping of elements of the central Commonwealth departmental machinery. The changes are essentially designed to provide for more effective management of the business of Government and to strengthen the Government’s decision making processes. Particular emphasis is being laid on improving capacity to service the Government’s requirements for forward planning, priority setting and the strategic plan- ning of government initiatives. Given the complexity of modern democratic government and the comparatively short term which Commonwealth governments are allowed between elections, it is crucial that there should be more orderly and effective scheduling of government business through the various stages of research, objective setting and policy formulation, program design and the evaluation of program effectiveness. The new arrangements involve separation of the financial management and control activities of the existing Department of the Treasury from its role in broad economic policy analysis and advice to government. For the future, the financial management and control functions will be performed by a newly created Department of Finance.
The new departmental arrangements are designed to help make more manageable the heavy work load of economic and financial expenditure management which necessarily falls to the Treasurer and senior officials. In addition, it will be possible under the new arrangements for more concentrated attention to be given at the departmental level to the functions of financial Budget management and the development of forward estimating, as well as to the analysis of economic issues and the formulation of economic strategy proposals for consideration by government. Outline statements of the functions approved for the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance are available. I ask leave to incorporate them in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
The Department will be responsible for advice on or administration of: economic, fiscal and monetary policy. Its main responsibility will lie in the field of general economic management and it will be involved in a continuous assessment of current and future economic conditions and the provision of advice on appropriate policies including those relating to resource allocation. These policies include: budgetary policy- matters relating to expenditure, revenue and deficit/surplus and means of achieving overall budgetary objectives. monetary policy- matters relating to the control of the money supply, official interest rates, etc. taxation policy- matters relating to the structure and level of taxation in relation both to budgetary needs and effects on resource allocation. incomes and prices matters- providing advice on trends in income and price levels and on their bearing on broad economic objectives. external economic relations- i.e. matters relating to external financial and economic policy issues, including the balance of payments, overseas reserves, the working of the international economic and monetary systems,
Australia’s role in international financial affairs, Australia’s membership of various international organisations.
Commonwealth/State financial relations including the provision of financial assistance to the States and local authorities and the sources of State and local authority revenue. matters relating to the raising, redemption or conversion of Australian Government loans in Australia and overseas, administration of the Financial Agreement and the Gentlemen’s Agreement, and the operations of the National Debt Commission. financial and economic aspects of policy matters concerning the structure and functioning of the banking system and other financial institutions in the Australian capital market, Australian capital investment abroad, exchange control, coinage, and aspects of company law bearing on company structures and financing. matters relating to foreign investment in Australia.
This Department will be responsible for advice on, or administration of:
The Public Account (Consolidated Revenue Fund, Trust Fund, Loan Fund), which also includes prescribing rules for central and departmental accounting within the requirements of the Audit Act and other related legislation; research into management accounting techniques, accounting policy and arrangements, operation of Commonwealth accounting systems.
The collection, preparation and financial analysis of forward estimates of departmental expenditure;
The preparation of Appropriation Bills.
The general oversight of the finances of departments and authorities financed from the budget.
Participation in evaluations of the effectiveness of expenditure programs in meeting Government determined objectives.
Financial evaluation of expenditure proposals and programs in the fields of social services, veterans’ affairs, health, education, housing, immigration, science, recreation, arts and culture, Aboriginals, the environment, employment and Australian Government employment;
Financial evaluation of expenditure proposals and programs relating to air, land and sea transport and internal and international communications, assistance to manufacturing, mining, rural, fishing and tourist industriesfor example, by way of reconstruction schemes, payment of bounties and subsidies and assistance to research and promotion.
Financial aspects of the legislation and operation of statutory authorities of the Australian Government;
Financial evaluation of expenditure proposals and programs relating to defence, budgetary aspects of the Defence Five Year Rolling Program, and Services pay and conditions, defence works, civil works and related programs, foreign aid and mainland and external territories.
Financial evaluation of expenditure proposals and programs relating to urban and regional development, irrigation, transport and other developmental projects.
General and life insurance.
Royal Australian Mint. (Quorum formed)
-As a result of a decision by the Cabinet this afternoon, Sir Frederick Wheeler is to be recommended for appointment as Secretary to the Department of the Treasury. Mr R. W. Cole, presently the Australian Statistician, is to be recommended for appointment as Secretary to the Department of Finance. The President of the Executive Council has indicated his agreement to the announcement of these recommendations. My colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) will have ministerial responsibility for the new Department of Finance. As Treasurer, he will also retain responsibility for the Department of the Treasury. This will help ensure proper co-ordination of the activities of both departments. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) will be an additional Minister Assisting the Treasurer. Formal action will be taken to give effect to these changes within a short period.
In association with these changed administrative arrangements there will be a strengthening of the existing resources available in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the evaluation of the effectiveness of government programs. Regular evaluations will be undertaken of major sectors of government services. Where appropriate these evaluations will be followed by detailed reviews and the development of modified or new programs. The Government has also taken steps to develop further already established capacity within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to advise the Government on forward programming, priority setting and the strategic planning of Government initiatives, The intensified policy and program assessments which will thus be possible will be closely associated with accelerated development of the forward estimates system. The closer coordination will be maintained between relevant areas of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Departments of the Treasury and Finance. The Government is convinced that the new arrangements will assist it materially in dealing effectively with the major issues which currently face the nation.
Careful consideration has been given to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration headed by Dr Coombs, to the work of consultants which reported to the Royal Commission on relevant aspects and in particular to the report of the
Royal Commission’s task force on economic policy. In deciding the nature of the new arrangements, the Government has been aware of the differing expert views which found expression through the Royal Commission regarding the appropriate central administrative machinery which should be developed. The Government’ s decisions also reflect the outcome of its consideration of the reports of the Administrative Review Committee which emphasised the importance of improved financial and program planning and control. The range of approaches to improving the organisation of the Government’s administrative resources which these various reports have canvassed has been of great value in helping to stimulate and clarify thinking in this respect.
– by leave- The statement by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is an indication that the Government intends to divide the Treasury into what I suppose will now be called the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance. It is indicative of the dilemma in which the Government now finds itself. There is no question about a government’s right to determine the number of departments it should have within its own administration. Whether those departments should fulfil a particular function which may differ from the functions performed by the departments of a previous government or any subsequent government is a matter for the government of the day to decide. I would not query that principle but 2 aspects in this statement ought to be highlighted. The Government has got itself into great difficulties on the economic front. Whether this new arrangement is some attempt to give the impression to the Australian public that alterations are being made within the administration of government for the purposes of rectifying the mistakes it has made over the past few months I do not know. What the Government expects to gain from this action is a matter that only time will reveal.
I do not accept the comments which have been made in this statement. I am not referring to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in that respect but to the Prime Minister himself. We have to remember that the Government claims that it is the private sector to which we must look for the recovery of the Australian economy. We are told that there must be a shift of resources from the public to the private sector. Yet the Government is creating more departments. The Department of Productivity was announced only recently. This makes a series of departments concerned with economic activity. The second and more important point and the one I specifically draw to the attention of the Senate is the alleged justification for the Government’s action based on the Coombs report. The statement reads:
Careful consideration has been given to the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Australian Government Administration headed by Dr Coombs, to the work of consultants which reported to the Royal Commission . . .
If we look at the report of Dr Coombs we find an entirely different story. We find that that Commission advised that action be taken in a direction completely opposite to that in which the Government has acted. The Coombs Commission did not recommend that this action be taken at all. What the Coombs Commission advised appears in recommendation 264. Paragraph 1 0. 1 . 1 3 of that recommendation reads:
We recommend therefore that there shall be a department, which might be named the Department of Industries and the Economy -
The initials would spell out the name DINDEC- having the capacity to concern itself mainly with the medium and long term aspects of the industrial structure of the economy, and to act as the prime source of advice bearing on these aspects of economic policy. We emphasise that the rationale of this recommendation is not to provide a second source of advice on all economic policy issues. It is rather to ensure that particular advice and information at present lacking would be available from the department best suited to supply such advice and information. DINDEC would be the source of forward looking economic intelligence, particularly as it relates to structural developments within industry.
That was the advice of the Coombs Commission. I might add that that specific concept is written into the platform of the Labor Party. Then in paragraph 10.1.16, which is to be found on page 304 of the report, the Commission states:
The development suggested would, it seems to the Commission, reduce the need for and probably make unnecessary any major division of the Treasury as contemplated by the task force and suggested by a number of persons critical of the Treasury.
The Commission goes on to say: we are satisfied that an attempt to divide responsibility for economic policy from that for the formulation of the Budget (and therefore from a major influence on the Forward Estimates processes) would either fail (as it did in the United Kingdom) or greatly weaken the effectiveness of economic policy.
That is what the Government is doing under this proposal. In its conclusions on page 370 of the report, the Commission says in paragraph 11.3.15:
Accordingly the Commission has given thought to the possible benefits of dividing the economic policy function of Treasury from that of financial control.
That is quite specific. It goes on to say in paragraph 1 1.3.16:
We have not however recommended it . . . and we fear that an attempt to separate the responsibility for economic policy from responsibility for formulating the Budget could weaken the effectiveness of economic policy . . .
I think I have quoted enough from the Coombs report to indicate that the action that the Government is taking is not based on the recommendations of the Coombs report.
From reading the statement just delivered I would almost go so far as to say that for reasons which escape me there is- I must not use the word ‘deception’ because that would not be permittedsome curious interpretation of what the Coombs report has advocated. One can only assume that the purpose of this exercise is purely a policy decision by the Government, which, 1 concede, it is entitled to take, but it is certainly not based on any factual recommendation that came forward from the Coombs report. One can only assume that it is an attempt to convince the Austraiian public that at last some action is being taken to rectify the economic policies of the Government. I suggest that they will be as successful in the months ahead as they have been in the months that have gone past.
– Before continuing with my remarks in the second reading debate on the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill, I make the comment that the recent announcement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has rather aggravated the situation, because if it shows up one thing it is that it looks as though Sir Frederick Wheeler is on the skids and that the Treasury has been divided into 2 groups. The money for the tea and bickies will now be transferred to the broom cupboard next to the ladies loo and the petty cash tin will be kept around near the men’s washroom, and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) will be out looking for a new job. However, let us continue.
– If you are part of our heritage I will leave.
– It is too late to take a point of order. When the sitting was suspended for the dinner break I was talking about the Fraser Government’s symptomatic method of applying its policies to the Australian Heritage Commission Bill. Fortunately, many State and local governments are starting to see through the rhetoric and the platitudes of the Government. Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of clause 12 (1) of the Australian Heritage Commission Bill which was introduced by the Labor Government will be drastically changed by the amendments contained in the Bill which is before the chamber tonight. The amending legislation, quite frankly, is in a form which will establish a smaller commission which will be less representative and narrower in perception than that formed under the Labor Government’s legislation. That legislation provided for a chairman, 6 permanent heads and 12 other commissioners. That might have appeared to be a rather large body of people to be charged with the very great responsibility of looking after our Australian heritage. But, as the maintenance of our Australian heritage is a large and complicated task, not only for the national Government but also for State governments as well as the whole of the Australian community, the need for broad representation was seen to be absolutely necessary. It has enabled a representative from each State to be on the Commission, as well as members of the community who have an active interest in conservation.
As the work of the Commission would involve many areas, a broad spread of departmental representation was seen as being imperative. I just want to dwell on that aspect for a moment. The tendency under the new national Administration is to cut down the sharing of responsibility in the community. We have seen that occur not only in this area but also in relation to the Australian Assistance Plan. We have seen it happen in relation to various commissions. If pennypinching, money saving, was the real motive, we might be able to understand what was happening; but that is not the real motive. The real motive is to take away from the average Australian his participation in the responsibility of government.
The Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill has seen fit to ignore the vital requirement for broadly based participation and involvement by Australians in the decisions that affect their heritage. This refers even more clearly to what I said earlier tonight: Whelan the Wrecker was an amateur compared with Fraser the wrecker in terms of vital legislation. This legislation is just another example of the trend of the Government to exclude the Australian people from participating in decision making. One only has to witness the incredible secrecy and invasions of the Government to find proof of that. I did not refer to this earlier, but I refer now to the refusal to table the Bland report. The Government has a predilection for calling for reports on various subjects and then, because it discovers that there is something in the reports that is does not like, deciding that the reports will not be debated. I suppose the Hay report was a prime example of that. Everybody in Australia had a copy of the Hay report before it was officially given to members of the Parliament. The Hiatt report was presented today to members of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. I should have said it was given to the Executive members of that Committee, as the Government would not call in the whole 41 members because it really does not want Aborigines to know what it is about. So the Government called in a small group of them and decided that on the night of their arrival they would receive a copy of the report so that they would not be able to delve into it too deeply before starting to talk about it. That is the sort of thing that goes on.
The Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill is a clear indication that that is the sort of policy that the Government is following. We might even go further than that. The Fox report on the uranium environmental inquiry indicated that there ought to be a wide-ranging public discussion on the subject. This is concerned with the protection of our heritage too. But the Government proposes to stage a small debate in both Houses of the Parliament; that will be its contribution to the recommendations contained in the Ranger report. In other words, there will be the minimum amount of public debate before the Government makes major political decisions. I venture to say, even at this early stage, that the Australian people will not accept that attitude.
Section 45 ( 1 ) is proposed to be altered in such a way that the Commission will now need to seek ministerial approval to appoint a committee to assist the work of the Commission. The argument may be put that this amendment is insignificant. But, in fact, if we analyse it in toto we find that it is not; it is a most important amendment. It reflects the attitude of this Government in its endeavours to tighten its control and, as a consequence, lessening the powers of the Commission. The independence of the Commission is, as a result, severely damaged. These are my basic reasons for opposing that amendment. But there is a real and urgent problem involved in protecting the national heritage. The delays, the diminution of the Commission’s functions and the financial cuts can lead only -
– Are you reading again, Senator?
-Of course I am reading. I am reading from copious notes. If the honourable senator would like to take a point of order on that fact, we will do the same in the future.
– I rise to take a point of order.
– The honourable senator is reading his speech.
– A point of order has been taken, Senator Keeffe, alleging that you are reading your speech. You have said that you are basing your remarks on copious notes. It would be appreciated if you would speak without actually closely adhering to whatever you are reading.
-Thank you, Mr President. I think it was the Minister for Science (Senator Webster), who is not in the chamber at present, who once said that there were at least a few of us on this side of the Senate who did not offend in this way. There are times when I need copious notes. I might remember Senator Baume ‘s action when he is reading one of his prescriptions from that side of the Senate on some future occasion.
The points that I mentioned earlier in relation to the real significance of the amendments contained in this Bill are even more important because there are areas in which- (Quorum formed.) Mr President, I hope that Senator Baume will not be disturbed by the fact that I propose to read certain extracts. I ask whether the delay in proceeding with the maintenance of the National Estate is due to the failure to provide adequate financing? Will this mean that parts of our heritage may be destroyed in tot07 Ir this context I refer to recommendation 3 of the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry. It reads:
The whole of Fraser Island be recorded as part of the National Estate as soon as possible.
Will this recommendation be delayed for one, two or three years because this Government is bankrupt and is not able to supply the money in accordance with the recommendations of a former committee of inquiry? Will a possible delay due to the compilation of an inventory and lack of funding add to the process of destruction already in operation on Fraser Island, or will the Government come to its senses and prevent a valuable part of our national heritage becoming a sand dune monument to the follies of the socalled wise.
I said earlier in this debate that I wished to refer to problems that Aboriginal people are experiencing in this country. First of all, I quote briefly from a Press statement that was issued by
Mr Les Johnston, a colleague of mine, who is the member for Hughes in the other place. He was speaking on the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill. According to this report, Mr Les Johnson said: the changes would have a ‘severely deleterious’ effect on the preservation of Aboriginal sites and effectively put their protection outside Federal jurisdiction.
He suggested at that time- I hope that this is not right- that:
Under the proposed change, the Commission would no longer be able to put Aboriginal sites not already classified on the Register of the National Estate which it had been charged with compiling . . .
I come to what the Aboriginal people have to say about this aspect. I wish to read from a publication of the Northern Land Council dealing with statements made at its 13th general meeting at Darwin from 13 to 17 September 1976. 1 am sorry that I must deal at length with this matter. The relevant sections, which are of great importance, are part of the overall statement. The document reads:
The Ordinance which covers the protection of sacred sites in the Northern Territory in force at present is called ‘Historical and Native Objects and Areas Preservation Ordinance’.
I will say something more about this aspect in a moment. The publication continues:
It has been in force for many years and yet only one area of Aboriginal significance off reserves has been declared, this is Seal Gorge at Wave Hill.
Have the ladies finished their conversation, Mr President?
– Order ! I call Senator Keeffe.
– The publication continues:
The fact that the sacred sites on Borroloola have not been protected and are in danger of destruction -
They sound like fishwives, Mr President. Do you think you might be able to persuade them to keep quiet?
– Oh, Mr President!
– Yes. Senator Keeffe, that was a most unparliamentary remark. You must not speak in that way.
- Mr President, in deference to the ladies- they are both charming ladies- I will withdraw that statement.
– Thank you.
-The publication continues:
The fact that the sacred sites on Borroloola have not been protected and are in danger of destruction or damage by mining operations is a source of worry to the Borroloola people. If the sites are damaged at this stage by earthwork operations the mining company will suffer no penalty.
This is the very area in which the Australian Heritage Commission ought to be operating. The document continues:
Delegates should examine the proposals made by the Legislative Assembly-
That is the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory:
The reasons why the Borroloola sacred sites have not been declared are not fully understood. The Museum has suggested that the fault lay with the provisions of the Ordinance which are too strict in all the requirements prior to declaration to be made. For example, a complete survey of the area has to be made so that the area can be clearly shown on a map. It often takes a long time for one of these surveys to be arranged. The Administrator’s Council requires very full details to be given including very complicated evidence compiled by anthropologists. At Monday Conference, Dr Letts said that the fault lay with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Museum and the Department of the Northern Territory, should meet with representatives of Northern Land Council to give them a full account of the defects in existing legislation so that they may be in a position to work out whether the Legislative Assembly’s present proposals are an improvement on that Ordinance.
That statement was signed by Silas Roberts, a very senior member of the Northern Land Council.
I turn next to a complaint from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land. Reference is made to the 2 kilometre limit. I did not want to introduce this sort of thing into this debate, but -
– Why do you?
– Well, we know your attitude, Senator Kilgariff. As far as you are concerned, blacks can go away as -
– That is a lie.
-They have no rights and no interest.
- Mr President, I take exception to that remark.
– Yes. That remark is offensive, Senator Keeffe, to Senator Kilgariff.
– I did not intend to be offensive. I was just stating the truth about Senator Kilgariff’s attitude. What can I do about it?
-Mr President, I take exception to that remark.
– Order ! The aggrieved senator has expressed his sense of offence. I ask the honourable senator please to withdraw.
– Well, Mr President, I shall withdraw. I will chat to him in the course of the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. I hope that that will be satisfactory. (Quorum formed.) This statement from the Yirrkala people reads:
We are facing so many problems with four wheel drive vehicles and motor bikes going beyond mining leases. There has been little restriction put on these people. We want more control over this situation, whereby visitors must seek approval from the Yirrkala Town Council.
There is no such control at the moment. There are a couple of people- I am not sure how well qualified they are in terms of tribal law, but they are both snow white- who issue permits for people to wander into this area. A meeting of clan leaders was held on Elcho Island on 17 December concerning mining and sacred sites. This is what they say:
The traditional owner must have the final right to say yes or no to use of the land. There is no need for more exploration permits. The mining surveyors have already been right through the whole area. They have broken the rocks (including the sacred ones over at Donydji). There is no need for them to come back. The Traditional Land Owners must have the truth about minerals before being asked to make decisions. Money/royalties must come to traditional owners first before the dust is raised.
That last sentence is not particularly relevant, but the fact that sacred rocks in this area have been destroyed, in the name of so-called progress, by this bulldozer-operating Government is a further reason why the Australian Heritage Commission legislation should not have been watered down to the extent that it has been in this amending legislation. Some time ago I asked a question in this place as to whether the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would take appropriate action to persuade the Government to make sufficient funds available in the Budget for the next financial year to provide for improved methods of protection of Aboriginal relics. This is what Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this chamber, said:
The protection of Aboriginal relics is primarily the responsibility of State and Territory authorities under existing legislation. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs provides funds for Aboriginal groups wishing to take special action, such as the erection of fences, to protect sites and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies funds programs of identifying sites for protection through State and Territory authorities.
This is the part about which I am particularly worried, because there is a reference and a responsibility in this Bill in relation to the protection of Aboriginal sites. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, in the days when it was known as the Legislative Council, had a responsibility to do something about this. If I may quote off the top of my head -
– If Senator Kilgariff wants to start an argument, I will be in that too. In fact, I will challenge him to a public debate on Aboriginal affairs outside this place on television any time he likes.
– I accept.
– If he has the courage to come into it without the protection of this chamber -
– I accept.
– Any time he likes, and preferably in the Northern Territory. Let us see whether he is game to go there and have it.
– And in Queensland too.
-And Queensland too. In both places. In fact, he can make it a national debate. I will be delighted.
– I am in it.
– I suggest that when the crunch comes he will not be in it. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), in delivering his second reading speech in this place, said:
A most significant pan of the National Estate concerns Aboriginal sites. These raise issues that can be quite complex. The Bill provides that the Commission in preparing the register, should act in respect to Aboriginal sites only when those sites are protected under State or Territory laws, or in accordance with a direction of the Minister, or on the recommendation of a person or organisation approved by the Minister. This is to ensure the necessary degree of co-ordination and control in this sensitive area of the Australian heritage.
Senator Kilgariff comes from the Northern Territory. It is a very delightful part of Australia, except for its current Legislative Assembly. I exclude Senator Kilgariff from that comment about the Legislative Assembly. He has a couple of nice points about him, particularly when he is asleep. This Bill says that the Government is to hand over- this can be done under the terms of this amending legislation- the control of the protection of Aboriginal sites in the Northern Territory. I might say that, even though the Fraser Government has a bulldozer and Whelan-the- Wrecker mentality, it can be multiplied 5 times in respect of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly under its present control. As an example of the sincerity of the Legislative Assembly, I point out that in the last 18 years both as a Council and as an Assembly it has protected in the whole of the Northern Territory the fantastic number of 6 sites.
– Do you know why?
-No, I do not. Why?
– You should know, because you are a member of the Federal Parliament.
-Why did it not protect more sites than that number?
– I will tell you in a little while.
– All right; I will be very interested in Senator Kilgariff’s contribution to the debate. I finalise my contribution in opposition to this amending legislation by again issuing a public challenge to Senator Kilgariff to a half-hour debate on Aboriginal affairs on television in any part of Australia.
– I have been looking forward to this debate over the last few weeks, because to me and to many other people in Australia the Australian heritage is something to be preserved. It is with some regret that tonight I have had to put up with some of the remarks that have been made by Senator Keeffe. It is not my wish to get down into the dirt on any situation. Tonight I propose to speak about our national heritage and I propose to speak about the Northern Territory. I propose to speak about sacred sites and so on. First of all, I must say that I will not answer Senator Keeffe point by point; but I must say, because Senator Keeffe has asked me to take part in a public debate on television or radio in the Northern Territory, Queensland or wherever he wishes, that I am quite happy to accept, because seldom do I get the opportunity- in fact I have never had the opportunity- to debate with Senator Keeffe outside this place the issues of the Northern Territory and the people of the Northern Territory. Quite frankly, if that is a challenge I will enjoy taking it up because I speak as a person who has lived in the Northern Territory for 47 years. I came to the Territory as a lad whose father had gone through the depression. I, like most people in Australia and in the Territory whose parents had suffered through the Depression, came up the hard way. But in coming up the hard way I have made many friends. I have many friends within the Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory, despite what Senator Keeffe had to say. I think he even went so far a week or so ago as to say that that was the first kind thing that he had heard me say regarding Aborigines. Of course, Senator Keeffe does not know me. He does not know my family. He does not know me as a Territorian. If he chooses to come to the Northern Territory with me sometime, perhaps he will find that he would retract statements such as those that he has made. In fact, I find it quite an honour that people of the Aboriginal race-when I talk of the Aboriginal race I am talking about the full-blood Aboriginal race- have honoured me by taking my name. I think that is an achievement and, for that reason, I can claim that I am a friend of the Aboriginal people. Senator Keeffe is always welcome to visit my house in Alice Springs. If he comes to Alice Springs he can share a meal with any of the guests who are at my place. In doing so, he will be sharing a meal with the Aboriginal peoplethe traditional people of the Northern Territory. However, enough of that.
Senator Keeffe said that this Government is now a political arm of the bulldozer developers. Let us get off this plane completely and let us consider what this legislation is all about. What we are debating tonight is the National Estate and the part that Australia- the Federal Government, the State governments and the communityhave started to play- team work is what is needed- to save what is left of our National Estate. What has happened is not the fault of this Government, the last Government or previous governments. Over tens of years our National Estate has been eroded, for many reasons. We should examine what has happened in our short history of less than 200 years to see what we have lost already. If one is not ashamed one must be sorry that in this brief period- these last few tens of years- we have lost in many places what our pioneering forebears have done in Australia, and what should have been a monument to them has been lost.
Last year I had the opportunity of moving around various countries overseas. At that stage I was a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. In visiting some of these countries I was filled with admiration for what had been done. Some of them had centuries of history-possibly 1000, 2000 or 3000 years of history- and it was interesting to see what they had done and how they had retained their National Estate. One can pick out so many places in the world in which this has happened. If one looks at a country such as the United States of America one can see how it has retained its history and its villages, how it has taken pride in what its forebears have done. I think of Boston and what has been done there. When one walks around sections of Boston one is taken back one or two centuries to the Freedom Trial and so on. One can visit Rome, England and places like that to see how much has been retained. Despite the fact that we come from those countries, we have destroyed so much in our brief life in Australia, those brief 200 years.
As I said earlier, I looked forward to this debate, not only because I recognised that we have to save our national heritage, but also because I wanted to see legislation being introduced in which the Federal Government played a role, the State Government play a role and also- to ensure that the legislation works- the community play a role. I hope that the community becomes more aware of what it is losing, that we do have a heritage and that we have it to look after. Much has been said about this legislation and whether there should be so many people on the Commission, whether its membership should be increased or not increased and whether it will give a proper coverage of representation of people in Australia. Despite the fact that the membership of the Commission has been reduced from nineteen to seven, the facts are, as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick) said in his second reading speech:
The conservation and improvement of the National Estate does not depend solely, or even principally, on the expenditure of vast sums of public moneys. Fundamentally, the responsibility for protecting the National Estate is one that rests on the whole community, including governments. Proper attitudes, sound planning, and enlightened decisonmaking taking account of all the facts, is the whole basis of responsible environmental protection. In respect to future appropriations for National Estate purposes, the Government will be of course seeking the advice of the Commission.
The Commission will be required to give positive and comprehensive advice to the Government on the whole range of ways in which particular elements of the National Estate can be protected. As its first task, the Commission will proceed urgently with the preparation of the register of the National Estate so that priorities can be examined on a factual and systematic basis, and not piecemeal.
I think that is the whole matter in a nutshell. A teamwork effort is needed to create this register which will index all the various areas and projects that will come under the National Estate. Priority will be given to some matters after examination. I believe that an urgent need exists for this register and indexing. I believe that urgent priority needs to be given to some projects now which could disappear forever, if not dealt with quickly. I believe that with the passage of this legislation this may be brought about. One of the pitiful things one notices when moving around Australia these days is to see, particularly in the development of the cities- I am not relating it to any government because it is a community problem- but also in the country, that the fine old historical pieces that should be with us forever are being lost overnight to a developer who can see that by removing a building he may make a profit of $10,000, $20,000 or $50,000. 1 think that is a crime.
I support the remarks made by Senator Mulvihill in this debate. He also indicated his concern that this work should be carried out as quickly as possible before any further historic pieces are lost. I commend the report of the Hope Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate. I have found it one of the most interesting documents or reports that I have read for a long time. I say this despite the fact that we probably get some ten to twenty reports a day in our various Senate offices. Probably one of my biggest ambitions is to see a report introduced to safeguard Australia’s National Estate. So I commend Mr Justice Hope. One could go on for hours discussing the various aspects of the report. I shall refer to one or two parts of the report, particularly to chapter 5 which deals with Aboriginal sites and other special areas. I shall now be parochial to a degree because this involves the Northern Territory, which I have known since I was a child of 6 years of age. It is to chapter 5 that I shall devote a few remarks which will apply to the Northern Territory. In the Northern Territory we have 2 cultures to retain and to safeguard. Firstly, we have the Aboriginal culture, which is probably one of the oldest in the world, if not the oldest.
– Therefore it should be protected.
– It must be protected, and it is the duty of every Australian, regardless of political parties, to see that it is protected. As I was saying, I believe that this culture is probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest in the world. The experts say that depending on the race at which we are looking, we are looking at a period some 10 000 years, 20 000 years or 30 000 years ago. It is my belief that in the Northern Territory of Australia we are considering not one race but probably two. There is evidence to show that about 20 000 years ago there was another race living in the north of Australia. The old Aboriginal people, the traditional owners about whom we are always talking, have no memory of these people in their minds. When I say ‘in their minds’ I refer of course to the fact that Aboriginal culture is extremely deep within the Aboriginal people and it is passed from generation to generation. They have a culture that I would say is far beyond ours. But there is nothing in their history that relates to some of the rock carvings that one finds in the Northern Territory, such as those at Cleland Hills, Ooraminna some 20 miles south of Alice Springs and Nhgala Gorge, some 40 to 50 miles west of Alice Springs. There one sees some very fine rock carvings which it is quite obvious must be of some immense age- as I said before, perhaps they are some 20 000 years old. They are now not protected and one would think that in a country such as ours or any other country that has work of arts of such antiquity there should be some safeguards. In a little while I shall tell honourable senators why these safeguards have not been introduced. Once again I commend the Hope report. Dealing with Aboriginal sites, at page 1 66 it states:
There can be no contest with that statement. The report goes on to state.
The great problems besetting the survival of Aboriginal traditional culture in the context of the white Australians wholly different and rapidly changing society must not blind us to the need for its preservation in as complete a form as possible. This is not only our responsibility and the Aboriginals’ right, but a national and indeed international duty.
Once again, there can be no disregarding that advice. Chapter 5 states as the third point:
The world has much of importance to learn from Aboriginal culture, not only from the anthropological but from the social viewpoint. Research has shown a remarkable degree of continuity and cultural homogeneity throughout the continent extending back more than 30 000 years.
The problem these days is that with the development of our civilisation and communications- I am talking of the Northern Territory now- and with our beef roads, our 4-wheel drive vehicles and our ability to get into many isolated parts of the country, there is danger of this art and culture being destroyed. Perhaps it is destroyed not deliberately but purely through the fact that many people go to see it. In many places and on many occasions there have been criticisms relating to the legislation on this matter that still applies in the Northern Territory. That legislation is the Native and Historic Objects Preservation Ordinance 1955. 1 believe it is a fact that many do not realise that this ordinance was the first of its kind to be introduced anywhere in Australia. Certainly there was no legislation in this field in the Federal sphere.
I was in the Northern Territory Legislative Council on the particular day when this ordinance was introduced by a private member, not by the government. In those days the Legislative Council was a very small type of legislature. It had more nominated people than elected people, but it was the elected people of the day who decided that the Aboriginal culture and art should be protected. When one looks back now at the legislation perhaps one thinks it was a rather pitiful effort, but at least it was an effort to safeguard the interests of these objects. Of course since this ordinance was introduced one hears time and time again, particularly in these Houses of Parliament, the criticism that the Northern Territory has done nothing to look after these objects and that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, as it is now called, has done nothing to look after these objects. But one must understand that in passing the legislation in the Legislative Council the responsibility was not left there; I stress that the responsibility was then taken over by the Executive. The Northern Territory does not have an Executive. The administration of and responsibility for this legislation is handled by the Federal Government.
Despite the fact that over the years there have been difficulties in looking after these objects, some of the responsibility must rest in the Federal sphere because that is where the Executive is. It is responsible for the administration of the Northern Territory. People in the Northern Territory are not happy about it. That is why there is now a transfer of powers from the Federal Executive to the Territory Legislative Assembly. Once the people have some say in their own affairs there will be some changes in the Northern Territory. For too long the Territory has been in limbo. No matter what has been said or what has been built, the Federal sphere is where the decisions have been taken, whether by the Parliament or by the Executive. The people of the Northern Territory have had little say in the matter. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has had little say. While it has endeavoured to do things for the Northern Territory it has been controlled by the Executive and by Federal veto.
Let us look at the problems. I do not think a lot of people realise the problems involved in safeguarding Aboriginal sacred sites. To recognise a sacred site one has to be aware of it. Take the position in the Nhulunbuy area. Through the build-up of a European type township people have been made aware of a sacred site. Other sacred sites could be in a tourist area. Thousands of sacred sites in the Northern Territory are still not known to white people. They are known by the Aboriginal people, naturally, because the sites are theirs. Because of Aboriginal law this generation or the last generation could not come forward and say to the white people: ‘Would you like to see our sacred site?’ This has happened on one or two occasions when an Aboriginal person has shown a sacred site to a white person, but that Aboriginal person has broken Aboriginal law. This should not happen under Aboriginal law. One of the problems will be to ensure that their sites are properly protected. There will be a reluctance on the part of Aboriginal people to show white people their sacred sites.
A certain amount of work has been done. A certain amount of indexing and registering of various sites has been carried out. It has not been carried out by the Northern Territory Executive because there has not been one. It has been carried out by the Federal Executive. Some of the work has been carried out by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. A lot of this indexing work has been carried out by Mr Ted Evans in the Nhulunbuy area. I think Senator Keeffe made the point a little while ago about the inroads into their sacred sites and culture there. A certain amount was done there in 1969 and 1970 by Eric Brandl and Ted Milliken of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I believe that quite a deal of indexing and preparation work has been done. A considerable amount of research work was done by the old Welfare Division of the Department of the Interior. With all the work that has been done, why have only a handful of sites been declared and safeguarded? I will give a very simple reason why more sites have not been declared. The Territory is an isolated area. As a Territory under Commonwealth departments it has had its restrictions. Despite the pleas of people in the Northern Territory and of the Legislative Assembly for rangers, inspectors and people to safeguard these areas, there has been a degree of reluctance to provide this staff.
– What is the per capita subsidy for the Northern Territory? Tell us that.
– The per capita subsidy for the Territory is considerable. Also the Northern Territory has one of the highest returns to revenue per person in Australia. So it balances, to a degree. I am not suggesting that the per capita subsidy for the Territory is relevant in this case. We are talking about safeguarding sacred sites. The point I was about to make was this: If a sacred site is known and gazetted- there are some- and a sign saying ‘Keep out, you are not allowed on this sacred site as it belongs to Aboriginal people’ is put up, immediately the site become known to everyone under the sun. What happens? A multitude of people, some in 4-wheel drive vehicles, some with cameras, some who chip away little bits of rock on rock carvings invade the site, and the carvings are damaged. Why does this happen? It happens because there are not sufficient inspectors or rangers in the Northern Territory to safeguard the sites. So we must judge what comes first. It is no use criticising the fact that there are only a handful of sites.
– What do we do? What should be done to stop this?
– The answer is this: We must agree that the sacred sites have to be safeguarded. Like many other people in the Territory, I would be to the fore in wanting the sites protected. The problem is that the sites are in isolated areas. There must be sufficient survey staff so that the area which is to be protected can be indicated in the Gazette. That is the first step. We have gone through this argument in relation to land trusts and so on, and we will do so again. This is one of the common problems. Firstly the site must be surveyed. Once it is surveyed and gazetted it must have protection, whether it is by rangers or inspectors under this legislation, under Territory legislation or under other legislation. Once the site is made known, people must be on the spot to protect it. Naturally we must have people of authority. I suggest that these people of authority could be Aboriginal people because it is in their interests that their culture be retained. They could be assisted by European rangers, inspectors and so on. I think it would be an extremely good thing if Aboriginal people were employed in such a manner.
We cannot jump to conclusions. I talk about an isolated area. It is all right to say that someone must go there, survey it and then it has to be gazetted, but some of these places are extremely isolated. People have to be attracted out into these areas. It is an immense problem. When we approach this problem, all I ask is this: Do not count the number of gazetted reserves as an indication of success. If we do we could help to destroy various places. It is much better to encourage the Aboriginal people, the traditional people, to retain their sites by Aboriginal law. For many years to come many of these will not be available for the ordinary person to see. For the benefit of the Aboriginal people, in encouraging them to retain their culture and their lore we should not press them to make these sites known. That would raise complications. I am suggesting that it is best to encourage them to retain these within their memory of Aboriginal lore.
There is not much more I wish to say, other than to indicate that there is a vast problem. Many remarks have been made, not specifically in this chamber, by many people about the problems of Aborigines and about retaining and safeguarding Aboriginal lore, but so many people do not understand the subject. I commend the various organisations and people working in this field. They include the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment.
– Do not forget Colonel Rose. He is a person who did a lot.
- Colonel Rose is an outstanding person. He is the Chairman of the Northern Territory Reserves Board. He has given many years of his life to that Board and particularly to the preservation of many of the Aboriginal sites that are known in the Northern Territory, particularly at Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock has some very fine Aboriginal paintings. Those paintings have been fairly well protected. The first ranger at Ayers Rock was Bill Harney, who wrote the mythology on Ayers Rock. I think he was the first ranger in the Northern Territory. Since then there have been many inspectors and rangers in that area. I agree with Senator Mulvihill that Colonel Rose has contributed tremendously to what has been achieved in the Northern Territory.
I support the legislation. No doubt, if one looks at it one can see various points in relation to which one could pinprick and in relation to which we could have a difference of opinion in the Senate. I believe that it is the result of work by the present Government and the previous Government. I do not think we should have shots at each other about the qualifications of each government in this sphere. Let us look upon it as a joint effort. In the future let the Senate and the Parliament ensure that this legislation is carried forward with as much priority as possible to ensure that what is left of our heritage is retained.
I have spoken briefly on sacred sites. Of course, there is another aspect. When I was in Darwin last weekend I spoke to people who are extremely interested in the first settlements in Australia. The first British settlement in the Top End was at Melville Island in 1824. After that, a settlement was established at Fort Dundas more than 150 years ago, and Port Wellington was developed at about the same time. I am talking about the period from 1824 to 1849. At Victoria settlement even now there are buildings that should be retained. They are historic sites- relics of one of our first settlements in the northern part of Australia, going back to 1824. The settlement is 150 years old; yet, despite the ravages of souvenir hunters and wear and tear on buildings over a period of 1 50 years, the buildings are Stil there. If something is not done with the cemetery there within a year or two it will be further eroded. We have a responsibility to our Aboriginal friends, who are part of Australia and part of the community, and their heritage and culture. We also have a responsibility to look after our own in Australia. It is my hope, as I have said before, that this legislation will be passed as quickly as possible so as to ensure that what we have left now- we certainly are losing it by the year- will be restored and retained.
– The Senate, in debating amendments to the Australian Heritage Commission Act, has been treated to very interesting contributions by some honourable senators from the Government side. I think I can agree substantially with the view that they have expressed, namely, that they are concerned for the National Estate; but I wonder whether they really know what this Bill is about and what the amendments are about. The Senate, in discussing this matter, ought to be aware of the fact that these amendments were passed by the House of Representatives in May of this year. So it has taken 6 months for this Bill to cross King’s Hall. Yet one certainly would have to agree with the contributions made by Senators Kilgariff and Missen about their concern for the National Estate and the need for the Government to be identified with this important initiative.
When one reflects on the debate in 1975 one is struck by the unanimity of the Senate and the House of Representatives at a time when other things were dividing us very considerably. The feature of the debate was the understanding and the appreciation by the then Opposition of the important initiative that had been taken by the Whitlam Government. Before the ink was dry on the legislation we were confronted in the early pan of this year with amendments to the Heritage Commission legislation, despite the fact that it had received speedy assent and support of all parties in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Of course that was a unique event, when we look at the other matters in 1975. We were very appreciative of the co-operation that was extended at the time in the establishment of the Commission. It is unique to have the tributes that were paid at that time, and repeated this evening in this debate generally by Government senators, to the Hope report.
I ought to draw some facts to the attention qf honourable senators because I do not believe they really understand what these amendments are about. The report which was placed before the Parliament last year stated:
The Australian Government has inherited a National Estate which has been downgraded, disregarded and neglected. All previous priorities accepted at various levels of government and authority have been directed by a concept of uncontrolled development, economic growth and progress’, and the encouragement of private as against public interest in land use, use of waters, and indeed in every part of the National Estate, was paramount.
Yet the amendments we are debating dismember the original legislation. They dismantle the operative features of the Australian Heritage Commission Bill which received the support of the Parliament last year. The important thing about the Australian Heritage Commission, the National Estate and the concepts involved with them was that for the first time initiatives were taken at the grass roots level, at the citizen level, at the community group level, at the concerned people’s level. People perceived before governments the need to identify, the need to register, the need to protect all the aspects of the National Estate. These actions were being taken down at the level of the people themselves. It finally resulted in government at the national level for the first time in Australia establishing the Heritage Commission and the concept of the National Estate.
Behind the former Government’s consideration of these issues was the desire to give recognition to the efforts of the people- not centralised efforts, which expression we have heard bandied about so many times in this place that we are sickened- but recognition that there is an understanding about these issues at the community level. When that Government set about the establishment of the initial discussions to bring into life the National Estate and the Heritage Commission it did so in co-operation with the States, quite contrary to the rhetoric to which we have been subjected by the Government parties for the last couple of years. After all, the very initial meetings of the interim committee were held specifically State by State so that the recognition of this issue and the understanding of it would be transmitted to those States which hitherto had not accepted any responsibility or understandings of the need for legislative action in this matter. The result of those informal and formal discussions at the State level was the establishment of co-operative federalism, the establishment of the principle of governments working together, the establishment of the principle involving local government and community organisations. This was the very centre, the very focal point, of the Government’s endeavours when it set about the establishment of the concepts of the National Estate.
Of course, in the process of establishing this we found the need to have some regard to numbers. We found the need to have representatives of the
States involved, whether they be in government instrumentalities or in private capacities. So in the original legislation to establish a commission of 12 to 19 members recognition of the rights of the States, of local government and of interest groups was the centrepiece. The present Government is now dismembering that legislation to bring the number of members of the Commission down to 4 to 6 members. Honourable senators opposite are the very people who have had a holy crusade about the issues of cooperation with the States and of federalism. The public discussion that ensued in those early years of the Whitiam Government excited the interests of all the community groups, the conservationists, the scientists, the national trust bodies, the environmentalists and the citizens. In the debate last year honourable senators opposite paid tribute to the reports that came before the Parliament. Now they want to tum their backs upon the very principles that they supported less than a year ago.
The Labor Government was a catalyst and the vehicle by which action could be taken to establish a heritage commission which offered the opportunity of consolidating the gains created by the consensus to the principles of preserving the National Estate obtained through governments- Australian, State and local government- the private sector and the public sector. I even pay tribute to some of the captains of industry and some of the leading employers in the construction industry who became concerned. I pay equal tribute- perhaps more tribute- to those members of the Builders Labourers Federation who were in the vanguard position, in the forefront, and who suffered grievously for their convictions about the National Estate and the preservation of historic buildings, areas and all the other factors that go to make up the National Estate. The spirit of co-operation that existed in this chamber over legislation does not seem to be sufficient to save the National Estate from the amendments which the Government is seeking to force through the Parliament today. Unless the determination of the community that was expressed in those early days is reinvigorated and re-established the efforts of this Government to undermine and reduce to a mere shell the Heritage Commission will succeed. There will have to be a movement of the people themselves to establish and maintain the very principles with which the original legislation was associated in the years 1973, 1974 and 1975.
The Heritage Commission has a role to play in providing this avenue of community awareness, community vigilance and community involvement. It has a role to play in providing brakes to public and private sector activity which, as Senator KIlgariff has said, constantly threatens the ? reservation of the National Estate. As well the Commission has an important role to play in initiating projects and furthering awareness. Yet these amendments restrict the right to provide that very consideration. In short, the Heritage Commission should be seen as an active participator and defender of the National Estate when conflicts of interest occur. It should not be just a passive auditor, which seems to be the understanding of this Government in the 3-pronged attack that these amendments seek to make- to reduce funding, to reduce the effectiveness of the Department and to reduce the involvement of those who are the commissioners. It is axiomatic that the Commission must be adequately funded. Any government action to withdraw economic support on whatever pretext undermines the proper function of the Commission.
Surely nobody will have the gall to suggest that, if $50,000 or $100,000 of public funds maintains an old building or a section of the national estate anywhere in this country, that is inflationary, but if the Bank of New South Wales or the Australian Mutual Provident Society buys a building for some speculative purpose that is not inflationary- that the mere expenditure of public funds is to be a matter of regret and a matter to be avoided. These amendments show that the Government lacks the determination to fight for the very principles of the National Estate, because it is money above all and not just a national register which is fundamentally needed. To that degree what Senator Kilgariff had to say with respect to the Aboriginal aspects of the National Estate may well have some credence. He may well be right. We may at this stage need to register only those particular parts of he Estate. “But the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has stated publicly that he considers the establishment of an advance register as a necessary prerequisite before funding can recommence, although every day sections of the National Estate are being affected because of the lack of funds.
The Prime Minister has seemingly forgotten that an informal register is already in existence in the Hope Committee report. He has forgotten that the National Trust bodies of the States have for many years had formal registers which include many examples of the National Estate under immediate threat. The Prime Minister ignores this because he does not want to do anything substantial about protecting the National
Estate. He fails to realise that the compilation of a National Estate register is a never-ending process. No one person or government can ever be placed in a position to assert that the register is not well advanced. There are enough items on the register at the moment to warrant providing a great quantity of funds. Precious time has been wasted. It is 6 months since this measure was debated in the other place. Even when the legislation was brought into the Senate several weeks ago, it was passed down the line and downgraded. When will we see some enlightened understanding of this matter by Government senators?
I will give some examples of what funding today could save for tomorrow’s generations of Australians. In New South Wales funds are urgently needed to protect the Elizabeth Farm Cottage. It is Australia’s oldest structure, and it is sadly m need of repair. We know of the buildings in the Glebe Estate and the Woolloomooloo Estate. Whatever redevelopment projects may be considered to be desirable in the interests of so-called progress some parts of those areas ought to be preserved. What about Paddy’s Market in Sydney and the Chinatown area? They should be preserved as part of the National Estate. Who will provide the funds for that? What about the Cooma Cottage near Yass? It requires funds for it to be opened to the public as part of the general education program and the community awareness which honourable senators spoke so much about last year and in the present debate. We know of the recent destruction of the Blacket Building in George Street, Sydney, and of Jamison House. This was done by a Commonwealth instrumentality. Where was this Government’s initiative? It was the New South Wales Labor Government which, at the eleventh hour, moved in to try to save the facade so that it could be reassembled elsewhere.
I pay tribute, even if honourable senators opposite do not, to the very energetic efforts of the former Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, who had determination and understanding and who fought for the preservation of a National Estate even within the confines of restricted public funding by the Labor Government. The present Administration does not back up its words with action. The National Estate is being despoiled and buildings are being destroyed while this Government dillydallies over the legislation, haggles about funds, and claims that the need to establish a register is the most important action to be taken. While it is an important part of the responsibility of the national Government it is not the one and only important factor. At present the services of town planners, architects with specialised experience and planners, who could offer advice to Federal, State or local governments, private and public enterprises and householders, are being lost through the lack of financial support. That is what this legislation and the Budget have sought to do and have succeeded in doing. The Heritage Commission has the object- or had the object-of training people for this specialised work. Who is willing to go in for something which now has so little future? There are no funds for this training program this year. They have been left out of the Budget in the interests of reducing the deficit.
In Victoria funds are needed now for Yarra Glen, a set of original early buildings in the vernacular tradition. They are needed for the Lal Lal blast furnace near Ballarat, the last relic of the iron industry in Australia. They are needed for the Steam Packet Inn in Portland which is falling down. They are needed for Barwon Park at Winchelsea and the former ANZ Bank in Bendigo. Funds are needed now, not in the 1977-78 Budget. I turn north to Queensland. What about Geraghty’s Store in Maryborough which was purchased with a National Estate grant and partly restored but not finished? What about the old windmill at Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, which is the oldest industrial building in that State? I ask government senators from Queensland: Is it not worth saving? What about the Birdsville Hotel which is privately owned but in need of proper restoration? Who is now to bear the cost of being the watchdog over plans and redevelopments and the changing of local government zonings of buildings not yet classified? That is taking place now. Those changes are on the agenda throughout Australia. As we move into the latter part of this century, local government is changing its zonings and permitting redevelopment of areas.
The vastness of Western Australia puts extra emphasis on the difficulties of classifying even a few types of buildings, such as railway stations, town halls etc. In Western Australia funds are needed for the Balladong Farm and the Palace Hotel which is not yet beyond threat. In Tasmania Franklin House and Clarendon House in Launceston require further funds. The situation in the Northern Territory is of grave concern. I share Senator Kilgariff’s concern about this. A National Trust body has only just been formed. But what chance has a group of concerned citizens in the Northern Territory against the pressure of development that exists in that part of Australia? What chance is there of obtaining a balance between conflicting interests if the national Government does not take up its responsibilities? I am sorry that Senator Kilgariff is not in the chamber.
– Only 2 Liberals are here.
– That is right. They are not particularly interested, except for those who have spoken in the debate. In 1975-76 the Labor Government allocated $120,000 for the Northern Territory under the National Estate program. After the sacking of the Labor Government, this Government decided that its commitment to the Territory could and would be waived. Commitments to the States continued to some extent but I remind Senator Kilgariff, wherever he is, that in the Northern Territory the commitment was cut by $1 10,000. All it received was $15,000. I applaud the fact that Senator Kilgariff drew our attention to the need for rangers, inspection and protection. Of course, that is true. That was thought by the Whitlam Government when it introduced this legislation. This measly, miserly Government, which is more concerned with giving incentives to the multinational mining corporations than protecting our National Estate, cut the allocation from $125,000 to $15,000. Where is the protest of the Government senators? They talk piously and even petulantly. They do not produce the goods in terms of what is required to protect the National Estate in the Northern Territory. Why was the Northern Territory discriminated against? Why does the Prime Minister and the hierarchy of his Government refuse funds at the same time as the Prime Minister stated in his second reading speech:
There have been programs of assistance in past years that have been most fruitful and very well received in the States.
Why claim to wait for more time to be placed on a register before providing funds when those already on the register are being destroyed?
If my contribution to this debate has not convinced honourable senators opposite, perhaps the words of Senator Durack will. I wonder what Senator Durack was doing in the Party room when the expenditure on the National Estate was being slashed and when these amendments were being debated. Let us see what he had to say in his contribution to the debate of last year. He said:
There is no question that although all the expert advice in the world may be available in identifying these places, and with all the goodwill in the world regarding their preservation, very little in this regard can be done effectively without the necessary finance. That is why I congratulate the Government-
I give Senator Durack full marks for doing that, because so often in governments and in parliaments credit is not given where credit is due- for having already given an earnest of its good intentions in this area and providing in grants to the States this year $6m for assistance in these matters. There is also, I think, a grant for nature conservation this year totalling $9m. That is a very good start but it will have to continue if any effective work is to be done in the future in preserving the National Estate . . . I agree that it is a good principle. It is all the better because it is not just the adoption of a principle but that principle is backed by financial resources.
Yet what is this legislation seeking to do? It is reducing the finances and the effectiveness of the Commission, and it is reducing several other features about which I will speak shortly. In the same debate Senator Missen said: . . money is important in this area. That is one of the things which must be recognised. More money will be involved if we are to retain the heritage which we presently enjoy.
As members of the Government, both Senator Durack and Senator Missen are being compromised by their own Party colleagues. Whether they are having their arms twisted I do not know, but it is time for them to speak out against any attempt to reduce the effectiveness of the legislation. The Government’s decision not to continue funds for new projects this year cannot be excused because of current economic circumstances, as has been indicated so many times by Senator Carrick that it is like playing an old record. He says that we overspent during our period in government. Yet time and time again he has criticised the Labor Government for having reduced expenditure in some area of education for this reason or for that.
I think Mr Simon was referred to in the debate by Senator Missen. What did he have to say as a back bencher of the Government? He said:
If any commitment of the national environment which would form pan of the National Estate and appear on the register in accordance with the terms of the Act is in danger of destruction, despoliation or is in any way adversely affected, the Government must take immediate and urgent steps, on the advice of the Commission, to preserve or maintain that component. To talk of economic restraint whilst pan of our heritage is being destroyed is tantamount to vandalism at a national Government level.
What did Mr Hunt have to say? He said many goods things when he was the shadow Minister, and I applaud him for it. When I was battling in my Party room in respect of Fraser Island I quoted the words that he had used on that issue. I respect the fact that he had a point of view on that matter. When Mr Hunt was Opposition spokesman on environment matters, he had this to say on the legislation of last year:
It is in times of prosperity, full employment and social security that a population is likely to concern itself with the environment of the National Estate. It is in times of economic disaster and social suffering that a population is more likely to concern itself with its own social survival and to ignore the environment and the preservation of the National Estate.
Clearly our National Estate will not be preserved if in times of economic boom it must yield to the undefined pressures of so-called progress and if in times of recession it receives no funds because of the equally unacceptable assertion about current economic restraints.
This Government and honourable senators opposite have to exhibit the determination and commitment to support unreservedly the National Estate, as expressed last year when speedy passage was given to the Australian Heritage Commission Bill. The Government has to reserve top priority to the concept of the National Estate, extended as it has been to include valuable townscapes of the Australian working and middle classes of different eras and not just the relics of the ruling classes. It must give priority to projects of decentralisation and planned rehabilitation which provide the intiative and direction for other public sectors and the private sector to follow. It must question its priorities when it prefers to cause an additional annual profit of $ 12m to be gained by a foreign controlled company, purportedly in a position to predict a profit in excess of $100m for the next financial year, and yet refuses at the same time to continue an expressed commitment to the National Estate. What is required from the Government is action. What is required from Government senators is action and not pious words.
The amendments to the legislation passed last year do not strengthen the Commission. I have already referred to some of those amendments. The amendments to section 12 of the Act will reduce the number of persons on the Commission from 19 to 6. That reduction severely cuts back the necessary representation of diverse interests on the Commission. It may even reduce the possibility of active involvement in the Commission between interests which are conflicting and which may have been influenced by National Estate considerations. It will prevent Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory from having representation. What did Senator Durack have to say about this very question which Senator Missen tried to excuse in the debate this evening? Senator Durack last year made the point that all States should be represented when he said:
It is certainly going to be vital that the Minister ensure that each State and the Northern Territory will have a representative on this Commission … we will be watching very carefully how it represents the States and the Northern Territory and the interests of each State and the Territory.
Again it is lamentable that, although the Minister is now in the position to ensure that each State and Territory is represented, he has failed dismally to keep a watch on this legislation, because there is no chance of those States and the Northern Territory being represented on the Commission. Even the position of chairman of the Commission is to be downgraded. Previously he was to have the status of a permanent head in the Public Service. Now his status is to be considerably reduced.
No government, as Senator Missen said in his contribution to last year’s debate, should claim or can claim that it alone is interested in this area. The actions of Liberal-Country Party governments, both past and present, have shown that they are not interested. They did not take any initiative during those long dreary years that they occupied the government benches here in Canberra. It seems that once again the National Estate will be downgraded, disregarded and neglected and that this Government is intent on returning to the concept of uncontrolled development regardless of the consequences.
I find it interesting that Senator Kilgariff and, I imagine, some of those honourable senators who have yet to speak in the debate would be concerned about the open-ended way in which the original legislation was drafted. I am speaking now of clause 12 of the original Bill which is to be changed very considerably. There is a racist consideration in the proposed amendment to that clause. Previously Aborigines could have identified sections of their law, sections of their estate, for the purpose of registration. Under this amendment we seek to put in an extra section which will take away the right of the Aborigines to have identified and have placed on the register a place as ‘a site specially protected under a law of a State or Territory by reason of its association with the history, culture or beliefs of Aboriginals’. This action now must be taken in accordance with the direction of the Minister.
It does seem to me that that proposal in the legislation undermines the very principles of the original legislation which was to give the right to Aborigines at least to identify and to have included in the National Estate the sites that they regarded as being of historic importance. Now, paternalistically, this right is to be withdrawn. Aboriginal sites are being discriminated against. Why is there not a provision which precludes the Commission from taking any action under this clause in relation to a place for reasons relating only to the association of the place with the history, cultural beliefs of white Anglo-Saxons?
The Hope Committee indicated how much of our pre- 1788 National Estate has been destroyed. Senator Kilgariff spoke quite feelingly about even the earliest civilisations of Aborigines. We need to consider also that part of the National Estate. This only shows how ineffective existing enactments will be with the adoption of the proposals contained in this legislation, particularly in the Northern Territory. Whilst it may be argued that the States are marginally better off, the record of the States in respect of this initiative leaves very much to be desired. In many cases it can be said that the interest of the States in this matter had been atrocious; it certainly has been behind the times. The record of declaration and protection of sites either by the State or Australian governments has been poor. In 18 years the Australian Government has declared for protection very few of the known sites under its jurisdiction. The situation in the States is typified by this quotation:
Hundreds of Aboriginal sites are being destroyed annually (in one State alone) by real estate developers both in urban and regional areas, often unknowingly and sometimes with indifference.
As was freely admitted last year by honourable senators opposite, the National Estate will be preserved only if a new awareness of its importance permeates society at every level and concerned citizens have clearly defined avenues of redress. To prohibit or to restrict any sector of our community from making recommendationsthat is what the provisions of this legislation seek to do- unless they are proved by the Minister is totally against the main purpose of this legislation. I completely support the view expressed by Senator Bonner last year when he said- and I quote from his speech:
We must not forget that there arc many things which need to be preserved and which were here long before 1788. I hope that the Aboriginal people- the indigenous people of this nation- will have the opportunity to be represented and put forward their point of view in relation to what should be preserved in this nation as the national heritage of the Australian Aborigines.
Yet, the clause to which I have referred takes away that very right which Senator Bonner considered to be an important plank of the original legislation.
Honourable senators have to accept that the National Estate belongs to all Australians. It is representative of all Australians of diverse, social, economic and multicultural backgrounds. Future generations may well condemn this Parliament if little of our National Estate survives and all that remains of our built environment is a few lucky relics of the ruling class of the day, that is, if in fact this Parliament fails to exercise its jurisdiction in this area. I call upon honourable senators opposite to reconsider the actions of their Government to cut funding. I ask them to consider the effects of the amendment this Bill proposes to the Act and to do so in the sometimes forgotten tradition that the Senate is in fact a House of review. I call upon them to read the amendments that this Bill proposes to the Act, to understand those amendments, and to see that those amendments destroy the very basic principles upon which this Senate unanimously passed the legislation last year.
– in reply- Mr Acting Deputy President- (Quorum formed). May I at the outset simply say this regarding the calling of quorums. In the 3 hours or so of debate on this Bill this afternoon and this evening, the average attendance of Labor senators in the Senate has been two, three or four. Whilst indeed it may be the responsibility of the Government to keep the numbers in the Senate it will be instructive for the people of Australia to know that the Labor senators had a total disregard for the whole of their responsibilities in this respect. I have carefully noted those who were present.
The Senate is debating amendments proposed to the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975. I say with the best goodwill in the world that we have been recently treated to a trumpet call by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Australian Labor Party for urgency and action. I want to expose the sincerity or otherwise of this call. In June 1975, the Whitlam Government gained royal assent to the main Act under which there was to be a commission of 1 9 persons. Now comes the trumpet call for urgency and action. Five months later- 5 urgent and active months later- one commissioner had been appointed, when that Government went out of office. That is the measure.
May I remind the Senate of the advice given to young law students in pleading in terms of the facts of the law. That advice is: If you are strong on facts and weak on law, you pound the facts. If you are strong on law and weak on facts, you pound the law. If you are weak on facts and you are weak on law, you pound the blooming table. For the last half hour, we have had a classic example of the Labor Party pounding the blooming table, weak on facts and weak on law. For one thing, I have exposed the urgency.
Now, let me take the second base of this situation. It is alleged that, by the reduction of its membership from nineteen to seven, this Commission will be weakened. My instruction is very clear, The National Trust Movement in Australia supports the main change proposed in this Bill. That is the reduction in the number of commissioners from nineteen to seven. Now where are the tumult and the shouting that have died? Now, where are they? Let us look at all the tumult and the shouting tonight. We are asked: Why do we not have action? Why do we not have sacred sites proclaimed? Mr President, I seek permission to have incorporated in Hansard the Press release of the Australian Heritage Commission on Fraser Island. It is dated 18 November.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Fraser Island today became the first place to be listed on the Interim Register of the National Estate.
The Commissioners of the Australian Heritage Commission unanimously agreed to listing the island as an important piece of Australia’s heritage.
The report of the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry unequivocally concludes that the island is not only of great importance to the people of Australia, but of international environmental significance. Accordingly the Commissioners today placed Fraser Island on the Interim List for the Register of the National Estate.
The Commissioners welcomed the decision of the Commonwealth Government to endorse the recommendation of the Environmental Inquiry that Fraser Island should be recorded as part of the National Estate.
-That statement says: Fraser Island today became the first place to be listed on the Interim Register of the National Estate’. Honourable senators opposite were asking what the Government was going to do about Fraser Island. This Government did something about Fraser Island. During last year there was talk, noise and heat, but no action. What did we hear tonight from those who sit opposite? They asked what we were going to do about Aboriginal sacred sites. Tonight we are going to witness a phenomena. We are going to witness a vote of protest on this Bill which of course does something about Aboriginal sacred sites. Tonight we are going to witness a protest from the Opposition about this Bill which enforces consultation with conservation, wildlife and national parks authorities. We are going to witness opposition to this very endeavour.
I remind the Senate of what this Bill does, so that it will be clearly understood by the Opposition. When in Committee, as I understand it, it will oppose the Bill. The Opposition is going to oppose fundamentally the membership of the Australian Heritage Commission being reduced from 1 9 to 7 members, even though the National Trust has said that it supports this and even though we heard Senator Missen, I think it was, quote the Chairman of the Commission, David Yencken, as saying that this amending legislation does not in any way take away the powers of the Commission. Tonight we are going to watch the Labor Party go through its convulsions.
I want to say 2 things: Firstly, the amendments to section 8 of the principal Act are intended to encourage the Commission to make full use of existing resources within government in the carrying out of its functions. The particular reference to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act is intended to achieve coordination between the Commission and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Secondly, I remind the Senate that the procedures for the entry of Aboriginal sites in the register, as set out in clause 7 of the Bill, are designed to ensure that the impact of government on the Aborigines of Australia is co-ordinated and controlled as far as possible. This is simply a provision that will ensure that the Commission works through the existing competent and respectable agencies of government when considering placing Aboriginal sites in the register of the National Estate. In most States there are already registers of one sort or another wherein Aboriginal sites are recorded, and the Commission is required under the amending legislation to consult with those approved and long-standing bodies before taking action.
The amending legislation further provides, as an alternative, that the Commission may act in respect of the entry of Aboriginal sites on the direction of the Minister or on the recommendation of persons or organisations approved by the Minister. I wonder whether this is going to be opposed. Contrary to what Senator Keeffe says, this provision enables the Commission to take advice from, shall we say, a highly respectable agency such as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, which of course has a great deal of information, very special information, on Aboriginal sites. It is enabled to give that information to the Commission. So I wonder really what all the heat from the Opposition was about.
Senator Mulvihill wanted to know what would happen should Telecom Australia or agencies Like it come upon a declared place and do violence to it. I wonder whether Senator Mulvihill is aware of section 30 (3) of the existing Act which says:
Before a Minister, a Department or an authority of Australia takes any action that might affect to a significant extent, as pan of the national estate, a place that is in the Register, the Minister, Department or authority, as the case may be, shall inform the Commission of the proposed action and give the Commission a reasonable opportunity to consider it.
Let me make it perfectly clear that the basic reason for reducing the membership of the Commission from 19 to 7 members is to achieve efficiency. I remind the Senate that the Whitlam Government was unable, for whatever reason, for 5 months even to form a commission, much less a commission of 19 members. We have sought in this amending Bill to strengthen the main Act by these means- and these are the tests that are going to be opposed: We are putting into the Act a definition of the word ‘Aboriginals’, which is a vital thing because we are talking about sacred sites. We are providing for the functions of the Commission to include consultation, and essential consultation such as with the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We are providing for the registration of sacred sites. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
We are supported by the National Trust in what we are doing about the size of the Commission. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We are acting, whereas of course the Labor Party did not act. Already 7 members of the Commission are working- not the stray one who was left over, although he is a very good person indeed, if I may say so. I refer to the Chairman. There are 7 members working today on the register. They are getting on with the job. They are being given the general power to advise on all measures to protect the National Estate, including the use of grants. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in his second reading speech: ‘The Government will seek the advice of the Heritage Commission when moneys are appropriated for the National Estate’. Where is the tumult and the shouting that went on over the last 2 or 3 hours? Honourable senators opposite have been cut down to size. There was a high reading of decibels of noise. There was absolutely no light, only heat. It was a typical socialist misuse of energy.
This Bill strengthens the Act. The Fraser Government is committed, without qualification, in its policies to the preservation of the national heritage, to the establishment of a commission and to the establishment of a register. Already there are discussions with the States. Already there are movements to get this great concept going. In common with the Labor Party, I pay tribute to the report of Mr Justice Hope. It is, I think, a landmark in this matter. There is no monopoly by any one poltical party of the desire to preserve the national heritage. What I would like to see basically is a true test on this. If the tests as I have put them to the Senate are trueand they stand on the evidence- then this measure ought to be supported as a bipartisan measure. It ought to be supported as a strengthening measure- a measure of both genuine urgency and genuine action to get on with the job. In that spirit I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Functions of Commission).
– The Minister will appreciate that in the case of this legislation, as in the case of a skyscraper, the foundations have to be dug, the concrete poured and the pre-stressed steel put in. I think the Minister will agree that the commencement of this massive inquiry stemmed from the previous Government. Having made that semireview I turn now to clause 4. Clause 4 was canvassed during the second reading debate. I think Senator Missen misunderstood what I was saying about the number of commissioners to be appointed. However, I do not think the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick) misunderstood me. Clause 4 in part states:
I am open to clarification on this point, but what I am trying to say is that the Schools Commission and the Universities Commission give to the Government details of their wants. I would like to feel that irrespective of the size of the commission, when it made a submission to the Ministeror to the Prime Minister for that matter- it would have a fair idea of what was needed in money terms. Perhaps I can deal with this in a semi-critical manner. Some very fine illustrated ° brochures have been put out on endangered species. That is very good, but I am one of those who believe that all the money spent on literature published on wildlife by private groups and by government could have been put towards acquiring additional habitat.
The point I am really making to the Minister is that we cannot get away from the numbers syndrome, to which Senator Missen and I referred, which was evident in our Cabinet and is evident in the present Cabinet. Obviously, there will be cleavages between developers and conservationists. I feel that if the commissioners which it is proposed to appoint to the Heritage Commission were given powers similar to those of the Schools Commission they would achieve more. I am not negating the enthusiasm of any Commonwealth Minister for the Environment; I simply believe that he would be fortified when he went to his Cabinet for ratification of this if it were put in that form. I am mindful of the fact that this is a Committee debate. This is the whole point of the debate. Perhaps I do have an obsession about dollars, but my colleague Senator Gietzelt, during the debate on the second reading, raised the fact that a previous spokesman on this matter in the Senate, Senator Durack, had also emphasised that this was an area which needed major expenditure. That is the basis of our opposition to clause 4.
– We oppose the deletion of clause 4. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has given an assurance regarding the ability of the Commission to make recommendations regarding the allocation of money. I repeat that the Prime Minister said in his second reading speech that the Government will seek the advice of the Heritage Commission when moneys are appropriated for the National Estate. I remind honourable senators of what has happened. The section that we are seeking to amend states:
The functions of the Commission are:
to furnish advice to the Minister, either of its own motion or upon request made to it by the Minister, on matters relating to the national estate, including advice relating to:
It goes on to list 3 points-
The amendment that is moved and commended by the Government is all-embracing. Using the words that are now in the Bill, clause 4 states: . . to furnish advice to the Minister, either of its own motion or upon request made to it by the Minister, on matters relating to the national estate, including advice relating to nus is where the deletion of words occur- action to conserve, improve and present the national estate.
In other words, it takes the whole basis of the generality and puts it there. Within that, the Government contends, is a power for the Commission to do those things that the Prime Minister has indicated. It is our view that the amendment is the stronger one. We commend it to the Senate.
– I seek further clarification on a couple of points. As Senator Carrick happens to be the Minister for Education he will appreciate what I am trying to ascertain. One way or another the Schools Commission generally receives maximum exposure, as does the whole field of education. The Schools Commission puts forward annually what it believes is a fair deal for education. In the light of the exposure that applies to that Commission, will the same thing apply in relation to negotiations between the Australian Heritage Commission and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development or even the Prime Minister? Perhaps I can take this a little further. I am seeking maximum exposure rather than the continuation of behind the door scenes. I use that expression because, as the Minister would be aware, as late as last Friday the State Ministers for Wildlife and Conservation conferred with the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Newman. A Press statement was released but I say, with all due respect, that obviously a lot more must have been discussed. It is to try to get maximum exposure that I perhaps would call myself a senatorial Diogenes in trying to get this information. That is what I am seeking from the Minister.
– I see no reason why, within the terms of reference of the Commission as proposed in this amending Bill, the objectives that are being sought cannot be realised.
That clause 4 stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 5 (Consultation by Commission).
– I should like some amplification in relation to clause 5. I notice that sub-clause (b) states: by adding at the end thereof the words ‘and, in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall consult with the Director of National Parks and Wildlife . . .’
I should like to give 2 illustrations to indicate what is puzzling me a little. During an Estimates Committee hearing the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) indicated in relation to the Kakadu National Park that in the national interest the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development would be the ultimate deciders on the boundaries of that park. I know the role of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. Are we to take it that the National Parks and Wildlife Service could be called in to define the boundaries of that park? The second illustration concerns Commonwealth occupied land such as lighthouses. If a lighthouse becomes obsolescent, would the wildlife people be called in, with the Minister for the Environment -
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! There is too much audible conversation. I cannot hear Senator Mulvihill. I am sure the Minister cannot hear him.
– I am pleasantly surprised to learn that my voice is not as loud as I thought it was. Simply to recapitulate, I am anxious to know in relation to the Northern Territory the roles of the Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory to whom reference was made in the Estimates Committee hearing. Would the National Parks and Wildlife Service define the boundaries of the Kakadu Park? In the case of vacation of a Commonwealth area like a lighthouse, would some similar consultation take place, or would the Government abdicate in favour of the State government concerned?
-Section 8 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act states:
The Commission shall, in the performance of its functions in relation to any matter, and so far as it considers appropriate having regard to the nature of the matter, consult with Departments and authorities of the States, local government authorities and community and other organisations.
So the Commission has a responsibility to consult with virtually every organisation. This Bill specifically says: ‘Do not forget the National Parks and Wildlife Service. You have a special duty to consult with it’. This Bill relates to consultation. The actual formation or definition of the boundaries of a park is a matter for Ministers and the Wildlife bodies concerned, as I informed Senator Mulvihill previously. The consultation will take place between the Commission and the authorities. If the national park is declared a part of the National Estate, as Fraser Island is, there is a total definition. The original definition of the boundaries of course is not made by the Commission; it is made by the other authorities.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Membership of Commission).
– This is the other clause in relation to which the Opposition has distinct reservations. Overseas experience shows that similar organisations in the United Kingdom and the United States of America have had considerably larger memberships then seven. In his second reading speech the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) referred to efficiency, and other speakers raised their eyebrows about our solicitude for State governments. I think one of the greatest centralists of all time was United States Union General Sheridan. After he decimated the Confederates he realised he had made his point and the South had to be rebuilt. Later while on garrison duty he did that.
– Wasn’t it Sherman? I think you have it wrong.
-Once the innovation occurs I think the gesture can be made. If Senator Baume looks at the utterances of his colleagues when they were in Opposition he will see that they claimed we were isolating the States. Once the innovation was introduced public response was good and of course everybody got on to the bandwagon. To take it in a practical sense, if we accept what Senator Carrick says, a group of 7 commissioners in theory may make decisions quicker than 19 commissioners. I will admit that with 19 commissioners the chairman would have to be a bit more harsh with standing orders, times for discussion and the rest of it. But I think it is important when talking about the 7 commissioners and all their reports- perhaps Senator Carrick will elaborate on it-to remember that there is nothing more fatal to activity than if a State or one of its departmental heads thinks it or he has been slighted by the Commission. It is not that I am genuflecting to any particular State government. I am not questioning the quality of the 7 commissioners, but I am just wondering whether it is felt that consultation around the table is more effective than if the 7 commissioners deal with State governments by letter or even through sub-committees. We have all seen a lot of legislation while away because of this. The Moore v. Doyle case in the industrial field was an example of how hard it is to get all these dragons around the table. This is the point I am making. How can we be assured that the 7 people of destiny have cleared all the roadblocks with the State governments before they prepare their submissions for the Federal government of the day?
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:
Mr President, this Bill is a relatively short one. Its purpose is to enable the Government to make orders in situations in which they appear to be needed to ensure that documents in this country are not able to be produced to courts or tribunals in other countries. There are provisions to directly prevent this from being done and there are other provisions to prohibit persons in this country from taking any action which might lead indirectly to that result. The immediate need for this Bill has arisen out of certain legal proceedings that are being taken in the United States under the anti-trust legislation of that country. The operation of the Bill, however, is not confined to matters arising out of those proceedings.
The United States proceedings relate to arrangements alleged to have been made for the marketing of uranium in 1972. There are, in fact, several proceedings pending in relation to those arrangements. Claims are being made that the United States anti-trust laws have an operation outside the United States to an extent which is beyond what is generally conceded in international law and beyond what other countries are presently prepared to concede in relation to the pending proceedings.
I shall indicate briefly the nature of the proceedings that have been instituted in the United States. First, there is a grand jury inquiry to establish a case for criminal prosecution of the parties alleged to have been involved in the marketing arrangements. Secondly, civil proceedings claiming treble damages- which could be of the order of some $7 billion- have been instituted by Westinghouse Electric Corporation against 29 United States and foreign uranium producers including 4 Australian companies. Thirdly, proceedings have been instituted against the Westinghouse Corporation by 16 United States utilities in respect of the non-supply of uranium under contracts entered into with Westinghouse, and Westinghouse is resisting those claims on grounds that involve allegations of contraventions by the uranium producers of the antitrust laws. Finally- and perhaps for present purposes most urgently- letters of request have been issued to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in connection with the last mentioned proceedings. These letters of request seek the taking of evidence from persons in this country and relating to documents located here. In all of these proceedings, claims are being made that the antitrust and related laws of the United States have an extremely wide operation outside the United States.
Our own Trade Practices Act does, of course, apply extra-territorially where relevent conduct is engaged in by bodies corporate incorporated or carrying on business within Australia or by
Australian citizens or persons ordinarily resident within Australia. But the claims that are being made for extra-territorial operation of the United States laws go further that this. They go so far as to assert that persons who are not United States nationals or residents or persons carrying on business in the United States are subject to those laws by reason only of some economic effect of their conduct.
Claims of this kind have been made on previous occasions and have been resisted by other countries. In particular, such claims were resisted by the United Kingdom in 1964 in connection with an attempt by the United States authorities to regulate shipping between the 2 countries. Legislation was enacted to ensure that the United States claims would not be effective, and I refer honourable senators in this connection to the United Kingdom Shipping Contracts and Commercial Documents Act 1964.
In connection with the present dispute concerning uranium, Canada has recently made a regulation indicating that it rejects the jurisdiction being asserted by the United States authorities as an unjustified invasion of its sovereignty. This, Mr President, is substantially the purpose of the Bill that I am now presenting.
The provisions of the Bill are directed at the protection of documents that are located in this country and with the conduct, in certain circumstances, of persons who are Australian citizens or residents. The legislation will not operate in all circumstances but will depend upon orders being given by the Attorney-General and clause 4 of the Bill sets out the circumstances in which the Attorney-General may act. In short, the Attorney-General will need to be satisfied that documents are being required by a foreign court or tribunal in breach of the principle of international law or comity or that the making of an order is necessary for the purpose of protecting the national interest. The Bill is not confined to documents or evidence relating to uranium, but the legislation will be available to be used whenever the need for it may arise in other contexts. It will be available also in relation to countries other than the United States. Orders may be made in respect of classes of persons and classes of documents.
Insofar as the current United States proceedings relating to uranium are concerned, I can inform the Senate that the Attorney-General is satisfied there is a need to make orders under the proposed legislation and he will be taking action in this regard as soon as the legislation has been passed. Any contravention of these orders would, of course, be viewed very seriously by the Government.
As I have already indicated, Mr President, this legislation has particular relevence to certain letters of request which may have already been made to the Supreme Court of New South Wales and there is, accordingly, a need for this legislation to be passed as a matter of urgency so that the necessary orders prohibiting the production of evidence to that Court can be made and applied in those proceedings. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
-We do not oppose the Bill because we realise the need, in the circumstances, for some provision which would enable Australian citizens and Australian companies to be protected from laws, decisions or inquiries in other countries. No precedent is being established by this legislation insofar as other countries are concerned. Canada and the United Kingdom have had to take similar steps to protect their own interests under somewhat similar circumstances but involving different commodities.
The matter which ought to be raised immediately is that legislation of this nature ought not to be brought into the Parliament in these circumstances. The implication in the second reading speech is that this matter arose only yesterday. I do not think the second reading speech refers to the date on which the action in the New South Wales Supreme Court was commenced, but I understand that it was 4 weeks ago. In other words, the Government has known about this matter for a considerable period. It is interesting to note that Mr Jacobi in the House of Representatives on 8 September put on notice a question which pertains precisely to this matter. He asked, among other things, a question about the current United States inquiry in relation to uranium price fixing or other breaches of United States antitrust laws. It is quite obvious that the Government was aware of this matter. I would have thought, in view of the magnitude and the seriousness of the matter, it would have at least consulted the Opposition’s shadow AttorneyGeneral who, in turn, could have consulted his Opposition colleagues.
Why was this legislation brought in so very quickly? There has not been time for either the Government or the Opposition to consider fully its implications. In substance, we do not oppose the main thrust of the legislation. The fact that clauses in the Bill could be questioned serves only to illustrate that more thought should have been given to it. I do not intend to get involved in a debate on the legalities of the legislation, but it is quite apparent, as was discussed in the other place tonight, that there is considerable concern about clause 4 sub-clause (2) which states:
The validity of any exercise, or refusal of the exercise, of any power of the Attorney-General under this Act is not affected by, and shall not be subject to challenge in any court by reason of, any failure to comply with the provisions of this section.
I would think that any reasonable person would have some reservations about such a clause being written into the Bill. If in fact there was a time limit on the legislation or if the Bill was designed to handle this specific problem, then perhaps the Bill as it stands would be warranted, and even that clause might be warranted; but the Bill will give powers to the Attorney-General on other matters which may arise in the future and of which we have no knowledge at this stage.
It should be a matter of concern to all of us that legislation of this nature is being brought in at such short notice. I do not quite know what is the justification for such a clause being included in the Bill. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) is of the view that a responsible Attorney-General- I suppose that what constitutes a responsible Attorney-General is a matter of judgment- should exercise his discretion in the national interest. That is a fairly generalised statement. The 3 pertinent parts of what I have just said the Attorney-General said are all matters, I believe, that could be argued, and argued fairly. I think it is important that we place on record our concern at the manner in which the legislation has been introduced and at the lack of consultation with the shadow AttorneyGeneral I assume that this legislation would have been available to the AttorneyGeneral for 2 or 3 weeks- to enable the Opposition also to consider the legislation. Having said those things, I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the legislation; but I also say that it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that, should a situation arise in the future where the provisions of this Bill will apply, there will be no abuse of the power which obviously has been written into this Bill.
– I am not happy about this Bill coming in at such short notice. It was not until very late this afternoon that I knew the Bill existed. The sad thing about it, if the political grapevine is correct, is that the Government has had knowledge of this matter for the last 3 or 4 weeks. If this is true and the Opposition has not been consulted at any time, it is a pretty unhappy state of affairs. The
Bill has wide ramifications. It gives almost dictatorial power to the Attorney-General and provides for a heavy penalty. The Opposition has not been given an opportunity to study it. I say quite clearly that I am not opposing it. If it is in the national interest, the Australian Labor Party has long been renowned for supporting resolutions and Bills that are in the national interest. If the Government had knoweldge of this train of events so far back, it is totally unfair. It has cheated on the Opposition. It has cheated on the Australian public.
The last time a Bill of this nature was introduced was on 18 March 1970. I will quote some statements that were made then by learned people concerning the weaknesses that can eventuate when Bills of this nature are introduced in such circumstances. The circumstances that applied on 18 March 1970 were precisely the same as those that operate on this occasion. After I have made some quotations I will ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) to explain some of the clauses of the Bill. They are framed in legal terms which the layman cannot understand. He does not know what the implications are. As the lawyers in our Party have not had proper time to examine the implications of it, the onus is on the Minister to give the replies -
– Give Senator Cavanagh a look at it.
- Senator Cavanagh probably is better than most of the lawyers on the Government side anyway. I want to quote from page 399 of the Senate Hansard of 18 March 1970 comments made during the debate on the Navigation Bill. A few of us on the Opposition side of the chamber who are slightly younger than the geriatric senators on the Government side remember quite clearly-
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I consider the words used by Senator Keeffe to be objectionable. I think they are a reflection on all honourable senators and I ask for an unequivocal withdrawal. He is disparaging the chamber in which he sits and he is demeaning himself in making that observation.
- Mr President, I rise on the point of order. When the Leader of the Government used the word ‘geriatric’ in answer to a question by Senator Lajovic 2 days ago, Senator Cormack raised no objection, because the Leader of the Government was referring to Labor members. He is recorded in Hansard as having used the word ‘geriatric’. Now Senator
Cormack takes offence at the very same word which his Leader used in referring to members of the Labor Party.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has expressed his objection to the term. Senator Keeffe, will you withdraw it?
-Mr President, I remember the debate that took place here a day or so ago, and in view of the semantic virginity of Sir Magnus Cormack I withdraw. I now quote from page 399 of the Senate Hansard of 18 March 1970. These are the words of Senator Cotton:
This urgent Bill is for the purpose of providing the legislative power necessary to deal with vessels and their cargoes in cases where there is pollution or threat of pollution to the Australian coast or coastal waters by oil. During the last 2 weeks, there have been various references in the Senate to the tanker ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ which struck a submerged object in the eastern end of Torres Strait on 3 March 1970. The vessel was extensively damaged and in the initial stages a considerable quantity of oil was lost.
The Labor Party, in Opposition on that occasion, was most co-operative with the Government; but equally on that occasion we were very critical of the way in which the Bill had been brought in. The accident to which Senator Cotton referred had happened some considerable time previously and nothing had been done about it. But at one minute past eight one night, in a state of great crisis, the Bill to which I have referred was introduced in the chamber without warning. We are now faced with precisely the same set of circumstances. If the Bill before us is of such tremendous importance, I wonder why only 1 1 honourable senators opposite are listening to the debate on this Bill of world shattering importance. I would like to incorporate in Hansard the whole Hansard report of what happened on 18 March 1970 in order to remind honourable senators of it, but I realise that the Government is bankrupt and cannot afford to have much extra put into Hansard. So 1 will quote the relevant sections.
– Oh, no!
- Senator Baume will have to put up with it and listen, whether he likes it or not. As recorded at page 400, Senator Cotton said:
This incident has highlighted the fact that under existing legislation the Commonwealth lacks the necessary power which would enable it to deal effectively with such an incident. It has demonstrated the need to provide the Minister with powers to take urgent and effective action to ensure there is no delay in the removal of a potential hazard. It has also indicated that the Commonwealth lacks any authority to recover under its own right costs which it has incurred in taking action to prevent the discharge of oil or mitigate the effects of a spillage.
Tonight we have changed to another energy area. We are now worried about what will happen if there are problems in the uranium field. So we have merely shifted our attention from one energy source to another. On the same page Senator Murphy is reported as saying:
This is in the nature of an emergency and I do not think that any obstacle should be placed in the path of the Government.
As my colleagues and I have said here three or four times today, we are co-operating with the Government, which is more than honourable senators opposite did at this time last year. We believe in the Austraiian people and we want something done about it. Honourable senators opposite did not care at that time. They threw people into unemployment. They brought misery Unto the community and they have not Deen able to recover the lost ground since. Senator Murphy went on to say:
This is not an unprecedented situation. In a brilliant speech made without preparation in the other place the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) indicated the occasions on which this sort of incident had occurred and the Government should have been prepared. I should indicate to honourable senators that the honourable member for Newcastle said that an opportunity ought to be provided within 6 months for the introduction of a private member’s motion to propose any amendments that might be desired to this Bill.
I give notice now, because of the sneeky way in which the Government brought this Bill into this chamber, that if in 6 months it reacts against the Australian people I shall introduce a private member’s Bill in this House to correct the situation. Honourable senators opposite will then have to discuss it whether they like it or not. Senator Murphy went on to say:
Because we have not had the opportunity to discuss the Bill amongst ourselves- let alone consider it- it is my view that a tag ought to be attached to the Bill, that is, a time tag.
The Bill appears to seek a permanent amendment to the Navigation Act-
Senator Bonner has interjected.
I missed his interjection. Was it an intelligent one?
– Yes. You cannot read your riding instructions properly.
-I do not need riding instructions like you get from people on your side of the chamber who stand over you. I am of an independent mind and my Party agrees with what I am saying tonight. So I think we might leave it at that.
– I take a point of order, Mr President. What the honourable senator has said about my colleague I find offensive and untrue.
Senator Bonner receives no riding instructions and no one stands over him.
-Exception has been taken to your statements in regard to the words that Senator Bonner is given his riding instructions, Senator Keeffe. Will you withdraw them?
– I was not going to object to what Senator Bonner said. I now seek a withdrawal of what he said. If he is prepared to do that I will withdraw mine; otherwise I will not.
– A point of order was not taken earlier.
– I sought a withdrawal of the offensive words Senator Bonner used of me and I ask that he be given the first opportunity to withdraw what he said.
– The point of order was not on a matter of riding instructions. It was the follow on to that, that I was being stood over, to which my colleague took exception. Riding instructions can be applied to anyone, but the point of order from my colleague was to the reference that I had been stood over. I want to tell this whole chamber and Australia at large that no one stands over me. I have proved that over and over again.
– Order! Senator Bonner, you have heard Senator Keeffe ‘s expression of offence at something that you said. Will you withdraw anything offensive that you said?
- Mr President, with all due deference to your interpretation, my interpretation of my colleague’s exception was to the reference to my being stood over. As far as riding instructions are concerned, I will withdraw that provided Senator Keeffe withdraws the remark that I have been stood over.
-Is it withdrawn?
-Mr President, I am not going to be worried about the little acts of little people. I will withdraw whatever is offensive. May I get on with the story?
– Carry on, Senator Keeffe.
-I want to quote further from what Senator Murphy said on that very famous night of 1 8 March. He said: the Bill should be amended in the way that the Government has sought without worrying at all about what it has done. The Government says that it needs these powers. The Government has rushed in. It is not too sure whether the Bill will amend the Act in the way that it wants, in the same way that we are not too sure and cannot be too sure about the Bill. At the Committee stage we will move an amendment to provide that the amendments to the Act will cease to operate after 6 months. That will give the Government 6 months to do all that it needs to do. It will give the Government ample opportunity to introduce another Bill, if it thinks fit, and we can then consider the matter again.
Had we been given time it is possible that we would have done something similar, but because the Government is scared stiff about what Westinghouse is doing now- it was not scared stiff while Westinghouse was helping it to take over the Government of this country in the latter part of last year- amazingly it is now running for cover. Nevertheless, in the national interest we are supporting this Bill. Senator Murphy went on to say in another section of his speech to this chamber
We have noted what was said. If my suggested amendment is carried, it will mean that at the end of 6 months we can reconsider the matter. If necessary, during those 6 months, opportunity could be afforded, in accordance with the assurance that was given to the honourable member for Newcastle, to allow the introduction of a private member’s Bill to deal with any suggested amendments that were thought to be appropriate.With those remarks I indicate that I think that the Bill ought to pass the second reading stage.
I feel that I must quote these remarks at length because they are an indication of what honourable senators opposite did on a previous occasion under a state of crisis, or what they thought was a state of crisis. They cheated at that time and they are cheating again now in the way in which they have brought this Bill into this House. My colleague Senator Bishop said at page 402 of Hansard:
While we accept the general proposition and while we accept that there might be advantages in the legislation, we are concerned that in dealing hurriedly with it we might impinge upon the rights of a shipping company or of individuals. Those honourable senators who are lawyers should be the first ones to say that legislation of this nature should be properly considered. I think I have made my point on this aspect.
At page 402 Senator Bishop said-
– The Bill contains only 3 pages.
– If the honourable senator wants these things pushed through by sneaky methods then he has to put up with some of the inconvenience that will come from this side of the chamber. If the Government does not want to do that it can defer the Bill until the week after next when we come back here. I do not care if we stay here until 3 o’clock in the morning. The Government is not going to get away with blue murder as it used to do because it has the numbers. Senator Bishop said in reply to an interjection from the late Senator Greenwood:
The honourable senator probably has not heard the explanation which was given in the other place by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In addition to his second reading speech the Minister explained in the other place the scope of the Bill. He referred also to a convention which was carried in 1 963. The Senate has not been supplied with this information, yet we find that an honourable senator opposite who is a lawyer and therefore knows the problems involved in the legality and the significance of a Bill saying that we should pass a Bill which we know nothing about.
That brings me to another point. This Bill was introduced in another place by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott). Can we trust the Attorney-General after what he said in November and December 1975 to the Aboriginal people of this country, when he led them down the drain and told them lies, politically, in order to get a few extra votes. I do not trust the word of the Attorney-General, not until I am sure that all the evidence is there to support it. I intend to quote these matters because I think they are very relevant in the circumstances in which this Bill has been introduced into this House. At a later stage in the debate Senator Bishop said:
I summarise the Government’s attitude by saying that it says: ‘We are doing something good. We want you to trust us-
That is what the Government is saying tonight. It wants us to trust it. We are not too sure after the events of 1 1 November and the days preceding it last year whether we can trust the Government. We do not know whether it is hoodwinking us with this legislation. Senator Bishop said that the Government said: ‘We want you to trust us because we have to pass the legislation in a hurry’. He continued:
I object to such an attitude.
Mr President, I also object to such an attitude tonight. Senator Bishop went on to say:
I think the Parliament should be afforded the opportunity to consider the legislation properly. Do honourable senators opposite agree with me?
Those were the words of Senator Bishop on that occasion and I reiterate them tonight. Of course honourable senators opposite do not agree because they do not know what this Bill contains either. Even though the Government knew about it for a month, this Government of secrecy told its own supporters nothing about it either.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order, relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-For the first time during this session Government senators have opposed the adjournment of the Senate. That is really strange. I will quote a statement by Senator O’Byrne. He said:
The Australian Labor Party realises that this Navigation Bill is an emergency measure. I support the point of view that the Senate should give temporary authority to the Government to deal with this emergency and that the Bill should be referred back to the Parliament to evaluate the whole situation which this type of emergency poses to the people of the Commonwealth who are concerned with the waters adjacent to our shores.
I wonder whether that sort of offer will be made by the Attorney-General, that if the Government becomes frightened of this legislation at a later date it will bring it back to the Parliament for debate. Senator 0 ‘Byrne also said at page 405:
I want this Bill to be properly discussed and I want people to know the significance of this legislation. I feel that honourable senators should apply their minds to this aspect. This amendment of the Navigation Act has a very wide purpose. . .
The Bill that has been introduced tonight also has a very wide purpose. I have a number of other quotations here. I hope that honourable senators on the other side of the chamber will do without some sleep tonight. Senator O’Byrne said at page 407: the Bill provides the Minister with the necessary legislative power to do these things. What things?
We can apply that question to tonight’s legislation. He said:
The Bill allows the Minister quite a wide power.
How wide are those powers? We were not told about them in the second reading speech. We were told that this is a national emergency and that we should do the right thing or else. The Opposition is co-operating in agreeing to the Bill. Why were we not given some of the background to it?
I wish to quote a statement by the late Senator Bert Milliner. He referred to a particular section of the legislation brought into this chamber on 18 March 1970. He said:
Like other honourable senators I find this to be a most cumbersome provision which I believe would be a lawyer’s picnic if it were ever tested in court.
Maybe Westinghouse will test this in court -
I shall address myself no further to that, other than to say that I believe that the Opposition’s objection on the score that this measure should have a limited life is reasonable in view of the fact that the proposed section is cumbersome and could cause untold difficulties in future.
That statement was made in this chamber approximately 6Vi years ago on 18 March 1970. On that night there was great panic among the Government parties because they wanted the legislation passed in a hurry. On that occasion the Opposition agreed but it thought that there ought to be the opportunity to review the legislation in 6 months’ time.
There are provisions in this Bill that I am not happy about. Maybe, because of the phraseology of the Bill, they are difficult for a person who has had no legal training to understand. I want a full interpretation of clause 7. The Minister’s advisers could explain it to him because I am sure that he does not have a clue about it either. I want an interpretation of clause 4. That is another clause on which I am quite sure the Minister will be equally at sea. I would also like to know the full interpretation of the powers in clause S. I believe that these clauses should be explained to the Senate if the Government wants the co-operation of the Opposition. If this Bill is misused against the people of this country I shall certainly introduce a private members Bill and use every other constitutional means at my disposal to overturn it in 6 months’ time.
– I am sure that the Senate recognises the validity of the arguments that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) put forward as reasons for the passage of this Bill. However, I am concerned that a Bill such as this which raises questions of doubt as to how widely the powers contained in it may be used in the future should be brought in as quickly as this was. I hope the Minister can indicate during his reply the significance of clauses 4 and 5 and the extent to which they may be taken by someone exercising the utmost illwill in relation to some argument in the future. Clause 4 tends to be a limiting factor in that the Minister may impose restrictions only when he is satisfied that sub-clause (1) (a) and
It seems to me that, it someone used this statute in the future for reasons other than those for which it is introduced tonight, he could stretch that restriction to an almost unlimited use for his own particular reasons especially as sub-clause
Clause 5(1) (a), limiting production to a foreign tribunal of documents which are now in Australia, prompts me to ask a question which I think the Minister should answer. Could an Attorney-General of the Commonwealth prohibit the production of documents before the Privy Council by any Australian citizen iri pursuance of a case before that judicial body? It seems to me that this clause is limitless. There is no appeal against the restrictions in clause 4 if the Minister does not observe them. Stretching this provision to its limit, if a person of illwill wishes in the future to interfere somehow with an appeal to the Privy Council, could it not be theoretically possible that a Commonwealth Attorney-General could prevent the presentation of documents by an Australian citizen before the Privy Council? I think this is a test of how far the possibilities inherent in this Bill go. I do not say in its intent. I have seen legislation in the past produce a sting which is not known to be there when it is introduced into the Parliament. I would like to know how far the provisions of this Bill potentially go.
– I wish to say only a few words because, like every other honourable senator- I think this applies to both sides of the House- I am concerned at the urgency and ramifications of the Bill. I can see the justification of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) for the urgency because there is a possibility of court proceedings. We are told that someone has a case against a number of companies, including 4 Australian companies. The purpose of this Bill is to protect 4 Australian companies which may be in breach of contracts they entered into in 1972. Under the law they are possibly at fault but the Government seeks to prohibit the giving of evidence in order to protect them because they are Australian companies. The Bill does not state that we cannot give evidence in any foreign court. It is beyond doubt that the declaration of the Attorney-General could never apply in the Privy Council. Clause 4 of the Bill states that he can exercise his powers under this Bill only where he is satisfied that: a foreign tribunal is exercising or proposing or likely to exercise jurisdiction or powers of a kind or in a manner not consistent with international law or comity in proceedings having a relevance to matters to which the laws or executive powers of the Commonwealth relate;
I would say that no one would question the manner in which the international law operates. Senator Steele Hall was concerned with subclause (b) of clause 4(1), which reads:
The Attorney-General shall exercise his powers under this Act so as to impose restrictions only where he is satisfied that -
the imposition of the restrictions is desirable for the purpose of protecting the national interest in relation to matters to which the laws or executive powers of the Commonwealth relate.
I would have thought that there would be less objection if the question of national interest was at stake. The peculiar thing is that that clause uses the disjunctive ‘or’ between sub-clause (a) and sub-clause (b) and not the conjunctive ‘and’ which would have linked the 2 sub-clauses so that the 2 elements would be available and not just the right to protect some Australian company from breach of contract. The element of Australian interest would also have to be involved. Perhaps that would have justified the provision of such drastic powers.
I think that clause 4(2) may have greater ramifications than possibly we have yet realised. It reads:
The validity of any exercise, or refusal of the exercise, of any power of the Attorney-General under this Act is not affected by, and shall not be subject to challenge in any court by reason of, any failure to comply with the provisions of this section.
Therefore before the Attorney-General can issue an order he has to comply with clause 4. He has to be satisfied that the tribunal or the court is recognised in international law or that there is some threat to the national interest of the Commonwealth. If neither of those elements exist and he still issues an order, that order cannot be challenged in the court even though he did not have the right to issue it. Surely that is not right. I do not think that that is what is intended.
It may be that the court could see whether or not he had the power to issue the order and whether he is acting properly in doing so. Perhaps we could impose a restriction. His right to make the order could not be challenged because the Bill distinctly says that it cannot. This may bring in the matter raised by Senator Steele Hall, namely, that he can prohibit himself from recognising international courts. But if those courts are not acting as international courts and if the national interest is not threatened, the issue of an order is beyond challenge.
The only other point I make concerns the fine imposed. Whilst one would expect the imposition of a fine of some $5,000 or 6 months imprisonment for a breach of this Act in the case of an individual, the penalty for a company is only $10,000. I believe that what an individual would be fined and the penalty imposed on a company are disproportionate. Clause 5(1) reads:
The Attorney-General may, by order in writing, prohibit, except with his consent in writing or as otherwise permitted by the order-
the giving by a person, at a time when he is an Australian citizen or is a resident of Australia, of evidence before a foreign tribunal in relation to, or to the contents of, documents that, at the time of the making of the order or at any time while the order is in force, are in Australia;
If an Australian citizen who is associated with the Westinghouse Company of America and who may be in America at the time of the making of an order gives evidence oh behalf of his company, he is in breach of that provision and is subject to a fine of $5,000. 1 do not know how much control you can have over even Australian citizens outside Australia. Of course, notification given to such a person is published in the Australian Government Gazette. I think that the whole matter needs examination because it is farcical. I do not think anyone objects to the purpose of the Bill, whether or not sufficient consideration has been given to it and whether or not it meets all the requirements. Could it meet all the requirements without the harsh restrictions that it contains at present?
– I see nothing sinister or suspicious in the intentions of this Bill. I can see perfectly clearly that a government can be confronted by a situation such as this when it has to assert the legal sovereignty of our courts, indeed of our nation, quite suddenly. I should have thought- and I detect in the second reading speech a suspicion on the part of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott)- that it would have been possible for us to rely on our courts to assert the limitations on the extra-territorial operation of the United States anti-trust laws which is spelt out more definitely in this Bill
I think that the United States would have no real opportunity and no real chance of asserting the claims which the Westinghouse Corporation is purporting to assert in these proceedings but I think that it is high time that the Government of Australia had something to say about its notion of these limitations on extra-territorial operation of the United States anti-trust laws. It is high time we had that attitude codified in detail. This Bill has obviously been hurriedly conceived and drafted. Probably the real trouble with clause 4(2) is that this is an attempt to have some sort of saver; that it concedes that every possible contingency may not be covered; and that, therefore, the Attorney-General is not to be penalised or in any way prejudiced by any sort of procedural weaknesses in any actions that he takes to prevent the action of the Westinghouse Corporation from succeeding. But I think that it is necessary for this to be spelt out in detail at a later stage.
A reasonable safeguard, which was suggested by Senator Keeffe, is that the Bill should have a limited operation in order to give the Government and the draftsmen an opportunity to consider this matter in greater detail and greater definition. I suggest to the Government that it should accept a suggestion from the Opposition that clause 2 be amended so as to read- I am not insistent on the terms- that this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent and shall be operative until 30 June 1977. This would give the Government an opportunity to consider this whole situation in greater detail and to look into the whole philosophy of the extra-territorial operation of anti-trust legislation, including our own, so that a Bill might be shaped in greater liesure and with greater attention to all the details and implications. I commend to the Government’s attention that it should consider such an amendment.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support in principle for this measure. The Government is no happier than members of the Senate who have spoken in this debate that this Bill has to be introduced in haste and dealt with by the Senate, in fact by the whole of the Parliament, this evening. However, I think all honourable senators who have spoken recognise that a serious problem has arisen and must be dealt with tonight because the Senate is rising tonight until 30 November and events may occur during that time which could lead to a serious situation and to matters which would otherwise be in contravention of the provisions of the Bill. It has been suggested that the Government has had notice of this problem for some weeks and has done nothing about it. I am advised that the letters of request which are issued by the United States court which is seized of the matter were issued by that court on 25 October and that no advice was even received by anybody in Australia until 28 October. It was not until 4 November that copies of the letters were made available to the Department of National Resources. So, the first date on which the Government was really aware of the contents of any of those letters of request emanating from the American court was 4 November, which is just 2 weeks ago.
– Why were we not told then?
-Senator Keeffe has not been a Minister in a government. He is not in the Government now. Some of his colleagues who have been Ministers may understand a little more about the processes of government. The fact is that the question had to be processed through the Government. The Attorney-General has been aware of the problem for some days at least. I do not know how many. I have not been able to ascertain from him how many. This question was raised in the Senate. The AttorneyGeneral is not sitting beside me here. I cannot be any more specific than I have been in giving the Senate those dates.
This is a most serious question. It is one which obviously needs a good deal of thought and research. Finally, the matter has to be considered properly by the Government itself and by the Cabinet. That process takes time. In fact, the real urgency for, the likelihood of, and the necessity to introduce, this legislation has been apparent really in the last few days only. This legislation was drafted in the last few days. The process of drafting also takes time. It is not something that the Government can do by waving a magic wand. That is the explanation why the legislation has been introduced at a late stage of today’s sittings.
I am advised also that the Opposition was given notice of the Bill some time between 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock this afternoon. That is some hours ago. The Bill is not one which takes any great time to study and to consider. In fact, it is obvious from the speeches that have been made on the Bill that several honourable senators have had the opportunity of considering the Bill and indeed considering it in some detail. Certainly the contributions by Senator Steele Hall and Senator Cavanagh to this debate this evening indicate that they have studied the Bill quite closely. They asked some very intelligent -
– But not long enough. We may have made better contributions.
– I was about to say that the honourable senators had asked some very intelligent questions. Despite the interjections, I will stick to that comment.
– Are you going to explain the clauses to us?
– If Senator Keeffe will stop chattering his innanities I will try to deal with some of the really rational and intelligent points that some other members of the Opposition and Senator Steele Hall have raised. I do not think it is necessary for me to deal with the very grave problem which arises for Australian companies in relation to this litigation. Probably more important than the position of certain Australian companies is the very principle of the United States anti-trust legislation and the wide impact it has on conduct outside the United States and on citizens of other countries. I certainly take on board, Senator McLaren’s comments on that matter. I entirely agree with him that it is something that the Government ought to be closely considering and discussing with the United States of America. I shall ensure that those comments are passed on to the AttorneyGeneral and to the Government. Given that situation that has arisen, the Bill endeavours to ensure that those laws which are far outside the ordinary ambit of international law which have been restricted by legislation in other circumstances in the United Kingdom and actually in relation to the same circumstances in Canada are given effect to in this country.
There may well be some concern about certain provisions of the Bill itself. I shall deal with one or two of the questions that have been raised. I think the greatest concern has been expressed in relation to clause 4 sub-clause 2 which provides, as has been mentioned, that the exercise by the Attorney-General of his discretions under this Bill cannot be challenged in any court. I should like to point out that the powers of the AttorneyGeneral under this Bill can be exercised only where there is a situation in which jurisdiction of a foreign tribunal is purported to be exercised outside the ambit of international law or comity of nations or where the Australian national interest is at stake. I do not think there is any challenge to the fact that the AttorneyGeneral in effect, in a case like this, it would be the Government -
– One or the other.
– Yes, it could be one or the other. But I think the honourable senator would agree that when such a serious question as that arises- either a breach of international law affects Australian citizens or the Australian national interest in at stake- discretion would almost inevitably be exercised by the AttorneyGeneral only as a result of Cabinet consideration and decision. So clearly there is a very considerable brake on the exercise in ordinary ways of the discretion of the Attorney-General.
One honourable senator put forward the position of a perverse Attorney-General exercising arbitrary powers in an irrational manner. It was said that his exercise of that discretion apparently cannot be challenged in any court. I am advised that the reason this provision has been put into this legislation is really to give greater force and effect to the exercise of this discretion by the Attorney-General as far as a foreign court or foreign tribunal is concerned. I am not sure whether it is really necessary for the provision to go that far but I can certainly say that the Government will have another look at this subclause and if on consideration it feels that it is really too wide and is unnecessary we will certainly bring in amending legislation.
asked a question about the ambit of clause 4. 1 think this question generally relates to clause 4. He asked whether the Attorney-General could prohibit the production of documents before the Privy Council. Presumably he has in mind a case involving an appeal from a State supreme court to the Privy Council. What he suggests may literally be so in the sense that a foreign tribunal is defined in very wide terms but it is a bit hard to concede that the Privy Council, which is exercising jurisdiction as a final court of appeal in respect of a matter which has been dealt within an Australian court, could be conceived as a foreign tribunal. I think that I can do no more than say that it would be pretty hard to accept that the matter would be interpreted in that way. Furthermore, it is very difficult to see how the circumstance would arise, because these sorts of documents would be produced at the trial in an Australian court. There is not a trial in a proceeding before the Privy Council. The proceedings there are simply an appeal. It would be so unlikely as to be almost impossible to conceive the situation where documents would be produced for the first time in a Privy Council earing. The proceeding before the Privy Council is an appeal, and the appeal is on all the previous proceedings including documents which have been produced in the court in Australia. However, that is a point which I think should also be considered, particularly in relation to the provisions of sub-clause (2) of clause 4 which, as I have already indicated, may be wider than is necessary.
asked what clause 7 means. I presume that he is referring to sub-clause (2) of clause 7. 1 would have thought that even Senator Keeffe would have known the meaning of subclause (1). I agree that sub-clause (2) is a very complicated and technical provision, but it would have relation to the fact that some conduct is prohibited in the Bill. Clause 5 refers to the giving by an Australian citizen in a foreign tribunal of what is called secondary evidence of documents. That provision is included for the obvious reason that, if the Attorney-General prohibits the documents from being made available, it still may be possible to get a witness who knows the contents of the documents to give evidence of their contents from his own memory or from some notes he may have taken. The Bill relates to conduct by Australian citizens outside Australia. Sub-clause (2) of clause 7 is meant to make sure that the jurisdiction under the Judiciary Act would apply to that conduct as well as to conduct in Australia.
The only other point that has been raised is whether a time limit should be placed on the operation of this Bill. Again I think that is a very fair proposition and one which the Government should consider. I give the undertaking that the Government will consider that proposition in the same way as it will consider an amendment of sub-clause (2) of clause 4. However, in view of the lateness of the hour, the fact that the other place has risen and that it is vital that this legislation go through the Parliament tonight, for reasons with which all honourable senators agree, I cannot accept the amendment to the Bill this evening because it would prevent and frustrate that objective. However, I give undertakings in respect of those 2 matters which have been raised. I again thank honourable senators for their support of this measure, which I am sure is of great importance. It may be of great urgency.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-When the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) replied to the various question that had been posed to him he omitted to mention clause 7. A wide variation exists in the penalties, which has me rather fascinated. In the case of an individual, a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for 6 months is imposed and in the case of a company a fine of $10,000 is imposed. As we are dealing with the multi-national area I wonder whether the Minister could give us an explanation of why an individual will be fined such a substantial amount or given a heavy gaol penalty when the penalty for a company is so minor. I have another question to ask the Minister later but I will leave it at that for the moment.
– I have a brief question. While the Minister is replying he may answer it. I take it from the Minister’s remarks in closing the debate on the second reading and I took it from other remarks made here tonight that there is a belief that clause 4 (2) can be interpreted as meaning that the order of the Attorney-General cannot be challenged in any court. I would not have thought that that was the case. I thought it could be challenged but it cannot be challenged on the grounds of failure to comply with the provisions of this clause. Could there not be many other reasons that it could be challenged in the court to decide whether an order was correct?
– I appreciate the reply that the Minister gave at the conclusion of the second reading debate. However, he has not helped to allay my fears. All he has been able to say is that it is most unlikely that the possibility I put to him would occur. Unlikely things do occur in politics. It was most unlikely that Senator Gair should have been the ambassador to Ireland. It is most unlikely in political terms that ex-Senator Murphy should have joined the High Court.
– What was wrong with that?
– I am not saying there was anything wrong with it. I am saying that it seemed unlikely in the terms of politics at that time. The unlikely does occur and from the Minister’s reply I understand that he is not able to say in categoric terms that an AttorneyGeneral by himself in writing, without any consent from anyone, can prohibit an Australian citizen from putting material before the Privy Council. It may be, as the Minister has said, that all the facts are known but if the documents cannot be produced except under great penalty, surely they cannot be used. As I understand it, the AttorneyGeneral can prohibit State governments from producing evidence before the Privy Council. I understand also that it is Labor Party policy to abolish Australian appeals to the Privy Council. Is it therefore- it seems to me that it is- empowering any Attorney-General of the future to issue such order without any -
– Murphy would have had a picnic with this legislation.
– I did not use his name in that context. I must say I am not very concerned about. Quite frankly I am not worried very much one way or another whether State governments can appeal in the future to the Privy Council. I am not very concerned about that but I am concerned to know just how far legislation we put through this Senate goes. The Minister has not refuted that proposition except to say that it is most unlikely. I assume that this legislation will be passed this evening, as it must be, because the other House is not sitting. The amendment moved by Senator James McClelland, which I think is a good amendment, cannot be passed by rational people here tonight because the other House is not sitting to receive it. However, we are told that the Bill is required urgently. It is one more example of the futility of this place sitting when the other place is not sitting. It is an absolutely futile body. It is a rubber stamp when it sits out of phase with the other House. This proves it. I want to know what I am helping to pass. I believe that I may be helping someone in the future if that person so desired to take that action. Honourable senators may say that it is most unlikely, that it may contravene the provisions of clause 4. But it also seems to me that what is in the national interest would keep lawyers going from now to the end of this century. There can be no satisfactory argument about what that is. Of course, it is not to be challenged under clause 4 (2). I assume that the meaning is as wide as Australia.
– I would point out in relation to the matter raised by Senator Steele Hall that this Parliament has done everything which is within its competence in relation to appeals to the Privy Council. The only appeals which survive to the Privy Council are within the providence of the State governments. Therefore, the Federal Attorney-General could not assert any powers in respect of the production of documents before the Privy Council. This would be a matter necessarily within the competence of the States. So it is a matter which we do not even have to consider.
– But why could he not do so?
-Because there are appeals to the Privy Council only from State Supreme Courts.
– That is what I referred to.
-Not within the Federal jurisdiction.
– That is what I referred to.
– May this be not a new way?
– Why can it not be done?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman Order! Senator James McClelland has the call.
– I am at a loss to understand the argument or the hypothetical point that is being put forward by
Senator Steele Hall. I take it that he is referring specifically to clause 4 (2).
– No, I would have thought to clause S.
-Clause 5 is the empowering clause. However, clause 4 contains a restriction which is not operative.
-The powers and the limitation of the powers on the Federal Attorney-General are confined within the present law with respect to appeals to the Privy Council. The only appeals to the Privy Council which are now operative are appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States. The jurisdiction of the Federal Attorney-General does not operate in that field. The matter seems to me to be entirely academic.
– But it seems to me that it does under this Act. I am just asking why you say it does not.
-This Act would be subject to the provisions of all Acts that are operative in the Commonwealth. This Act would not supersede the present law which limits the power of appeal to the Privy Council to appeals from the decisions of the State Supreme Courts. I do not think there would be any doubt about the interpretation that the Privy Council or the High Court would put upon it. But if there is a doubt about it- I have conceded in the argument I put that this is a Bill conceived in hasteunderstandably, without any guilt or blame being attached to the Government, these are things that the Government should look at. I accept Senator Durack ‘s undertaking that the Government will look at the details of this Bill. If there are any of these shortcomings which Senator Steele Hall, Senator Cavanagh, Senator Keeffe and I have suggested might arise, the Government will iron them out.
There is nothing sinister or suspicious in the Bill. It is designed to meet a sudden emergency. I think it is a matter in which the goodwill of the various sides of politics should operate. After all, the whole spirit of the Bill represents an assertion of the sovereignty of the Australian Parliament as against attempts of encroachment and assertions of extra-territorial power by other countries. It is not anything to which, as far as I can see, our side of politics could object. If the legislation is deficient in certain details, I accept Senator Durack ‘s assurance that those minute matters of punctilio will be attended to in the course of time.
– In reply- I wish to speak in relation to the points that have been raised in the Committee debate. Senator Keeffe said that I did not mention clause 7. In fact, I did mention clause 7 in my reply to the second reading debate. However, I referred to sub-clause (2) which I thought was the one which he found difficulty in understanding. Apparently, his main concern was with sub-clause ( 1 ). I do not think he has any difficulty in understanding it. It is simply that he disagrees with the fact that the fine imposed on a company is twice that imposed upon an individual. He believes there ought to be a greater difference.
– I want to know why. You probably have an excuse for it.
-The explanation, as I understand it, is that it was not felt that the Senate would wish to see two great penalties imposed under this Bill. However, if the Senate feels that there ought to be a much greater penalty on a company, that is something which the Government would certainly reconsider. Senator Cavanagh raised a point in relation to clause 4 (2). I think it is probably true, as he said, that despite the wording of that sub-clause it would not prevent in all the circumstances a challenge to the Attorney-General in the exercise of his discretion. That is certainly the view of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) himself with whom I have discussed this matter. Nevertheless, despite the Attorney-General’s own feeling that the clause probably does not eliminate entirely a challenge to his discretion, the Government is prepared to have another look at it to see whether it is necessary to have it in such a wide ambit as it is now.
As to Senator Steele Hall’s further concern about the Privy Council, I went so far as to say that it is not only unlikely but in my view virtually inconceivable that the circumstances that Senator Hall postulates could arise. It is not a matter of politics intruding here so much as the very nature of legal proceedings on which the Attorney-General might be expected to act.
However, if there is any doubt about it- and perhaps Senator James McClelland has provided the answer to this problem- and despite Senator James McClelland ‘s and my views, it certainly would be very simple to put in the Bill a clause saying that nothing in it will affect the full right of appeal and documents of appeal being ur.. by the Privy Council. I think that covers all the points that have been raised in Committee.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
-Yesterday, Senator Cavanagh directed a question to me concerning the pamphlet entitled The Australian Senate -An Introduction. He asked in effect 3 separate questions: Firstly, has there been a reprint of many thousands of copies of the pamphlet; secondly, who is responsible for its wording; and, thirdly, does the pamphlet not show in its reference to the question of the Senate ‘s power to reject a money Bill a partisan attitude and is this fair to both sides in the House.
I reply as follows: Firstly, there has been a recent revision and reprint of the pamphlet and 400 000 copies have been ordered. About 200 000 copies are distributed annually, all free of charge; secondly, the pamphlet is prepared in the Senate Office and issued under my authority as President of the Senate; and, thirdly, the particular statement referred to by Senator Cavanagh that the Senate may veto a money Bill has appeared in all issues of the pamphlet since it was first published in 1966. In my estimation the inclusion of this reference is fair.
Senate adjourned at 11.51 p.m. until Tuesday, 30 November 1976, at 2.30 p.m., unless sooner called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, and in view of the fact that the Government contemplates changes in the eligibility requirements for Commissioner for Housing loans in the Australian Capital Territory, assure all those persons who have purchased leases and who would previously have been eligible for such loans, that they will not now be bound by the present rule which requires that building commence within six months of the lease agreement coming into effect.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
All residential leases contain a covenant requiring building to be commenced within six months and this cannot be waived. However any lessee who is having difficulty in complying with this covenant because of uncertainty about the availability of a Commissioner for Housing loan should apply to the Department of the Capital Territory for an extension of time.
I have asked the Department to give sympathetic consideration to any such requests. If any lessee subsequently finds that he is completely unable to proceed, then he is able to surrender the lease and is able to obtain a refund of the purchase price less a modest administration charge.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
Is the Department of Aboriginal Affairs meeting the cost of the first 12 months’ wages of Aboriginal employees in the work force, as was suggested in an article in the Melbourne Age on 17 July 1976. If so, what are the details of the scheme, including the estimated cost for (a) 1 975-76 and (b) 1976-77.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and before it the former Office of Aboriginal Affairs, has carried out since 1969 an employment training scheme, termed Special Work Projects. These projects were initially administered entirely by local government bodies and more recently Aboriginal community organisations have also received grants for Special Work Projects.
In May 1976 the scheme was extended into the private sector on a pilot basis. Selected employers in particular areas of marked Aboriginal unemployment who could ensure a high standard of training and provide subsequent unsubsidised continuing employment for trainees received grants for wages to employ a total of 58 Aborigines. The grant period ranged from 1 to 12 months. The achievements of the pilot project in the private sector are being considered by the
Government as one option for promoting Aboriginal employment.
Payments to private employers under the Special Work Project Scheme totalled $85,000 in 1975-76. The estimated cost for 1976-77 will represent a substantial increase on last year’s expenditure and it will be met from the total allocation for the Special Work Projects Scheme for 1976-77 of $6.0m.
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What action is the Department of Aboriginal Affairs taking with relation to Aboriginal housing in the Coonamble region of New South Wales, following the concern expressed by the Department’s Area Officer at Coonamble and other local spokesmen, and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald dated 24 July 1976.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
In my statement of 5 October, in which I announced the Government’s decision to provide an extra $25m for Aboriginal programs this year, I referred particularly to the importance of improved Aboriginal housing in breaking the poverty cycle.
I am aware of the housing situation of Aboriginals in Coonamble and have approved a total of $350,000 for the Dennewan Housing Association at Coonamble in 1 976-77.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
Is the Minister aware that the Dean of the University of Queensland’s School of Medicine, Professor Eric Saint, in a speech reported in the Courier-Mail dated 7 September 1976, has advocated the establishment of a new Commonwealth Commission to control funding of medical education because of the continued neglect of Australian medical schools under the traditional method of funding through the Universities Commission and State Health Departments. If so, is the Minister concerned at the situation, and will he take steps to have Professor Saint’s objections and proposals closely studied.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As the honourable senator would appreciate, his question involves a matter of Government policy. Iam able to inform him, however, that I have inquired into this matter and that I do not accept that the medical schools have been neglected. I believe that the needs of the medical schools are quite adequately catered for by the recommendations of the Universities Commission. In particular, I would like to draw his attention to the following points:
1 ) In response to a request by the then Minister for Education, the Honourable Malcolm Fraser, M.P., the
Committee on Medical Schools of the Universities Commission was appointed in May 1972 to advise the Commission on the needs for new or expanded medical schools in Australia over the next 20 years. In July 1973 the Committee made comprehensive recommendations on the expansion of medical education in Australia and its major recommendations are now being implemented by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
Did the Brotherhood of St Laurence submit a proposal to the previous Labor Government in November 1975 for a community based job creation program. If so,
what were the details of the proposal;
did representatives of the Brotherhood of St Laurence have discussions about the proposal with officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and, if so, when did the discussions take place; and
what response has the Department given to the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Brotherhood of St Laurence submitted a proposal to the previous Labor Government for a community based job creation program in November 1975. The proposal was resubmitted to the caretaker Government on 28 November 1 975. In respect of your other questions:
The proposal was that the Australian Government should agree to establish and fund a job creation program for unemployed youth to undertake community service work. The program was to be called Youth Alternative Employment (YAE). YAE was to be administered by committees comprising representatives of appropriate State and Australian Government Departments and State affiliates of the National Youth Council and the Australian Council of Social Service. The Brotherhood suggested that any individual young person under 2 1 (or youth organisation) be eligible to propose jobs under the scheme. Jobs might range from assisting pensioners with house maintenance to evaluating self skills in private employment with recognised employers. Approximations of costs depending upon salary rates and numbers involved were provided.
Discussions about the proposals between officers of the Department and representatives of the Brotherhood took place shortly after the proposals were received in November 1975.
The Minister wrote to the Brotherhood on 25 February 1976. He referred to the attention which the Government had already given to youth unemployment and indicated that the whole situation would be kept under review and that the Brotherhood’s proposal would be borne in mind.
The recent Government initiatives in relation both to special subsidies for employers providing in-plant training for young persons who left school in the last 1 2 months, and to assistance to community groups and organisations to provide supportive services and programs to young unemployed persons, are further indications of the Government’s willingness to take selective action in the youth employment area.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In addition, minor damage was sustained by the tramway system used to transport cane to the mill, but the mill itself was not affected.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
With relation to the Minister’s reply to Question No. 864 (Senate Hansard, 5 October 1976) has the Minister received any additional information from the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, Mr Wharton. If so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
I have received a letter from Mr Wharton in which he confirms the claims reported in the Courier-Mail dated 6 August 1976 and referred to in Question No. 864.
My officers have been unable to verify the claims that Queensland was turning into a refugee camp for Aborigines from the Northern Territory and New South Wales ‘.
The investigation carried out by my Departmental officers has, in fact, indicated that the movement of Aboriginal people between Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory is a regular occurrence and the present situation is not significantly different from that prevailing in other years.
I have noted also that the Mayor of Mt Isa attributed the increase in the number of Aborigines in Mt Isa and Cunnamulla particularly to the decline in the cattle industry in outlying areas.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services the following question, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Post and Telecommunications Department as at 30 June 1 977.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As stated by the Prime Minister in his answer to Question No. 218 on 18 August 1976 (House of Representatives Hansard, pages 33 1 -336), it is not the practice to publish the individual staff ceilings set for each department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice.
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Health as at 30 June 1977.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer given- by the Prime Minister to question No. 1246, Senate Hansard, 9 November 1976, page 1774.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development as at 30 June 1977.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer given by the Prime Minister to Question 1246, Senate Hansard, 9 November 1976, page 1774.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations as at 30 June 1 977.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer provided by the Prime Minister on 9 November 1976 to Question No. 1246. (See Hansard, 9 November 1976, page 1774.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Defence as at 30 June 1977.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s reply to Question No. 1246, which appeared in Hansard on 9 November 1976 (page 1774).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as at 30 June 1 977.
I refer the honourable senator to the reply provided by the Prime Minister to question number 1246, Senate Hansard, 9 November 1976, page 1774.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
With reference to the answers to Senate Question No. 867 relating to the cost of the transmitter at Mount Dowe:
What is the breakdown of the figure supplied in paragraph 1 of the answer, that is, the total cost;
does the figure referred to in paragraph 1 of the answer include overheads, long service leave provision and annual leave loading;
how is the amount of $37,239.81 referred to in paragraph 4 of the answer calculated and does it include amounts in addition to the amount actually paid for the use of the transmitter; and
in respect of the amounts referred to in the second sentence of paragraph 4 of the answer, when were such amounts paid and in respect of what period.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The transmitters used for NEN 9 transmissions are owned by Television New England Ltd.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question: (1)1 have received a report from officers of my Department regarding an incident which took place at Docker River on 1 October.
I understand that a dispute took place over the use of a Government vehicle and in the ensuing argument an officer of my Department was struck and sustained a fractured skull.
An article in the Central Australian Advocate of 7 October reported that several windows in the new health centre were smashed with stones on the same day as the above incident took place. I am advised, however, that the windows were broken several days previously.
United States Air Force Plane: Landing in Rockhampton (Question No. 1271)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Did a United States Air Force transport plane mistakenly attempt to land on Musgrave Street, north Rockhampton during the recent Kangaroo II exercises in Queensland. If so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
However, Senator Colston may be referring to a USAF C 1 4 1 Starlifter aircraft, callsign ‘ Mike 6020 1 ‘, which landed at Rockhampton from Pago Pago at 5 a.m. on 5 October 1976. Department of Transport (DOT) have provided the following details regarding this aircraft:
After a routine descent from cruise altitude, Mike 6020 1 reported 10 nautical miles from the aerodrome with the field in sight. The DOT controller did not have the aircraft in sight and therefore instructed the aircraft captain to maintain lowest safe altitude ( 3000 feet). Shortly after, the controller sighted the aircraft about 8 nautical miles to the north-east and cleared the captain for a visual approach on runway 15. The aircraft captain then requested that the runway lights be turned up after which the captain advised that he did not have the field in sight.
The controller advised ‘Mike 60201’ that the airfield was west of the city and that the airfield rotating beacon was on. The captain then advised that he had the field in sight, made a left hand base leg onto runway 15 and landed at 5 a.m.
In the opinion of the DOT controller, the captain of Mike 6020 1 could have initially mistaken Musgrave Street for the runway but most definitely did not make an attempt to land; nor did he descend below circuit altitude. Finally and must importantly, the controller did not, and would not have, cleared ‘ Mike 6020 1’ to land until he was sure that the aircraft was in fact making an approach on the assigned runway.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the1 following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Hon. R. F. Jackson, Minister for Youth and Community Services in New South Wales, has convened a meeting of State Social Welfare Ministers in Sydney on 19 November 1 976. The stated purpose of this meeting is to formulate a common approach to the Commonwealth Government in order to ensure that the benefits of collaborative social planning to meet community needs are not lost by virtue of the Commonwealth Government ‘s decision to transfer the administration and funding of the Australian Assistance Plan to the States as from 1 July 1977.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
How and when did the Minister first become aware that the police raid at Cedar Bay on 29 August 1976 had taken place.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
By radio and press reports on 30 August 1976.
Country Hospitals in Western Australia: Medibank Cover (Question No. 1335)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What degree of hospital and medical cover is provided by standard Medibank for patients in non-private Western Australian country hospitals which do not have salaried hospital doctors.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Persons covered by standard Medibank are entitled to free treatment (including medical care) in the standard wards of recognised hospitals. Where a recognised hospital does not have salaried doctors, as is the case with country hospitals in Western Australia, the usual procedure is for the hospital to make arrangements with the local doctors for the hospital to pay the doctors for the treatment they provided to standard ward patients. The patient’s cover under Standard Medibank is not affected by the nature of these arrangements.
Telecom Australia: Purchase of Paper
Senator Grimes on 7 October 1976 asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question, without notice:
Is it a fact that Telecom Australia is purchasing or intends to purchase from Canada, for the production of the next series of telephone directories, large quantities of paper which could be supplied by the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd at Wesley Vale in north-western Tasmania. As unemployment in north-western Tasmania is much higher than the national average will the Minister consider asking Telecom to reconsider its Canadian order to protect the jobs of people in north-western Tasmania?
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Telecom Australia has placed a contract for the supply of 1540 tonnes of telephone directory paper produced in Canada. A tender received from Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd for the supply of paper was substantially higher than overseas tenders and was not accepted for that reason. It is not possible for Telecom Australia to reconsider the Canadian order as a firm contract now exists.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761118_senate_30_s70/>.